NꙮW WITH MꙮRE MULTIꙮCULAR ꙮ

Links 12/14: Auld Link Syne

Quaint Argentinian custom: the President of the country officially becomes the godfather of children considered at risk of becoming werewolves.

Nerva – not just one of the better Roman emperors, but an experimental 1970s nuclear rocket engine that could have gotten humans to Mars quickly and efficiently. The most interesting part of this Wikipedia article is the reason given for its cancellation: “Members of Congress in both political parties judged that a manned mission to Mars would be a tacit commitment for the United States to decades more of the expensive Space Race. Manned Mars missions were enabled by nuclear rockets; therefore, if NERVA could be discontinued the Space Race might wind down and the budget would be saved.”

During the sinking of the Titanic, the captain famously declared that women and children would get first priority on the lifeboats, leading to occasional vague grumbling about female privilege for the following hundred years. But this seems to be the exception – a study of gender bias in survival of maritime disasters (REALLY? NOW YOU’RE JUST TROLLING US, GENDER BIAS RESEARCHERS) finds that men are more likely to survive than women, with the pattern only occasionally reversed on the rare occasions when captains make “women first” into a major evacuation priority.

Another day, another cure for Alzheimers in mice. But this one activates microglia in the brain, which sounds a lot like what I would expect an actual cure for Alzheimers to do.

The United States is one of the world’s most racially tolerant countries. Or at least one of the countries where the most people say they’re racially tolerant when asked directly.

The good news – there’s a treatment for some forms of post-SSRI sexual dysfunction in men. The bad news: it involves doctors shooting lasers at your penis.

The die-in protests against police brutality were mostly left alone and protected, even when they blocked the streets. A conservative radio host decides to hold his own die-in protest to protest the fact that police probably wouldn’t let him block the streets. But sure enough, police let him block the streets. Basically, you can just block the streets for any reason or no reason at all and nobody will stop you.

The weird customs surrounding the porphyrogennetos, or heir to the Byzantine throne.

Why do Venezuelans win so many beauty pageants? Partly because a beauty obsessed culture send their little girls to horrible factories to be trained, mangled, and surgically altered for the purpose.

A while back I mentioned climate change as an example of settled science, and a commenter corrected me, saying that although its existence is settled there are still a lot of extremely controversial questions in climatology. As penance, here is a list of ten open scientific controversies around climate change.

Some impressive California desert architecture. If only I had some reason to want to live in the California desert. Then again, it probably beats Michigan.

A (short) list of who is the reincarnation of whom, according to Jewish tradition. Includes a very strange entry for Isaac Newton.

Lockheed Martin invents new desalinization process vastly better than current leader using graphene. A good time to remember how graphene is a solution looking for a problem. Related: is there a Moore’s law for the price of graphene? It sort of looks like there is, but I find that giant plateau right around the present that will supposedly end any day now kind of suspicious.

Will cheap oil destroy the current revolution in renewable energy?

Two minute delay clamping the umbilical cord leads to better development in first few days of life. Not sure if there are any longer term effects.

I waited too long to post this link and the Kickstarter project for an audiobook version of the Less Wrong Sequences is already fully-funded, but there’s still time to fund it even more and get some of the rewards.

Did you know: aside from inventing the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell was also honorary chief of the Mohawk Indians.

A study of online discussion around conspiracy theories finds that conspiracy theorists usually debate more politely and respectfully than anti-conspiracy theorists. This doesn’t seem surprising to me – people are more willing to be bullies when they feel like popular people with tacit social approval to mock the weirdos.

I’ve mentioned before that people often confuse me with Scott Aaronson because of our similar names. Here’s another thing that’s not going to help: Aaronson writes an extremely moving and passionate comment about what it’s like being a shy male geek in a feminist world. Talk about the melancholy of subculture society – I am now no longer even the most eloquent person named Scott A to worry on a blog about the effect of feminism on nerds.

This is wrong-headed and bad and pointlessly insulting, but I can’t look away: The Kardashians of Science. Basically listing and mocking scientists who have the highest ratio of Twitter followers to published results. Yes, Neil deGrasse Tyson is at the top.

High-level trolling: the European Union, not wanting to honor any country above any other, used for the background of the Euro banknotes pictures of abstract bridges that did not match any real bridge in any European country. So the Dutch went and built those exact bridges in the Netherlands.

The spectacular economic implosion of Russia was partly caused by Western sanctions and partly by the low price of oil, but we shouldn’t forget that the Russian economy is a basketcase at the best of times and Putin’s management has been a disaster. But maybe we also shouldn’t forget Jeffrey Sachs’ analysis that the West threw Russia under the bus in 1989 and totally failed to give it the economic aid that could have made it a post-communist success story like Poland.

The United States’ first coin had the motto “Mind Your Business”.

Within an hour of me posting Toxoplasma of Rage, the other Slate ran a very similar article: 2014 Was The Year Of Outrage. Notable for polls of what were the best and worst outrage stories of the year, as well as the observation – which I’ve noticed as well – that part of what’s going on is conservatives adopting liberal tactics, so that instead of liberals getting faux outraged at conservatives and then everyone calling it a day, both sides are getting faux outraged at each other. Part of me thinks this is good, since it means both sides will have incentives to find ways to cooperate and lower the temperature, but obviously until that happens it’s just twice as annoying.

The Gordian solution to coordination problems in urban planning: the Great Boston Fire of 1872 allowed more rational redevelopment – enough so to compensate for the cost of all buildings burned. Probably no political party is going to propose “set every city on fire once every few decades”, but it might be a pretty good plan.

Ben Kuhn on comparative advantage in effective altruism. Thesis: there are a lot of great jobs being advertised working for the effective altruism movement, but everyone who’s qualified for them is too altruistic to take them. Sort of. But if you’re looking for a VP Finance and Operations position, GiveDirectly is hiring.

Delicious and disturbing: when cardiologists are away at meetings, mortality in the hospitals they have temporarily abandoned stays the same or even goes down. Possible responsible explanations – cardiological procedures have high immediate mortality if they fail but buy higher lifespan years down the road if they work. Or maybe when prestigious elderly cardiologists are at their meeting they are covered by new resident/fellow cardiologists who are more up-to-date and harder-working. Possible irresponsible explanation – everything cardiologists do is either useless or net negative. See also: RAND health insurance study.

Is the king of Saudi Arabia torturing his own daughters?

Would a second Christmas improve the economy? The economy certainly picks up a lot around the holiday season. Arguments against – maybe people save up all year for Christmas-related spending, meaning it’s just redistributed from one part of the year to the other. Or maybe it represents people making an uncomfortable tradeoff with people working harder to support all the Christmas activity, and they would prefer not to do that again. Anyway, I wonder if any of those Great Divergence “why was it Europe that entered the industrial era first?” people have considered the compounding effect that celebrating Christmas must have when plugged into exponential growth.

Delhi Commission On Women finds that 53% of rape cases filed there last spring were false accusations. Some discussion of a possible culture of using accusations to settle scores and dowry-related issues, probably aided by the fact that Delhi also has an alarmingly high true rape rate. Very occasional studies have found similar levels in the West, but their methodology tends to get strongly criticized; I’m not sure how the Delhi study compares.

More on “niche dating sites have gone too far” – commie dating site OKComrade has gone from a mostly-joke Facebook page to actually trying to become a thing.

Despite China’s spectacular rise out of poverty in the last thirty or so years, happiness has been going down.

Nick Land’s got a fiction book out this time, and judging from the title it’s going to be pretty weird.

More than five hundred years after Spain expelled its Jews, it has decided their descendants can apply for Spanish citizenship. Which is not a small deal – there are many Sephardic Jews, Spanish citizenship buys the right to reside anywhere in the EU, and it can be leveraged into nice things like free college education. If Poland does the same thing for descendants of its Jews, maybe I’ll sign up and get myself a shiny new passport. (The other side of the family is Russian and Ukrainian; I’m not too anxious to get any offers from them).

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

619 Responses to Links 12/14: Auld Link Syne

  1. Sniffnoy says:

    Under the category of “weird Jewish things you might not know about”:

    The other day I learned that there’s a tradition that the Jewish calendar actually has 4 new years. Obviously there’s Rosh Hashanah in Tishrei; there’s the old calendrical new year in Nisan; and you might possibly remember that Tu Bishvat is the “new year of the trees”. But did you know about the new year for animals on the first of Elul? Yup. Four new years.

    Conclusion? The Jewish calendar is Time Cube.

    (…well, Time Polyhedron, anyway. You may notice that the 4 new years aren’t at all evenly spaced.)

  2. Matthew says:

    My previous understanding was that the Titanic was exceptional because it sank very slowly; women and children tend to survive when there is time enough to think about whom to save, but when a ship is rapidly sinking, everyone goes into self-preservation panic mode, and men are stronger and faster than everyone else, so they tend to get to the life boats first.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I’ve heard that, but as far as I can tell, it is based on just two ships: Titanic and Lusitania. The paper Scott cites uses 18 ships. That seems like enough to test the existing hypothesis, but not further ones. Of the 18, only two had high female survival rates, Titanic and Birkenhead; but B sank quickly.

      • John Schilling says:

        HMS Birkinhead was a Royal Navy Troopship; the majority of the people on board were British military officers and men. All of whom, save for the actual lifeboat crews, were specifically ordered to stand at attention and make no attempt at escape while the ship sank, that the lifeboats carrying the women and children would not be swamped.

        “To take your chance in the thick of a rush, with firing all about,
        Is nothing so bad when you’ve cover to ‘and, an’ leave an’ likin’ to shout;
        But to stand an’ be still to the Birken’ead drill is a damn tough bullet to chew,
        An’ they done it, the Jollies — ‘Er Majesty’s Jollies — soldier an’ sailor too!
        Their work was done when it ‘adn’t begun; they was younger nor me an’ you;
        Their choice it was plain between drownin’ in ‘eaps an’ bein’ mopped by the screw,
        So they stood an’ was still to the Birken’ead drill, soldier an’ sailor too”

        – Rudyard Kipling, 1893

        • Anonymous says:

          Be careful; you’re dangerously close to thinking that norms of masculinity may sometimes benefit women. You should rapidly convert “benefit women” into “harm men” so that you make the hilarious claim that the patriarchy harms everyone.

          • Anonymous says:

            “The patriarchy” does harm both men and women (to the extent that concept makes sense in the first place). The notion that real men don’t cry is a good example of a patriarchal belief that hurts men.

          • llamathatducks says:

            Note also that “harms people of all genders” is not the same thing as “harms everyone”, let alone “harms everyone all the time”. Men whose bodies and personalities happen to easily fit dominant norms of masculinity are probably not harmed by gender norms (unless they go into the military, I guess). Men whose bodies and/or personalities do not easily fit masculine gender norms are harmed because they either have to change themselves to adapt to the norms or face lower societal status as a result. (Women who easily fit feminine gender roles are probably less harmed than women who don’t, but traditional feminine gender roles still put women in a less privileged and more precarious position than men. But still, there are probably women who largely escape negative consequences from gender roles.)

            And people who are harmed by gender norms still won’t be harmed by gender norms in every situation.The scarce-lifeboats-in-a-shipwreck scenario is an especially clear zero-sum scenario where some people are clearly harmed and other people clearly benefit, and in a lot of cases the people who benefit are women. Those same women may be harmed in other zero-sum situations where they don’t get a job because a similarly or less qualified man gets it instead. (Yeah, that’s less drastic than dying in a shipwreck, but also more common.) But then there are also situations which aren’t zero-sum, where everyone involved can actually be harmed by gender roles, like a family where children are forced to only engage in gender-typical activities despite their gender-atypical preferences.

          • Anonymous says:

            llamathatducks –

            ” Men whose bodies and/or personalities do not easily fit masculine gender norms are harmed because they either have to change themselves to adapt to the norms or face lower societal status as a result. “

            Since societal status is zero-sum, doesn’t the unfairness argument kind of break down at this point? Clearly it’s wrong to be excluded from common activities, impoverished, or beaten up for having non-preffered gender traits: these are harms which can be entirely avoided for all. But when the stakes are social status and the demand to confront “The Patriarchy” is about instituting a different status heirarchy, how is that liberating?

            Doesn’t that make the agrieved just another interest group looking to climb at others’ expense? If you want to see non-masculine men elevated and masculine men suppressed, isn’t that just a personal aspiration / aesthetic judgement?

          • nydwracu says:

            Men whose bodies and/or personalities do not easily fit masculine gender norms are harmed because they either have to change themselves to adapt to the norms or face lower societal status as a result.

            Sometimes this can be a benefit: pressure to become critical of a subculture or phyle that rewards not fitting masculine gender roles is good for people who would be better off fitting masculine gender roles.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Absurd. Every patriarch knows that real men cry-but only at the death of a dog or loss of a favored sports team.

          • llamathatducks says:

            Anonymous:

            Well, I don’t want gender-nonconforming men to be elevated above gender-conforming men. What I want is basically for gender norms to not exist. In other words, I don’t want status to be aligned with gender, neither through privileging one gender over any other nor through privileging those who align with their gender’s norms. I don’t know if this is ever achievable, but it’s what I want.

            I do think such a world would be fairer than our current world because in my view conforming to gender-norms is morally neutral, so privileging people who do over people who don’t sorts people based on a stupid characteristic, which is unfair.

            So if I were a captain of a sinking ship with scarce lifeboats, I would just tell everyone to line up for the lifeboats in whatever order. If there aren’t enough lifeboats, some people would still end up dead, but it would be a gender-blind strategy.

            (And later, if I survived, I’d call up the company that built the ship and ask why the fuck there weren’t enough lifeboats. In everyday life, too, I don’t just want to eliminate sexism, I also want to build a world where hopefully everyone can thrive.)

          • llamathatducks says:

            nydwracu:

            Could you explain what you mean, possibly with an example? I’m not sure I understand.

          • MrBreakfast says:

            Sorry for the Anon before;

            llamathatducks –

            ” What I want is basically for gender norms to not exist. “

            The question of status doesn’t begin or end with gender though, people don’t have to be induced by any cultural practice to sort themselves into groups and jockey for status.

            If there was no patriarchal cultural baggage, if society started today, men inclined to “masculine” behavior would be visibly, consistently different than men who aren’t. If those men are more common or better at competing for status for some reason, then there would still be disparate status outcomes across the groups.

            I think what Nydwracu was getting at was that gender-atypical people can still achieve status in gender-atypical subcultures even if the highest-status member of that subculture still would have low status amongst the gender-typical subculture. I would add that being one of the higher status non-macho men is probably a lot better in many cases than being one of the low-status macho men; at least under current conditions in the US.

          • Jaskologist says:

            nydwraku is saying that being more masculine can be beneficial for many men, but they may need some pushes to get them there. Making it clear to them that being less masculine is lower status helps them choose the more beneficial path.

          • llamathatducks says:

            MrBreakfast:

            I don’t know how one would test this, but I suspect that if we didn’t have an archetype of what a typical man looks like, there would be more diversity in men’s behavior and self-expression. I think the existence of gender norms draws people to enact those norms more than they would if the norms didn’t exist. I also think that while many norms of masculinity are sort of philosophically related to each other, not all of them are: for instance, there’s not really any reason why physical strength and being good with gadgets (except, like, sewing machines and ovens) should necessarily coincide. So I don’t think we would see discrete “masculine” and “non-masculine” groups of men in the absence of an ideology that defines certain things as “masculine”.

            The question of status doesn’t begin or end with gender though, people don’t have to be induced by any cultural practice to sort themselves into groups and jockey for status.

            I agree. Which is why my thoughts about how our society should be improved include not only “reduce existing stupid biases and norms” but also “make it easier for everyone in society to live well” and “make it harder to get away with bad behavior towards lower-status people”.

            But also – in an alternate society we’d have different biases, but in our society we have these biases, and they cause unfairness and suffering, and therefore I’d like to reduce them.

            I think what Nydwracu was getting at was that gender-atypical people can still achieve status in gender-atypical subcultures even if the highest-status member of that subculture still would have low status amongst the gender-typical subculture.

            Sure. But for the most part we don’t really live in subcultures, we interact with the wider world a lot, e.g. at work, at school, and in one’s family growing up. Gender-atypical kids can have parents who really want to impose gender norms; they might go to a school where other kids bully them and teachers don’t stop the bullies (or where teachers themselves try to enforce gender norms); they might grow up and want to go into a career in which they’ll run into lots of people who have biases based on gender norms. They can also, when they grow up, find themselves a nice gender-atypical group of friends, but that won’t get rid of bad childhood memories (or potential trauma) or make it easier for them to make a living. Which is why I would prefer society as a whole to reduce its biases in addition to carving out nice little oases where gender norms don’t matter.

            I would add that being one of the higher status non-macho men is probably a lot better in many cases than being one of the low-status macho men; at least under current conditions in the US.

            Probably. But for one thing, by “gender-norm-conforming” I didn’t just mean “macho”, which is generally associated with lower social class and physical-type work. An engineer or businessman can conform to gender norms quite well. For another thing, every kind of privilege can coexist with lack-of-privilege of a different sort, which doesn’t mean it’s not a kind of privilege.

            Also I feel weird having this discussion about “status” given that I’m not exactly sure what I think status is. Certainly I don’t think it’s a literal ranking of people in society, and I do think it’s pretty fuzzy and mutable.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m glad this caused a minor explosion. I’m especially glad that it drew a claim about a zero-sum situation. This allows me to expound upon my point.

            Here’s how bad the logic is: people assume a zero-sum situation and then use this assumption to prove that it’s actually a negative-sum situation. Sounds crazy, right? It’s reality in queer theory circles.

