"Talks a good game about freedom when out of power, but once he’s in – bam! Everyone's enslaved in the human-flourishing mines."

Links For October 2014

Russia Is Running Out Of Forest is just below “dire sand shortage in Saudi Arabia” on the list of unlikely problems. But it seems to be true, and a good example of just how bad short-sighted environmental policies can get. I found most interesting the part about how the country’s replanting agency uses techniques it knows don’t work, because using techniques that do work would take more time and they are judged based on how many sq km they replant per year whether it works or not. The mentality of charging per kilogram of machine is alive and well.

It’s like rain on your wedding day. It’s like ten thousand spoons, when all you need is a knife. It’s like 216 people becoming ill after eating chicken contaminated by c. perfringens bacteria at a conference on food safety.

Football chants are charmingly authentic form of cultural expression that consists of taking beloved songs and changing the words to an expletive-laden description of how the other team sucks. Apparently Man Utd and Liverpool do not like each other very much?

Scott Sumner picks (non-budgetary) holes in guaranteed basic income. I’m not too sympathetic to his worry that we would need to pay city-dwellers more than country-dwellers to adjust for the high cost of living – I don’t see it as the government’s job to subsidize poor people living in expensive cities they can’t afford, and would rather people have to make their own choices about living places where their income goes further versus less far. His point about immigrants is more troubling: if a GBI pushes Americans out of work, instead of automating production or offering more incentives, companies would likely just import immigrants. Then we either have to extend benefits to those immigrants – creating an endless and unsustainable cycle – or keep them as serfs forever – which challenges the vision of a fair society the basic income was supposed to produce.

As if Ebola wasn’t bad enough already, victims are starting to rise from the dead

A new game on Kickstarter, CodeSpells, aims to teach coding through an multiplayer online RPG where players can program magic spells for their characters to use.

Speaking of Kickstarter, it is that time of year again. Raemon is planning a (fourth annual? fifth annual?) Secular Solstice in New York and needs donations and ticket purchases. I enjoyed last year’s ceremony and will probably be attending this year too.

The big question in the tech world is: why did Microsoft skip Windows 9 and go straight to Windows 10? One plausible theory: poorly-written old code tests if an operating system is Windows 95 or Windows 98 by seeing if it begins with ‘9’, and having a newer Windows 9 would confuse it.

Words you don’t want to hear together: “35,000”, “walruses”, “suddenly”, “appear”. Here’s what it looks like.

High school student (falsely) accused of stealing a backpack imprisoned three years without trial. Seen on a Facebook discussion where I learned that one of our occasional Michigan LW meetup attendees is a lawyer doing work trying to stop this sort of thing.

Another story about the dark side of a family-values-pushing televangelism empire, with a twist. Wait, no, no twist, exactly like every other dark-side-of-family-values-pushing-televangelism story. But still fascinating and well-written. Warning: long.

“In a sample of 18 European nations, suicide rates were positively associated with the proportion of low notes in the national anthems and, albeit less strongly, with students’ ratings of how gloomy and how sad the anthems sounded” according to a paper in Psychological Reports.

Rumors about North Korea that never go anywhere come about every month or two, but this month’s are particularly interesting. Kim Jong-un continues to missing, possibly with two broken ankles. Vague rumors that he is now only a figurehead, though this might not be new. And top North Korean officials making a surprise visit to the South after decades of sending only low-level people for carefully scripted negotiations.

A couple people on this blog have asked what the research says about preventing sexual assault. There have been a few good articles about that recently, most notably one on Vox. The takeaway: rape prevention “workshops” for college students don’t work, “bystander intervention” programs that tell people who witness rapes to speak up or do something may work. This kind of makes sense, on the grounds that rapists probably aren’t the sort of people who wouldn’t rape if only an hour long workshop told them it was morally wrong, but bystanders might be decent people who want to help but need to be informed how to act more effectively. Also of interest: everything surrounding whether no means no vs. yes means yes is useless. Interesting and related: this graph of military training by subject, and the ensuing Reddit comment thread with input from vets.

What Happened The Day I Replaced 99% Of The Genes In My Body With Those From A Hunter-Gatherer. I thought this title was going to be a lie, but after reading the article I’ve got to give him credit – he is technically correct, the best kind of correct. Also gross. Also fascinating.

Preferred Music Style Is Tied To Personality. I didn’t look too closely at the research, but I am glad it confirms my suspicion that classical music is just metal for old people.

In last month’s links thread, I talked about textbooks with great covers. Commenters pointed out two other funny ones, both by the same person – Error Analysis and Classical Mechanics.

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313 Responses to Links For October 2014

  1. lmm says:

    When state-subsidized housing is concentrated into ghettoes rather than spread evenly among rich and poor neighbourhoods, it seems to lead to worse outcomes for the inhabitants. This seems like an argument against driving all the poor people out of the cities.

    • Anonymous says:

      What is the basis of that comparison?

    • AR+ says:

      When wealthy people move out of cities, it’s “white flight.” When they move back in, it’s “gentrification.”

      There’s no way to win, so why bother trying?

      Speaking of, this raises a point against just letting people move where they can afford to live w/ their guaranteed income: San Francisco. There are a lot of people who make no distinction whatsoever between “eviction” and “owner declined to renew lease.”

      • Vanzetti says:

        >There’s no way to win, so why bother trying?

        Of course there is. You need to mix subsidized and unsubsidized housing thoroughly.

      • RCF says:

        “There are a lot of people who make no distinction whatsoever between “eviction” and “owner declined to renew lease.” ”

        Or “Owner is charging market prices for rent, rather than just giving the current tenant special treatment.”

      • suntzuanime says:

        When it comes to the disruption in the lives of the people living in the rental housing, there isn’t much of a distinction, except that you know when the lease term expires so you can worry fruitlessly about it in advance if you like.

        • AR+ says:

          I would say that knowing when the lease term expires is quite a big difference, in terms of disruption. Indeed, it’s the entire point of having a lease vice renting month-to-month. It lets you make arrangement up to a year in advance.

        • Eric Rall says:

          When signing a fixed-term lease, you paid the landlord to give up his option value to terminate the lease mid-term, in some combination of giving up your own option value of terminating the lease early and adjusting the rental price.

          If your landlord evicts you in the middle of a lease, the landlord is exercising an option that you paid him not to use. If he declines to renew an expired lease, he is exercising an option that you did not pay him not to use.

          Illustrative analogy: you are flying from Los Angeles to New York. The trip involves changing planes in Chicago. You can book the full itinerary up front, or you can book one ticket to Chicago and then buy a separate ticket on standby from Chicago to NY. You might choose the latter because it’s cheaper, or because it gives you more options to revise your itinerary if your travel needs change at the last minute. You are equally stranded in Chicago if the airline refuses to honor its ticket in Scenario 1 or if you don’t make the cut on the standby list in Scenario 2, but the former scenario is the airline failing to honor its agreement, while the latter is a calculated risk falling through.

          • suntzuanime says:

            From a contractual rights standpoint, you are of course correct. From the standpoint of empathy with the renters, it is no fun to be stranded in Chicago, whether or not the airline has the right to do so.

            Part of the problem is that in the housing market your choices more or less boil down to either trying to buy a second ticket in Chicago or else coming up with the money to buy a whole private jet.

          • AR+ says:

            Well, I imagine it’s also no fun to be stuck w/ a tenant who is entitled to unilaterally renew a grossly below-market lease right up until the expansion of Sol renders Earth uninhabitable, effectively taking possession of your property for a pittance, except that you still have to do the maintenance.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Yeah it’s bad times all around. Not clear what is to be done.

    • Mary says:

      ” worse outcomes for the inhabitants.”

      Which inhabitants? Those of the ghetto or those of all the neighborhood?

      If the former, does the increase in their wellbeing exceed any decrease experienced by the rest?

    • Deiseach says:

      From my limited experience in local government social housing (I’m only in the job about five months), what often happens is that you get one or two problem tenants in an estate.

      Neighbours complain, and (a) you have to evict the troublemakers. Except that you have to house them (since they needed social housing in the first place) so where do you put them? Which leads into (b) neighbours ask for transfers out, gradually all you have left are the troublemakers, and bam! problem estate, the ‘bad part’ of town, nobody wants to live there if they can help it, and you end up dumping all your troublemakers there which doesn’t help the problem any.

      Mixed affordable/social housing is a great idea, IF private landlords are willing to take on social housing tenants (and often you get complaints from private house owners that there are already enough council tenants in their estate, they don’t want anymore coming in) and IF you can get builders willing (in the boom times, at least) to set aside a proportion of developments to build social/affordable housing. If Property Developer B knows he can stick in an extra ten houses on that site and get the full market price for them, why would he build ten social housing homes that will go for a lower price? Answer: he won’t, unless government legislation makes him, and when you get a government that doesn’t want to interfere with business, it won’t.

      So you don’t get the mix of public/private housing. And you do get ‘ghetto’ estates.

      • Anthony says:

        By doing this, you may be getting private landlords to supplement the amount of housing available for low-income folks, but you also push the problem tenants onto those landlords. In the U.S., there’s something called Section 8, where the government subsidizes a portion of the rent, up to the “market rate”. The problem is that a small landlord really can’t afford a bad tenant – even where there aren’t additional protections against eviction, it can take months to get rid of a bad tenant, and it can cost several year’s rent to repair the damage if they’re that sort of tenant.

        My bad tenant only cost me about 4 months’ rent for repairs, plus loss of three months rent while repairs were in progress, plus about 5 months of rent not paid before I persuaded her to move. I was lucky that I didn’t have to go to court. And she wasn’t the sort of bad tenant that make the neighbors think about moving away – all the neighbors liked her.

  2. Mike Blume says:

    “Music style” link is broken in the “sticks your blog url in front of it” way, also I had that Error Analysis book in college =)

  3. Eli says:

    A new game on Kickstarter, CodeSpells, aims to teach coding through an multiplayer online RPG where players can program magic spells for their characters to use.

    Fucking finally: the Speech is being brought to life.

    • Error says:

      Mind identifying the reference? You might have just made my day.

      • A quick check on TV Tropes suggests that this is referencing Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series.

        • Error says:

          For some reason I thought I was the only person in the universe to have read it, and was pleased to be wrong. They’re not necessarily the best books I’ve ever read, but I think they were the earliest to still have a spot on my shelf. I have a serious nostalgia attachment to them.

          Tvtropes points out that there is much more to the series than I was aware of as a kid. I thought it stopped after the third book. (in my defense that would make sense, given the contents of the same and that at some point they did a one-volume collection of the first three)

          I may have some reading to catch up on, 20+ years later. Thanks.

          • Jadagul says:

            As best I can tell, it was originally planned as a trilogy. Then a few years later, she decided she wanted to write about Ireland and so we got a fourth book.

            Then like eight years later she started writing them again, and has produced several. I half suspect she started writing them again as a way to deal with events in her personal life, but I don’t have any actual evidence of that.

          • Elizabeth says:

            Scott’s ex-girlfriend Alicorn writes in the Young Wizards universe: http://edgeofyourseat.dreamwidth.org/2121.html is the whole piece of fiction, http://lifes-sake.dreamwidth.org/ is the Young Wizards character.

  4. call_me_aka says:

    The funny thing is, go somewhere where classical music isn’t this exotic and dramatic thing, e.g. music schools or cities with a thriving early music scene, and you’ll find nothing but hipsters shaking their heads at piano porn and dreadful orchestral pomp. So in my bubble (Boston nerds), liking classical music means liking “authentic” period performances of obscure Baroque music or hot-from-the-presses contemporary stuff, and probably correlates with contrarian cool more than anything.

    • Deiseach says:

      Oh you crazy modern kids with your fancy big-band Baroque sound. If it isn’t authentic horsehead fiddle, don’t come round my house 🙂

    • Mot says:

      Will you recommend some baroque you like?

      • Deiseach says:

        Butting in here (because I don’t know anything about anything except “I heard it on the radio and I liked it): Sonnerie de Sainte-Geneviève du Mont de Paris by Marin Marais (he counts as Baroque, right?)

      • call_me_aka says:

        Aw, man, I’m too slow for the internet.

        I’m currently obsessed with the Zelenka Miserere.

        Lully is good. I can’t seem to find individual videos, but here is a full opera I like. You can probably just click anywhere in the middle, it’s all good.

        There’s Monteverdi to die for. Try this and this.

        A professor of mine played this in a lecture and there was a stunned silence.

        But basically it all comes down to Bach. Specifically, Masaaki Suzuki’s Bach. This interpretation of “Ich ruf zu dir” has got to be one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever encountered. (Sorry for the spotify link, but it has to be that particular recording.) The Magnificat is pretty popular but we’re straying into dangerously un-hipster territory.

        This is all vocal music, because I mostly acquire new repertoire by performing it, but I’m sure there’s good non-vocal stuff out there. I hear Cavalli wrote stuff for strings. Also, Buxtedude wrote some mildly famous works for the organ. (His actual name was Buxtehude but no one calls him that.)

    • Luke Somers says:

      I don’t get this.

