The Joe Rogan Experience: Jenny Kleeman and the confirmation bias biz

The Joe Rogan Experience Episode 1539 with Jenny Kleeman was a frustrating listen.

His new episode with with the author was prompted by her new book called Sex Robots and Vegan Meat. I haven’t read the book. I’ve only listened to the discussion. Judge away.

There’s a category of potential bestseller throwaway literature that can be described Confirmation Bias Books: A reporter or writer goes out and takes a look at stuff on the fringe and tells his or her readers that exactly the conclusions they would naturally jump to are precisely the right ones. This formula has excellent potential to sell well and disappear into the sands of time.

The real problem with Kleeman’s conversation with Rogan, though, was her tendency to perceive every statement Rogan made as a binary one.

The point they keep circling around the whole conversation is this:

Rogan: People are going to want to use dehumanizing technology like sex dolls and artificial eyes. Kleeman: No they won’t. A lot of people will hate it and resist.

She shows no evidence of comprehending that these two statements aren’t mutually exclusive or that her counterpoints, again and again, don’t actually negate whatever Rogan just said.

Many people can hate a thing and resist it and it can still become quite normal. Many people still hate SUVs, and and yet on they roll. Many people hate reproductive choice services, and yet they continue to be available. Many people hated movies by Joel Schumacher and yet they kept permitting the man to get behind cameras.

My favorite example of her binary stuckness came when Rogan said that a lot of women will want male sex robots because they are sick of men and their bullshit. It’s funny because Rogan is trying in his own way to give a little nod to PC thinking here: “Hey women can be gross, too!”

You can tell in his presentation that this is where is mind was as he said it. It reminded me of this award winning erotic comic book by a lady creator that came out in 2011. Everyone in nerdtown loved the idea then!

But Kleeman was having none of it, and it’s important to pay attention to how she objects. She says no, the majority of women want to be with someone who thinks they are sexy.

See how this doesn’t counter to what Rogan said? Not even close? As any marketer will tell you: very few businesses are lucky enough to appeal to “most” people. They just need to reach “enough” people.

Kleeman really gets her back up when he says that some subset of women might want to bang with a machine. She retorted, “I mean I can’t speak for all women here but I think certainly, my experience and and I don’t think this is a minority view, is that women find the idea of having sex with something that you don’t know genuinely wants you to be very unsexy indeed. And it’s much harder. Like all of those Real Dolls, they make male RealDolls, they’re bought by gay men. Like women it takes a it’s very very difficult. It’s not sexy to to have sex with something that isn’t really into you, basically.”

So it’s important to unpack the two statements here.

Rogan is saying that this sex doll business is going to happen. He doesn’t say everyone is going to do it, but there will be enough interest that the market will get it there, and then a certain number of people will use it.

We already know there are dudes out there who have houses full of sex dolls? Didn’t one guy marry one?

He says, I think there’s going to be a market.

She says, No, a lot of people will hate it.

These aren’t mutually exclusive statements.

Further, he says, I think some women will want to fuck a robot (or maybe just will do it because they hate all the men who do want to bang them).

She says, no, most women won’t even consider it.

The difference between most and none is vast. If there’s 7 billion people in the world, let’s say there’s 3.5 billion women. That means that 0.1% of them is what: 350,000? You could go well below 350,000 people and still sustain a nice little industry. Especially if it were just making a few tweaks on the model demanded by all the horny, lonely men.

But in fact that comes back to really what the larger agenda here: enforcing norms, enforcing conformity.

Look, I am no advocate for sex dolls (but also: who cares?), but nothing about this conversation suggests the reporting underlying this book was undertaken in good faith.

But stepping away from Kleeman, anyone who keeps their ears open will start to hear just this sort of no-argument-argument all the time, both in public conversations like this and in the private arguments your friends get into. An objection will get made that doesn’t actually contradict the original contention.

Here’s another example:

This was a great movie.

No it wasn’t. That director was a slimeball.

There is no clash between these statements. Maybe slimeballs’ movies should be ignored, but now we’ve started a separate conversation. First we all need to agree with that proposition and then we need to use it support a proposition that directly clashes: “It can’t be great because no one should watch movies by slimeballs.”

And dialectically it’s just frustrating to see again and again people have arguments where they make counter points that don’t in fact contradict.