            Suppose we think that traditional gender roles benefit males in situations X1,Y1, and Z1, while they benefit females in situations X2, Y2, and Z2. Assuming that these situations are actually zero-sum, I can simply reword them – situations X1, Y1, and Z1 clearly harm females and situations X2, Y2, and Z2 clearly harm males. Of course, these situations occur under whatever dominant culture we think exists (and which we don’t like)…. and look at that! The situation hurts everyone! If we squint really hard, it almost appears to be negative-sum! We really ought to disrupt these norms!

            Of course, no one seriously thinks that we can perform the slight of hand in reverse. Look at how situations X1, Y1, and Z1 benefit males! And look at how situations X2, Y2, and Z2 benefit females! Oh my Sagan! It’s almost as if the patriarchy… or whatever the hell else we think is the dominate social more… is positive sum!

            The fact of the matter is that we have no idea how to compute these things, and you’re all talking out your butt when you claim you can. It’s convenient to claim that whatever system you don’t like is negative-sum, but you have nothing but an emotional claim to support it.

          • llamathatducks says:

            Anonymous:

            I agree with you that it’s wrong to use purely zero-sum scenarios to prove that a given system of biases is negative-sum. The shipwreck scenario is about the most zero-sum there is, so in that case it’s really easy to identify who is harmed and who benefits.

            But not every scenario is zero-sum. Rigid gender norms can hurt lots of people while benefiting nobody. Like, if a boy really wants to have long hair and play with a Barbie and a girl really wants to have short hair and play with a toy sword and their parents won’t let either of them do what they want, the effects of the parents’ ideology are clearly negative-sum.

            Also, I think there is some truth to the claim that if society is biased in favor of men in some cases and in favor of women in others, then that is on the whole harmful. Let’s say there is bias against women in engineering and bias against men in child custody cases. Then the field of engineering will (a) be disproportionately male, which can cause blind spots in product design around gendered issues (b) drive out good female engineers who would otherwise make great contributions (and perhaps replace them with less good male engineers?) (c) have a particularly aggravated population in it (female engineers) who have to spend their emotional energy combating sexism and may therefore be distracted from their work. Meanwhile if women are overwhelmingly awarded custody of children for reasons of bias, then that makes truly good custody decisions less likely; kids might end up with “worse” parents than they would if decisions were made without gender bias, and perhaps this gendered element might also introduce extra bitterness to the proceedings.

            Whereas if there were no bias in either case, then we would have better engineers and better parents because neither group would be selected in part based on characteristics irrelevant to their engineering or parenting ability. In the case of engineering, the field as a whole would additionally benefit because (a) a more gender-balanced workforce would be more likely to anticipate more kinds of gendered design problems (b) there wouldn’t be a group of engineers who is aggravated due to bias against them. (In the case of parenting, probably people would be aggravated regardless, but maybe slightly less??)

            In general, the very fact of gender bias introduces resentment and aggravation, which can make an otherwise zero-sum scenario negative-sum.

          • Football is an example of gender norms harming males who conform to them– if current medical opinion is correct, impacts to the head which aren’t enough to cause concussions are still enough to cause damage– and that’s not even counting the effects of more obvious injuries.

          • llamathatducks says:

            You’re right. Successful football players get lots of social rewards but are also substantially physically harmed.

            So I guess there are certain activities, like joining the military and playing football, that are consistent with a very high level of “masculinity” but are not obligatory gender norms, which confer this weird mix of social rewards + physical (and sometimes psychological) harm. So I should amend my original statement to “men who easily fit gender norms are generally not harmed by gender norms, unless they go into hypermasculine physical activities”.

            (Which is an excellent example of gender-norm-related harm that doesn’t symmetrically benefit any other gender.)

          • drethelin says:

            Why exactly would you say that football players are harmed, rather than choosing to take a higher risk-reward lifestyle?

          • llamathatducks says:

            Well, they are, to the extent that the risks are well known. (In the case of football, I think they weren’t until pretty recently.) But I think it’s valid to criticize the (gendered) glorification of particularly high-risk lifestyles. Especially in the case of football where the people making the decision to play are pretty young.

          • Tracy W says:

            Men whose bodies and personalities happen to easily fit dominant norms of masculinity are probably not harmed by gender norms

            Actually they probably are. Society isn’t necessarily zero-sum, so if competent people are being overlooked for jobs because they don’t fit the gender norm, then those jobs are being done less efficiently so less is being produced so we’re all worse off. E.g. if a man who would be a great nurse instead becomes a struggling doctor because of gender norms, and thus a few patients die who would have otherwise lived, we’re all worse off.

          • Also, even before the research on head impacts was done, I get the impression that high school and college football players had no idea of the risk of getting permanent injuries with little or no financial reward.

          • Anonymous says:

            > if a boy really wants to have long hair and play with a Barbie and a girl really wants to have short hair and play with a toy sword and their parents won’t let either of them do what they want, the effects of the parents’ ideology are clearly negative-sum.

            …if the only term in your value function is whether a child gets to do what s/he wants, then sure. I imagine that most value functions are a bit more tied to reality… and a bit more complicated.

            > I think there is some truth to the claim that if society is biased in favor of men in some cases and in favor of women in others, then that is on the whole harmful.

            The word “bias” is important. I’m a dynamics/control guy, so I interpret it as a sort of deviation from a desired or optimal point. So, by this definition, any bias from optimality would tautologically be sub-optimal. Now comes the important part: how exactly are you computing the optimal point from which we’re measuring the bias?

            > there are certain activities, like joining the military and playing football, that are consistent with a very high level of “masculinity” but are not obligatory gender norms, which confer this weird mix of social rewards + physical (and sometimes psychological) harm.

            You’re getting closer. Anything anyone does confers a weird mix of social/physical/psychological rewards/harms. I guarantee you have no idea how to compute them across any significant dimension, so you should stop making things up.

          • Luke Somers says:

            > …if the only term in your value function is whether a child gets to do what s/he wants, then sure. I imagine that most value functions are a bit more tied to reality… and a bit more complicated.

            You do not need to make such oversimplifications in order to construct an adequately inconvenient world – just have the parents’ only motivation be gender role satisfaction.

          • Anonymous says:

            > just have the parents’ only motivation be gender role satisfaction

            …sooo, make a drastic oversimplification?

          • llamathatducks says:

            …if the only term in your value function is whether a child gets to do what s/he wants, then sure. I imagine that most value functions are a bit more tied to reality… and a bit more complicated.

            I don’t believe that gender-atypical grooming or play is harmful, and I do believe that preventing children from non-harmful self-expression is harmful, so this example is exactly as simple as I said it is. Of course I used the simplest example I could think of so that I could say it in one sentence, but the point could be expanded to other scenarios too.

            What’s your objection to this example?

            Now comes the important part: how exactly are you computing the optimal point from which we’re measuring the bias?

            My optimal point is one where gender doesn’t influence people’s views of someone’s competence (as an engineer, parent, whatever). So e.g. hiring-related decisions and child custody decisions should be made in a gender-blind way. People of different genders and similar qualifications should have (overall, statistically) similar success rates of getting jobs, getting good performance reviews, getting custody of their kids, etc.

            Anything anyone does confers a weird mix of social/physical/psychological rewards/harms.

            Of course the world is complicated, but it’s not so ineffably complicated that we should give up on trying to understand it and change what we don’t like. Or even that we can’t draw broad conclusions about it.

          • Anonymous says:

            > I don’t believe that gender-atypical grooming or play is harmful, and I do believe that preventing children from non-harmful self-expression is harmful, so this example is exactly as simple as I said it is.

            You’re looking at the individual scale, not the societal scale. Queer theory is about structures at a societal level.

            > People of different genders and similar qualifications should have (overall, statistically) similar success rates of getting jobs, getting good performance reviews, getting custody of their kids, etc.

            Sure, but good luck computing the statistics in any meaningful way. Look at the long train of arguments concerning the gender wage gap. Look at Scott’s discussion of race and the justice system. Often times, there are complicated mitigating factors which make it incredibly difficult to actually measure where the optimal point is. Then we throw in ideas like, “Well, maybe the disparity is an understandable response to how different genders are socialized (say, maybe it’s true that women are socialized to be better parents, statistically).” Suddenly, our value function has a massive unknown parameter that we want to play with! Maybe I’m just pessimistic, because my everyday life is spend doing research (i.e., banging my head against the desk because I’m trying to wrangle massively complicated dynamical systems which seem totally impervious to proof). The problem is likely a lot easier when you can just, ya know, think the right answer.

            > it’s not so ineffably complicated that we should give up on trying to understand it and change what we don’t like

            Sure, but you need to be careful. I started this little digression by pointing out an obviously problematic failure mode in some arguments. You’ve said something along the lines of, ‘Well, it’s plausible that some situations could be negative sum.’ I’ll agree. Some situations can be negative sum. Good luck proving it for The Patriarchy (however you properly construe it).

    • Steve Sailer says:

      The people on board the Titanic were raised with Victorian values that, in some ways, represent the practical summit of human ethical behavior.

      More common human behavior occurred during the sinking of a cruise ship off South Africa a couple of decades ago when the captain and officers helicoptered to land leaving the passengers and junior crew to fend for themselves. A variety show magician took charge and successfully organized the safe evacuation of everybody, himself being the last man off the ship just before it sank.

      • Tracy W says:

        Awesomely done that stage musician.
        I think I recall reading years ago about a study of medal-winners for heroism in WWII (on the Allies’ side) and that nearly all about them there was nothing about their background that gave a hint of what they’d accomplish in the war.

        • Vulture says:

          So, uh… a retrospective study that failed to find any significant correlations? If so, it deserves applause for finding an inspirational enough message to get such a banal negative result published and publicized.

          • Tracy W says:

            Negative results are as important as positive ones.

          • Vulture says:

            Obviously. I was being serious about the applause – part of the reason no one hears about negative results is that they’re harder to attach a compelling narrative to, but it sounds like that issue was cleverly sidestepped here.

    • Anonymous says:

      The thing about all of this is how advantages men had in surviving maritime disasters were biological in nature or the consequence of social norms only indirectly linked to survival, while women were given an explicit advantage in at least some cases. I doubt anyone would argue someone decided one gender should wear dresses so the other gender will be more likely to survive. That was pretty much the intention with “women and children first”.

      I’ve seen this arguments from feminists before, actually. Essentially, in cases where both cases suffer from something, women are assumed to suffer due to sexism, even if men suffered equally in numbers or even more. Which would be fine and dandy if they actually showed how this works, which they don’t, and if they wouldn’t ignore observable sexism against men in those instances, which they do.

  3. Dave says:

    On the Delhi false rape cases, this is one of the better explanations I’ve seen. Basically a mix of breach-of-promise-to-marry cases combined with anti-dowry laws shifting the balance of power a bit too much which makes it a bit different from the west.

    • caryatis says:

      I lost a bit of faith in the study when I read that ALL rape cases were categorized as “true” or “false.” Shouldn’t there be a big “undetermined” category?

      • William O. B'Livion says:

        That depends on how closely you define “Rape”.

        If you narrowly define it as “penetration of the vagina or anus without consent or in the face of resistance by the penetratee[1]”, then yes you should be able to get *most* cases into one bucket or another, but then you need to decide wether fraud in obtaining consent is “rape”, or “fraud”. I’d prefer that it be dumped in the “fraud” bucket since then “fraud” can go both ways, while “consent” is generally on the male to acquire.

        Or if you define it too broadly–“All sex is rape”, then it’s easy to fit in one bucket or another.

        My sense is that the cases in India aren’t so narrowly defined, and given how bad *our* press is at pushing agendas, I have little faith in the press of other countries.

        [1] the case of people who like rough sex and playing out rape fantasies is a corner case here, but it’s a REALLY SMALL corner.

        • Anonymous says:

          In other words, depending on how they define “rape”, the answer is either “yes” or “yes, and it should be bigger than both the other categories combined”.

        • Tracy W says:

          Surely the big uncertainty is where A says there was consent and B says there wasn’t? Which isn’t resolvable by definitions.

          • caryatis says:

            Yeah, that’s what I was referring to: the “he said/she said” case. It might also be hard to determine the truth with intoxication cases.

  4. Daniel Speyer says:

    I wonder if there’s something we could do to help people make EA comparative advantage calculations more accurately.

  5. Daniel Speyer says:

    Is penile anesthesia the form of sexual dysfunction usually associated with SSRIs?

  6. WRT the Chinese happiness data: I’m sure the people who would have died under poorer conditions still prefer their 6.5 happiness rating to 0.

    • Creutzer says:

      Nitpick: it’s weird to assign happiness 0 to dead people. More reasonably, they’re just not in the domain of the happiness function.

      • Anonymous says:

        It’s an important consideration if you’re trying to use happiness to make moral decisions.

        • MrBreakfast says:

          Why am I the only one who still thinks utilitarianism owes me an argument?

          • MrBreakfast says:

            Thank you Anon, though I studied that and other sources and still believe as I do.

            I don’t take pleasure / happiness to be a value. If you are absolutely stuck HAVING to formulate some moral theory that you can claim as universal, I can see why utillity appeals, but on what basis is this necessary in the first place?

          • Anon says:

            Generally we take as given that it matters at least a little that other people are happy, have their preferences filled, live, etc. If you lack moral intuitions altogether, it’s going to be hard to argue you into them. (Not that Scott won’t try.)

          • Jiro says:

            Having it matter “at least a little” isn’t enough to get you to utilitarianism.

          • blacktrance says:

            The problem with the Consequentialism FAQ is that after making a strong argument for consequentialism in general, it quickly sneaks in some questionable moral intuitions and argues for utilitarianism without really justifying it. In 5.1, Scott says

            So obviously we need to specify a definition for “better world” that fits our moral intuitions…

            It all goes downhill from that.

          • MrBreakfast: “If you are absolutely stuck HAVING to formulate some moral theory that you can claim as universal, I can see why utillity appeals, but on what basis is this necessary in the first place?”

            Universal is a necessary component of “correct”, and so if you care that you have a correct moral theory, your theory must be universal. Even if you don’t think that the same moral rules can apply to every entity, there has to be some meta level which *can* be applied to every entity to produce those moral rules. This is the case even if the ultimate “universal rule” is that there isn’t a correct morality at all.

          • MrBreakfast says:

            ” Even if you don’t think that the same moral rules can apply to every entity, there has to be some meta level which *can* be applied to every entity to produce those moral rules. “

            ” If you lack moral intuitions altogether, it’s going to be hard to argue you into them. “

            I don’t lack moral intuition, I simply see autonomy as a more fundamental good than happiness or however else “utility” might be conceived.

            The senses are tools to guide behavior towards perpetuating the individual’s pattern of life. Emotions (including pleasure) are merely tools which aggregate information from various sources, and reason itself a tool for guiding voluntary behaviors.

            Demanding that behavior lead to pleasure for it’s own sake, or even reason for it’s own sake is a sickening inversion.

            The value in existence is to perceive, to decide, to act. Pain and pleasure are just data, not ends in themselves.

            If, as a thinker, I benefit from having a map that resembles the territory, I do so because I intend to then imagine a highly realistic map of of a territory that does not yet exist and the ACT upon the world to make that map real.

            Intellectuals of all stripes must admit that given the choice of wire-heading or struggling with ideas and decisions, they would choose the latter, they already have so decided. In fact, moral theorists, rationalists, and social thinkers of all kinds love the thinking and questing for answers SO MUCH that they want to do other people’s thinking for them. How wonderful to have many more hands to do the work of realizing my one minds’ vision!

            The error lies in assuming that the fulfillment of learning, thinking, and deciding is not important to people generally, and that “regular folks” would be best served by long life and material well-being even if these did not come by their own effort. The more you automate, the more of life’s sharp corners you file down, and the more you eliminate the need to strive, the less of the genuine good of human life will remain.

          • haishan says:

            Randall^2: Switching between universality in the zeroth-order sense (“there is a set of moral rules universal to everyone everywhere”) and meta-universality (“there is a way to compute the right set of moral rules for every entity”) seems a little sleight-of-hand-y, although I’m not sure I understand what kind of moral theory or lack of moral theory MrBreakfast wants (his “intuitions” seem kinda teleological?), so maybe your argument really does prove necessity for his purposes.

            Of course there are respected moral philosophers who’ve argued against zeroth-order universality. MacIntyre’s one (yes, I know he’s not that respected ’round these parts), and the Internet tells me Rorty is another. You could maybe argue that 0OU’s a necessary component of correctness, but there are some heavyweights on the other side. (Actually, I’ve been listening to Augustine’s Confessions on LibriVox, and I’m pretty sure he’s in the camp of “different things are moral in different times and places” too.)

            As long as I’m being pedantic, I might as well point out that you could construct a moral theory in which there exists a correct set of moral rules for everyone, but those rules are not in general computable. That would be a strange and depressing theory though, and who knows what the evidence for it would be.

          • Wirehead Wannabe says:

            MrBreakfast: what process do you use to determine whether or not something is good? What observations lead you to say that stealing is wrong for example?

          • Mr Breakfast says:

            @ haishan, Wirehead Wannabe:

            ” I’m not sure I understand what kind of moral theory or lack of moral theory MrBreakfast wants (his “intuitions” seem kinda teleological?),”

            ” MrBreakfast: what process do you use to determine whether or not something is good? What observations lead you to say that stealing is wrong for example? “

            I feel bad for jumping in to a conversation and being provocative, then not following up properly, please understand that my available time for SSC commenting is limited.