      Romantic, mid-late classical, modern, contemporary classical, electronic, baroque, jazz… for my money they all have great music, a bit more not so great music, and a lot of poor music. Like what’s good, not what’s attached to some specific time period.

  5. Anonymous says:

    3 years in jail of which 800 days were in solitary confinement. I did not know that suspects in jail awaiting trial (as opposed to convicts being punished) are put in solitary confinement.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      I have always wondered how, if I were in jail, I could achieve solitary confinement. It sounds like a good way to indulge introversion. But I probably couldn’t manage it, as I never managed to get expelled from First Grade, either.

      • Vanzetti says:

        You’ll just need to keep murdering your fellow inmates…

      • Anonymous says:

        I heard a second-hand story of a nerd who achieved solitary confinement by claiming to be afraid for his life. A downside to solitary is that in some jurisdictions, it makes one ineligible for parole.

        • ZZMike says:

          That, and it gets a bit boring after an hour or two – with the prospect of a few years staring you in the face.

      • Clockwork Marx says:

        As the article explains, “solitary” confinement often translates to “being confined with another, often violent prisoner”. So probably not something you would want to pursue. Ensuring that you remain highly visible as much as possible seems to be the best survival tactic in prison.

      • Anonymous says:

        As I understand it, solitary confinement is surprisingly unpleasant. To put it mildly.

        It’s widely considered a form of torture.

        I dunno why – something to do with lack of stimulation – but apparently it’s incredibly bad for your sanity. Not something you’d want to back yourself into with no way out.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Well in theory it’s a punishment for behavior while in jail, rather than outside, so it wouldn’t matter if you’d been found guilty of doing something outside. (I think that theory might have been found unconstitutional and the new theory is that it’s an attempt to maintain order in the prison? Same deal applies.)

      It’s not clear what he did to be thrown in solitary. If he’s the sort of person who would refuse to plead guilty in exchange for his freedom, he probably had weird ideas that he had “rights” or something, which would of course annoy the guards and constitute bad behavior and a threat to order in the prison.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think you are trying too hard to make sense of the world. You should have a broader probability distribution, less influenced by claims about how prisons work.

      • Anonymous says:

        The interview on NPR says he was put in solitary confinement for getting in fights.

        • Anonymous says:

          Thanks! here.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Well, you shouldn’t get in fights. You also shouldn’t lock innocent children in a cage for three years. Let’s call this one a wash.

          • roystgnr says:

            “You shouldn’t lock innocent children in a cage for three years” is a good norm. “You shouldn’t start unjustified fights” would be a good rough equivalent.

            “You shouldn’t get in fights” is more analogous to “you shouldn’t get locked in a cage for three years”. Unless you assume that the target of the advice must necessarily be at fault, it’s not an ethical injunction.

            Hmm… we use “positive” vs “normative” to distinguish between statements about facts and statements about values… but what’s the right vocabulary for distinguishing between statements about personal values (e.g. you’ll be happier if you can avoid people wanting to fight you) and statements about interpersonal/ethical values (e.g. you’ll be blameworthy if you instigate an unjustified fight)?

        • Anonymous says:

          The official reason was fights, though all the interviews include a bit disputing that.

          But even if we believe the official record, fights only explain how he got into solitary, not why he spent 80% of his time there. The New Yorker says that “Once an inmate is in solitary, further minor infractions can extend his stay.”

      • RCF says:

        If they can’t keep order without locking you up in solitary, then they should just release you. There should be a recognition that people have certain rights, and the government being allowed to confine someone is contingent on them respecting those rights. If they don’t have enough money or whatever to provide a confinement in accordance with those rights, then the solution is to not confine people, rather than to confining people without giving them their rights. The phrase “unless the government does not have enough money” does not not appear in the Constitution.

    • RCF says:

      According to this site, http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/speedy-trial-in-new-york-state

      Criminal Procedure Law Section 30.30 is the statute in New York that sets the legal time limit in regard to speedy trials. While exceptions do exist, the general rule designates the allowable time that a prosecutor has to be ready for trial from the time of arraignment, as follows: (a) six months for a Felony; (b) ninety days for a Class A Misdemeanor; (c) sixty days for a Class B Misdemeanor; and (d) thirty days for a violation.

      So apparently they can keep you in jail for 30 days. And there’s a bunch of exceptions for time that doesn’t count towards this limit, such as witness unavailability or court dates not being available. This really makes a mockery of the Sixth Amendment. It should be a reasonable time (six months is pushing it), and the only exception should be when the defendant requests a continuance (and the judge should actually talk to the defendant, not just have the defense attorney file a continuance whenever they feel like it).

  6. Harald K says:

    “A new game on Kickstarter, CodeSpells, aims to teach coding through an multiplayer online RPG where players can program magic spells for their characters to use.”

    “Teach coding through a game” is a concept with a pretty poor track record on Kickstarter: Code Hero failed to deliver, Var and the Vikings failed to reach its goal (despite great publicity). Code Monkey Island and Robot Turtles were boardgames, but none too revolutionary either.

    Making games out of coding is hard, making online multiplayer RPGs with coding sounds difficult indeed. Kickstarter make it hard to search through failed projects, but I seem to recall that there have been more attempts to push this. Many people like to play games, many people wish they could code, many people would like to help kids. It’s a formula for positive attention on Kickstarter, which means there’s all the more reason to scrutinize the project starters’ ability to deliver.

    • Anonymous says:

      I personally also worry about maliciousness with respect to online multiplayer games allowing code execution of code written by other players. It’s sort of a catch-22: A game with a lot of flexibility of what the code can do allows you to at the very least crash other people’s PCs via infinite loops and fork bombs and the like, while a game without that huge amount of flexibility is less interesting than just coding your own stuff. I mean, I crashed the coding game “Hack ‘n Slash” to desktop four times while playing it, and that game had an extremely limited coding interface. And that’s assuming that no worse exploits are possible – Warcraft 3 allowed users to write their own maps to play on with custom ‘triggers’ or JASS code, and that had at one point a massive security hole allowing for arbitrary remote code execution if you loaded a maliciously crafted map. And that game was created with the resources of a major studio behind it – but the security hole went unnoticed for years.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Sandboxing user scripts so that they can’t hurt the machine they’re running on is something that a lot of people have worked on, and I get the impression that you can set up a pretty good sandbox in Lua. (I haven’t tried myself.) Infinite loops and fork bombs are easy enough to handle by limiting the resources given to any one script, so the loop just sits there doing nothing while the world around it continues as if nothing ever happened, and the fork bomb runs until it hits the resource cap then fizzles out.

        I agree with the parent though that skepticism is a good stance. Regarding anything on kickstarter, really, but especially coding videogames.

        • Vulture says:

          Taking the outside view, I would still place reasonable odds (at least 30%, say), on someone successfully executing malicious scripts in that game, conditional on it ever coming to fruition in the first place.

          • gattsuru says:

            The Minecraft mod ComputerCraft was freely developed with (too much) in-game capability, and the worst a maliciously designed ComputerCraft LUA script could do was take up a lot of processor time doing nothing or fill the allocated disk space.

            CodeSpells is intended to run multiplayer on a similar architecture — small servers with a whitelist — which may also provide an additional filter.

            From the Kickstarter Video, CodeSpells’ interface seems much more limited than ComputerCraft or even Hack n’ Slash. Both Blockly and Unity JavaScript are relatively easy to sandbox, and it doesn’t look to provide much access to basic computer resources like disk access or networking. This leaves the CPU usage on large or infinite loops that ComputerCraft exploiters could attack, but you don’t need to solve the Halting Problem to solve that.

            On the flip side, I’m not convinced that makes for good instruction about code, or acts as a good way to distinguish potential programmers.

          • Note: The study that the Coding Horror post refers to has since been retracted [PDF link].

          • gattsuru says:

            Ah, thank you for that update.

    • Ken Arromdee says:

      Nobody here has heard of lpmud? It was a text-based multi-user online RPG which was played at universities many years ago. Once you achieved the top experience level you got to program it in a full-fledged C-like programming language.

      Of course coding a text-based game is simpler, and back when the Internet was mostly accessible through universities, a much larger percentage of the audience were potential coders.

      • rsaarelm says:

        Yep. LPMud had an actual hack & slash game in it, but it also had a very strict distinction that the wizards who could access the code didn’t play the game anymore as they basically had the godmode console that made the whole hacky thing pointless, and the players who did play the game had zero access to the programming tools. The wizard users were basically equivalent to today’s game mod authors, not game players.

        There were also the MUSH games, which I understood were more freeform, Second Life style affairs where the programming capabilities were spread out more evenly. But they were also a “come up with your own fun” affair, like Second Life, and didn’t have a crunchy, gamey rule system interacting with the programmability.

        • fubarobfusco says:

          The programming languages for most MU* games are a combination of esoteric and just plain weird.

          The MUSH language could be described as what you’d get if you started with Lisp, replaced lists with string manipulation, and took away the clean syntax.

          Unlike some MUD systems, MUSH has no built-in editor, so it’s up to the user (or client program) to reformat code between the run-together-on-one-line format that the system demands, and something with whitespace in it that humans can actually read.

          MUCK contains two languages — MPI and MUF — of which the former is a different flavor of string-based weirdness, and the latter is a Forth dialect.

          In any of these cases, a major need of the runtime is to be able to prevent a malicious user from DoSing the system with bad code. Recursion depth limits aren’t enough; there are ephemeral quotas on function calls and commands executed.

          These systems were handling dozens to hundreds of concurrent users, who might be running arbitrary code or trying to crack the system, beginning in the late ’80s to early ’90s. In a way, these games are not only games, but also sandboxed multi-user multitasking operating systems.

        • Nornagest says:

          Various branches of the LPMUD tree have tried to integrate users with access to dev tools into the game somehow. Usually this is done at a fluff (thematic) level, though, not a crunch (rules-based) level; it’s hard to maintain a sense of character progression when a one-line shell invocation can do anything to your toon that can be done within the constraints of the object, as long as you know what functions to call. Changing this would take a complete rewrite of the permissions model and the developer shell, which is a tall order.

          The original theory was to have people with code access be playing divine or semidivine beings (the jargon is “wizard”, in the Tolkien sense), which neatly takes care of the game-balance issues. That still turns out not to work too well in some cases, though. The last thing you want when you’re heads down in five thousand lines of leaky unstable hacked-together code is to dick around with some player who wants to sacrifice a chicken to you, so most LPMUD staffs self-segregate into people that like the idea of roleplaying a god and people that want to develop content. Some even formalize this, which is probably the better way to go.

          (Source: I run a [heavily modified and barely recognizable] LPMUD descendant. We don’t do the wizard thing, though.)

    • rehana says:

      Here’s a less ambitious one that actually exists.

    • Matt C says:

      I haven’t seen anyone mention Code Combat.

      It’s pretty good, though there’s not that much of it (someone new to programming can do all the core lessons in a few hours).

      I’d like to see more of these, but I am skeptical of the multiplayer angle. Unless the devs are very careful in how they manage multiplayer-ness, it’s only going to encourage people to copy the best scripts and learn nothing.

    • eqdw says:

      A friend of mine made this game, which I thought was a pretty good instance of ‘game where you edit the source code’. It sandboxes you pretty hard, and is single player (avoiding an entire class of problems regarding hacking and malicious coding in-game), but I think it’s a shining counter-example to your pessimism

    • Anonymous says:

      Second Life uses individual players coding things very successfully (player coded objects drive a 3 million dollar economy).

      I don’t know if I’d consider it a teaching tool for beginners, but it is a very successful game in which you’re coding things that interact with players in a social way.

    • Kaj Sotala says:

      According to group’s own papers at least (e.g. this) kids seem to have really liked earlier versions of CodeSpells:

      We recruited forty girls (ages 10 to 12) who had no prior programming experience in any language or programming environment. We gave them a short overview of the CodeSpells game mechanics – including how to write and edit code with the in-game IDE. We divided them into 12 groups of three and 2 groups of two, and encouraged them to explore the 3D world and to see if they could “do interesting things”. We were purposefully vague, as we hoped to encourage a largely unstructured learning environment. […]

      Our subjects played CodeSpells for the entire hour before we had to ask them to stop. Students expressed disappointment that it was “over so soon”. 25 of the subjects showed interest in playing CodeSpells at home and wanted to know when it would be available for them to play. […]

      Some subjects tried changing method calls like thing.levitate(3) to thing.hop() or to thing.blowup() (which are not available in the API but are surprisingly correct syntactically). Even though these attempts failed to evoke the desired effect, students did not appear to become discouraged. Subjects also discovered quite valid changes in this way too – e.g. thing.levitate(300000). This suggests a drive to explore, play, and create. And furthermore, this drive appeared to be fueled (rather than dampened) by syntax errors. Of the 6 groups videotaped, 4 of them encountered some syntax error that they resolved either by undoing the error they introduced (55% of the time) or asking the undergraduate student that was near them (45% of the time). In all cases, acts of self-structured activities followed these interludes.

      A particularly interesting phenomenon occurred with regard to what one might call “logic errors”. One group of girls made the mistake of levitating an object so high into the air that it could not be reached. They were able to retrieve the object, however, by jumping onto another object and levitating it (and thus themselves) sufficiently high enough to reach the original object. This emergent use of code to surmount challenges of one’s own making is an act that fits our definition of exploratory play. Logic errors were seen in all 6 groups recorded, but we note again that the exploration seemed to be fueled (rather than dampened) by things going awry.

      During the lab study and more so in the group interviews we were encouraged to hear that the girls felt empowered. When changes to the code didn’t accomplish what they wanted, they kept working towards their goal, trying different spells or different code changes until they eventually reached it. When asked about how they reached their goals, they conveyed that they “knew it could be done” and that they “just needed to figure out how”. They described code as a “way to accomplish anything” within the 3D environment. At no point did they describe programming as a barrier to the self-structured activities and creative exploration in which they chose to engage.”

      As for Robot Turtles, it’s a clever game that teaches some of the most rudimentary thought patterns for programming / algorithmic thinking, and the then five-year-old (now six) who I got it for loved it, so I wouldn’t exactly call it a failure. Code Monkey Island seems similar.

  7. Anonymous says:

    David Lester has written an awfully large number of very short papers in Psychological Reports, mainly about suicide. The linked paper is one of four by him in that issue. He is not the only one who writes short papers, but he writes about half of them.

    Once upon a time, I read a blog post about another psychologist who wrote many short papers, I think in that same journal. But instead of focusing on a single standard topic, though exploring it from diverse angles, these papers seemed to be focused on convenience samples, such as the excuses offered for exceeding the limit at the grocery express lane.

  8. Johannes says:

    Those music and personality studies are rather ridiculous and deserve all kinds of scorn. It starts with the arbitrary (basically commercial) musical categories. The trivial popular music of the last 60 years is divided into 6 or 8 subcategories whereas a 100 years of diverse Jazz styles from ragtime to fusion are all in one and 800 years of diverse styles of western classical are put into two (“classical” and “opera”) With any luck, most people might mean pop-classical/opera like three tenors and film scores.

    As call-me-aka points out, lots of classical music can serve as a contrarian or elitist status marker; it does not have to be contemporary or obscure Renaissance, Beethoven’s string quartets or Bartok’s piano music will usually suffice to keep one aloof from the Three Tenors fanciers.
    I have seen some of these questionnaires and often they do not capture at all the difference between people who put on some “nice soft classical” on sunday morning and/or attend a few opera performances for societal reasons and people who deeply care and sometimes also perform this music

    True, there are more fans of both Heavy Metal and Classical as one might suppose (naively I would have expected them disjoint subsets), but I do not really think they are usually all that similar. I cannot really imagine introvert people attending heavy metal concerts frequently.
    And opera is, among other things, the domain of extrovert and extravagant gay men (this has been covered in pop science literature, google for diva opera queen or sth. like that).

    • lmm says:

      A huge proportion of metal fans are nerds of one form or another IME. It’s right up there with D&D or Tolkien (and indeed there is some direct crossover in subject matter)

    • BenSix says:

      I cannot really imagine introvert people attending heavy metal concerts frequently.

      It’s catharsis. You don’t talk to many people – you just scream and swing your elbows. Here‘s another study.

      • Going to metal concerts in my youth (ie. 10-ish years ago) was one of the most cathartic experiences that this high-energy introvert ever had. They were great. It’s not weird at all that introverts should like metal.

        • Tab Atkins says:

          Absolute agreement here. I fell in love with mosh pits back when I was a nerdy teenage introvert precisely because of the “catharsis” thing, plus teenage metal chicks liked moshers, so it let me overcome my extreme shyness with girls.

          Then I continued to like them after I flipped the switch and became an extrovert, because they’re still fucking cathartic and fun.

      • Matthew says:

        There are different kinds of introverts. That sounds like horrible overstimulation to me.

        • BenSix says:

          Oh, indeed. (I find sentences about categories of people that begin with “there are different kinds of…” will generally be true.)

    • Harald K says:

      As I see it, one of the defining aspects of metal is admiration for virtuosity. The other is a love for epic drama and passion. This is similar to a lot of classical music, in particular opera. “Genetically” they have little in common, but there are many similarities in phenotype, if you will.

      In Boris Godunov, third act, the two delinquent beggar monks Misail and Varlaam return to Russia ahead of the ursurper Dmitri and his army. They enter from a distance, singing about how the ground calls out for the blood of Boris Godunov for his crimes.

      I dare you to find one metal fan to not appreciate that scene. I believe the technical term is “metal as fuck”.

      • Luke Somers says:

        Mahler 8th symphony, part 2. About 45s before the chorus comes in. My response? Needs More Electric Guitar.

      • Nornagest says:

        I’ve occasionally thought that the Anvil Chorus from Il trovatore was pretty metal — and not just for the name, smartass.

    • Anonymous says:

      I cannot really imagine introvert people attending heavy metal concerts frequently.

      I am fairly introverted and I love the mosh pit you have no idea.

      • Johannes says:

        TBH I fail to understand how anyone, regardless of extra/introversion, could willingly immerse himself in the “mosh pit”, unless heavily intoxicated, but I freely admit to both lacking imagination and having a rather strong aversion against a) noise and b) crowds.
        Being stranded in the audience of such a concert would come very close to hell for me and I’d fight my way out to open space and quietness with tooth and claw.

        • stille says:

          You really don’t want to immerse yourself in the mosh pit if heavily intoxicated. Short reflex response time help keep you on your feet when someone else flies into you.

        • Anonymous says:

          TBH I fail to understand how anyone, regardless of extra/introversion, could willingly immerse himself in the “mosh pit”,

          It is an immensely sensual experience. I am a very large man – 6’3″ and 240 pounds – and I am exceedingly gentle in “real life” because things break and people hurt if I don’t take care to move slowly and cautiously. In the Mosh Pit, everybody is there for the same reason I am – to experience the rhythmic push and pull of the bodies around me – so it is acceptable to push, be pushed, and push back. It satisfies a lot of the same urges I had when I was still practicing Martial Arts, but without the competitive element and without a failure state, I can just immerse myself in the exertion of my body in a way that I get nowhere else.

        • Tab Atkins says:

          Mosh pits are a way to engage in fights without as much physical risk, which you can opt out of whenever you’re tired of it. The adrenaline rush you get from that kind of experience is hard to describe – it’s ecstatic, in the proper definition of that word. The noise and crush of the crowd, and the deep-in-your-body thumping of the music, all contributes to the ecstatic experience as well, making it very easy to lose yourself in something amazing and vital.

          Example: My absolute favorite moshing experience was at some death metal concert, when I and another big guy (both of us over 6′) started locking onto each other, and the other moshers cleared away a bit to give the two of us room. It culminated in us rushing each other across about 20′ of space, with him definitely winning the clash – I was thrown all the way back to the edge of the pit and caught by my little brother. I don’t actually have any memory of the contact or the travel, just coming to in my brother’s arms as he wrestled me up off the ground. The memory of it still gives me chills and revs up my heart rate.

          In every other circumstance of my entire life, I’m a peaceful, kind person, without a violent bone in my body. ^_^

          It’s similar in spirit to BDSM, maybe – I definitely don’t share any BDSM urges, but the idea of “safe” danger seems like it’s a large part of the appeal in both cases.

      • veronica d says:

        I probably count as a bit on the introverted side and I love the “mosh pit” (although I’m getting a bit old for that sort of thing). I also love club dancing.

        I think the reason is this: while I love small, intimate groups, when I am “out among strangers”, various kinds of dancing give me something cool to do, where my relatively awkward social skills are not too much of a hindrance.

        At a normal party type thing, I often end up totally a wallflower.

    • nydwracu says:

      I can see metal fans liking Wagner. I can’t see metal fans liking Mozart.

      (Then again, I am the worst modernist when it comes to classical music — I can hardly stand anything older than Scriabin.)

      • stille says:

        Depends on the metal fan and on the Mozart, I guess. His Requiem is popular like you wouldn’t believe among metalheads. There are also actual bands that can get pretty Mozart-influenced on some of their albums

      • veronica d says:

        In my experience there is a huge overlap between “intellectual metal fan” and “complex classical music fan.”

        Myself, I was a punk and then one day a friend loaned me Stravinsky. My response: “This changes everything!”

        • stille says:

          Heh, I could totally see this happening to me had I not an irrational distaste for me as a classical fan. As it is, I just apply a lot of cognitive dissonance when listening to Stravinsky.

          • veronica d says:

            True story, I was in the living room listening to Rites of Spring on headphones, but loud enough to hear, and my dad walks in and checks on me, cuz like what is happening? Veronica is listening to “classical”?

            (Let us skip the fact that Stravinsky is not “classical”. This is my dad’s point of view.)

            Anyway, so I kinda-sorta felt actually embarrassed, since I don’t really listen to stuff like this and it was weird and required explanation.

            “Well, uh, a friend loaned it to me and it’s really cool.”

            My dad appeared puzzled.

      • BenSix says:

        Guess who

        I have actually been listening to quite a bit of heavy metal lately, and Metallica, I think, is genuinely talented.

      • a person says:

        I feel like, perhaps contrary to stereotypes, most people are capable of enjoying both “hard” and “soft” music.

    • stille says:

      Metal concerts don’t require you to socialize with anyone. You’re just there, in the middle of the crowd, and the music is doing the emotional cohesion instead of the socialization. Add me to the multiple other commenters describing the experience as cathartic.

      On a more-general metal-and-classical-how-do-they-mix things, classically-trained female vocalists are a dime a dozen in metal bands, and everyone and their grandmother seems to try doing at least one album with full orchestral backing if they can afford it

    • A Cat in Ulthar says:

      Anecdotally, a fondness for classical music is very common among metalheads. Many metal musicians are classically trained. In my experience, metalheads are disproportionately introverted.
      Also, WITNESS! Neoclassical metal:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6P9xxJ4V7no
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZVebSr-MFM

  9. I’m not at all convinced that a Guaranteed Income will stop people working.

    I actually think it will be the opposite. With a GI every dollar you earn makes you better off. There’s no poverty trap where earning more can leave you worse off. Which means there are greater incentives to work.

    Now, some currently shitty jobs will need to pay more to attract people. And some currently nice jobs will probably pay less, because people on GI will be happy to do them for cheap. (And you can get rid of the minimum wage, because people are no longer forced to either work or starve, so it’s up to them how much/little they work for., so ‘nice’ jobs will be able to operate on very little pay at low levels, I suspect.)

    • drethelin says:

      You don’t need basic income to get rid of poverty traps, you just need NON shitty welfare/taxation.

      • If you want to discuss other welfare systems and how they can avoid welfare traps, then that’s fine.

        But I was responding to Scott’s point on whether GI caused disincentives to job-seeking, and that’s the topic I’m sticking to.

        • drethelin says:

          I’m saying your response in regard to that is missing the point, since you’re comparing it to welfare traps. It’s like saying “tame cows are a better than wild dogs because they’re not going to bite you” without noticing that the important factor is TAMENESS not whether or not you’re comparing dogs to cows.

      • Tracy W says:

        The problem isn’t the poverty trap, it’s the taxes to pay for the GI. If you’re paying average taxes of 50% say (and note I’m saying average, not top marginal), work starts sounding less attractive.

      • Tracy W says:

        The reason that there are poverty traps is that reducing abatement rates gets really expensive. Eg let’s imagine a simple welfare system that phases out welfare support for earnings between $20,000 and $30,000. The government decides to lower marginal abatement costs by phasing out instead from $20,000 to $40,000. So you now have to pay money to everyone making $35,000 as well as paying more money to the people making $25,000.

        Consequently you have less money left to help the really poor (or fund research into clean energy, or refit government buildings to be wheel chair accessible or whatever is your other “this should be a priority” you have for government spending.) So it’s not surprising that abatement levels tend to run high.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think it’s probably easier to do non-shitty BI than non-shitty welfare/taxation.

        Have you seen tax codes? They’re crazy. Proverbially so. Just a huge mass of special cases and exceptions and exceptions to the exceptions layered over each other into a mess.

    • Mary says:

      ” With a GI every dollar you earn makes you better off.”

      For every luxury good except leisure time.

      Lots of people really, really, really like their leisure time.

      Plus of course the pride element of never having worked a day in your life.

    • Eric Rall says:

      There’s an income effect (the more money you have, the less your incentive to go out and get more, because declining marginal utility) and a substitution effect (higher effective marginal tax rates increase the “price” of income, but don’t increase the “price” of leisure and non-market production, so your consumption mix changes to “buy” more of the latter and less of the former with your time and energy).

      Replacing the current style of transfer programs with a living-wage level guaranteed income would worsen the income effect while improving the substitution effect. The net effect on incentive to work is an open question, because we don’t know with confidence the size of the two effects over the relevant range.

      Curiously, the guesses among major ideological factions on this seem to reverse vs the same question when applied to top-end tax rates. Conservatives and libertarians tend to argue that the substitution effects dominate when it comes to tax rates, while conservatives in particular tend to argue that income effects of a GI would dominate (libertarians seem to be divided on this question). Liberals and progressives often seem to argue the reverse.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’ve seen it argued that because many worker benefits and other aspects of running a business are tax deductible, a UBI would increase the incentive of rich people to invest money in businesses. An expanded notion of the substitution effect, essentially.