            Currently, my “moral meta-theory” is running in the direction of sort of “Adaptive Deontology” – that you should test a proposed moral against the likelihood that it would perpetuate itself if implemented. The world is full of those things which have a tendancy to endure, those that do not having fallen away. This is why there are lots of main-sequence stars (even more red dwarfs) and largish black holes, also why there are lots of pigeons and no dodo birds.

            The pattern of intelligent, striving, competitive humans seems to be very successful, and so any change that disincentivises these qualities in the name of “furthering humanity” faces a high bar to convincing me it is rational. OTOH, anything that informs or empowers people, that leads to more people being contenders in the ongoing competition to impose our individual patterns on the future, gets my presumptive blessing, since I forsee this leading to the most sustainable outcomes.

            An ethic of giving people subjective happiness fails because happiness, pleasure, contentment, etc are evolved tools to guide behavior towards the person finding food, shelter, status, mates, etc.

            If people can get the goods regardless of their behavior, then the pleasure / pain / happiness / sadness modules of their minds (as well as the problem solving and creative modules) are vestigial and will likely fall away with time. Thus if you want people in the future to experiance maximal “happiness”, directly stimulating the mechanisms of happiness is self-defeating.

      • Platypus says:

        I think more formally the question is: “of people who existed in 1990, how happy were they in 2010?”.

        (Or, I guess you’d want some sort of continuous version of that question, to take into account people born since 1990.)

      • Anonymous says:

        @Creutzer

        Why would dead people not be in the domain of the happiness function? They still exist, just in the past instead of both the past and the present. I can understand arguing that a person who doesn’t exist, never existed, and never will exist isn’t in the function of the domain. But someone who does exist, even if you have to go back in time to find them, surely counts?

    • Panflutist says:

      This is disingenuous. If nonexistence has to go anywhere on that scale from 0 to 10, the proper place would be 5. A moment of dissatisfaction is worse than a moment of neither satisfaction nor dissatisfaction.

      • lupis42 says:

        Why? Most people will go to extreme lengths to avoid non-existence, suggesting that nonexistence is actually < 0.

        Possibly this is because nonexistence eliminates any possibility, however infinitesimal, of ever improving.

        • John Schilling says:

          More likely because anticipation of nonexistence is a sensation with an extremely low happiness rating, and impending nonexistance is often correlated with things like fear, pain, and hunger, which also have extremely low happiness ratings.

          Also, I would question the assertion that most people will go to “extreme” lengths to avoid or even postpone nonexistence. What is your definition of “extreme”, and what is your evidence?

          • MugaSofer says:

            >More likely because anticipation of nonexistence is a sensation with an extremely low happiness rating, and impending nonexistance is often correlated with things like fear, pain, and hunger, which also have extremely low happiness ratings.

            Bullshit.

            People don’t want to die in their sleep, or under anaesthesia. In fact, that’s a common reason for fear of anaesthesia.

            Guys, stop trying to force all possible desires under the label of “happiness”. Human values are complex.

          • John Schilling says:

            Point of fact, most people do want to die in their sleep. People who do not want to die in their sleep, mostly seem to want to die violently or otherwise abruptly and under surprising circumstances.

            More generally, most people’s actions and statements evidence an aversion to contemplating or anticipating death, quite possibly stronger than their aversion to actually dying. And your alleged counterexample of death under anaesthesia is not useful to distinguish the two, as it usually involves both A: actual death and B: a period in which one is quite thoroughly compelled to contemplate their imminent death.

            Show me people driving under the speed limit, and I might take seriously the idea of people taking extreme measures to avoid unanticipated death.

          • Nornagest says:

            …you haven’t seen people driving under the speed ilmit? Where I live, you can’t drive ten miles without getting stuck behind somebody doing 15 in a 25.

            Granted, 30 in a 25 is probably more typical when you’re not dealing with speeds limited by the most cautious and/or geriatric person on the road. But you only asked for an existence proof.

          • John Schilling says:

            As an existence proof of a small number of people going to extreme lengths to avoid non-existence, it kind of sort of works. I suspect there are other confounding reasons for slow driving.

            But the the thesis under discussion was lupis42’s assertion that “most people” do this. I think a casual examination of American highways casts severe doubt on that one.

          • Wirehead Wannabe says:

            Megasofer: I agree that the things that people desire are not reducible to happiness. That is different from saying that hedonism is false. Why do you think that we should care what people want, except as an indicator of what they will or will not enjoy?

          • John Schilling: “Point of fact, most people do want to die in their sleep.”

            But what Mugasofer said was “People don’t want to die in their sleep, or under anaesthesia. In fact, that’s a common reason for fear of anaesthesia.”

            Surely what’s being considered is not “If I’m going to die anyway at time T, how would I prefer to go”, but “Would I prefer to die in my sleep the very next time I sleep”! The context about anaesthesia makes this quite clear, I would have thought.

            People generally do not want to die in their sleep at a time when they otherwise would not have; the only people who really do want to die in their sleep in this sense take pills to attempt making it happen.

            Later, you write, “Show me people driving under the speed limit, and I might take seriously the idea of people taking extreme measures to avoid unanticipated death.”

            Okay, let’s think about that. Who do we see most commonly driving under the speed limit, so much so that it’s stereotypical? Old people. People who have a quality of life, typically, which has significantly declined from their prime, suggesting that even finding themselves at less than their mean quality of life for a period of years which will unavoidable end in death doesn’t increase the risks they knowingly take. Let’s also consider those who *do* speed more often, and otherwise take fairly high risks all the time: the young. But the young are known to often have aliefs that don’t include being killed, or even seriously hurt.

            Given that high-speed automobile crashes also have a high risk of agony and permanent disability, your test for fear of death is also a test for fear of pain and suffering, and similarly concludes that because people mostly drive over the speed limit, people are mostly not afraid of pain and suffering.

          • John Schilling says:

            You understand that old people have slower reaction times than the young, right? They are physically incapable of driving as fast as the young without either intense mental focus or insanely reckless disregard for safety.

            More generally, the context was people taking “extreme measures” to avoid non-existence. I still haven’t heard what an “extreme measure” is, or why the chosen word is the impossible “avoid” rather than the realistic “postpone”.

            So: what specific “extreme” measures are people observed to take to avoid dying in their sleep?

            I observe people taking what I might consider extreme measures to avoid the specific types of death that come with an inherent contemplative period in which the victim understands that they will likely die soon and can’t do anything to stop it. And I observe people taking such measures to avoid physically painful or unpleasant sensations, which may be correlated with lethal dangers. But I do not observe people taking extreme measures to avoid those kinds of death which are generally perceived to be surprising and instantaneous – even when those forms of death (e.g. automobile accidents for healthy young people) actually dominate their near-term prospects for non-existence. And when forced to contemplate their inevitable long-term non-existence, are very often OK with that so long as it comes suddenly and surprisingly.

            I thus advance a strong suspicion that people are highly averse to suffering, including a particular form of mental anguish that is the anticipation of death/nonexistence, but are not in fact highly averse to death/nonexistence itself.

            I have yet to see a counterargument that even acknowledges the question.

          • MugaSofer says:

            I’m not sure whether I would have used the word “extreme” – you seem to be focusing a bit much on this one word – but yeah, survival situations can prompt people to do things they would not normally do.

            As for examples, I’m going to use that guy that cut his arm off (http://lmgtfy.com/?q=that+guy+that+cut+his+arm+off) with a goddam penknife to escape from under a rock.

          • Illuminati Initiate says:

            @John Schilling

            First, People can value continued existence while also not valuing it enough to avoid taking any risks. Scott wrote about this in regards to driving and health insurance here. People might value the benefits of driving enough that the slight risk of death does not deter them, but that does not mean they don’t care about it. Also, people are irrational and ill-informed and their choices in this sort of situation do not necessarily accurately reflect their values. Consider what the initial reaction to pushing the button in that essay is (for the typical person).

            Second, this is not the same between people. Some people seem to be OK with dying. Others, such as myself, are definitely not.

            Third, I’m not really sure there’s any way to measure aversion to sudden unanticipated death because as soon as you bring up the possibility it’s not. People don’t tend to take any actions to avoid sudden and unanticipated pain either, because it’s unanticipated. (And as Randall Randall pointed out that is an even more likely result of driving than death).

            (Also people believing in an afterlife is a massive confounder here)

        • Panflutist says:

          Why? Most people will go to extreme lengths to avoid non-existence, suggesting that nonexistence is actually < 0.

          Revealed preference is a useful heuristic, but I feel that “dissatisfaction < neither satisfaction nor dissatisfaction" should be tautological enough to trump it.

          Possibly this is because nonexistence eliminates any possibility, however infinitesimal, of ever improving.

          I honestly don’t think this is implied by nonexistence. It’s complicated by the concept of identity, as well as the impact of one’s existence on others’ quality of life.

          Going meta, your comment is from a perspective that I find infathomable but that I see in many people in the rationalist community. Apologies if what follows is offensively presumptuous.

          On the one hand, there are those who see humans as agents with identities trying to maximize some game-theoretic value. For them, self-preservation or at least preservation of their values is essential. They subscribe to complex value, preference utilitarianism, cryonics, colonization of space (to preserve humanity and human values), etc. Also, they value getting what they want over getting what they like.

          On the other hand, there are those like myself who would rather put everyone into experience machines. To them, there’s nothing special about themselves or the particular things they by whatever cause want. They subscribe to conceptually simple value (hedonism), classical utilitarianism, wireheading (the concept, not any current implementation) and so on. They value getting what they like over getting what they want.

          I find it fascinating that this dichotomy exists (assuming it is more real than imagined).

          • Alex Mennen says:

            > Revealed preference is a useful heuristic, but I feel that “dissatisfaction < neither satisfaction nor dissatisfaction" should be tautological enough to trump it.

            I think when people say they are "dissatisfied", the baseline that they are implicitly comparing their lives against is usually not nonexistence, and people do not usually mean that they'd rather be dead when they describe themselves as dissatisfied.

          • Ghatanathoah says:

            @Panflutist

            This is interesting to me because I find your mindset equally baffling. I consider Hedonic Utilitarianism and its relatives to be the moral systems to be the worst moral systems to have ever been seriously considered. I can’t believe everyone hasn’t seen the clear superiority of Preference Utilitarianism.

            There was a brief period where I considered the idea that all human desires could be reduced to the desire for happiness and amused myself by trying to figure out how everything reduces to happiness. However, I quickly realized I was engaging in apophenia, and that my attempts to reduce everything to happiness were just rationalizations. As soon as someone pointed out our desires couldn’t be reduced to just happiness I felt what the Lesswrong community refers to as “that Magical Click.”

            I’m honestly baffled by anyone who doesn’t understand how badly they’re harming someone by putting them in an experience machine. I love people and care about them. To me that means respecting all preferences they have about how they want to live their lives. (Of course, I would respect the preference of the rare individual who actually does want to go in an experience machine and would not try to stop them from getting in).

            I wonder if part of it is that “wanting” and “liking” signals are comingled on the same neurons, so some people have trouble recognizing that they are distinct and both have value.

            That being said, I mostly agree with you about death being neutral from a wellbeing perspective. Death is primarily bad because it prevents us from achieving our desires in the future, not because it is bad in and of itself. I think there are some people who desire to not die as an end in itself (and I of course love them and respect their preferences), but I think for most people death is bad because it incapacitates you.

          • Wirehead Wannabe says:

            Ghatanathoah: Repeating what I’ve posted elsewhere, I agree that human desires do not reduce to happiness. Why do you think that this implies that hedonism is false? At best it sinply tells us that hedonic and preference utilitarianism disagree. It does no argumentative work in laying out why we should care about desires rather than pleasure.

        • MrBreakfast says:

          Do they go to extreme lengths because they especially want to not die, or is it just that there is no point in hedging for a future after the point of non-existance, so the rational allocation of one’s effort / resources / willpower is to “leave it all on the table”?

      • Vaniver says:

        This is disingenuous. If nonexistence has to go anywhere on that scale from 0 to 10, the proper place would be 5. A moment of dissatisfaction is worse than a moment of neither satisfaction nor dissatisfaction.

        Um, reminder that we’re talking about people starving to death. Pretty sure that gets a 0.

        (I was recently at a social function with a Chinese graduate student, and there was some food left over at the end that he had expressed some interest in, but everyone else had finished eating. “Eat, eat, you’re nothing but skin and bones!” I said, and then, curious, asked him what the equivalent Chinese idiom was. His expression grew pained, and he pointed out that, even now, lots of people in China were hungry and ‘no one has to be encouraged to eat.’)

        • Panflutist says:

          Good call on the reminder; I hadn’t thought of that.

          (I was going to say that many if not most of these people would never have existed, but the great-great-*-grandparent did refer to “people who would have died under poorer conditions”.)

      • haishan says:

        This seems like a dumb thing to argue over. Presumably there are quite a number of Chinese who rated their life satisfaction at a 5 or a 4 or even a 3 who still considered their lives worth living; perhaps there are some who gave 7s or 8s who then went on to kill themselves. The actual text of the survey question might clear this up; I’d post it if the paper weren’t paywalled.

        • William O. B'Livion says:

          From http://www.lifevalues.com/hunting.htm

          This village was very poor. The huts were made of mud and there was no electricity or running water. The streets were unpaved dirt and the whole village smelled. Flies abounded. The men looked surly and wore dirty clothes. The women covered their faces, and the children had runny noses and were dressed in rags.

          It wasn’t long before one American in the truck said, “This place stinks.” Another said, “These people live just like animals.” A third said, “They just don’t value life the same as we do.” Finally, a young air force man said, “Yeah, they got nothin’ to live for; they may as well be dead.”

          What could you say? It seemed true enough.

          But just then, an old sergeant in the truck spoke up. He was the quiet type who never said much. In fact, except for his uniform, he kind of reminded you of one of the tough men in the village. He looked at the young airman and said, “You think they got nothin’ to live for, do you? Well, if you are so sure, why don’t you just take my knife, jump down off the back of this truck, and go try to kill one of them?”

          Go read the rest.

          Worrying about “happiness” is *so* a first world problem.

      • RCF says:

        “This is disingenuous.”

        “Disingenuous” does not mean “a position different from mine”.

        “If nonexistence has to go anywhere on that scale from 0 to 10, the proper place would be 5.”

        So, life is, on average, no better than nonexistence?

        “A moment of dissatisfaction is worse than a moment of neither satisfaction nor dissatisfaction.”

        The question is not whether a moment of dissatisfaction is worse than a neutral moment, but whether it’s worse than no moment at all.

        • Panflutist says:

          So, life is, on average, no better than nonexistence?

          I have to admit I couldn’t find the specifics of the scale in use (because paywalls), but if you interpret the scale to be calibrated to have the average life at 5, then I suppose my claim implies such a thing. What I meant is that a sensible scale would have a neutral point in the center, or at least not at the boundary.

          The question is not whether a moment of dissatisfaction is worse than a neutral moment, but whether it’s worse than no moment at all.

          Yes, this is better. But, keeping in mind that “dissatisfaction” here means pain and suffering, does that break the tautology?

        • Brad says:

          >So, life is, on average, no better than nonexistence?

          These verses from the book of Ecclesiastes come to mind:

          >I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on mankind: 2 God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them, and strangers enjoy them instead. This is meaningless, a grievous evil.

          >3 A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. 4 It comes without meaning, it departs in darkness, and in darkness its name is shrouded. 5 Though it never saw the sun or knew anything, it has more rest than does that man— 6 even if he lives a thousand years twice over but fails to enjoy his prosperity. Do not all go to the same place?

      • alexp says:

        In the case of Maoist v Modern China, remember that we’re not talking about a neutral state of nonexistence (i.e. never being born), but rather a more painful end, such as starving to death; succumbing to preventable disease due to poor medical care, malnutrition or poor sanitation; or being purged, a process that involves being publicly humiliated in front of loved ones, and then tortured to death (this still happens, but not nearly as often.)

        • MrBreakfast says:

          ” or being purged, a process that involves being publicly humiliated in front of loved ones, “

          Man, somehow we always come back to complaining about those SJWs, don’t we?

      • Anonymous says:

        I would say that the proper thing to do is to not bound your scale like that. 2x should be twice the happiness of x, which means nonexistence is zero, and anything worse is negative.

      • Anonymous says:

        I agree with you general argument, which is that we should measure wellbeing with a scale that has a neutral point in the middle. But I dispute that being dead should count as “neutral.” Often it probably does. But there are some conceivable circumstances where it doesn’t.

        For instance, imagine a man who cares very deeply about what other people think of him, and his reputation. If he dies and everyone who lives on after him thinks very highly of him and considers him a great guy, his wellbeing is positive, even though he is dead. If someone spreads slanderous lies about this man, they have definitely harmed him, even though he is dead. The dead are not beyond harm, so death is not always neutral.

  7. J says:

    I’ve started wondering if we’re on the cusp of another switcheroo between the Republicans and Democrats: imagine SJWs getting ever more concerned with enforcing and preserving purity and correctness in thought and action, attention to authorities who decide who belongs in the in and out groups, and construction of hierarchies that ensure each group gets the proper adjustment to their privilege. Republicans could then make a grab for the libertarian vote, and promote moving on from hidebound traditional liberalism toward a bright new post-discriminatory future where we no longer constantly evaluate each other to see who is most deserving. I didn’t live through the last switch, so it’s fascinating to consider all the chaos that would ensue.

    • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

      What if the Democrats we thought we were serving no longer exist, and the Republicans now assail the very evil we’ve been fighting to destroy?