    • Tracy W says:

      The problem isn’t the poverty trap, it’s the taxes to pay for the GI. If you’re paying average taxes of 50% say (and note I’m saying average, not top marginal), work starts sounding less attractive.

      • fubarobfusco says:

        Humans shouldn’t be doing work that is better done by machine anyway. And that’s an increasing number of jobs — including skilled and intellectual work as well as manual labor.

        Consider this as an FAI problem, where the “AI” is the development of a fully-automated economy, in which human labor is obsolete.

        Eventually we end up in either a situation where the robots are doing the work and the humans get to do what we like … or we end up dead. Automation will take over the economy; but we may get to decide — to some extent — what the rules and conditions are under which that takeover happens.

        We could write rules under which anyone who cannot currently do productive labor — for instance, because their abilities are below the threshold where automation is cheaper — is defined as possessing no value. In this case, the automated economy will not prefer that such people exist, and so will not allocate any food or space for them. But the limit case, “them” is “all of us.” The automated economy obeys the constraints set around it. The mass of humanity starves to death, leaving a hollow and fragile remnant of an automated economy — probably one substantially less interesting than that in Charles Stross’s Saturn’s Children and Neptune’s Brood.

        Or we could write rules under which every human, merely for existing, has some value. A basic income is one of many ways to encode this notion. It effectively reallocates a tiny fraction of all economic activity to the preservation of each member of humanity. Rather than a static “redistribution of wealth”, it can be considered a constraint (in the formal sense) on the development of the automated economy. It says that no individual human’s value can be zero; that the system is never allowed to forget to allow people to live.

        • Tracy W says:

          Maybe. But that doesn’t mean that a UBI is a good idea now, or while some people at least are still working. Basically you’re taking money from people who are working, and giving money back to them, and also to people who are living off capital, as well as the poor. It’s a very expensive way of getting money to the poor.

          • fubarobfusco says:

            Managing the transition is the important part now. The automated economy is already happening, industry by industry, over the next few years. Expect all the truckers to be out of work in the next two or three Presidential administrations, for instance — their skilled labor replaced with robots who do the job better, safer, and cheaper.

            Writing the rule “humans always have value” into the automated economy as an external constraint — by assuring that each human explicitly owns a fraction of the total economic value in the system — seems like a lot better systems engineering than expecting every coder to program it piecemeal into the source code of each individual robot truck, automated trading system, traffic routing system, etc., and to understand the emergent behavior of those systems’ interactions in the automated economy.

          • peterdjones says:

            I don’t see what you mean. Expensive to implement? UBI is widely seen as a replacement for a raft of benefits, and since it isn’t means tested, requires less bureaucracy in itself.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Ms. McArdle crunched the numbers.

            tldr:
            235,000,000 US adults
            Current welfare/unemployment/etc spending: $600,000,000,000
            UBI per person per year if we use all of that: $2,553

            Cost of $12k/yr UBI: 3 trillion, pretty close to what we spend on everything right now.

            Those are damning numbers to me. Pro-UBIs who discuss the subject without addressing them look silly. It’s like we’ve regressed from Galilean empiricism back to Aristotelian thought experiments, an error Rationalists seem very prone to overall.

          • Alex Godofsky says:

            Jaskologist, your comparison isn’t appropriate.

            If you remove all of the means-tested benefits and replace them with a flat benefit, you can then sharply raise taxes on a lot of people while:

            1. having no net effect on their MTRs, and
            2. having no net effect on their after-tax after-transfer income

            (made up numbers to follow)

            Imagine someone has $5000 in means-tested benefits right now, $10000 in income, pays no income tax, but 50 cents of every dollar in benefits is removed for every additional dollar in income.

            Now change the system so that the person receives a $5000 UBI and pays a 50% income tax on the $10000-$20000 bracket.

            These programs are economically identical in ever way but now the implicit 50% MTR has been made explicit.

            You can then see how radically varying the actual MTR faced by individuals is and smooth it out. You can also see how high the actual MTR is on low-income individuals and lower it for them while raising it for higher incomes, which should also make the tax system more efficient.

            Finally, for benefits with complex administration rather than *just* income-based phaseouts, you reduce the administrative burden.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Yeah, anti-National Incomers who throw out scary cost numbers without addressing the “pay $20k in taxes and get $20k back” effect are the ones who are silly and irrational from where I sit.

          • Tracy W says:

            See Ed Nolan’s costing of a UBI in the USA.

            He redistributes all federal spending on welfare except for healthcare (on the sensible basis that if you cut out Medicare and Medicaid and so forth then you need to raise the UBI level for people to live on it).
            He cuts out the mortgage deduction, tax benefits for retirement savings, and charitable deductions, plus a bunch of smaller deductions, and he reforms social security.
            What does this redistribution of existing spending and tax deductions amount to?

            UBI grant of $4,452 per person per year.

            As I said, a UBI is a very expensive way of getting money to the poor.

            http://www.economonitor.com/dolanecon/2014/01/13/could-we-afford-a-universal-basic-income/

          • Tracy W says:

            If you remove all of the means-tested benefits and replace them with a flat benefit, you can then sharply raise taxes on a lot of people while:

            1. having no net effect on their MTRs, and
            2. having no net effect on their after-tax after-transfer income

            Ed Nolan, a supporter of the UBI, considers that case. If you just redistribute the existing welfare spending, you get a UBI of about $3,160 a year in the USA.
            Do you live on $3,160 a year per person?

          • suntzuanime says:

            You pay for most of the National Income by raising income tax! People can afford to pay extra income tax because they’re getting extra income from the National Income! This “huge cost” that you cite is basically entirely a bookkeeping illusion! This has been explained to you multiple times, but you’ve ignored it entirely, so either you’re extremely dense or totally disingenuous!

            There’s a reason our host put “(non-budgetary)” while describing the holes Scott Sumner poked in the idea; it’s because anybody who knows anything about anything knows that the budgetary holes that get poked are always bullshit.

          • Tracy W says:

            suntzuanime: the trouble is that you get the money “back” even if you don’t work. Many proponents of the UBI gladly envisage people leaving their badly-paid, dangerous and dirty jobs to live off the UBI.

          • suntzuanime says:

            You don’t make that argument by dividing current welfare expenditures by current population.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            I think maybe the confusion here comes from the fact that UBI as typically pictured (at least, as I picture it) is both a reorganization and an expansion of transfers.

            We can tautologically afford just the reorganization (because it’s a reorganization and not an expansion). I think what’s driving the anti-UBIers here nuts is that to them, UBI is mainly associated with a giant expansion, and talking about a budget-neutral UBI seems oxymoronic.

          • peterdjones says:

            You can increases taxes paid , you can increase benefits receive and that can make no overall change because negative numbers and positive .numbers,

            …….That’s hard to understand?

          • Tracy W says:

            suntzuanime:

            You don’t make that argument by dividing current welfare expenditures by current population.

            Well go tell Ed Nolan that. He’s a supporter of the UBI and he’s the one who did the costing. If you have a way of making it cheaper, I’m sure he’d be delighted to hear that.

            peterdjones:

            You can increases taxes paid , you can increase benefits receive and that can make no overall change because negative numbers and positive .numbers,

            Or it can make an overall change, because you’re changing who gets the money and thus their work incentives. Indeed, supporters of the UBI say that one of the merits is that a UBI will allow people to quit low-paid, dangerous and dirty jobs. That argument is not consistent with the idea that the negative and positive numbers balance out.

            Let’s take the extreme case. Say that income tax rates are 100%, with all that money being redistributed as a UBI. Why would anyone bother working in that case?

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            The point is that for a lot of people, including myself and (I would guess) Tracy W, UBI connotationally means a major expansion of (edit: net) transfers. This is why ‘UBI’ reads as more progressive than ‘EITC’ when technically the only difference is that the latter phases out at high incomes and, as you point out, an accompanying tax change can make one equivalent to the other.

          • Anonymous says:

            Indeed, supporters of the UBI say that one of the merits is that a UBI will allow people to quit low-paid, dangerous and dirty jobs.

            From what I gather, the merit here is not so much that people will quit low-paid, dirty, and dangerous jobs, as that dirty and dangerous jobs will stop being low-paid because they still need to get done and the UBI offers an alternative for the people that would otherwise take them out of desperation.

          • Tracy W says:

            ADifferentAnonymous:

            The point is that for a lot of people, including myself and (I would guess) Tracy W, UBI connotationally means a major expansion of (edit: net) transfers.

            Actually, to me the first connotation of a UBI is a massive cut in payments to the poorest, as all the actual costings I’ve seen include this.

            Anonymous:

            the merit here is not so much that people will quit low-paid, dirty, and dangerous jobs, as that dirty and dangerous jobs will stop being low-paid because they still need to get done

            If you are paying more money to people doing low-paid, dirty and dangerous jobs, then either you have to cut costs elsewhere, or raise prices, or cut profits (if a private company). So, for example, if a government now has to pay more to its nursing aide workers then it might cut back on the patients’ food bills, or visits from doctors, or perhaps road maintenance (affecting demand for road workers), or raise taxes. A business might also cut back on quality, or raise prices, or reduce profits. If a business reduces profits it reduces the income of its shareholders, including in the cases of public companies, pension funds, so in other words, lower pension payouts.

            So, you’ve raised the price of what people buy with their incomes, and/or you’ve raised taxes and/or you’ve lowered investment earnings. That’s going to have effects, people will cut back somewhere else.

          • Tab Atkins says:

            The “taking money and then giving it back” objection has some validity, but others have addressed it. It’s most commonly stated in an attempt to make it sound ridiculous, though, which is missing the entire point.

            A significant benefit of a UBI is it removing the risk of starving to death for making a mistake. You simply can’t give up an income without either (a) putting together significant savings first, to catch you if you fall, or (b) gambling with your life, so many people are prevented from ever taking big risks in the first place. It doesn’t seem reasonable that only the upper-middle class actually has good risky ideas, which means we’re leaving good ideas on the table because people can’t wait 20 years to put together a year of savings.

            So that’s why “take it and then give it back” isn’t ridiculous – because it means that when we don’t have anything to take, for whatever reason, we’ll already have the “give it back” part going and ready to depend on.

      • Alex Godofsky says:

        This really isn’t a big problem. We currently have a whole bunch of “cheap” anti-poverty programs with phaseouts. These phaseouts create high implicit MTRs.

        Replacing those programs with a UBI funding by far higher tax rates on the poor would result in a ~identical distribution of resources, identical effective MTRs, and therefore identical incentives / economic output. The only change would be taking implicit MTRs and making them explicit.

        If you then rebalance the tax rates to smooth out those MTRs, you can gain a lot of economic efficiency AND a more progressive distribution of resources.

      • Anthony says:

        And it might be worse than that. Assume there are 1/3*10^9 people in the U.S. A program that gave them $6000/year each would cost $2 trillion. Total Federal spending in 2013 was about $3.5 trillion, and that includes Defense, Transportation, Medicare/Medicaid, the VA, interest on the debt, and other spending items you probably want to keep out of the UBI. (On the other hand, you can save a bunch of money by reducing all Federal salaries by the amount of the UBI.)

        And even if poor people’s medical care is covered, $6000/person/year isn’t much.

      • Ano says:

        I think a lot of supporters of a Basic Income see that as a feature rather than a bug. If the only thing that is keeping people working minimum wage is the threat of being destitute, homeless and starving, is that really what we would call a mutually beneficial and entirely voluntary arrangement?

        • Tracy W says:

          So you implement a UBI paid for by an average income tax of 50%. A bunch of people who hated their jobs quit and live off the UBI – as said supporters plan. Some of them may spend their time getting education or starting a small business, but that takes time to generate large sums of money. So in the meantime, the government raises average taxes to say 55%. So some more people who very much dislike their jobs decide to quit and live off the UBI. So the government raises average tax rates again ….

    • Matt C says:

      There are greater incentives to work with a BI, relative to another person who is getting the exact same value of transfer payments but structured with an effective high marginal tax rate.

      The whole point of UBI is that it is universal and will apply to all sorts of people who are presently not getting any transfer payments. In that case it is a straightforward disincentive to work, because you can enjoy the same consumption working 20 or 30 hours instead of 40 (or whatever).

      Back in my 20s I knew lots of dudes who were not getting any transfer payments and had no effective tax cliff, and still had trouble finding or keeping steady work because getting up early every morning to go to a kinda crappy job just didn’t seem that important. Most of us grew out of it eventually, but I don’t think the state subsidizing our slacking would have been a desirable policy.

      I think the prospect of an underclass that has little to no acquaintance with working for a living is scary. The idea that this should become a way of life across generations–well, if we go there, I sure hope the political and social stability we’re enjoying in the last few generations is permanent.

      Re the automation economy and humans being put out of work. We’ve seen large changes in the structure of the economy before, and we adjusted, and we found there were useful things for people to do other than (for example) work a farm. Those who are convinced humans are going obsolete say “this time is different”, but it would be better if this was defended and not merely asserted.

      • Anonymous says:

        >Those who are convinced humans are going obsolete say “this time is different”, but it would be better if this was defended and not merely asserted.

        Not a defense but a past example: technology has put nearly all animals out of employment.

        • Matt C says:

          Specific things that humans do will be replaced by computers and machines. Someone else in the thread said long distance trucking will disappear as a profession. I don’t disagree.

          This isn’t the same thing as saying all things humans can do will be replaced by machines.

          I think (for example) horses becoming mostly obsolete is more comparable to a specific profession or a few professions becoming obsolete, rather than all people (or large groups of people) becoming obsolete.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          I think the case is very strong that human obsolescence will happen eventually. However, I haven’t encountered any particularly strong arguments that it’s happening anytime soon.

      • peterdjones says:

        Experments have shown that while BI disincentives work, it mostly does so for people who have families to raise. That is not obviously a bad thing.

        Given that there is no need for 100% employment, it is also no bad thing if all jobs are occupied by people who like working.

        • Matt C says:

          Interested to hear more about the experiments you’re talking about. I have heard of one BI experiment from many years ago in Canada, but it did not sound very comparable to what BI advocates are hoping for.

          If you know of them, I’m interested in studies of people on disability, trust funds, etc also. From what I’ve observed having an independent income like this is a disincentive to work, but perhaps there’s more structured data.

        • Tracy W says:

          Every experiment I have seen didn’t look at the work impact on the people paying for the UBI.

      • Ano says:

        “We’ve seen large changes in the structure of the economy before, and we adjusted, and we found there were useful things for people to do other than (for example) work a farm.”

        And yet even though we have found ways to take up people’s time, there’s no question that the work that a farmer does is more useful than the work that a bureaucrat or an advertising executive does. If the 200 million jobs in the US are the most useful things for them all to be doing right now and all those jobs are rendered obsolete, we might easily fabricate 200 million jobs to fill everyone’s time. But those jobs would be less important than the ones we have; or we’d be doing them now.

        • Ken Arromdee says:

          And yet even though we have found ways to take up people’s time, there’s no question that the work that a farmer does is more useful than the work that a bureaucrat or an advertising executive does.

          Just like “this proof is obvious” probably means it’s not obvious to much of the audience, “there’s no question that” usually means that there’s a question that. In fact, let’s make it a little stronger: *I* question that. While bureaucrats are woefully inefficient, there’s no way that our society would be able to work with zero bureaucrats. Therefore, bureaucrats have positive value.

          While particular bureaucrats may make things worse, and most bureaucrats may make things worse in particular situations, that doesn’t account for the all the other times where bureaucrats keep the system going but you can’t easily see it.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Yeah, while the marginal bureaucrat is likely negative value, the average bureaucrat is almost certainly more useful than the marginal farmer.

            It’s much less clear that this applies to advertising execs. If a revolution must come, I’d like to suggest that it be the advertising, marketing, PR, and SEO folks that are the ones against the wall this time.

          • Ialdabaoth says:

            If a revolution must come, I’d like to suggest that it be the advertising, marketing, PR, and SEO folks that are the ones against the wall this time.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDW_Hj2K0wo

          • Ano says:

            The basic hunter-gatherer societies of 10,000 years ago had no bureaucrats or waitresses, yet they managed to survive, and the medieval societies of 1,000 years ago had no advertising executives or programmers, and I would be willing to bet that should civilization collapse, we won’t have any of those professions, but we will still have farmers. It is in that sense that they are less important.

          • Nornagest says:

            @Ano — I think the word you’re looking for is “basal”, not “important”. Finding and digging up wild tubers was an essential skill in many (most?) paleolithic societies, and will be essential again if civilization collapses, but it does not therefore follow that people who are good with tubers are making a greater contribution to our current civilization than, say, the marginal dentist.

            Same goes for basket weaving, making arrowheads, strangling small woodland animals, etc.

        • Tracy W says:

          Yes, increasing wealth means we can spend more of out incomes on luxuries rather than necessities.

      • Tracy W says:

        However there are lesser incentives for the people paying a UBI to work, relative to someone getting no transfer payments, as they are facing very high average tax rates.

  10. Johannes says:

    But are those heavy metal nerds introverts who will only listen to records and never brave the sweaty screaming masses of a heavy metal concert/festival? Or are they just “nerds” in the sense of a certain subculture who will nevertheless happily join a crowd of other heavy metal fans at a concert.

    Probably this is a question of age. When I was a teenager in the late 80s, heavy metal was clearly part of the “mainstream”. It was not a niche subculture, but a large one. And the music is not at all that different from other “rock” styles which were of course more dominant back then as nowadays (although I know next to nothing about contemporary popular music, because I detest the whole entertainment business and pop culture deeply).

    Whereas a teenager fancying classical music will always be a 3% or so outsider wrt to musical taste.

    • stille says:

      Oh they’ll happily join the crowd. Sometimes, however, the crowd is 20 people. As for outsiderness, while the scene is pretty large, it’s also pretty fractal, and I remember things could get positively hipsterish (or shall I say trv kvlt) on the metal forums I hung out on in my teenage years

  11. BenSix says:

    John Hawks on the ancestral intestine experiment. Short version: “I got an ancestral microbiome and lost a couple lbs!” “Yes. Say hello to your new helminths!” It is fun to wonder what the Hadza thought of all this, though. “Hey, guys, some dude took my blood.” “And my pee.” “And my shit.” “Jeez, and they are the civilised ones?”

    One thing that interests me about North Korea is that it’s the last nation on the globe that is entirely mysterious. For our parents, great chunks of the world existed only in rumour.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      What’s so mysterious about it? It’s a Stalinist hellhole, it’s well-documented what those are like.

  12. Johannes D says:

    I thought this title was going to be a lie, but after reading the article I’ve got to give him credit – he is technically correct, the best kind of correct. Also gross. Also fascinating.

    Technically technically, those genes aren’t in his body but outside it. Humans are toroids.

    • Vanzetti says:

      In this case, nothing you put in a bag is ever in a bag.

    • Wulfrickson says:

      Humans are toroids.

      Two-holed toroids, if you count nasal passages.

      • Vulture says:

        I feel like I remember a conversation on MathOverflow or somesuch about the genus of a human body, and that it devolved into pedantry about pores on different scales or something.

      • Anthony says:

        Three, if you count *both* nasal passages.

      • Jadagul says:

        When I took algebraic topology at Cambridge, we had an examples section where the professor asked us to consider a bunch of questions like this. The “number of holes in a human” question descended into exactly this sort of thing.

        But I much more distinctly remember the discussion of a bagel. All the students said that a bagel has one hole. And the professor pauses for a minute, and says, “well, in England, yes, I suppose bagels do only have on hole. That’s why I don’t eat bagels here.”

  13. Vulture says:

    Kim Jong-Un continues to missing

    Oh dear! If he missings much longer, I’m going to start thinking he’s deading.

  14. peterdjones says:

    Re Kalief

    The underlying factor seems to be the assumption that everything had to be settled with a plea bargain, a de facto system that is driven by sentence lengths.

    A 94% conviction rate means that arrest is tantamount to conviction, but the gap between arrest and conviction is where justice happen. Would you believe a94% election result.

    This guy…

    http://blog.simplejustice.us/2014/10/04/the-economist-discovers-plea-bargaining/

    …..thinks that plea bargaining is a good thing because otherwise there would be huge increase in courts and trials. Can you spot the logical flaw? That’s right.. you would only be arresting people if you have real evidence, and only going through to trial likewise. You end up with a system that’s less efficient in terms of bodies in jail, and more efficient in terms of ..error. justice.

    • othercriteria says:

      Just briefly noting my amazement that plea bargaining isn’t mentioned in “Prediction goes to war” or (as of 10:20 EDT, 2014-10-06) in any of its comments.

      It’s not hard to have a pretty good oracle when the base rate is around 94%.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        A simple such rule is to only send confessions to trial. Then you get the Japanese justice system, with its ~95% conviction rate. I believe that a large chunk of the acquittals are due to the judges not believing the confessions.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Seconding the amazement. I got confused and assumed I was on that post when I read this comment.

    • Patrick says:

      “Can you spot the logical flaw?”

      You’re not getting it. Convicting guilty people whom you have dead to rights still takes time and costs money. We cannot afford that much money. This incentivizes the government to promote plea bargaining.

      Think of it this way. You remove plea bargaining. Everyone has to go through trial. Ok. How many trials can you afford per year? That is how many people you can convict. If your small community can afford an average of one trial per court day per judge (small cases go fast so you do two of them per day, large cases take several days, it averages out), and you can afford two judges, you can convict maybe 400 people.

      Now add that your cops pull in maybe two drunk drivers per week. So that’s half of your total capacity right there.

      Now I know that the total elimination of plea bargaining isn’t the only option. You could just try to reduce it, while retaining it for certain cut and dry cases like drunk driving or possession. But the reality is that the court system can only operate because the vast majority of cases (particularly if you include civil cases) aren’t real controversies, don’t require a full fledged trial, and don’t receive one because the parties work out something on their own.

      Source- Personal knowledge.

      • Ken Arromdee says:

        If plea bargaining is unfair to the accused, then “if you remove plea bargaining, we won’t be able to afford all the trials” becomes equivalent to “if we have fair trials, we won’t be able to afford all the trials”. Not being able to afford fair trials is not an excuse for unfair trials. If you can’t afford fair trials, then free your prisoners until you can afford to try the ones who are left.

        Injustice is very often cheaper than justice.

        • Patrick says:

          “If plea bargaining is unfair to the accused, then “if you remove plea bargaining, we won’t be able to afford all the trials” becomes equivalent to “if we have fair trials, we won’t be able to afford all the trials”.”

          That’s only if plea bargaining is unfair to the accused because of it’s nature as plea bargaining, and not because plea bargaining is part of a larger criminal justice that is unfair to the accused.

          For example, if you’re worried about plea bargaining because you think that innocent people are being bullied into taking plea bargains to avoid conviction at trial, presumably the root of the injustice is that innocent people believe that they will be convicted if they go to trial. Eliminating plea bargaining will not repair that problem.

          And meanwhile it will literally break our legal system.

          Trials are a lot more time consuming and expensive than the people in this thread seem to believe.

          • Nornagest says:

            A while back, in an only tangentially related context, I worked out a rough estimate of how many serious crimes go through the City of Oakland court system in a year. It turns out to be around seven thousand; a Fermi estimate, not a solid one, but probably close enough to work with.

            Oakland has two courthouses, which are shared with civil and traffic cases. If we’re generous and say that ten courtrooms are available for criminal cases, then the average trial — for a serious felony, remember — would have to last less than half a day for the system to be sustainable without plea bargaining.

          • Drew Hardies says:

            presumably the root of the injustice is that innocent people believe that they will be convicted if they go to trial. Eliminating plea bargaining will not repair that problem.

            There will always be some chance of wrongful conviction. There’s just no way around that.

            My problem with the current system is that the costs of not-pleading seem so huge that it even a very small chance of wrongful conviction could motivate an innocent person to plead guilty.

            Worse, the current system incentives wrongful accusations; each extra charge amounts to a bargaining chip for the prosecutor during plea negotiations.

            This is especially bad because the justice system doesn’t count pre-trial detention as a punishment. So, the accused backpack thief gets detained like a felon, charged for bail like a felon, even thought the prosecutor probably planned to convict him of a misdemeanor.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Some people would say that a legal system that imprisons and tortures a child for a span of three years without giving him even the opportunity to argue his actual innocence deserves to be broken. I gather that this case is not an isolated incident.

          • suntzuanime says:

            You say that we can’t afford to provide justice for the accused. I say that if you can’t afford to prosecute conduct with legitimate due process and respect for human rights, you shouldn’t criminalize that conduct in the first place.

          • AR+ says:

            I agree w/ Suntzuanime. If people are not willing to pay what it would actually cost for properly implemented criminal justice of all crimes, than the amount of prosecution needs to drop until it reaches the amount that can be tried fairly, either by making fewer things illegal or raising the evidence threshold for what is considered worth taking to trial.

            The system will never respond to anything that can not break it. It’s like tampered evidence. You have to throw it out of court even if the defendant still obviously did it, because it’s the only way to incentive cops to not tamper w/ evidence. Likewise, if we really value the right to a speedy trial, we would need a rule like, “Charges not resolved at trial within 6 months of arrest are automatically dismissed w/ prejudice.” THAT would light a fire under the system to enforce a right we are alleged to have had all along.

          • Ken Arromdee says:

            if you’re worried about plea bargaining because you think that innocent people are being bullied into taking plea bargains to avoid conviction at trial, presumably the root of the injustice is that innocent people believe that they will be convicted if they go to trial. Eliminating plea bargaining will not repair that problem.

            Eliminating plea bargaining will help stop that problem because it changes the incentives. Prosecutors will no longer gain anything by piling exceptionally large numbers of charges on people. (And this sometimes hurts innocent people disproportionately. Prosecutor adds on lots of charges but will take a plea bargain if you turn in your partners. If you’re an innocent man, you can’t turn in your partners because you don’t have any.)

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            Not being able to afford fair trials is not an excuse for unfair trials.