      Padme Amidala, Social Justice Wars: Knights of the New Republicans

    • William O. B'Livion says:

      Don’t worry, if that were to even *start* to happen the Republicans would find a way to f*k it up.

    • RoundHouse says:

      Somebody should do a comparison between recent SJ movements and McCarthyism (or heresy inquisitions, or the Maoist cultural revolution). It’s pretty common for dominant political and religious ideologies to become obsessed with saving the world from hidden enemies and bad thoughts – it’s only natural since adherents believe they know what’s best for everyone. The dominance of progressive liberalism in academia was bound to breed similar behaviours, and the university has always been a place for religion to articulate itself.

      At least those caught up in the hysteria of the later Red Scares thought they were saving the world from 1950s Soviet Russia – SJWs are only saving the world from 1950s America, neither seems preferable to the present but given the choice…

  8. g says:

    Kuhn’s blog post doesn’t mention what seems to me a very strong candidate explanation for effective altruists not wanting to work for the CEA: the CEA (like most charities) doesn’t pay very well, and “earning to give” offers the promise of much greater personal wealth along with its altruistic benefits.

    A perfectly altruistic EA wouldn’t care; they’d just do whatever they estimated had the greatest net positive effect on the welfare of humanity (or something along those lines). Anyone want to guess what fraction of people are perfectly altruistic EAs? I suppose it might not be exactly zero.

    • Deiseach says:

      That sounds reasonable; if a charity that ensures most of its funds go to the actual cause rather than admin offers a full-time job, it’s likely to be in the “ideally we’d prefer a volunteer who works for nothing but we can pay you a peppercorn salary” and if you haven’t independent funds to support you but have to earn your living, you may have to regretfully decline even if you’d love to work for them.

      That’s why religious-based or linked charities depend on fund-raising and support from the home churches to pay the keep of staff, or rely heavily on unpaid volunteers, or stipulate that people wanting to work abroad on their projects have to raise a certain sum of money for their own support, rather than diverting money from donations to the good cause.

    • RCF says:

      The CEA has more information about how valuable the position is than an applicant does. To first order, an EA should take the salary offered as a measure of how much effect the job has on the welfare of humanity, and take whatever job has the highest salary. To the extent that salaries reflect social value, taking the highest paying job will automatically result in exploiting your comparative advantage.

      • Deiseach says:

        an EA should take the salary offered as a measure of how much effect the job has on the welfare of humanity, and take whatever job has the highest salary

        You haven’t heard of the charity salary mini-scandal we’ve had in Ireland, then. Let’s just say the fallout from that has not left the person with the high salary plus perks with a huge amount of social status in public opinion 🙂

        • RCF says:

          I did say “to first order”. And if her salary did not reflect her worth, the main fault lies with Rehab, not Kerins. I fail to see any rational basis for anger at Kerins. Had she not taken then job, Rehab would presumably have paid as much, if not more, to their second choice. If we were imagining an EA considering whether to take the job, well, either the salary is reasonable, in which case take it, or it’s not, in which isn’t the money better in pocket of an EA than in the hands of a wasteful charity?

          • Deiseach says:

            The anger at Kerins and Frank Flannery stems from a couple of sources. First, charities in Ireland have traditionally been linked in some way with religious patronage or causes, such as the Society of St Vincent de Paul, so we don’t have the “professional fund-raiser pay me the same as I’d get working in the private sector” – or we didn’t until quite recently – management. The expectation still is that charity workers are voluntary workers, not remunerated as professionals.

            Secondly, Rehab is in a grey area between being funded by the State (as a training organisation for the handicapped or disabled) and relying on voluntary donations. If it’s getting state money, people not unnaturally want to know how that is being disbursed, and when the management are very coy about their salaries and perks, it looks bad.

            Which leads me into my third point: because of the lack of transparency, and because Angela Kerins was digging her heels in and point-blank refusing to reveal any details about anything, it did seem as if there were no outside oversight on how salaries were scaled; that it was a case of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”, “jobs for the boys” and the paper-pushers awarding themselves fat salaries out of the donation tins rather than spending it on the people who needed it.

            Point number four re: “jobs for the boys” – Frank Flannery had contacts in the government, and did a lot of lobbying work for Rehab. Which is fine, except that it comes across as not alone a conflict of interest but as cronyism and corruption when his consultancy firm is awarded well-paid contracts for such work while he is a board member. Also, Kerins’ family members got spin-off contracts and work for Rehab (see the Chinese coffins saga).

            Fifthly, these highly-paid professionals seemed to be very poor at raising funds (allegedly only making €10,000 profit on €4,000,000 worth of sales of lottery scratch cards) while stuffing their own bank accounts.

            Sixth and last, this came on the back of another scandal, where a charity had been using money collected from donations by the public to ’top up’ a pension package for its retiring CEO; this was considered particularly egregious as this money was specifically for the charitable purpose and not intended for salaries.

  9. Lady Catherine Buttington, Phd. says:

    >A study of online discussion around conspiracy theories finds that conspiracy theorists usually debate more politely and respectfully than anti-conspiracy theorists. This doesn’t seem surprising to me – people are more willing to be bullies when they feel like popular people with tacit social approval to mock the weirdos.

    People with any kind of non-mainstream viewpoint, even if it’s much better supported than a conspiracy theory, generally have to do this too.

    • This probably explains why SSC has such good comments: a really high proportion of the people here have weird non-mainstream views, whether they’re communists or neoreactionaries or radfems or polyamorists or…

      • Deiseach says:

        It may also be the smallness of the community; there have been times when I’ve reined in my first impulse to be rude simply because I didn’t want to burn my bridges with others on a particular blog or site and risk getting kicked out or banned; the conversation and interaction and debate was too good and enjoyable to throw it away for a moment of table-pounding and name-calling.

        If you don’t have a great range of choices about where to go in order to discuss “Vatican Mind-Control Implants” with the like-minded, it’s a big incentive to keep it polite and reasonable rather than start yelling insults at the others in the group.

        • Nick says:

          This is true and has to be something of a contributor, but I’ve been a lurker on a lot of smaller communities and it is amazing to me just how rarely there is any visible turmoil there. A paradigm example for me is probably the city sim community circa the mid-2000s; anyone remember the Simtropolis of that time? I don’t know how it’s evolved, since I only check back rarely now.

        • Anonymous says:

          Perhaps communities that are larger than some constant_depending_on_the_fact_that_this_is_internet * Dunbar number of regular contributors have different dynamics.

        • Harald K says:

          I’ve long wondered at the tolerance of the “alternative” movement.

          During breaks at the hospital kitchen I used to work, there were two things to read, the Norwegian Automobile Association’s Road Guide (which will not be covered in this particular dreary anecdote), and the catalog of alternative treatments and modalities from the alternative society. So I read them, probably more than once. Anyway, the catalog listed some 400 alternative movement ideas, from ayurvedic medicine to ear candles or so. Only two were warned against: primal scream therapy and chelation therapy.

          I wondered how they could be positive and downright gushing about so many totally incompatible theories. I figured that shared opposition to mainstream medical beliefs was more important to them than consistency, that there was a lot more identity at play than actual ideology.

          So maybe that’s what’s going on here too. I’d be wary of thinking we are fundamentally better (or fundamentally different in any way) to other communities.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            I wondered how they could be positive and downright gushing about so many totally incompatible theories.

            I’ve had various alternative treatments, and even had a little instruction in various theories. From inside the movement, I think most of us Westerners are interested in compatibility of the treatments, not of the theories. More than one theory can fit the same treatment. For example, ear candling (of recent Western origin sfaik) treats ear ache much as Ayruveda would: warmth and oil in the ear, and lying very very still in a peaceful setting for a specific length of time.

          • Harald K says:

            houseboatonstyx, it’s not always possible to get out of it like that. To take an example, the anthroposophists, the ayurvedic medicine people and the macrobiotic diet people probably disagree on more foods than they agree about.

            The entertainment value of that catalog was in large part about finding things that were recommended by one teaching and warned against by another.

          • Deiseach says:

            If that’s ear candling, it sounds damn like what my granny and my mother did for us as kids when we had earache; olive oil (purchased in little bottles from the chemist, because who used it to cook, for goodness’ sake? It was medicine) and gently warmed, then dropped into the ear and plugged with cotton wool; remedy applied preferably at bedtime so you would be lying down already and then go to sleep with the oil in your ear for the night.

            Who knew we could have turned this into a profitable treatment by adding a little pixie-dust ‘ancient traditional folk cures from pre-Christian Irish sources’ on top? 🙂

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @Deiseach

            That’s theory #3. Slot #4 is reserved for Placebo.

      • communists or neoreactionaries or radfems

        I feel like these extremist sort of people tend to disproportionally cause trouble when compared to the other commenters here. I might be wrong though.

        • Anonymous says:

          The communists are kind of obnoxiously jokey, but I wouldn’t put them in the same category as the neoreactionaries. And I agree with Ozy (below) that we don’t seem to have radfems here.

        • MugaSofer says:

          No, I’ve noticed that as well. (Well, I’d say “SJWs” rather than “radfems”, but I think that’s what you mean.)

          Then again, all these are recognizable subcultures. There are other places for them to go and talk to people about their particular subculture. I think the most … marginalized is perhaps the word … group is probably “rationalists”, or other “groups” that hang out here but are too small and fragmented to name (like that “Violet Tribe” thing, I’m probably a member of that but it isn’t easily identifiable.)

      • ozymandias says:

        … … …we have radical feminists?

        I’m pretty sure the closest to radical feminist we have is me and Multi, and I’m pretty sure the radical feminists continue to not allow sadomasochistic transsexuals.

        • I should have said SJWs rather than radfems, since you’re correct: we don’t really have any radfems. Maybe we should get some. And while we’re at it, the ethnat leg of the (N)Rx trichotomy is poorly represented here, which I sometimes regret.

          • Anonymous says:

            I also regret that the fourth leg of neoreaction is poorly represented anywhere, even in neoreactionary circles themselves: abject nihilistic cynicism and desire for despotism for its own sake.

            When I find neoreactionary ideals appealing, it is never from the perspective of ethnic nationalism, or techno-consumerism, or theocratic traditionalism – it’s purely from the perspective of “it would be really sweet to have despotic control of my own little North Korea”.

            Where’s my slice?

          • You’re totally welcome to make the case for being a despot here in the comments. I’ll bring popcorn. What are your policies like? Do you think you’d do well as a monarch-CEO in a Moldbuggian Patchwork?

          • Anonymous says:

            Update: I now dub this fourth flavor “Sado-fascism”.

          • Jiro says:

            You’re totally welcome to make the case for being a despot here in the comments.

            Scott tries to keep neoreactionaries away. So no, he is not totally welcome to make that case in the comments. In fact, doing so would probably get him banned, so you may just have to put up with nobody making that case.

          • alexp says:

            My impression was that he generally tolerates neoreactionaries as long as they’re not too in-your-face about race and gender issues.

          • Deiseach says:

            it’s purely from the perspective of “it would be really sweet to have despotic control of my own little North Korea”

            That’s my own, horrible, deep-down buried temptation and secret; my Inner Saruman. You may have noticed a tendency in my comments to be perhaps a trifle prescriptive at times? 🙂

            So much temptation to “If they won’t be good, I’ll make them be good – for their own good”. While we’re talking about Chesterton, the chapter called “The Dream of MacIan” from “The Ball and the Cross” sums up my own temptation, and the answer to it: that people have free will and I have no right to over-ride that, no matter how noble or virtuous the ends I seek.

            …Is the war still raging?” asked MacIan.
            “It rages like the pit itself beyond the sea whither I am taking you,” answered the other. “But in England the king enjoys his own again. The people are once more taught and ruled as is best; they are happy knights, happy squires, happy servants, happy serfs, if you will; but free at last of that load of vexation and lonely vanity which was called being a citizen.”

            …As they went sailing down Ludgate Hill, Evan saw that the state of the streets fully answered his companion’s claim about the reintroduction of order. All the old blackcoated bustle with its cockney vivacity and vulgarity had disappeared. Groups of labourers, quietly but picturesquely clad, were passing up and down in sufficiently large numbers; but it required but a few mounted men to keep the streets in order. The mounted men were not common policemen, but knights with spurs and plume whose smooth and splendid armour glittered like diamond rather than steel. Only in one place—at the corner of Bouverie Street—did there appear to be a moment’s confusion, and that was due to hurry rather than resistance. But one old grumbling man did not get out of the way quick enough, and the man on horseback struck him, not severely, across the shoulders with the flat of his sword.

            “The soldier had no business to do that,” said MacIan, sharply. “The old man was moving as quickly as he could.”

            “We attach great importance to discipline in the streets,” said the man in white, with a slight smile.

            “Discipline is not so important as justice,” said MacIan.

            The other did not answer.

            Then after a swift silence that took them out across St. James’s Park, he said: “The people must be taught to obey; they must learn their own ignorance. And I am not sure,” he continued, turning his back on Evan and looking out of the prow of the ship into the darkness, “I am not sure that I agree with your little maxim about justice. Discipline for the whole society is surely more important than justice to an individual.”

            Evan, who was also leaning over the edge, swung round with startling suddenness and stared at the other’s back.

            “Discipline for society——” he repeated, very staccato, “more important—justice to individual?”

            Then after a long silence he called out: “Who and what are you?”

            “I am an angel,” said the white-robed figure, without turning round.

            “You are not a Catholic,” said MacIan.

            The other seemed to take no notice, but reverted to the main topic.

            “In our armies up in heaven we learn to put a wholesome fear into subordinates.”

            MacIan sat craning his neck forward with an extraordinary and unaccountable eagerness.

            “Go on!” he cried, twisting and untwisting his long, bony fingers, “go on!”

            “Besides,” continued he, in the prow, “you must allow for a certain high spirit and haughtiness in the superior type.”

            “Go on!” said Evan, with burning eyes.

            “Just as the sight of sin offends God,” said the unknown, “so does the sight of ugliness offend Apollo. The beautiful and princely must, of necessity, be impatient with the squalid and——”

            “Why, you great fool!” cried MacIan, rising to the top of his tremendous stature, “did you think I would have doubted only for that rap with a sword? I know that noble orders have bad knights, that good knights have bad tempers, that the Church has rough priests and coarse cardinals; I have known it ever since I was born. You fool! you had only to say, ‘Yes, it is rather a shame,’ and I should have forgotten the affair. But I saw on your mouth the twitch of your infernal sophistry; I knew that something was wrong with you and your cathedrals. Something is wrong; everything is wrong. You are not an angel. That is not a church. It is not the rightful king who has come home.”

            “That is unfortunate,” said the other, in a quiet but hard voice, “because you are going to see his Majesty.”

            “No,” said MacIan, “I am going to jump over the side.”

            “Do you desire death?”

            “No,” said Evan, quite composedly, “I desire a miracle.”

            “From whom do you ask it? To whom do you appeal?” said his companion, sternly. “You have betrayed the king, renounced his cross on the cathedral, and insulted an archangel.”

            “I appeal to God,” said Evan, and sprang up and stood upon the edge of the swaying ship.

            The being in the prow turned slowly round; he looked at Evan with eyes which were like two suns, and put his hand to his mouth just too late to hide an awful smile.

            “And how do you know,” he said, “how do you know that I am not God?”

            MacIan screamed. “Ah!” he cried. “Now I know who you really are. You are not God. You are not one of God’s angels. But you were once.”

            The being’s hand dropped from his mouth and Evan dropped out of the car.

          • Jiro says:

            alexp: http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/18/open-thread-2-free-minds-free-threads/

            He’s banning a certain percentage of neoreactionaries no matter what.

          • Anonymous says:

            > people have free will and I have no right to over-ride that, no matter how noble or virtuous the ends I seek.

            I know nothing of noble of virtuous ends, but I would counter with:

            Some people have power, and the so-called “free will” of the rest has no power to over-ride that, no matter how noble or virtuous the ends they seek.

            Moreso, I would never dream of advocating my own despotism; I simply don’t have sufficient tanks, or rifles, or gunships, or helicopters, or fighter jets, or bombs to enforce it.

            I’m merely asking: if someone has sufficient power and resources to enforce total dictatorial control for their own sadistic amusement, why not?

            And I mean “why not” in a “what will stop them?” sense, not a “why is it wrong?” sense – unless you can somehow walk me through the production of an ‘is’ from an ‘ought’.

          • Kiya says:

            @Deiseach: Would a fair summary of that story be that the protagonist, finding himself in a largely happy-looking society where a supremely powerful monarch harshly punishes transgressions against his laws, takes a fall in quixotic protest?

            I haven’t read Chesterton and I don’t have the context, but it reads to me like the angel opposes the king’s regime and is goading Evan to jump by playing devil’s advocate with the level of skill he’d be expected to have.

            (This comment is not meant as argument against the idea that despotism is usually bad).

          • Mary says:

            “You are not one of God’s angels. But you were once.”

            is very literal in this context. Still an angel to be sure. But no longer one of God’s. Which would mean. . . .

            I observe that you should not assume that the kingdom disagrees with the angel.