            Without necessarily rejecting your conclusions, you really can’t deont your way out of the calculations here. The unfair system we have, in which most of the actual legal authority is probably in police discretion that we have to just trust and probably gets abused a lot, still mostly kinda works. You have to actually convince me that a fairer system would at least mostly kinda work to convince me to switch to one.

          • Patrick says:

            Nornagest: “Oakland has two courthouses, which are shared with civil and traffic cases. If we’re generous and say that ten courtrooms are available for criminal cases, then the average trial — for a serious felony, remember — would have to last less than half a day for the system to be sustainable without plea bargaining.”

            It’s worse than that. Judges can’t just do trials all day. They’re also responsible for reading and ruling upon motions, having pre trial hearings, arraignments, etc. These take up perhaps 50% of their time, with the exact value varying by judge and court staff allocation.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Perhaps if Oakland doesn’t have enough courthouses, they should build more courthouses. Surely our civilization has not declined so much that even this modest feat of architecture is beyond our reach?

          • Ken, the current system doesn’t just hurt innocent people disproportionately. It also hurts conscientious people– those who won’t lie to get someone else convicted– disproportionately.

          • Patrick says:

            The architecture is hardly the greatest concern. A criminal trial requires a bare minimum of a judge, court reporter, defendant, prosecutor, defense attorney, and arresting officer. Often more. Note that most of these are state employees who will need to be paid, and that several of them have other job duties that must be handled by someone else when they are in trial.

            Please note that in the case linked in the OP, the cause of delay was an inability to obtain all of the necessary parties for a trial, coupled with a ridiculous NY rule that only charges the requested delay (typically one week) against the case management schedule, instead of charging the actual delay (typically several months). How people think this will be solved by more trials, I do not know. It clearly needs a solution, but that isn’t going to be it.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Perhaps if Oakland doesn’t have enough courthouses, they should build more courthouses. Surely our civilization has not declined so much that even this modest feat of architecture is beyond our reach?

            The solution is as obvious as it is modest. Since the poor are overwhelmingly the users of the justice system as well as those most likely to benefit from a reform of it, slash our welfare programs and devote the savings to new courthouses.

          • ozymandias says:

            Not sure if parody or neoreactionary.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            @Ozy: I love that line.

          • peterdjones says:

            @Ken

            An innocent man can turn in partners, if prosecutor helpful giver them names in return for helpfully shopping them.

          • peterdjones says:

            “You have to actually convince me that a fairer system would at least mostly kinda work to convince me to switch to one.”

            And would that be evidence on the lines of “already working in other countries” , or does it need to jump some additional hurdle of “needs to be proven to work in America specifically, because of various unexplained kinds of uniqueness”.

          • Nornagest says:

            Perhaps if Oakland doesn’t have enough courthouses, they should build more courthouses. Surely our civilization has not declined so much that even this modest feat of architecture is beyond our reach?

            The issue isn’t really that the city doesn’t have enough courthouses. That’s just a simple way of putting bounds on the capacity of the city’s justice system.

            You could look at this in other ways — estimating the economic impact of calling jurors for all those cases, for example — but you’ll almost certainly get results pointing in the same direction (though the specific numbers will be different).

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            And would that be evidence on the lines of “already working in other countries” , or does it need to jump some additional hurdle of “needs to be proven to work in America specifically, because of various unexplained kinds of uniqueness”.

            Already working in other countries is excellent evidence. Someone might make a case that we’re unique, but I’m not that person.

            If we couldn’t afford fair trials, then that would be a great excuse for unfair trials, if the latter mostly-kinda-worked. That’s really the extent of my objection.

      • peterdjones says:

        ” Convicting guilty people whom you have dead to rights still takes time and costs money. We cannot afford that much money. This incentivizes the government to promote plea bargaining.”

        I find that surprising, since other countries that are generally less wealthy than the US are able to run trial based systems. Do you have a cite? And isn’t the US spending a comparatively large amount on jails
        ? Oh, and convictng people you have dead to rights only takes quick trials. It’s the edge cases that are slow and expensive.

        ” You remove plea bargaining. Everyone has to go through trial.”

        The second sentence doesn’t follow from the first, since the police have the option of not pressing cases where the evidence is weak.

        ” Now I know that the total elimination of plea bargaining isn’t the only option. ”

        I never actually said eliminate it. I also noted that it seems to be organically related to long sentences, and so could be indirectly reduced.

        “You could just try to reduce it, while retaining it for certain cut and dry cases like drunk driving or possession. ”

        Yes, you can still have the guilty plea. Which is a form if plea bargaining. Plea bargaining is more than one thing.

        “Source- Personal knowledge.”

        Of how many different systems?

        • cassander says:

          >I find that surprising, since other countries that are generally less wealthy than the US are able to run trial based systems

          Trials suffer strongly from the cost disease, and more importantly, the US has a uniquely legalistic culture, even among common law countries.

          >The second sentence doesn’t follow from the first, since the police have the option of not pressing cases where the evidence is weak.

          the police have that option now. you seem to be assuming that all cases with weak evidence and plea bargaining go hand in hand, but I doubt that is the case. there is the most incentive to plea when evidence is strong.

          • Patrick says:

            “there is the most incentive to plea when evidence is strong.”

            Bingo.

          • peterdjones says:

            Not really, the incentive is a product of the strength of evidence and the likely sentence, Having longer sentences, and death sentences increases the pressure on to someone to bargain their own case.

            But that isn’t even the most invidious part of the system. The most invidious part is bargaining down person As sentence in return for “evidence” against against person B.

      • http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1532&context=fss_papers

        I’ve only read part of the pdf, but Germany prevents plea-bargaining, and some of how they do it is by making trials more efficient.

        • Patrick says:

          “More efficient” in this context in large part means “fewer due process rights for the accused.” If I recall correctly, the foremost are jury rights and the right to an exclusionary rule as a remedy for police misconduct. Also I believe they have a two tier system which streamlines lower level offenses. And a significantly lower crime rate.

          There’s also something different about the way their crimes are structured… Prosecutors are legally mandated to prosecute, and I think that their criminal code might be structured so that this isn’t as disastrous as it would be in the US? But I’m not an expert on Germany.

          Which is to say, the US might have a good bit to learn from Germany. But it won’t be as simple as eliminating plea bargaining just because Germany has.

      • Cadmium says:

        Patrick is right. Also, I’m not sure why everyone is assuming that prosecutors only want to convict as many people as possible and impose the longest sentences possible regardless of actual guilt. All of the prosecutors I have known have been good people. Mind you, I’m not from the USA; I can see how these issues could be worse in jurisdictions with elected prosecutors.

        • Ken Arromdee says:

          It’s not necessarily wanting to convict regardless of actual guilt (though that does happen too, of course), it’s cases where the prosecutor either honestly but falsely thinks the person is guilty, or honestly believes crime A should be severely punished so he tries to convict the suspect of B as well in order to extend the sentence. (He then adds charges C and D, so the suspect gets sentenced for both A and B after plea-bargaining.)

          There are also cases of prosecutor bias–for instance, the prosecutor believes the policeman’s word without considering how often policemen lie.

          And of course, prosecutors see lots of guilty people, and may just end up believing every suspect is guilty because almost all of them are.

          None of this requires that the prosecutor be other than completely sincere.

          • Patrick says:

            “it’s cases where the prosecutor either honestly but falsely thinks the person is guilty”

            Irrelevant. Legal ethics have to be constructed around what the participants honestly believe, not around what is actually true. This is obvious once you think about it- imagine if someone said that jurors should only convict people who are actually guilty, not people they honestly believe are guilty. How? I mean, sure, let’s make that the aspiration. But we’re not Socratic philosopher kings capable of seeing into the dimension of pure truth. We just do our best, and our ethical rules have to reflect that.

            “or honestly believes crime A should be severely punished so he tries to convict the suspect of B as well in order to extend the sentence. (He then adds charges C and D, so the suspect gets sentenced for both A and B after plea-bargaining.)”

            Also a red herring unless the prosecutor doesn’t actually have evidence to ethically prosecute B, C, or D, in which case the coercive effect is minimal, and in which case the prosecutor is extremely unlikely to pull this stunt. This isn’t to say that the defendant won’t FEEL like this stunt was pulled, but that’s a different question. Also note that a prosecutor can have the evidence to ethically prosecute B, C, and D without being completely certain of a conviction on B, C, and D. See, e.g., almost every sexual assault case ever.

            Look. I know that on TV shows the viewer is presented with a defendant who the audience, thanks to their third person omniscient perspective, knows to be objectively guilty of only misdemeanor possession, but who is fraudulently charged with the show’s homicide-of-the-week to extract a confession and testimony against the real killer, who’s identity the prosecutor knows because the audience knows it and tv shows aren’t well written.

            Real justice system personnel do not have third person omniscient perspective. Here’s what you’re actually likely to see- The prosecutor has just cause to charge someone with drug possession. Due to the amount of drugs, he can use an elevated charge. The defendant was arrested in his own car, and a different drug was found stuffed between the seat cushions. The defendant can be charged with possession of these drugs as well, and civil forfeiture is now available. The amount of drugs permits a dealing charge. A friend was in the back seat of the car and had more drugs on him. State law permits all of the drugs to be charged to the owner/operator of the car. It also permits a conspiracy charge. The cop says that the defendant shoved him and tried to run, so resisting arrest and assaulting an officer can be charged. The prosecutor charges all of these things because the law permits him to charge all of these things and the evidence before him shows that the defendant is probably guilty of them. Then, because most of that is pointless nonsense that the state doesn’t really care about, the prosecutor offers a plea bargain designed to route the defendants into parole and rehab with the threat of massive penalties if they fail to complete the program. The defendant takes the deal, violates parole, and ends up serving a million years in jail.

            Now this might be injustice. But the injustice isn’t going to be fixed by leaning on prosecutors. It’s in the criminal code. Eliminating plea bargains isn’t going to reduce the amount of charges filed because prosecutors aren’t filing frivolous charges to heighten dramatic tension. The crime in question is just over penalized.

          • Ken Arromdee says:

            Legal ethics have to be constructed around what the participants honestly believe, not around what is actually true.

            This is not true. You’re confusing “honest belief” and “has a reason”. While we can’t convict only people who are guilty, we can have standards for convicting them that are stronger than just “someone honestly believes he’s guilty”. For instance, that’s why the police are only supposed to arrest based on reasonable suspicion; they can’t just say “I have a hunch that guy is a criminal” and arrest him, whether his hunch is sincere or not.

    • cassander says:

      > That’s right.. you would only be arresting people if you have real evidence, and only going through to trial likewise. You end up with a system that’s less efficient in terms of bodies in jail, and more efficient in terms of ..error. justice.

      You could argue that such a system would result in fewer innocents in jail (though I wouldn’t accept it as given). But it is hard to see how you wouldn’t definitely have more guilty people going free. And despite pious statements like “better to let 1000 guilty go free than jail one innocent” there are costs to type 2 errors.

    • Drew Hardies says:

      …..thinks that plea bargaining is a good thing because otherwise there would be huge increase in courts and trials. Can you spot the logical flaw? That’s right.. you would only be arresting people if you have real evidence, and only going through to trial likewise.

      I’ll argue that the problem isn’t plea bargaining itself. A 10% reduction in sentences for people who plead guilty could save a ton of resources without compromising our justice system.

      I think the problem is that plea bargaining — as implemented — is massively coercive.

      For one, letting people ‘plead down’ seems hugely unjust. The prosecutor shouldn’t be charging things they can’t prove. And they shouldn’t be letting people avoid convictions for things they can prove.

      Symmetrically: prosecutors shouldn’t be seeking unjust punishments. And the massive reductions people seem to get via plea bargains suggest that prosecutors are knowingly overcharging to coerce people into pleading guilty.

      That seems horrific and entirely unlike a situation where we offered a small and standardized reduction for guilty pleas.

      • Patrick says:

        “For one, letting people ‘plead down’ seems hugely unjust. The prosecutor shouldn’t be charging things they can’t prove.”

        That sentence presumes a lot. You can’t treat “what the prosecutor can prove” as a complete known prior to trial.

        “And they shouldn’t be letting people avoid convictions for things they can prove.”

        Never? Why not? Seriously.

        • peterdjones says:

          If the prosecutor feels they can prove their case, what would be their motivation for offering a bargain?

          • Nornagest says:

            I think I’d actually expect prosecutors to plea-bargain almost every case they can, regardless of whether they think they can prove it. The only real exceptions are high-profile cases where the public demands an actual trial.

            Jury trials are expensive, time-consuming, and unreliable — all it takes is one sufficiently stubborn juror to give you a hung jury and a repeat of the whole process, and procedural errors or an unusually good performance from a public defender might even produce an acquittal. Hell, the accused might even be innocent.

            Now, if you’re a prosecutor, your career depends on being seen as putting criminals away. But the public (if you’re elected), or your boss (if you’re appointed), aren’t going to look through your case record and pick out cases where you could probably have gone to trial and squeezed a couple more years’ sentence out. The statistic you’re going to point to instead is the ratio of cases coming before you to those resulting in a sentence. And that’s totally insensitive to whether or not you went with a plea bargain. So why not make every effort to ensure that plea bargains will be accepted, and spend the time on the golf course rather than in court?

          • Cadmium says:

            As has already been explained several times, even simple trials where the evidence is overwhelming take up a considerable amount of time and resources due to the inherent difficulties in “proving” things, constitutional arguments, and just plain inefficiencies. When the guy is guilty, and he knows the prosecutor can prove it, whose interest is served by a trial?

          • Ken Arromdee says:

            You can’t speed through the guy who everyone knows is guilty without removing protections for people who are not guilty but who someone “knows” to be guilty.

  15. cassander says:

    I have often heard it argued that for profit companies are short sighted so we need government to plan for the long term. 10 seconds of looking at the environmental history of the USSR ought to be enough to disprove this claim. A half an hour of such investigation renders it utterly laughable.

  16. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    My inner red voice is weak verging on nonexistent, but it spoke up to suggest that maybe enforcing the border should at least be on the table in the GBI ‘di’lemma of allowing a permanent underclass or bankrupting ourselves giving everyone benefits.

    • Alex Godofsky says:

      The real implication (which I know Sumner understands) is that there our priorities between the welfare of foreigners and the welfare of poor Americans are not really defensible.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        My blue-gray majority is with you on moral defensibility, but what Sumner actually wrote was about whether those priorities were practically viable. On the latter question, red’s point stands.

        • Alex Godofsky says:

          I am a long-term reader of Sumner’s blog and so I’m pretty confident in my reading of his larger point. I agree with your interpretation of the specific linked post in isolation; I just also think that in context Sumner intends this to be a data point in favor of “we need to worry much less about intranational income inequality and worry much more about international income inequality”.

          He would much, much rather sabotage the current welfare state for poor Americans in return for allowing more foreigners into America than close the borders so we can expand the current welfare state. In fact, he would probably regard the latter “solution” as substantially worse than the status quo.

          TBH I would prefer (and I think Sumner would prefer) the “poor Americans get welfare and the immigrants form a temporary underclass” solution to many options currently on the table. Partly that’s just because it’s a modestly better version of what already exists. Partly that’s because it may be one of the few politically viable ways to allow more immigrants in, and even as an “underclass” they will still be massively better off than in their home countries.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think Sumner’s point was that this is solving the wrong problem (this is also why I don’t think the people laughing at me for not worrying about this before get it).

      Shutting the border would kind of work, but big companies sabotage this already (both in terms of pushing for opener borders and in terms of circumventing border restrictions and employing illegals) and if everyone has a living wage and companies actually have to entice workers instead of trusting that people have to work or starve, their incentive to do that will be even more. Even if GBI were made politically possible, closed borders might not be.

      And then there’s the moral issue. Open borders helps immigrants. It might also help Americans – I mean, some people say it helps Americans now, but if many Americans didn’t have jobs to be “stolen”, and labor was more expensive, it would help them even more. Immigration might be a win-win situation except for it throwing the extreme unfairness of the situation into very sharp relief. I think most people would be too creeped out for the situation to be stable and something would have to give – in other words, another politically unpalatable situation.

      Finally, part of the attraction of GBI is that you can roll back a lot of laws aimed at protecting the poor, and so increase innovation / decrease bureaucracy. But if there’s a whole class of people not covered by the GBI, that becomes harder and more questionable.

      • Army1987 says:

        But if there’s a whole class of people not covered by the GBI, that becomes harder and more questionable.

        But in the case of first-generation immigrants, they chose to come here, so there’s that.

      • The Anonymouse says:

        Finally, part of the attraction of GBI is that you can roll back a lot of laws aimed at protecting the poor, and so increase innovation / decrease bureaucracy.

        I’m not sure I’ve seen much evidence that implementing GBI would lead to any reduction in existing programs. You don’t have to be a conspiracist to suspect that GBI would become just another unrepealable entitlement added atop the current bureaucracy.

      • Ken Arromdee says:

        Open borders helps other people (at the cost of hurting the existing residents), but then, taxing everyone at 90% and using the money to buy malaria nets for Africa also helps other people at the cost of hurting the existing residents. Yet somehow the latter has nowhere near as much support as the former.

        • roystgnr says:

          Open borders helps some existing residents. Some residents’ equilibrium wages get driven down by increased competition from immigration, but other residents who were paying those wages get to pay less.

          In the malaria nets case, the only (short-term and medium-term) beneficiaries are in Africa.

          It’s not surprising that Americans who can afford to pay lots of wages are more politically influential here than Africans who can’t afford to buy a malaria net.

          That really sounds Machiavellian, so let me end on a counterpoint: I think most proponents of open borders are sincerely persuaded by the fact that closed borders seem to be doing an injury of commission rather than omission. “I won’t give you my property” may come across as selfish, but “and if I catch you trying to trade for certain parts of my neighbor’s property I’ll send armed officers to stop it” seems to cross a line into outright evil.

  17. anon1 says:

    Apparently some strains of C. perfringens are used to make bread (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt-rising_bread), leavening it by producing hydrogen gas. I wasn’t aware that there were varieties that caused food poisoning, but some other strains are also happy to release hydrogen in your body, causing gas gangrene.

  18. Ben says:

    Some evidence of the Windows 9 theory:
    http://hg.openjdk.java.net/jdk8/jdk8/jdk/file/687fd7c7986d/src/windows/classes/sun/tools/attach/WindowsAttachProvider.java#l41

    That is from OpenJDK a pretty prominent piece of open source software that implements Java. I’ve seen a number of people dismissing the startsWith thing as bad code practice but if you can find it in reasonably large open source projects then you can bet its in a fair amount of really bad corporate code.

    • This is the same reason why the internal version numbers for Windows are still at 6. Windows XP was really NT 5.2 IIRC; Vista was 6.0 and Windows 7 was… 6.1.

      The reason is that lots and lots and lots of people check for OS version with something like:

      if (version.MajorVersion > 6 && version.MinorVersion > 1) { ... }

      And of course this check will fail if you give it 7.0.

      The problem is not so much with MS-internal software (which MS can fix), but with the tens of thousands of external programs which cannot be easily patched or upgraded.

    • This code search of open source code repository hosts (which I saw linked on my Google+ feed from The Daily WTF) demonstrates that the problem is fairly widespread. I expect that it’s actually much worse than that, because most of the code that has this problem is likely Windows-only and closed-source.

  19. I’m not too sympathetic to his worry that we would need to pay city-dwellers more than country-dwellers to adjust for the high cost of living – I don’t see it as the government’s job to subsidize poor people living in expensive cities they can’t afford, and would rather people have to make their own choices about living places where their income goes further versus less far.

    I would be against paying city-dwellers more, but the real solution is to get rid of restrictions (explicit or de facto) on apartment building height, in order to make cities reasonably affordable for everyone.

  20. Luke Edwards says:

    Re: Windows X – the bigger question on my mind concerns Apple OSX. Does it go 10.9 =>10.10 or 10.9 => 11.0?

    Re: Sexual assault prevention – I’d like to see some “blame the victim” strategies tried for comparison, like female teetotaling, partying in groups, or wearing conservative clothing. With some popular party wear, it’s possible for a person to be sexually assaulted on accident. I can only imagine the furor if any institution actually tried this.

    • Vulture says:

      With some popular party wear, it’s possible for a person to be sexually assaulted on accident.

      !!?! Could you clarify what you mean by “sexual assault” in this context?

      • Luke Edwards says:

        By “assault” I meant having someone else touch your genitals. I am being unfair, as “assault” presumably also includes intent, and I apologize for that.

        • Vulture says:

          Oh, okay. Yeah, I can see that. “Sexual assault” is one of those terrible labels (like “utilitarianism”) that refers to a whole bunch of similar categories of things, some of them subsets of others, which it is often very important to keep distinct. In this case, I had been assuming that we were using “sexual assault” as a euphemism for “rape”, which as you can imagine conjured up some puzzling images vis a vis your comment. I think what techniques would be most effective depends a lot on those distinctions in this case – i.e., I would guess that a public information campaign would do more for the issue of groping than for the issue of violent rape (and likewise with suggested dress codes &c.)

          • Anonymous says:

            “Sexual assault” is one of those terrible labels … that refers to a whole bunch of similar categories of things … which it is often very important to keep distinct. In this case, I had been assuming that we were using “sexual assault” as a euphemism for “rape”

            I wonder. If you wanted to raise awareness, could you exploit this confusion? Maybe do surveys with a very broad definition of “sexual assault,” publish those results knowing that most people will hear “sexual assault” and think “forcible rape,” then use that fear and surprise to expand funding for anti-sexual assault programs and policies?

          • Jaskologist says:

            You wonder? How else do you think people produced statistics claiming that 1 out of every 4 college women are raped?

          • Luke Edwards says:

            I read a reddit thread once where rapists told their stories. Pretty much all of them got into bed naked and drunk with someone consensually, and the non-consensual part happened afterwards. People might have a wrong idea about how violent the typical violent rape is (I am not sure myself)

          • Anotheranon says:

            “I wonder. If you wanted to raise awareness, could you exploit this confusion?”

            It’s almost as if most feminist activism is based solely on the non-central fallacy. Now, wouldn’t that be a surprise…

          • DavidS says:

            Or, alternatively, it is as if those who have been coerced into sex feel that the coercion is the central aspect, and not the degree of violence.

          • suntzuanime says:

            In general, exploiting confusion seems like the opposite of raising awareness. You generally exploit confusion to raise a particular befuddlement you find agreeable.

          • Nita says:

            How else do you think people produced statistics claiming that 1 out of every 4 college women are raped?

            Well, the results of the latest National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence survey in the US say that 19% (1 if 5) of all women claim to have experienced rape during their lifetime.

            The split was as follows: 11.5% “completed forced penetration”, 6.4% “attempted forced penetration”, and 9.3% “completed alcohol- or drug-facilitated penetration”. Mere touching doesn’t seem to be included in this category.

            source: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6308a1.htm

          • Anonymous says:

            Nita, your explanation is that people fudged the type of person, rather than the type of assault?

          • Cauê says:

            Even if we speak only of actual penetration, many situations that have been defined as coercive are… questionable. That these situations are so classified by researchers and activists, but often not by the presumed victims, is also informative.

            E.g. page 7: http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/men-a0035915.pdf

          • Nita says:

            @Anonymous: No, this was just a nice, respectable study that also found a seemingly high lifetime prevalence.

            @Cauê: The only methods included in “rape” were force, alcohol and other drugs. They counted cases of coercion separately, under “other sexual violence”.

            Side note: Arguably, this definition of rape is actually too narrow because a man being “made to penetrate” someone with his penis is not counted as a case of rape.

          • Anonymous says:

            If LIFETIME prevalence is 20%, COLLEGE prevalence is not 25%.

          • Nornagest says:

            If LIFETIME prevalence is 20%, COLLEGE prevalence is not 25%.

            Not everyone goes to college. It’s possible that the crime’s overrepresented among those demographics that do, and if it’s overrepresented enough, those statistics could make sense.

            Granted, that would be very unusual as criminology goes.

          • Cauê says:

            @Nita

            One problem is that I’ve come upon that study from headlines saying something like “40% of 14 to 21 year old boys were victims of sexual coercion”. As we’ve been discussing in this thread, it takes very little for this to turn into things like “1 in 4 college students are raped”, and this confusion seems to be welcome by activists.

            Another problem is that some things they call “coercion” are ridiculous even before this description starts to morph into “rape”.

            I mean, really: “. . . one time after several days of intercourse I was getting tired and didn’t really want to have sex any more but I didn’t want to let my partner down so I acted as if I wanted more.”

            ?

            Also, exactly because of these tactics, I have no idea how much weight to give to “alcohol and drug facilitated” numbers.

          • Nita says:

            @Cauê

            And I’m saying that some of these numbers seem to come from actual surveys with methods you can look up online and critique, not from broken telephone games you can dismiss outright.

            some things they call “coercion” are ridiculous

            That one was labeled “Internal obligation”, and the authors note that its inclusion in the “coercion” category is not typical (page 8).

            I agree that for a confident, liberal-minded person in a healthy relationship, such feelings are harmless. However, not everyone is always in such a fortunate situation.

            For example, here are some quotes from a popular book for Christian women:

            “A wise woman gauges her husband’s needs. She seeks to fulfill his desires before even he is aware of them. She never leaves him daydreaming outside the home. She supplies his every desire.”

            “Don’t talk to me about how uncomfortable or painful it is for you. Do you think your body is special and has special needs? Do you know who created you, and do you know he is the same God who expects you to freely give sex to your husband? Stop the excuses!”

            Of course, for men the sources or pressure are different, but it can still result in a sort of internalized coercion, and there’s nothing wrong with researching this.

          • Cauê says:

            Nita, it’s possible that there’s no disagreement between us about the facts (I haven’t seen any so far).

            But the point is the presentation. If, before I started looking into these studies, I had heard that “40% of boys 14 to 21 have been victims of sexual coercion”, I would imagine they had discovered a completely different thing.

            I would picture exactly none of the examples given in that page 7.

            And activists usually make no effort to dispel these confusions.