            The Ball and The Cross is not, quite, as surreal as The Man Who Was Thursday

          • Deiseach says:

            Anonymous – no, as we can see from North Korea, there is nothing stopping you (except not having an army, tanks, etc.) from being a sadistic dictator. And there is even a very good chance you get to die peacefully in your bed.
            Unless some other enterprising member of your family decides to knock you off and take over for themselves or the people finally rise up and overthrow you (though there again, you have a good chance of being able to flee to Switzerland and take advantage of the bank accounts you stuffed full of the state treasury) or the U.S. decides some other candidate suits them better as their pet dictator/’strong stable leader in the region’.
            But no, there is nothing in the justice of this world to stop you, if you manage to climb the greasy pole of power and stay there.
            Kira- that is not an angel and the true king has not come home after all 

          • Kiya says:

            Mary, Deiseach: Sure, caught that. But the correct response to “this guy is a manipulative entity I distrust” is not “therefore I should do the opposite of what he says.” It’s to try to consider the question he seems to have been manipulating you about while discounting his input. (Ideally, go have a conversation with someone you do trust, but that would require more characters.) Evan says:

            Did you think I would have doubted only for that rap with a sword? I know that noble orders have bad knights, that good knights have bad tempers, that the Church has rough priests and coarse cardinals; I have known it ever since I was born. You fool! you had only to say, ‘Yes, it is rather a shame,’ and I should have forgotten the affair.

            indicating that his conviction that the king is bad and intention to jump are the result of listening to the (fallen) angel. Suicide still gets you into hell, right?

            (Some context I could be missing that would change my reading includes evidence that the angel has a connection to the king beyond happening to be in the same car as Evan when they’re going to the kingdom).

          • I found out recently that suicide is a serious sin which would require a lot of repentance, but it isn’t a guarantee of ending up in hell.

            http://bondwine.com/2014/12/27/vengeance-revisited/

          • Anonymous says:

            Nancy, that sounds to me like a generic position of humility about damnation and salvation, not really contrary to the claim about suicide. Also, I think that it is extremely misleading for that page to say that it has never been the teaching of the Church. Paragraph 2283 is from the Second Vatican Council. Before that, the Church denied funerals to suicides. The earlier Baltimore Catechism did offer the disclaimer that “it is sometimes very difficult to determine whether the person was really sane at the time he committed the act,” but that’s a lot less than 2283’s “By ways known to him alone.”

        • Eggo says:

          Are they still calling sadists and masochists “necrophiliacs”, along with anyone with a foot fetish or a preference for particular hair colour?

        • Grumpus says:

          … … …we have radical feminists?

          Hi! We’re around, there just aren’t many opportunities around here to mouth off on radfem themes. Deiseach and Nancy Lebovitz (and a couple others I can’t think of right now) generally do a good job of providing a sensible, non-SJ feminist perspective and that’s enough in most cases. But if peeps want me to make the case for globally engineering testosterone levels way, way down I’m happy to provide.

          • Nita says:

            I’ve heard low T makes men feel tired and depressed. Is this news to you, or do you consider it an acceptable sacrifice?

    • RCF says:

      If rudeness signals status, what that mean for the “tone argument” meme? Doesn’t it suggest that criticizing someone for being rude is, indeed, a valid argument, and that being rude belies one’s claim to being oppressed? Or can we steelman the meme as “By being rude [or, at least, not optimizing their phrasing for not being perceived as being rude], oppressed people are asserting that they are entitled to the same rights as privileged people, and criticizing them for that is denying them their equality”?

      • Tracy W says:

        The sjw line about how one should respond to arguments does strike me as contradictory. On the one hand: you have privilege, on the other hand: you must do x, y and Z in response to any criticism by an unprivileged person. But having to do what someone tells you is a very unprivileged position.

        • Setsize says:

          You must do x, y and Z in response to any criticism by an unprivileged person, if you are to act as SJWs desire people to act, which is in a way that counteracts the effect of privilege. I don’t see a contradiction there.

  10. Anonymous says:

    You criticize the studies finding high false rates in the USA. But have you ever actually compared the methodology of the studies on false rape rates?

    The “feminist” studies all use the same methodology:
    -Define a criteria for finding a rape allegation clearly false
    -Honestly compute the number of clearly false rape allegations under the definition you make in step 1
    -Implicitly assume 100% of rape allegations not shown to be false are true

    The most famous of the “high” rate studies was by Kanin. His methodology was not perfect but he at least tried to determine the accuracy of 100% of the rape accusations. Most people fault him for using polygraphs. But I fail to see how his methods were anywhere near as bad as a methodology of “any accusation we cannot prove is false is assumed true.”

      • Anonymous says:

        The issues go much deeper than that. In that case the “other guy” was making a claim the studies do not even support. Debunking that guy doesn’t even require reading ANY studies. Just basic common sense and not being totally mind-killed. What I am saying is most of the feminist studies have vastly terrible methodology. So even the claims they actually support are dubious.

        Scott is implicitly considering the feminist numbers of 2-8% as reasonable. I am wondering if he ever read the studies those numbers are based on.

        • Anonymous says:

          Did you actually read the thing I linked? I suggest trying again, not just stopping at the end up of the first section. (In particular, sections III, IV, V.)

          • Jos says:

            I’m not sure Scott is correct when he writes: “The research community defines false accusations as those that can be proven false beyond a reasonable doubt, and all others as true. ”

            My read is that the research community defines false (or more often “unfounded”) accusations as those that can be proven false, and all others as not proven false, and that an error in translation has caused the popular reports to assume this means that our best guess is that accusations are 92%-98% true. But Scott’s better at reading research than I am, so I’d love someone to test my conclusion.

          • Jos says:

            OK, I went back and re-read Lisak (2010), and here’s where I would disagree with Scott’s analysis.

            I don’t think it’s reasonable to cite the 2-8% number without being clear what you’re measuring. Lisak is clear that what is measured in his studies and in other studies he finds credible is the percent of accusations reasonably concluded to be false after investigation. That’s fair, but if you use “false accusations” without definition, you get a bit of a motte and bailey effect where most readers think you mean “accusations that are not true” not “accusations that we are fairly confident after investigation are false.”

            In fact, if you look at Lisak’s study, there are probably three buckets: “accusations that we think are probably false,” “accusations that we think are probably true” and “accusations that we don’t know if they’re true or false.” That’s fine, but I think clarity helps when describing the studies.

  11. Steven says:

    So, on the 10 controversies link, on “The Hiatus”:

    Finally, a commentary in Nature in March brings most of this together to conclude that a gaggle of factors, including volcanic eruptions, the concentration of aerosols in the atmosphere and solar activity, all conspired to dampen warming trends and make the climate modellers look bad.

    But of course, post-hoc rationalizations of predictive failures are the bedrock of solid science.

    Well, let me know when the century-out predictions are updated for all these previously-unknown confounders, hey? It’s been kinda weird that for the last 35 years, we’ve had no actual changes in the prediction of what a doubling of carbon dioxide would do to temperatures, not even an increase in precision of the predicted range.

    (Back in the 1979 NAS report, the prediction was 3±1.5 K per doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide. And in the 1990 IPCC report, it was 3±1.5 K. And in the 1995 IPCC report, it was 3±1.5 K. And in the 2001 IPCC report, it was 3±1.5 K. And in the 2014 IPCC report, it was 3±1.5 K. Even though the estimate of the direct solar energy retained by a doubling of carbon dioxide declined from 4 W/square meter to 3.7 W/square meter.)

    • haishan says:

      I enjoyed this bit, from the geoengineering page:

      We might also question the motivations of it’s supporters; why are they so wary of social change over techno-fix? As Doug Parr argued in 2008, geoengineering’s attempt to fix nature rather than our society amounts to “an expression of political despair.”

      “Political despair” seems like exactly the right thing to express, regarding climate change or indeed almost anything else. The mantra of “society is fixed, [technology] is mutable” seems apropos here.

      • William O. B'Livion says:

        That link I posted above to the dual life values site? Read the description of the village, and ask yourself, if *every* village in the world like that was given a choice of “modernizing” their village–at least to the level of 1940s America at the cost of 2 degrees of warming, or having their children continue to die of dysentery, poor nutrition, and a host of other illnesses, as well as being able to watch footie in a recliner, what do you think they’d pick *IN A HEART BEAT*?

        It’s not that society is fixed, it’s that health cultures love their children and their neighbors and want material progress at least in part because of that.

        • haishan says:

          Hell, the problem’s even worse than that, because there’s a tragedy of the commons element — any individual village using cheap, carbon-burning fuel to modernize will have a negligible effect on the climate. And nobody, not even the wisest sages of the Maldives, would trade off the chance to not live in a shithole to avoid a .0002 K warming over the next 50 years.

          Anyone proposing to fix the climate via social change is going up against vast and powerful Elder Gods, of whom “developing nations want to develop” is but one manifestation.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          That could be used as a premise for a Golden Age SFF story of the Genie Wish kind. The village is on an island. The deal is, “But all the effects will be confined to your island; no one else will get any.”

          The selfish villagers say, “That’s fine. Deal.”

          When the observer returns, higher sea level has eaten X% of the homes, death rates from air pollution have increased, etc etc. Along with the benefits, the effects usually externalized are confined to their island only.

          That’s just the external output. The external input would include factories, mines, etc etc (the Genie’s magic scales them proportionately), and oil slicks.

          The simplest case starts with a village ready to step into the 1940s lifestyle. A worse case, like you describe, would require a lot more external input to bring it up to near neutral: teams of medics, psychiatrists, social workers; one-time clean up of water and sanitation facilities, etc. Which would require more external input to support it.

          The best thing about the bargain would be, that the 1940ed villagers would have a lot more options, and might be able to figure out a way to clean up the mess and keep the benefits. But a wise neighboring village might opt for better means, and first add up the benefits vs all the costs, many of which we now in real life are dumping onto mud villages.

    • haishan says:

      By the way, here’s how that 3±1.5 K estimate originally came about:

      In the summer of 1979, the late Jule Charney convened a committee of fellow meteorological luminaries on Cape Cod to prepare a report for the National Academy of Sciences on the possible effects of increased amounts of atmospheric CO2 on climate. None of the committee members actually did greenhouse modeling themselves, so Charney called in the only two American researchers modeling greenhouse warming, Manabe and James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Climate Studies (GISS) in New York City. On the first day of deliberations, Manabe told the committee that his model warmed 2°C when CO2 was doubled. The next day Hansen said his model had recently gotten 4°C for a doubling. According to Manabe, Charney chose 0.5°C as a not-unreasonable margin of error, subtracted it from Manabe’s number, and added it to Hansen’s. Thus was born the 1.5°C-to-4.5°C range of likely climate sensitivity that has appeared in every greenhouse assessment since.

      (source)

      Of course this doesn’t invalidate the numbers — it often happens that the first, simplest model one thinks of performs almost as well as far more complex models — but it doesn’t make me especially confident in them, either.

      • Morton says:

        Pulling out that quote, and ignoring, from the very next two paragraphs:

        By the time of the IPCC’s second assessment report in 1995, the number of climate models available had increased to 13. After 15 years of model development, their sensitivities still spread pretty much across Charney’s 1.5ºC-to-4.5ºC range. By IPCC’s third and most recent assessment report in 2001, the model-defined range still hadn’t budged.

        Now model sensitivities may be beginning to converge. “The range of these models,
        at least, appears to be narrowed,” said climate modeler Gerald Meehl of the National
        Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, after polling
        eight of the 14 models expected to be included in the IPCC’ s next assessment. The
        sensitivities of the 14 models in the previous assessment ranged from 2.0ºC to 5.1ºC, but the span of the eight currently available models is only 2.6ºC to 4.0ºC, Meehl found.

        feels like the very definition of selective quoting to me.

        • haishan says:

          A decade on, the IPCC is still publishing the 1.5-4.5 estimate, so I’m assigning very little weight to the paragraph that begins “Now model sensitivities may be beginning to converge.”

          Yes, there are a lot more models nowadays, and they pretty much all give the same set of answers. This could be because 3±1.5 K is “right” in some sense (if the true sensitivity is something like 2.5 K and for whatever reason there’s a limit on the accuracy of models), or it could be because of the file-drawer effect. I think the former cause is more likely, but I’m troubled by the plausibility of the latter.

    • James Picone says:

      I’m continually flabbergasted that there are people who post here who don’t understand the difference between noise and signal. Last thread there were people asking for predictions of global average surface temperature in five years time, as if that was an effective test.

      Aerosol concentrations changing at a different rate to predicted has effect zero on century-scale predictions (aerosols have been declining since clean-air laws, and it won’t take centuries). Low solar activity has effect zero on century scale predictions (It’s called the solar /cycle/ for a reason). Vulcanism has effect zero on century-scale predictions (it’s random and not changing over century timescales).

      And describing this as ‘post-hoc rationalizations of predictive failures’? Seriously? There’s zero statistical evidence of a change in trend post 1998 (actually, post the mid-1970s, but 1998 is about when there’s supposed to be a ‘pause’), demonstrated interestingly by Tamino here. We’re still inside the model envelope.

      Paleoclimate and modelling studies continue to suggest a highish ECS, energy-balance and statistical studies continue to suggest a low ECS. Result: Wide range in 95% confidence interval. More studies hasn’t helped because the different methods give different results. Chances are it’s because the divisions between transient climate response, equilibrium climate sensitivity and earth system sensitivity are kind of arbitrary, paleo studies are picking up a mix of ECS and ESS, energy-balance and statistical studies are picking up a mix of TCR and ECS.

      • Steven says:

        The Nature commentary mentioned in my quote of the article and linked at the bottom of that article says “Recent observed global warming is significantly less than that simulated by climate models”.

        You say, “We’re still inside the model envelope”.

        So, er, which is it? Are the temperature readings in the range allowed by noise in the models (in which case it was untrue for Nature to print that they’re lower than that simulated by the models), or are they outside that range (in which case the models need to be revised)?

        • Setsize says:

          So, er, which is it? Are the temperature readings in the range allowed by noise in the models, or are they outside that range?

          The first, but the Nature statement is also not incorrectly phrased.

          If we average all existing models to provide one overly-precise “average” model, we can notice that the models in aggregate are shooting high. This is useful information, and is also not enough to reject any one model.

          A doctor measures a baby, plots its growth on a chart and predicts it will grow up to be 5’11” +- 2″. A second doctor measures the same baby and predicts 5’10” +- 3″. A third doctor predicts 6″0″ +- 2″. If the baby grows up to be 6″0.5″, we can say that the doctors have all underpredicted the height, and with separate predictions from enough doctors we can define a notion of “significantly” underpredicting and given enough babies we can look for cases like these and try to find factors that are not captured by existing growth models. But we also can’t say that any of the doctors’ predictions were especially wrong — their uncertainties were well calibrated.

          • Steven says:

            If the baby grows up to be 6″0.5″, we can say that the doctors have all underpredicted the height

            No, we can’t. That’s obvious nonsense. Anyone who so claims is blatantly full of shit. “Their predictions are wrong because the height is completely inside the range of their predictions” is ludicrous.

          • Setsize says:

            You have substituted the word “wrong” where I wrote “underpredicted.” Underpredicted does not mean wrong; underpredicted means underpredicted.

            The error of a fitted model (commonly written ε, where standard linear regression seeks to minimize ε^2) is defined as the difference between the fitted value and the observed value, no more, no less. The process of model fitting also produces σ, which is important, but σ does not appear in the definition of ε.

            If you wish, consider the doctors as having put forth posterior probability distributions with the means and standard deviations I named. There is value in being able to observe that the most of the mass of the doctor’s predictions went below the observed value and not above. This situation is called “underprediction.”

            Consult textbooks on statistical modeling for further clarification (I highly recommend the book by Gelman and Hill, which emphasizes the role of residual checking in model evaluation.)

        • James Picone says:

          Let me put it this way. The recent trend in surface temperature is statistically indistinguishable from the trend from ~1970odd (where there is statistical data of a change, probably relating to clean air laws reducing aerosol counts. And besides, that maximises the GW trend, which makes matching it later harder).

          The reason the trend is statistically indistinguishable is that global average surface temperature is extremely noisy on a decadal scale. Notice that the 1975-1998 trend is ~0.016 K/year, and that there are single-year jumps of something like 0.3 K in that dataset over that period of time. That is, the noise is around 19 times larger than the trend, by that very simple estimate (and it’s actually more because it’s not white noise, it’s autocorrelated).

          Because global average surface temperature is so noisy on a decadal scale, running towards the bottom of the model envelope for about a decade could very well be the result of noise. The stats that say the trend isn’t yet distinguishable from prior to the ‘pause’ period are just a mathematical formalisation of how long it needs to do that to indicate a problem.

          All this stuff about “Maybe the heat is in the oceans” “maybe wind” “maybe aerosols” etc. are just ways of figuring out what particular source of noise – things that don’t really matter on a long timescale but vary rapidly on a short timescale – has caused surface temperature to run towards the bottom of the model envelope for about a decade.

          • James Picone says:

            Model/observation comparisons up-to-date for 2012 are available here, for reference.

          • Steven says:

            I’m sorry, why am I supposed to care about a naive extrapolation of historical temperature trends? I don’t care what a mere linear regression on measured temperatures predict, and whether current temperatures are consistent with that; I care about the models that are supposed to be relating CO2 levels to temperature.

            The question here is, do the actual climate models, from their inputs, accurately predict temperature, or not. If the temperatures they predict are consistent with measurement, then they’re right. If they aren’t, they’re wrong.

            When they’re right, it is of course a perfectly worthy enterprise to then try to figure out what the source of noise is, but in that case someone who says “Recent observed global warming is significantly less than that simulated by climate models” is full of shit. The correct statement would be something like, “Recent observed global warming is significantly clustered in the lower end of the range simulated by climate models.”

          • James Picone says:

            “I’m sorry, why am I supposed to care about a naive extrapolation of historical temperature trends?”

            Because it indicates that there’s nothing special about the recent period that’s supposed to be a ‘pause’. Because it means the no-change-in-temperature null is very falsified.

            Yes, the envelope of the current CMIP3 ensemble includes observed temperatures, and always has as far as I’m aware.

            “…but in that case someone who says “Recent observed global warming is significantly less than that simulated by climate models” is full of shit”

            Why? People aren’t allowed to be somewhat imprecise with language?

            EDIT: Oh, and in the spirit of clarity, I am currently assuming you accept the existence of the greenhouse effect and that first-principles suggest adding CO2 to the atmosphere will increase global average surface temperature, but that you believe that climate sensitivity is low (perhaps around 1 to 1.5 K/doubling of CO2) and/or that the effects of such warming will be slightly negative at worst. If that doesn’t accurately represent your opinions then you might want to say so.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Because global average surface temperature is so noisy on a decadal scale, running towards the bottom of the model envelope for about a decade could very well be the result of noise.”

            OK, I can maybe buy sixteen years as “about a decade”, but when is this no longer true?

            Let’s start with IPCC AR3. More than a decade old, and I’m pretty sure “the science was settled” and “the debate was over” by then. Presumably AR3 was based on a nice ensemble of then-state-of-the-art climate models that looked forward for, I would assume, the rest of the century at least. And I would hope with error bars.

            At what point do the bottom of the error bars, for the models in AR3, rise above the X axis? In what year, presuming observed global temperatures remain flat, is it reasonable to say “these climate models have been falsified?

            If the answer is “never”, either because the error bars encompass the null hypothesis all the way out or because we are always supposed to ignore AR3, AR4 … AR N-1 in favor of the latest, greatest AR N and its ensemble of conveniently too-new-to-break-out-of-the-noise models and predictions, then what you’ve got isn’t science.

            Or, turn that around. What’s the best past prediction you can point to in the field, that could have been reliably falsified by a null result as of today and hasn’t?

          • James Picone says:

            Tamino, again, has a good diagram showing how much uncertainty there is in trend of global average surface temperature starting in a given year. That particular year is the Cowtan&Way reanalysis rather than one of the ‘standard’ temperature datasets, which does show more warming (more arctic data, different statistical technique). I think he’s got some more posts with the same graph for different datasets, but it’s at least illustrative of how much uncertainty ranges broaden as you reduce the number of years. Notice that sure, the uncertainty ranges include zero for most of the present day – but they also include the warming trend that had held true up until 1998.

            AR3 was published in 2001. I would be exceptionally surprised if temperatures were outside its model envelope, given the huge uncertainties on trends since 2001. Surface temperature is /noisy/. Above I’ve done some very simplistic maths that points out that the year-to-year variability is at least 19 times larger than the trend.

            I’m not sure what AR1 or AR2 were projecting. There are, fortunately, some other options.

            James Hansen published some model projections of climate in 1988. I’ve referred to this below, but here‘s a link to a comparison between them and observations up to 2014 (so 26 years). The actual graph of model vs observations is the top one, from the GWPF(!).

            Hansen’s projections involved three forcing scenarios – basically rates of change of CO2, methane, aerosols, etc.. Forcing evolution since 1988 most closely matches scenario C, so that’s the one we should use. The GWPF didn’t put error bars on it, but it’s also pretty clear that observed temperature change and scenario C are well within error bars, and I can assure you that zero-change would be outside of it. /especially/ given that the GWPF graph has subtracted approximately 0.05k/year from temperatures (read the top-left corner).

            You could observe that if you predicted ‘no change’ in 1988, you would be very wrong.

            You could look at more than global average surface temperature. Global sea level rise has been tracking the top of the IPCC’s models pretty much forever, and the Arctic is vanishing far faster than any of the IPCC’s models predicted.

            Or maybe you could look at the individual bits of science underlying these predictions. Adding CO2 to the atmosphere /must/ heat up Earth, or our understanding of thermodynamics is very wrong. The only question is how much. Very simple models (MODTRAN, a radiative transfer calculation tool) give us a forcing of 1c per doubling of CO2 concentration. Obviously, Earth doesn’t do nothing in response to getting 1K warmer on average, you get increases in water vapour (a greenhouse gas), ice melts (decreasing albedo, but also allowing open water to radiate out better), cloud formation does all sorts of crazy things. These are ‘feedbacks’. The current best estimate of their magnitude is 0.5K to 3.5K per doubling of CO2. Sum them up to get the effect of a doubling of CO2, 1.5K to 4.5K, with (according to the IPCC), with most of the 5% remaining probability mass above 4.5K. None of that requires fancy global climate models, you can get it by looking at paleoclimate or doing statistics on recent climate changes, and it’s rooted in pretty fundamental physics. Testable fundamental physics – satellites can check the top-of-atmosphere radiation imbalance (and IIRC they have). If you point a measuring device at the sky you can measure the amount of infrared radiation coming down and observe it’s more than the sun is emitting (and how much more). Water vapour content is measured and probably increasing (it’s /extremely/ variable). Ice can be observed melting (enough in Antarctica that we can pick it up from gravitational field changes…). If the warming is due to greenhouse gases we expect the top layers of the atmosphere to cool, and it is (scroll down to ‘The human fingerprint in temperature trends’).

            Just to be clear, I’m assuming you accept the basic physics of the greenhouse effect, but either think the sensitivity is low (~1k/doubling), or that the effects will be weakly negative at worst.

      • Jaskologist says:

        So what do you believe would be an effective test, which can be checked within our lifetimes? Because I don’t see why I should consider anything “settled science” which hasn’t passed a falsifiable test yet.

        • Alex Godofsky says:

          Eh, I think this is too strong of a demand (unless I’m misreading you, which is possible). Just as how with the minimum wage I would never expect to be able to directly measure it, it’s entirely possible that the climate science projections are not directly falsifiable. But if all of the components of the model can be verified individually, I’m willing to believe them.

          My main concern with the slowdown in warming is that the explanation I hear most often, “oh the heat is going into the oceans”, is the sort of thing that I’d think really really really ought to be part of their model. The ocean being a big heat sink seems like a big deal!

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            We do have measures of the minimum wage though- someone mentioned a case study involving American Samoa where it had catastrophic results.

          • John Schilling says:

            “But if all of the components of the model can be verified individually, I’m willing to believe them.”

            followed by,

            “[the oceanic heat sink] is the sort of thing that I’d think really really really ought to be part of their model”

            This seems hard to reconcile. You’ll trust a model whose parts (that exist) have all been individually verified, even though you know that there is at least one part that is apparently missing? How do you verify that you’ve got all the necessary parts? Actually verify that you haven’t missed something, as opposed to simply not being able to think of something you might have missed.

            There is no substitute for actual validation of the complete, integrated model by comparison to relevant experimental data. In this case, this means making climate predictions, with error bars specified in advance, and seeing if reality matches the model. If you can’t do that, you have guesswork, backed by nothing more than your inability to think of where you might have made a mistake.

          • Alex Godofsky says:

            Samuel: that particular case study was “thoroughly debunked” (seriously) in the comments of the last post (by a person who appeared to have intimate personal knowledge of the details), and also I have reasons to believe real empiricism here is pretty much impossible. I’ve gone on about those reasons at length in the comments of previous posts so I don’t want to restart that discussion here.

            John: I said that I would trust the model with all of the parts individually verified and put together by people with the appropriate knowledge. The oceanic heat sink makes me doubt that this has been done, although I am open to explanations of why it doesn’t matter for the long-term projections (e.g. we have a good estimate of the capacity and it isn’t enough to matter, or something).

            “actual validation of the complete, integrated model by comparison to relevant experimental data” is not always possible. All evidence is at least one step removed from the real phenomenon, even if only by the fact that we can only perceive the external world through qualia. There is no magic sufficient degree of removal at which suddenly science stops working and we no longer get to make inferences about the world.

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s not so much that it was “debunked” as that it was fabricated in the first place.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Since we can’t measure the effects of minimum wage directly/clearly, we don’t really consider it “settled science” and shouldn’t be surprised that people disagree strongly on what those effects are.

          • James Picone says:

            Oceans are in the models, usually in several layers with heatflow between them. The problem is that whether extra heat from more CO2 in the atmosphere goes into the oceans or goes into the air over a short timescale (like less than twenty years) is weather, not climate, and depends significant on el-nino/la-nina behaviour that the models can’t predict. If you look at an single model realization it tends to have ‘pauses’ as long as the ones we’ve got where various sources of natural variability in the model tend to line up. They’re just not in the same place for different realizations (weather, not climate), so they average out and you don’t see any of them in the composite, just the envelope.

        • James Picone says:

          Well we could look at Hansen’s predictions made in 1984 (and published in 1988), for starters. It’s kind of hard to compare a lot of those with the present day though, because forcing evolution is much harder to predict than climate evolution, and we’re not as interested in whether Hansen got the details of methane emissions right. Also, Hansen’s 1988 model used 4 W/m**2 for CO2 forcing, present-day thinking is 3.7 W/m**2. If you feed his simple 1988 model observed changes in relevant forcing agents and correct the CO2 forcing, it does track present temperatures pretty well.

          I would argue that fixing the forcings to observed evolution is a legitimate move. These are projections, not predictions, really – given that we emit this much CO2, this much methane, this many aerosols, etc., we would expect this temperature evolution.

          Fixing the CO2 forcing number is a bit more questionable. The case for it being legitimate is that CO2 forcing is kind of like a physical constant here – it’s an arbitrary parameter that we calculate from radiative transfer in the atmosphere and stick into the model, and the derived parameter of climate sensitivity is what we’re actually interested in. If a paper several hundred years ago predicted the orbits of the planets and used the wrong value of G, I would argue that correcting the value of G in their paper would be a legitimate move. But I can understand if you don’t like that one.

          The other thing we can do is look at individual components. The top-of-atmosphere energy imbalance caused by greenhouse gas increases can be measured (and has been, IIRC). The amount of ‘extra’ energy going into the whole-Earth system can be measured (Nuccitelli et al, 2012. Less noisy datasets can be used to look at trends (say, ocean heat content. Unfortunately, early OHC measurements were done using a different method to recentish OHC measurements, and there’s dispute about how best to homogenise the data. Also we really only have 0-700m OHC measurements, very little deep-ocean OHC).

          Or you could accept that it’s wildly implausible that the sensitivity is less than 1, that nearly no method of estimating the ECS has given a value less than 1.5, and even at that low 1.5 value (which I assume is in the ballpark of your preferred sensitivity value?), quadrupling CO2 content in the atmosphere is a really bad idea. I expect the Arctic to quite literally vanish inside my lifetime, which seems a pretty strong indicator that the climate is warming up substantially and that that will have significant effects.

    • George X says:

      We need a technical term for the common phenomenon in which observations of the real physical world “make modellers look bad”.

      (We also need a technical term for the paradoxically-even-more-common phenomenon in which the first phenomenon occurs, yet confidence in the model remains unchanged.)

      Any rationalists around want to take a stab at it?

  12. BD Sixsmith says:

    The good news – there’s a treatment for some forms of post-SSRI sexual dysfunction in men.

    Do you expect me to talk?

    No, Mr Bond! I expect to reduce paroxetine-induced penile anesthesia.

  13. I am less impressed by Sachs’ analysis. There were good reasons for scepticism. There might well have been an argument for generosity on debt, but not much more than that. Aid provided to Russia had a high rate of being corruptly recycled back to the West. The head of the central bank at the time was deliberately sabotaging reforms. Sachs’ “big bang” approach presumed knowledge about how to construct a market economy from scratch that was not really there, and was much easier in a Poland were more market and private property elements had survived (indeed, more civil society generally).

    Read Coase and Wang’s excellent book on the Chinese reforms for why the “learn by doing” approach had much to recommend it.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I had never heard of NERVA before. The existence of plans for good rockets sounds like good news. (I had heard of the idea of nuclear propulsion for spacecraft, but only in the context of something… messier.)

    Back in November, I recall that gwern shared this article about the rocket equation on a LessWrong media thread: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition30/tryanny.html
    The main point was that, using the best known rocket propellant, rockets have to be about 85% fuel by mass just to get to earth orbit.

    Does anyone have enough understanding of rocket science to know how nuclear rockets would compare to that?

    • It all depends on how fast the exhaust is going, which depends on how hot it is and how much mass the atoms in the exhaust have (smaller atoms move faster at a given temperature). If you burn hydrogen and oxygen (the best you’ll do with normal chemicals) you’ll get exhaust traveling at 4,600 m/s. If you plug that into the rocket equation

      deltaV = Vexhaust * ln( Minitial / Mfinal)

      you find that to reach earth orbit at a velocity of about 8000 m/s with hydrogen/oxygen you need to have a mass ratio of 5.69 or in other words only 17% of the initial weight can be payload, rocket engines, etc.

      Now lets say you hook up a NERVA engine to a tank of hydrogen. You can have a solid core design like that heat the hydrogen to about 2,750 K so the exhaust will be traveling at 8,000 m/s so you’d be able to have 37% of your mass be non-fuel.

      Then lets say that instead of NERVA you go for a design where you’ve got a uranium hexafloride inside a quartz shell. Quartz is a lot harder to melt than uranium so you can run at much higher temperatures. This’ll get your exhaust up to somewhere around 20,000 m/s so you can have 67% of your ship be useful stuff.

      Now lets get really crazy. Just shove a shaped nuclear charge out the back of your ship and have most of the xrays it releases hit a pusher plate on the back of your ship that’s just been sprayed with ablative oil. Make sure you have a really good shock absorber on that plate and the vaporizing oil will be pushing off at 43000 m/s for a mass fraction of 83%. That last is actually easier to build than the nuclear lightbulb (we think) and was seriously proposed under the name Orion. However little things like the fallout you’d incur from the first few detonation where the fireball touches the ground and the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty have but a stop to investigation in that direction.

      • Deiseach says:

        Just shove a shaped nuclear charge out the back of your ship

        And this is the part where most people remember you’re launching from Earth and go “Oh hell, no you don’t!” 🙂

        I know, I know: what could possibly go wrong?

      • RCF says:

        So, the ultimate exhaust according to that standard would be going at light speed, right? I take it the problem is that just sticking a flashlight on your spaceship has a horrible thrust to weight ratio?

        What’s the payload to payload+fuel mass ratio for a space elevator?

        • Tropylium says:

          The main issue with that is that photons have a rest mass of zero, and hence are terrible at carrying kinetic energy, yep (which is exactly why they’re able to reach light speed at all).

          Now a particle accelerator drive that shot out matter at near-c speeds could in principle attain arbitrarily high thrust to fuel mass ratios, sure. Although then the impact site of your particle beam would end up incinerated way harder than even the launch site of a shaped nuclear charge drive — and such a beam would easily penetrate thru a couple layers of the atmosphere to continue wrecking shit well after the launch as well. It would not be an especially huge area of damage, but you really wouldn’t want to accidentally point that at anything that you don’t mind getting effectively lightsabered.

          Space elevators on the other hand have a remarkably good payload to mass ratio, since the entire concept of “exhaust” disappears from consideration, and we can simply build up potential energy for the payload little by little. It’s always far easier to climb someplace high than fly there.

          Some back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that a stair-climbing expedition out of the Earth’s gravity well would not be quite feasible, but not remarkably far off either (this would take about as much exertion as daily physical work for a couple of years).

        • Nornagest says:

          This did get some attention, back in the Sixties when just about every exotic drive concept out there first got traction. The trouble is that photon drives take hilariously, stupidly high energy inputs: on the order of megawatts for a newton of thrust. The specific impulse is as good as you’ll get but that’s not all there is to rockets.

          This is an extreme example of a more general trend in aerospace engineering, where higher specific impulse tends to mean lower thrust. Ion thrusters for example produce far higher exhaust velocities and thus specific impulse than chemical rockets do, but their thrusts are typically less than a newton; they’re cheap enough power-wise that you can run them off solar panels or RTGs, though, so they do see some use on long-haul missions.

          • Alex Godofsky says:

            I mean, you’re always going to see that general trend, as long as you only consider options on your efficient frontier.

          • cbhacking says:

            An easy way to remember those problems (higher specific impulse means more energy required and also less thrust) with only a high-school level of physics knowledge required is to remember the relationship between momentum and kinetic energy.

            Momentum is what gives thrust, and is defined as mass multiplied by velocity (m*v). Obviously, you can get a lot of momentum by throwing a ton of mass out your drive, but that results in terrible “fuel efficiency” (which is what specific impulse essentially measures). You need to have all that mass on your ship (as fuel) before you can push it out the back (as exhaust).

            Therefore, exhaust velocity is critical to fuel economy of a rocket (as the rocket equation shows). There’s a problem though: holding mass constant, thrust increases proportional to the velocity, but the energy required to produce that thrust increases as the square of that velocity.

            Kinetic energy is (mass * velocity * velocity) / 2, or 0.5m*v^2. Ignoring the constant factors (and we’re holding mass constant for the moment), that means that if you want to triple your thrust (by doubling the momentum of your exhaust), you need nine times as much energy (to transfer to that exhaust in order to get it to the desired velocity). In a light drive, that’s measurable in electrical demand (though you also need an emitter that can handle such energy requirement). In a chemical rocket, there’s an issue of how much potential energy is in a given unit of your fuel, but there’s also the question of how fast a release of energy – how much power – your rocket motor can contain.

            Obviously, this relationship between momentum and kinetic energy tends to lead toward the most efficient space drives being the slowest (to accelerate). Unfortunately, getting off Earth requires an acceleration greater than g, and therefore most high-efficiency space drives will never make the cut for launch vehicles.