            Edit – some headlines: “Almost Half Of Young Men Sexually Coerced”; “Study: 43% of young men say they have been sexually coerced by women”; “Nearly Half of Young Men Report ‘Sexual Coercion'”; “Nearly Half of Young Men Report Being Victims of Sexual Coercion”

          • Nita says:

            Cauê, I agree that to some people “coercion” means only threats of violence and blackmail, so there is confusion when other people use the same word for peer pressure, guilt-tripping and nagging.

            Also, reality is complex and isn’t easily described in juicy sound bites, which is one of the reasons why most science journalism is so terrible. I think this headline was OK: “Nearly Half of Young Men Say They’ve Had ‘Unwanted’ Sex”.

          • Cauê says:

            I thought that one was ok. But read it:

            “43% of high school and college-aged men say they’ve had “unwanted sexual contact,” and 95% of those say a female acquaintance was the aggressor. Researchers surveyed 284 young men and found that 18% reported sexual coercion by force, 31% said they were verbally coerced sex, and 26% said they’d experienced “unwanted seduction by sexual behaviors.” ”

            “Aggressor”, “sexual coercion by force”, and “verbally coerced sex” are *not* the words people would naturally use to describe the actual situations the study identifies with these labels. These are words people would use to describe different situations, and it’s these different situations that they will think the researchers found.

            This confusion is disingenuously allowed to happen, because people won’t care about nagging, “pressuring me into sex because she is sad”, or “internal obligation”, but they will care about a big number of “victims of sexual coercion”.

            Thanks for the conversation, but we’re kinda going in circles at this point, I think..

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            “Aggressor”, “sexual coercion by force”, and “verbally coerced sex” are *not* the words people would naturally use to describe the actual situations the study identifies with these labels. These are words people would use to describe different situations, and it’s these different situations that they will think the researchers found.

            I think this is a pretty good explanation of a something I see too often: a statement that may be technically correct, especially by some unusual definition of one term, but to most users would suggest something quite different.

            This may be one example of what was once called “suggestio falsi”. A more colorful term might be “The Featherless Biped Fallacy”.

          • Nornagest says:

            a statement that may be technically correct, especially by some unusual definition of one term, but to most users would suggest something quite different.

            This is the noncentral fallacy, also described (by our gracious host, no less) as the Worst Argument In The World.

            “Featherless biped fallacy” is snappier, though.

            (By way of even-handedness, I should probably point out that Topher Hallquist has some objections to this characterization. I think most of his criticism is misaimed, but he’s right that this is not, strictly speaking, a logical fallacy; rather, it’s a form of connotation smuggling.)

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            Yes, ‘fallacy’ is not technically correct. I was just trying to smuggle in its connotation (or rather its grammatical position).

            ‘The [modifier] [noun]’ is a snappy kind of phrase for popular use. I thought of ‘ploy’ but that fails charity. Something from motte and bailey could be found, but then it would have to be translated for wider use.

            I do think it would be worthwhile to coin an expression of that for popular use, as I (being typical of course) am still not clear on the noncentral fallacy” or “the worst argument in the world”. Mine is at least part way there (especially as, if successful, it would soon be shortened to to uses like “I see three featherless bipeds in that argument”).

          • Anonymous says:

            “Fallacy” is usually used in a broad sense. “Ad hominem” isn’t “you’re stupid, so you’re wrong,” but usually just “you’re stupid” with the consequent merely implied.

  21. Sniffnoy says:

    To return to a topic from the other day — I don’t know the song “Go Tell it on the Mountain”, but I notice that the lyrics there can be sung to “Battle Hymn of the Republic”! (So long as you take the “Fuck off!” as an additional shout rather than being sung, and add extra notes for the final “on, on”.)

    • Susebron says:

      This is the best rendition of “Go Tell It on the Mountain” I could find in a very quick Youtube search. The modified lyrics don’t fit the tune, either in that version or the versions I’ve heard sung before. Perhaps someone got confused when writing the title.

  22. Tab Atkins says:

    For anyone else having trouble finding just the new posts on a long comment thread, here’s a bookmarklet that should help you:

    javascript:(function(){[].slice.call(document.querySelectorAll(“.commentholder:not(.new-comment)”)).forEach(function(x){x.style.display = “none”;});})()

    (Sorry this isn’t a link that you can drag into the bar; the comment system’s security appears to reject javascript: links, which is reasonable.)

    If you need the rest of the thread as context, just open the permalink in a new tab. I recommend also doing that if you want to comment on anything, as after you comment everything will be treated as “read” even if you haven’t finished reading the page yet.

    • Wulfrickson says:

      Alternatively, if you click on the [-] next to the “n comments since” box, it brings up a list of names of recent commenters, and clicking on each name brings you to a new comment. (This feature doesn’t seem to be well advertised.)

      • The [-] is dark blue on dark gray in my browser, a little to the left of the top left corner of the comment count box.

        • Anonymous says:

          The visibility of the [-] depends on your zoom/fontsize and the width of your window. It is dark and the background is dark. If your window is wide, it’s dark on dark and practically invisible. But if your window is narrow, it is visible against the light gray of the middleground. If the window is too narrow, it crowds into the comments and is just confusing. Probably the [ and – should be different colors – one light, one dark. Plus, as Tab says, – is a bad choice; maybe + is better.

          It’s gray for me and I’m surprised it’s blue for you.

      • Tab Atkins says:

        OH MY GOD. That’s super useful, and also absolutely terrible UI. It seems super obvious that clicking the [-] sign would minimize or hide the widget UI, not expand it to show useful things.

        That’s way better than my bookmarklet, though.

      • Bakkot says:

        Author of that feature here. For anyone in this thread: you can find the github page here, or email me at [my handle]@gmail if that’s easier.

        I’m happy to take suggestions for improvement (I finally went ahead and changed [-] to [+], eg), but they must have minimal effect on the overall page. I’m not Scott, and it’s a waste of his time and mine for him to vet every possible change, so I don’t want to change things around much. Plus, UIs should change as little as possible.

      • Luke Edwards says:

        I’m loving this new feature, btw.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Wait – the new posts are still showing up green for everyone, right?

      • Eric Rall says:

        I’ve got IE 9 at home, IE 11 at work, and latest Chrome on my tablet. The highlighting works for me on IE 11 and Chrome, but not on IE 9.

      • AR+ says:

        New posts show up green but only if I keep the tab open. If I close it and come back then all posts are green, unless I manually set the date and time in the “comments since” box.

        • Bakkot says:

          I’m almost sure this is because you have the browser set to clear cookies when you close the page. There’s nothing I can do about that – it’s all client side, so if you clear the cookies, it’ll forget you were ever there.

          • AR+ says:

            Further testing shows that closing the tab does not reset it, but closing the browser completely does. So it is my cookie policy. I thought it must have been something else because I’ve apparently been misremembering whether I’d closed the tab or the whole browser.

      • veronica d says:

        Yes, but sometimes I can adjust the date in the little box and sometimes I cannot. Which probably depends on which browser I am using, but since I check this site on at least three different machines it gets kinda annoying.

      • Tab Atkins says:

        They show up green, yes, but in a comment thread that’s hit 200+ doing a long, slow scroll through the entire thread (waiting for things to render, as it hits compositor limits on my laptop, though that’s probably ChromeOS bugs) to find the handful of new posts is frustrating. Just having all the new comments presented in order works pretty well.

        (Multiple people in the past asked for new comments to have some unique text somewhere in their header, like “newnew” or something, so that you could just ctrl+f your way through the page’s new comments and avoid the tedious scrolling and visual inspection. The list of new posts revealed by the [-] sign does that job just fine, though.)

      • The Anonymouse says:

        Still in green. But in a giant thread (they all get giant), it’s still a pain to scroll through. The little minus thing is awesome.

      • Still green for me, but a text marker for new posts would be even handier.

        I realize it’s a small impediment, but it’s a long scroll to find the new posts in a long thread, and using the [-] searcher breaks up the conversation.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          [duplicate comment deleted]

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          Yes. The [-] list puts links in chronological order, so when you bring that comment up, then you have to page up or arrow up to see what it is replying to. This gets kind of tricky with the cursor going back and forth between the list and the actual comments. Also you’re jumping randomly between threads, so to orient the comment in a meaningful thread context can take several up-screens.

          Would adding a searchable text string be an enormous lot of trouble?

        • Bakkot says:

          Done: new comments (any which have the green highlight) should have “~new~” added, relatively subtly (I hope).

          • DavidS says:

            Thank you!

          • Tab Atkins says:

            Thank you thank you thank you, this is a 100% better user experience, because it means I run through conversations topically, rather than jumping around the page in a random order just because that’s the chronological order they were entered.

  23. Army1987 says:

    Then we either have to extend benefits to those immigrants – creating an endless and unsustainable cycle – or keep them as serfs forever – which challenges the vision of a fair society the basic income was supposed to produce.

    Intermediate possibility: Only people who have been in the country for 18 years get the UBI.

    • peterdjones says:

      Modulo the time period, that looks like a no brainer to me. If immigrants had to pay their own way (oh, and be legal, obviously), for a period, that would create incentives for better skilled immigrants.

  24. Snoe says:

    Tim Howard (goalie for US Men’s National Team and Everton) has had some soccer chants that play off his Tourette’s, e.g.:

    Tim timminy, tim timminy, tim tim, teroo
    We’ve got Tim Howard, and he says, “Fuck you”

    Plus various that rhyme “Tourette’s” with “nets.” (Like, goal nets.)

    I haven’t seen any interviews where he discusses how he feels about them – now a bit curious, but can’t google it at the mo.

  25. Kevin says:

    Taylor’s textbooks are great, too, not just the covers. 😉 From where I’m sitting now, I can see Classical Mechanics on my bookshelf.

  26. ZZMike says:

    “…low notes in the national anthems…” The we should be doing just fine – ours has a really high note. On the other hand, a little more cause-and-effect research would be nice.

    “Music Style Is Tied To Personality.” That explains a lot of cars driving around with loud brutish music curling up out of wide-open windows.

    The question should really be whether personality is tied to music. Do people who listen to rap and hip-hop get to be interior decorators or lyric poets?

  27. Roe says:

    The subject of Guaranteed Annual Income was briefly discussed on the Canadian issues show “The Agenda” here

    Apparently, the Canadian Labour Congress doesn’t like it because conservatives do (!!!).

  28. Anthony says:

    A programmer friend who has several kids answers “Why did MS go to Windows 10? Because 7 ate 9.”

    Also: life imitates parody: http://www.infoworld.com/article/2613504/microsoft-windows/microsoft-windows-microsoft-skips-too-good-windows-9-jumps-to-windows-10.html

  29. Ben J says:

    Scott, I’m surprised – you linked to Scott Sumner on GAI here, and discuss prediction markets in your previous post, but you haven’t mentioned that Scott Sumner is trying to set up a prediction market!

    Interesting stuff, I would be curious to hear your thoughts on whether or not it will succeed.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I didn’t know about it! I’ve done some preliminary looking and feel like I need to know more about economics than I currently do to make much sense of this. I’ll look into it more later.

  30. Two questions that must be asked: 1) What is the favorite music style of walruses? 2) Did they gather for a concert?

  31. Alyssa Vance says:

    The Saudis fear a sand shortage, and have passed strict border controls to forbid the export of sand. (BBC Nov. 2003: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3243623.stm)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      For the love of…

      • Franz Panzer says:

        Sand shortage is a real thing in many parts of the world. For example in India. Or Florida, where beaches erode.

      • Matthew says:

        I had assumed you already knew this when you mentioned it in the post, or I would have linked it sooner. I didn’t realize you were being rhetorical.

    • Eric Rall says:

      I wonder if this has to do with a particular type of sand.

      I remember reading a tidbit in a PJ O’Rourke article from when he was an embedded reporter in the 1991 Gulf War, where he talks about how the US Army had to import sand to Saudi Arabia for field fortification sandbags because the native sand was too fine and powdery to do the job.

      Since the sand shortage article is talking about using the sand as landfill for reclamation projects and aggregate in concrete, it makes sense that they might also need a coarser type of sand that’s relatively rare in accessible areas of Saudi Arabia.

  32. Jack Crassus says:

    It seems like universal basic income could make dysgenic selection worse. The upper class will be accustomed to a certain standard of living (i.e. good schools for their kids, high status jobs, digital toys) so they will continue to work hard and have few children.

    The lower class will be freed from the constraints of looking for work that were part of the Clinton welfare reforms. They revert to staying home and fucking. Does a parent get an extra basic income for each child they have? That’s bad incentive.

    So if you don’t care much about being upwardly mobile/have a short time preference, your genes will prosper under UBI. But if you do care about chasing society’s rewards, not much changes and you continue with negative net fertility.

    I don’t believe that no-strings welfare and unconstrained mobility/fertility are compatible in the long run. This analysis extends to the proposed de facto globalization of the dole advocated by open borders advocates and effective altruists.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dysgenic selection is slow enough that we will likely have enough genetic engineering tech to ameliorate its effects before it begins to have a severely deleterious effect on society. If we don’t, then we likely have bigger problems to worry about.

    • Army1987 says:

      I can think of at least two ways of solving that: 1. only give the UBI to adults; 2. parenting permits.