            Even NERVA has such a low thrust-to-weight ratio that it was questionable whether it could be used for launches… and if it can’t be used for launch, then that means the entire drive is payload for some other, less-efficient rocket. Good luck! FWIW, as far as I know, nuclear pulse rockets (Project Orion) and *maybe* gas-core nuclear rockets (atomic lightbulbs) are the only really-high-efficiency drives with launch potential, and in the former case that’s because you’re releasing enough energy to flatten small cities.

          • cbhacking says:

            Agh, no edit button. Should have written that out somewhere I could proofread it before posting:

            If you want to triple your thrust (by tripling the momentum of your exhaust), you need nine times as much energy (and thus nine times the power output, for a continuous drive like a rocket).

            The limits of power output containable on something light enough to launch into space mean that high-efficiency rockets (in terms of thrust*time per unit fuel used a.k.a. specific impulse) are not viable launch systems. Part of the appeal of Project Orion is that it does away with the “something light enough to launch into space” constraint entirely; it actually *needs* to be really massive (to spread that near-instantaneous impulse from the nuclear shockwave over enough time for a survivably smooth ride, you need a lot of inertial mass), and the cap on allowable power is a lot higher.

            Anyhow, bedtime for me. Happy new year, everybody!

    • roystgnr says:

      Sadly, NERVA-type rockets don’t help as much as you’d think, for one reason: they’re much lower thrust/weight designs, and high thrust matters greatly down in the gravity well. So a simple nuclear upper stage would be a fantastic improvement on current rockets, but you’d still need something else for the (much larger) lower stage to get it started.

      “LOX-augmented” nuclear might be a workable lower stage – basically you burn heavy liquid oxygen with H2 when you need more thrust and ease back towards pure H2 when you need more efficiency.

      A “nuclear ramjet” lower stage is another possibility, but the only design I can recall was only considered for use in missiles (where “radioactive exhaust” would have been less of a flaw and more of a feature) and wasn’t the “scramjet” type design you’d want to get up to speeds useful in a launch vehicle.

      • cassander says:

        the thrust weight figures for NERVA were based on the reactors they had at the time, which were quite primitive. modern technology could get a reactor that weighed a lot less by more efficiently packing the fuel (this is how nuclear powered submarines that used to need multiple refuelings now go their entire service lives without one). the TWR still isn’t good, but it’s better.

        • John Schilling says:

          As I have explained elsewhere, the thrust to weight values for NERVA were determined mainly by the weight of components other than the reactor. Positing even an infinitesimally lightweight reactor for future NTR designs, is only slightly more relevant than infinitesimally thin graphene membranes are for desalination.

          To put some numbers on this, the best original NERVA design had a T:W ratio of just under 7:1. The most optimistic plausible NTR design proposal in my files (from the early 1990s, and incorporating improved pumps, heat exchangers, etc, in addition to a better reactor) has a T:W ratio of just over 20:1

          Compared to 60:1 for a good LOX/LK2 chemical rocket, and better than 120:1 for the best LOX/Kerosene rockets. NTR is not a winning proposition for Earth-to-orbit transportation, no matter how light you make the reactors. Indeed, it’s not clear that it would be a winning proposition even if you made the entire engine massless; there’s still the mass and bulk of the fuel tanks working against you.

          • cassander says:

            I wasn’t arguing that NTRs were fantastic for surface to orbit, just that they were better than NERVA figures, which you agree with.

    • Ialdabaoth says:

      Aside from the lower thrust/mass ratios, remember that vacuum and atmosphere have very different constraints on nozzle shape. Backpressure from atmosphere will adversely effect a vacuum-efficient NERVA to a significant degree, making it fundamentally more efficient to just strap good ol’ Kerolox boosters to the side to get it into orbit.

      Also, since the NERVA is going to be running pure hydrogen fuel (maybe augmented to hydrolox when you want a nice sharp burn during orbit transfers), it’s going to be ridiculously lightweight – which means your Kerolox boosters don’t need to be nearly as hefty as you’d expect.

      TLDR: Use regular chemical rockets to shove your nuclear spaceship into orbit, and don’t fire up the NERVA until you’re in vacuum if you want the most bang for your buck.

      Jeb Kerman out.

      • Kerbal Space Program is great and I’d highly recommend that anybody who is interested in rockets play it. But they only have a single nuclear design and there are lots of different sorts of nuclear designs and many have high enough thrust/weight ratios to make good ground launchers. I hear there’s an Orion mod for KSB…

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          I play with (and write!) many of those mods.

          Actually, my first mod (RealFuels) was intended to solve stock-KSP’s woeful lack of realism in fuel selection.

    • Anonymous says:

      NERVA is not a high-thrust rocket like you need for takeoff. It’s cool for interplanetary cruise, but you’d probably need to lift your in-orbit assembly pieces up with conventional chemical rockets.

      (As always, Kerbal Space Program is the best way to learn this stuff)

    • Jaskologist says:

      As somebody who has seen Evangelion and doesn’t want to explode into primordial goo, I’m very glad that this NERV program was killed.

    • John Schilling says:

      A nuclear-thermal rocket (NTR) would need to be about 65% fuel by mass just to get to orbit (with one stage). However, the parts of a rocket which aren’t fuel and payload are mostly fuel tanks and engines. The fuel for an NTR is about five times bulkier per unit mass than the “best” chemical rocket propellants, and the best nuclear-thermal rocket engine designs in my files (1990s concepts well advanced over the original NERVA) are about three times heavier than the “best” chemical rocket engines.

      The result of which is that, for Earth-to-Orbit transportation, your actual payload to orbit decreases if you use NTR. Possibly to negative levels.

      And “best” is in quotation marks because it is clear that the metric being used here is specific impulse or exhaust velocity, which is essentially the fuel efficiency metric for rockets. In the 1960s, conventional wisdom in NASA and the USAF was that specific impulse trumped all else, and this persists in many simplified popular discussions of the topic. This gave us very efficient hydrogen-oxygen rockets like the RL-10 and the SSME, and it gave us ground-test prototypes for NERVA.

      By the 1980s we had figured out (as the Russians had known all along) that maximum specific impulse came with engineering compromises like bulky propellants and heavy engines that tended to reduce the overall system performance in many applications. “Mediocre” LOX/Kerosene rockets, like only the Russians(*) know how to make any more, let you cut the weight of your fuel tanks and engines by at least half compared to LOX/Hydrogen and about an order of magnitude compared to Nuclear Thermal, and wind up looking pretty good for Earth-to-Orbit transportation.

      NTR is somewhat advantageous over chemical rocketry for deep space propulsion, but not revolutionary or transformative. Roughly speaking, a good NTR is about 50% better than a good chemical rocket for deep space transportation, which you can divide between more payload and shorter travel time as you see fit. If you can afford to develop a good NTR and get hold of some highly enriched (inherently weapons-grade) uranium for it.

      (*) and SpaceX and a few others on the fringes of the traditional Aerospace industry.

  15. Jeff Kaufman says:

    It looks to me like the police in Huntsville were probably pretty happy to have a pro-police protest. If the radio host didn’t want police support they probably should have picked something else to demonstrate for.

  16. Deiseach says:

    Extremely random responses to the above:

    (1) I was going to be an absolute hellhound bitch about the Other Scott’s plaint, but on second thoughts I’ll leave it alone. It would only be pointless yelling and quarrelling for no good reason.

    (2) If the cardiologists were anything like the one I met, I’m not fecking surprised by the results of the study. How about taking your head out of your arse and actually listening to your patient, instead of deciding unilaterally and arbitrarily, without even talking to them about symptoms, that X is what is wrong with them and Y is the answer? Possible reason: when the Big Cheeses are away and their toadies are either accompanying them or get no benefit from running to heel to impress their master, nurses and doctors who actually ask questions and listen to the answers get a chance to work. (Can you tell yet that I had a bad experience?)

    (3) Second Christmas? For God’s sake (or the sake of whomever or whatever you please), no!!!!. As it is, Christmas marketing starts with the advertising for hotels (book your party now!) in July, the confectionery is out on the shelves at Hallowe’en, festivals, markets and all kinds of enticement to spend money is pushed hard for three months, and no sooner does St Stephen’s Day roll around than the “white sales” (which used to happen only in the first week of January) start.

    When would you have a ‘second Christmas’? Easter? Middle of Summer? What would be the commercial excuse for a Big Buying Day? What celebration could you engineer into being the time to go out and spend? National Washing Machine Replacement Day?

    Christmas is such a big commercial opportunity because it’s like a birthday party; this kind of logic assumes that if every day was your birthday, you’d get a ton of presents whereas in actuality, if every day was your birthday, you’d only get a cheap token gift because people can’t afford to buy big expensive presents every day (not unless they’re extremely rich, that is). Two Christmasses in the year would halve spending, not double it. And from what I’m seeing recently, most of the commercial traffic is driven by shops having pre-Christmas “Sales” where they cut prices or buy in cheap goods for the purpose of the sale (the genuine sale where unsold goods had their prices reduced seems to be a thing of long gone by). I know the enticement is “come in early and get the big expensive thing cheap” and that when the deliberately limited amount of “big expensive things for cheap” is gone, people will be motivated to buy something at full price so as not to have wasted their time and effort, but if there is going to be a twelve-month ‘Christmas I and II sale now on’ everywhere, why bother queuing up for one special day?

    • Brandon Berg says:

      The first answer Scott suggested is the one that always occurs to me whenever I see similarly claims raised. Heart surgery is risky. If you need it, getting it will extend your life on average, but it also has a nonnegligible chance of killing you right now.

      Postponing non-emergency heart surgeries for a week will lower the death rate during that week, because nobody whose surgery was postponed is going to be dying on the table that week.

      But if you just wanted to rant about your cardiologist, don’t mind me.

      The other problem with the “second Christmas” proposal is that it’s vulgar Keynesianism. Consumption is not always and everywhere better than saving. In fact, saving is crucial to long-run economic growth, and even in proper Keynesian theory (whose correctness is itself in dispute), consumption is preferable only under certain special conditions.

      • gattsuru says:

        From an economics perspective, Christmas also has an issue with incentives. It’s very, very hard for someone buying a gift to match exactly how you’d spend that money yourself, or even approximate that matter. Socially, Christmas gifts trend toward toys or unnecessary items. Even were everyone to adopt to the new standard without losses, we’d still see a huge amount of money lost to such inefficiencies.

        • lmm says:

          Maybe. The cognaphone thought experiment suggests that maybe we spend much less on toys than we ought to.

        • haishan says:

          It can still be a good idea to encourage consumption even if it’s inefficient consumption. The deadweight loss of taxation absolutely swamps that of Christmas, but hardly anybody argues that we should abolish taxes — and I don’t think even the people who do make that argument are especially concerned about deadweight loss.

          • onyomi says:

            Well, I want to abolish taxation and am concerned with deadweight loss (though that’s not the #1 reason I want to abolish it).

            The economic reporting related to Christmas drives me crazy. The fact that consumers can afford to spend a lot on gifts is a symptom of a healthy economy, not a cause of it.

          • Deiseach says:

            It can still be a good idea to encourage consumption even if it’s inefficient consumption

            But the consumption model here is a very rough one; the notion seems to be “If Jane spends $500 dollars on gifts at Christmas I, then she’ll spend $1,000 on gifts for Christmas I and II and the economy will boom with all the Janes and Johns spending extra money!”

            This ignores that (a) a lot of people save up all year to buy gifts; having two Christmasses means either extra savings which they may not be able to afford, so they don’t save extra, so they don’t spend extra, or they choose one of the two Christmasses to do the big present spending (b) Jane may not spend an extra $500 dollars, instead she may split her spending so that she spends $250 for Christmas I and the same amount for Christmas II (c) Jane may even reduce her spending as buying two smaller, cheaper gifts to be divided between Christmas I and Christmas II seems better (you are now getting two presents instead of one, so you’re doing better, even if the individual presents are not as expensive in total as the one big present you got before when there was only one Christmas).

            I mean, we’re not all billionaires who’ll buy diamond-encrusted gold bath taps for your new pug dog’s bespoke doghouse for Christmas I and then swap them out for emerald-inset platinum bath taps for Princess Snowflake Snuggle Honey for Christmas II.

          • haishan says:

            Deiseach: Yeah, I’m with you there. Predicting how consumption would respond to Christmas II is best left to experts; Matt Yglesias seems pretty smart but he is not that. Plus it’s one thing to say “hey, we should replicate the effects of this religious festival with thousands of years of history and centuries of targeted marketing in, like, May,” and entirely another thing to actually do that.

            I would be in favor of a holiday encouraging billionaires to buy new precious metal doghouse bath taps every year, though.

          • Anonymous says:

            I guess this is a joke, but it seems to reflect a more general notion that the rich would help the economy if they would spend their money more freely.

            This is not correct. Wasting money on frivolous consumption goods is the least helpful thing rich people can do with their money. If a rich person were to take the money they would have spent on their gold faucet and save or invest it then that would do more to grow the economy in ways that meed the needs of lower and middle-income earners. Yes, buying the gold faucet will increase employment opportunities in certain sectors, like mining, but that is not good per se unless we value a society with more gold faucets for its own sake.

            In other words, by spending their money on crazy things only rich people can buy, rich people are encouraging the economy to produce more crazy things only rich people can buy.

            By contrast, if they were to buy stock in some business which caters to lower and middle income earners, they will be encouraging the economy to develop in a way which better meets the needs of lower and middle income earners.

            If they save the money, it increases the ability of banks to loan money to others. If they hide it in a mattress or bury it, it effectively increases the purchasing power of everyone else’s money. Money is basically just IOUs from society. If you provide society with what they want and then bury the IOUs they give you in exchange, how could that be bad for society?

            The more general problem is that Keynesian thinkers assume that if resources are underemployed (including labor resources), then it must, almost axiomatically, be because of a lack of demand–as if everyone is just hoarding for no reason and must be goaded into keeping the economy moving by spending. But this is actually rarely the case–how many Americans do you know who are chronically tight-fisted and afraid to spend any money even on things they really want or need? Contrast this to the number of Americans you know who are deep in credit card debt because they chronically live beyond their means.

          • Alex Godofsky says:

            “Because in this scenario, the 90% DO NOT HAVE ANY MONEY. None. Every time they try to sell some good or service for money, even if to one of the other 90%, one of the 10% comes in and undercuts them.”

            The only way for that to be true is if the price falls to zero.

            At which point we are in the Star Trek post-scarcity world.

          • Deiseach says:

            Haishan – the only viable date I can think of for Christmas II would be in June, around the Midsummer celebration with its traditions, but what kind of big expensive gifts can you theme for then? Summer high fashion? Beachwear? Party on the beach type goods including designer sunglasses? That may work for places that reliably get a good summer, but here in Ireland it’s not uncommon for the racks of bikinis and sandals to be shoved aside as people scramble to buy new umbrellas and woolly jumpers for the typical Irish summer.

            The only Irish Midsummer celebration I can think of, off the top of my head, is jumping over bonfires/driving cattle between two fires, and I don’t know how you theme gift-gifting around that. Maybe the volunteer arsonists of the other comments on here who go out and in a civic-spirit burn down the buildings? That would certainly stimulate the economy by the necessity of spending on replacement goods, though perhaps not quite in the sense intended! 🙂

            Anonymous – I think Dorothy L. Sayers makes a similar point to what you are saying re: the rich and luxury goods in her novel “Murder Must Advertise” (as a murder mystery it’s really weak but as a look into English class snobbery and the advertising business, where she toiled herself for a while, it’s a great read). You pitch adverts about goods as luxury, unique items but it’s not the rich you want – you’ll never make money from them because the rich are fussy about what they buy and real high quality lasts for a long time. You want lots of small customers who’ll buy the goods for the snob value and the appearance of exclusivity, and repeat sales when the things wear out (look at how Burberry re-positioned itself in its marketing from an upmarket but old-fashioned, fusty brand to ‘urban chic’, so successfully that it actually worked against them as it’s now considered ‘chav wear’).

          • Alex Godofsky says:

            edit: replied to wrong thread

          • onyomi says:

            Wrong thread

        • William O. B'Livion says:

          We’re at the point (at least in Western Society) where we already have much more than we “need”. At this point optimizing for “efficiency” would mean putting people out of work on a massive scale.

          • onyomi says:

            This is incorrect. Human desires are effectively infinite, so the room for our lives to be improved by improved efficiency is also effectively infinite.

            Even if there is a limit, we are not even close to bumping into it. Don’t think so? How many hours a week do you have to work in order to ensure that you are reasonably comfortable (I’m not talking about avoiding starvation, I’m talking about paying your rent, your bills, eating food you like, etc.)? Wouldn’t your life be better if you could afford all that same stuff in half the time? Then you could either use the extra time to do something other than work or else work just as much and buy nicer things. Taking efficiency to its logical endpoint, everyone in the world could afford to live a life of fabulous luxury by only doing one hour of work per week–or even no hours of work per week.

            You might say, “how can I afford all the nice stuff produced by the robots if I can’t get a job because all the robots are doing everything?” The point is, in a world where robots do everything, your filet mignon is going to cost like 1 penny, which you can earn by giving the robot repairman a shoulder rub for two seconds. There are always things only humans can do, and the more we can automate the things we don’t really feel like doing, the more time and resources we have for the things we do like.

            People have been predicting that excess efficiency would take all the jobs since the Luddites, and they’ve been wrong every time. See no reason this is different. So long as anyone has an unmet need or desire that another human can help with there will be employment opportunities. If there are literally no unmet needs or desires, then what’s the problem? At that point we’d be living in a post-scarcity utopia anyway, and everything would be free.

          • Jiro says:

            We have been lucky in the past in that when technology has replaced some jobs by other jobs, the other jobs were still relatively low skill. There is no reason to expect that to be the case for every technological advancement.

          • Anonymous says:

            There is reason to expect that people will learn how to use whatever new tools they need to use to do whatever new jobs are demanded of human labor.

            Before the invention of machine farming and the automobile, there was no need for anyone to have the skill of driving a tractor or a car, but once those technologies came into being, a whole new set of occupations which depended on their use opened up and people quickly learned to use them.

            Yet it was not required that the tractor driver or delivery man understand how to build a combustion engine, only that he be able to operate a vehicle running on one.

            And farming is one of the best and most obvious examples of jobs not running out: 200 years ago almost everyone in the US was a farmer. Now our food needs are better met than they were 200 years ago, but with only maybe 2 or 3% working in farming. Yet there was no mass unemployment.

            As technology gets fancier, so too does the art of making it user friendly. Many jobs, in fact, are now LESS demanding of skill than they once were. You don’t even need to be able to do basic math to be a cashier at most stores and restaurants today, as the machines do it for you.

            There will always be an incentive to make new technology easy for low-skilled workers to use, because you can pay low-skilled workers less than high skilled workers because they are in greater supply (though as productivity goes up, so too do wages, since the amount of additional productivity each additional worker adds goes up with the sophistication of his tools).

            If I invent a magical teleportation machine that requires a team of physicists to operate it and you invent one that any random person can learn to use in five minutes, which of us is going to make more money, and, ultimately, employ more people?

          • onyomi says:

            The above was me.

          • Jiro says:

            Driving a tractor or a car are things that most people can learn to do with relatively little training. Most people cannot learn to be a doctor or lawyer. These things require skills that the majority of the population is incapable of learning, and significant time and money for training. Even something like being a computer programmer, which has unusually cheap training, is not something that all people have the skills to do.

            As for your invention of a teleporter, the person who makes the easy teleporter will do better, but we don’t know that it will be possible to make an easy teleporter.

          • onyomi says:

            This would be a concern if there were a long term trend that each technological increase in efficiency was accompanied by an increase in the amount of training, knowledge, or skill required to be employed. I think a lot of people think this is the case because of the academic arms race: When my grandparents were a kid, having a high school degree was enough; when my parents were kids, a BA was enough; now it seems like you need at least an MA, if not a PhD, JD, MD, or other higher degree in many cases.

            But I think most of this is a result of the signalling function of education, not actual skills learned. What percentage of people today are working at a job which they couldn’t have done with less education and more on-the-job training, as with the apprenticeships that used to be common before everyone had a PhD? It seems to be very, very low, outside doctors, lawyers, and professors.

            Compare the knowledge, skill, and work required to be a successful 18th century farmer to the knowledge, skill, and work required to be a successful cashier at Wal Mart. And while most people think of the latter as a “bad” job, it still pays enough to buy you better food, shelter, and convenience than most 18th century farmers (who still had it better than most people who ever lived) could ever imagine. And this is due primarily to technology-driven gains in efficiency.

            The overwhelming historical trend is for improvements in technology and efficiency to result in a society wherein it’s EASIER for a low-skill, low-talent, low-motivation person to make a decent living. Sure, we can’t say for certain that the trend won’t reverse somehow, but it seems highly unlikely, given the strong financial motivation to invent the “easy teleporter” or equivalent, and the general principle that we should assume very strong trends will continue unless there’s a good reason to think they won’t.

          • Tom Womack says:

            Jiro: I’m sure I’m not the only person on this group who got their STEM PhD before their driving license. I still don’t have the license: the first couple of times I took the test I at least was able to tell why I’d failed, but the third time I couldn’t work out why anything I’d done had been a problem, and decided that this meant I was not sufficiently self-aware to contemplate driving and should continue with my bicycles, buses, car-shares, trains, taxis &c

          • John Schilling says:

            I think your comparison between “successful farmer” and “Wal-Mart cashier” is far off base; “farmer” implies someone who owns or manages a farm; those people were rarely a majority of the agricultural work force, and it isn’t their figurative descendants who are working the registers at Wal-Mart today.

            Meanwhile, I’ve seen an awful lot of cash registers, and presumably cashiers, replaced by self-checkout kiosks lately. And the rest of that field seems vulnerable to even the lowest grades of AI and robotics. Your confidence that mediocrity will always find a safe haven at Wal-Mart seems perhaps unjustifiably optimistic to me. And the easy teleporter, why does that need anyone to operate it?

            A world in which the 1% own lots of robots, AIs, and for all I know easy teleporters, there’s a geeky 10% or so whose specialized skills can be traded for a comfortable niche in the teleporting robot economy, and 89% of humanity has essentially nothing to contribute that can’t be done better by the 1%’s robots, seems disturbingly plausible to me. And even though I’m pretty sure I’d be at least in the 10%, I’m not really comfortable with this and even less so with dismissing the possibility.

          • onyomi says:

            The details of the teleporter are immaterial. It was just a random example of something obviously super useful that might be invented in the future and which would similarly put lots of people out of work in the short run (anyone involved in transportation of goods or people), yet which would obviously be incredibly good for humanity in the long run.

            The thing people miss when they envision a dystopia in which the top 1% or 10% are the only ones whose labor is needed and everything is done by robots and the remaining 90% are consigned to misery is that those 90% have needs and desires; therefore, there is much opportunity in providing for them.

            Generally, the richest people are people who cater to the vast population of lower and middle-income earners, not people who cater to the wealthy: whose heirs are wealthier today: Sam Walton or the founder of Rols Royce?

            There is always a lot of money to be made catering to the vast majority of people, and I don’t see why that should change. Even if the super rich decided they never wanted to interact with the 99% and therefore found ways to completely replace all their housekeepers and personal trainers with robots, there would still be the remaining 99% left to cater to the needs of that 99%.

          • onyomi says:

            And if even all the needs and wants of the 99% can be provided for by robots without anyone lifting a finger, then we have again arrived at post-scarcity utopia, and so it’s not a problem.

          • John Schilling says:

            those 90% have needs and desires; therefore, there is much opportunity in providing for them

            What opportunity is there in providing for the needs of a person who can provide me with nothing that I cannot provide for myself cheaper, by simply telling my robot to make it so? There is a minimum cost to procuring another human being’s services; you have to pay them at least a literal living wage.

            So, OK, that’s one service they can provide to me. Not starving to death on my doorstep, which I find unsightly and depressing. Is that the future of the 89%, living on charity in isolated ghettoes? If the robots are productive enough and the wealthy are generous enough, they might even be comfortable ghettoes, but I’d like to think there will be something more.

            And yes, I am quite aware that, for now, the most reliable path to great wealth is selling to the marginally poor. Sell to the masses, live with the classes. Sell to the classes, live with the masses. I would prefer something stronger than “thus has it ever been, thus shall it always be”.

          • onyomi says:

            Though I think “thus has it ever been” is pretty strong reason to believe it will continue to be so in absence of a good reason why it won’t, that isn’t all I provided. I also provided incentive mechanisms which will make it profitable to cater to the vast majority.

            More importantly, you haven’t answered my question about the remaining 99% or 90%. If the top 1% or 10% have such fancy robots that they don’t need anything from the bottom 90%, then that means there’s still 90% of people who DO need something from those 90%–namely, that same 90%. Maybe the top 1 or 10% can afford the super robots that do everything, but so long as there are people who can’t afford them, there will be people looking to employ people to do those tasks, rather than robots. And, again, if everyone can afford the super all-purpose robots, then it’s not a problem.

          • Anonymous says:

            John, I am skeptical that even now the most reliable path to great wealth is catering to the masses. It may be true that the most reliable path to a billion dollars is catering to the masses, but I do not think it is the most reliable path to ten million dollars.

          • John Schilling says:

            Granted, if the robots can do everything, there’s no problem. Not even with the 1% owning all the robots, because it is now cheap enough for rich altruists to tell a few of their robots to build an exponentially-expanding pyramid of robots to give to the poor.

            I’m concerned with the state where the robots can do most things but we still need robot-wranglers and some other high-skill humans in niche jobs, STEM specialties, courtesans, doctors, artists, and the like. I think that stage could plausibly last a few generations, and might even be stable in the long term. And I think it can have a stable economic equilibrium, similar to the preindustrial economy – roughly 1% rich people who own almost everything, 10% craftsmen and specialists, and 90% peasants, except that robots are cheaper and less revolting than peasants. Actual numbers not guaranteed to be 1% and 10%, of course.

            The 90% serving the 90%? Sure, within the limits of what they can actually do for each other. But in this hypothetical, we’ve skimmed several tiers of specialists off the top of this mass economy. And we’ll probably keep doing it; the 10+1% will probably offer a better deal to the rare kid from the ghetto who masters robot-wrangling than the masses can hope to match. I’m not going to go all Ayn Rand here and say that if a few thousand hyperelite smartypants go on strike, civilization grinds to a halt. But now we’re talking about a population where, crudely speaking, everyone with an IQ of 120 or above is scooped off the top. It is not clear to me that you can build a prosperous economy with what is left over.

            And that’s before we even consider the fact that the 1% will almost certainly wind up owning all the good real estate and other starting capital. If modern American politics are any guide, they will probably be able to set up regulations against the sort of coarse industrialization the masses would need to break out and catch up, claiming they are necessary to keep the 1% from stinking up the place with gargantuan polluting factories. The 1% actually having cleantech, lawyers, and armed drones, this won’t be a problem for them.

          • onyomi says:

            Yes, using government is probably the only way the 1% or 10% can keep the rest down for an extended period, as evidenced by most of human history. But that’s not a problem with technological progress or increased efficiency per se, it’s just one probable way the elite could prevent the benefits of such from flowing to the masses.

            That’s why everyone should stop believing in the myth of political authority.

          • John Schilling says:

            I did not mention possible government involvement until the last half-paragraph of my post. If you conclude from this that “using the government is the only way” this thing might come to pass, I think there has been a miscommunication.

          • onyomi says:

            Not a miscommunication. I just agreed with one part of your post and not the rest. Your scenario about two or more generations of 90% of people living in poverty while the top 10% keep monopolizing everyone of talent does not seem plausible to me absent government intervention in the form of barriers to entry, etc. Otherwise, what’s keeping the 10% from making more money by catering to the 90%?

          • onyomi says:

            If anything, all current trends seem to point toward improvements in technology and efficiency resulting in MORE catering to the needs and desires of the poor and middle class, not less. Compare to times when most artists and many artisans relied on wealthy patrons and most goods were custom-made by hand.

            Opponents of capitalism (and I’m not saying you are one) bizarrely worry about the poor and middle class being left behind on the one hand, and about over-commercialized culture catering to the lowest common denominator on the other.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Otherwise, what’s keeping the 10% from making more money by catering to the 90%”

            Because in this scenario, the 90% DO NOT HAVE ANY MONEY. None. Every time they try to sell some good or service for money, even if to one of the other 90%, one of the 10% comes in and undercuts them. “Here, I can just program my robot to do that for you; didn’t you learn robot-wrangling in college?” At a price the 90% cannot afford to match without literally starving to death*. That’s the definition of “90%” here; the set of people whose most valuable possible work can be undercut by robots at starvation wages.

            So money flows only from the 90% to the 10 or the 1, for as long as it lasts. Then, presumably, the now-poor 90% start bartering cigarettes or whatever amongst themselves for whatever work they can do for each other. Maybe that’s enough to keep them from starving to death, and so maybe cigarettes become a de facto currency. But a de facto currency used only in markets that, again by definition, don’t make anything the 10+1% can’t make cheaper for themselves, so why would they want to deal with the 90 to secure any of that quasi-money?

            There could of course be some trade at the margins. An Alpha 90 commanding the surplus productivity of many lesser 90s to produce a lot of cheap goods that he can sell upstream at undercut-the-robots prices for a little bit of real money he uses to buy a few of the 10-percenter luxury goods and/or weapons that he uses to cement his Alpha status among the 90s, for example. But, as with selling guns and trinkets to the elite of modern Zimbabwe, that’s not the path to great wealth for the truly rich of the world, and it doesn’t lift Zimbabwe out of poverty.

            * If we assume the 10% or the 1% keep the 90% on welfare reservations or the like, there’s still a minimum reserve wage below which it’s not worth prying yourself away from the free video games for an hour to do the work.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Because in this scenario, the 90% DO NOT HAVE ANY MONEY. None. Every time they try to sell some good or service for money, even if to one of the other 90%, one of the 10% comes in and undercuts them.”

            This is why no one in the third world have any jobs- because everything they do can be done cheaper in the first.

            “At a price the 90% cannot afford to match without literally starving to death*. ”

            Why? Robots make the food so the price of food is also nearly zero.

          • onyomi says:

            “Every time they try to sell some good or service for money, even if to one of the other 90%, one of the 10% comes in and undercuts them.”

            But for whom are the 10% making this stuff? If they’re only making stuff the 10% can afford, then there is still plenty of opportunity for the 90% to make cheaper stuff for the 90%. If the 10% want to sell to the 90%, they have to sell at a price the 90% can afford. If they don’t, they are missing a big profit opportunity, which someone in the 90% will take. If the 10% do sell everything the 90% wants or needs, and at a price the 90% can afford, then, again, what’s the problem?

          • Anonymous says:

            1. Here and now, there are many useful things that uneducated third-world laborers can do that cannot yet be cheaply automated. This is why much of the third world works in sweatshops, making slow progress towards industrialization and development, rather than starving. I believe that this will change.

            2. I am not, for the purposes of this argument, positing super-robots that can make anything without assistance or oversight. I thought I had made that clear. This may come to pass, but here I am positing a different scenario, a prolonged period in which robots can make most but not all things and require substantial human assistance. The cost of robotically-produced food, in this scenario, is bounded by the cost of the robot-wranglers. Who are highly skilled, well paid ten percenters. Food will be cheaper than it is now, but it will not be free.

            3. I do not claim that it is certain or probable that the net result of this is a dead zone between the maximum wages that can be earned by unskilled labor trying to undecut robots, and the minimum cost of robotically-produced food. But it is plausible, and I think worthy of serious consideration. Note that, here and now, the agricultural industry is particularly troublesome to automate, with extensive robot-wrangling required to compensate for the messy irregularities of the biological element. We have unskilled immigrant labor picking root crops by hand, next door to mostly-automated factories producing sophisticated manufactured goods. When the robots are picking the lettuce, it is far from obvious that the former lettuce-pickers have anywhere to go.

            4. We are past the point where the world can support 90% of the human population by unassisted subsistence farming, even if we spot the poor 90% of the good farmland.

          • John Schilling says:

            Onyomi: I repeat, the 90% HAVE NO MONEY. There is NOTHING they can do that would make it worth the while of the people who have money, to give them enough to matter. And you have done nothing to challenge this assumption, other than to claim that of course the 10% will seek profit by trading with the 90%. Who have no money nor means of getting any.

            The 90% are become the economic equivalent of gorillas, baboons, chimpanzees. When was the last time you heard anyone seek their fortune trading with the vast untapped gorilla market? And no, this isn’t a legal issue with animals not having property rights or economic agency; most of the lower primates live in kleptocracies where those things are easily negotiated or circumvented if there’s profit in it. They just don’t have anything to sell humans, no matter how much they want our food or our shiny.

            Again, I do not believe that this will come to pass. But it may.

          • Multiheaded says:

            onyomi: I don’t understand why you keep saying that the 10% would care to work for a profit by “satisfying” the “desires” of the 90%: can’t they just take everything they might possibly want by force?

            Look at Saudi Arabia: they treat their migrant workers, including domestic workers, horribly, are free to abuse them however they want – and yet there’s always more devalued and dehumanized labor for the taking.

          • One way out is a future where the 1% show up to each other by how many of the 89% they support, and how well their clients are taken care of.

            This could get bad, but not as bad as the 89% being crowded out of the world.

          • onyomi says:

            Multiheaded, I’m not talking about a situation in which the poor are physically attacked and expropriated by the robots. Maybe that’s a concern about too many robots–I doubt it, since it’s generally easier to peacefully sell stuff to people than to mug them en masse (unless you call it “taxation”)–but, regardless, it’s not what I’m talking about here.

            What I’m addressing is the claim that new technology will create some kind of large, destitute underclass through efficiency gains alone.

            John Schilling, how did this situation arise in which the 90% have literally NO money? This is not possible outside of literal enslavement, which is again not what I’m talking about. Human labor always has a non-zero value, and the 90% are always going to have their labor to sell, if nothing else. And, in reality, if they are allowed to own property–that is, if they are not slaves or serfs–then some of them will inevitably start to accumulate it and achieve upward mobility.

            Even if, for some strange reason, the top 10% decided to use a different currency than the 90%, there’s still nothing stopping the 90% from creating a currency that meets their needs. Your example of trading cigarettes is an implicit recognition of this fact. Though I see no reason an entire 90% of society would stick with something as impractical as cigarettes for money, the very fact that they can have cigarettes and trade them for stuff means they already have money. You seem to be talking about a situation in which it is somehow rendered impossible for the 90% to own anything whatsoever, even their own labor and its fruits, i. e. slavery.

            All one has to do to “earn money” is provide a good or service somebody else wants. You’re not suggesting, I assume, that the 90% will somehow regress to a stone age or earlier level of development wherein they don’t understand how this works?

            The idea that they will somehow regress to gorilla level of intelligence and economic understanding seems completely implausible, barring some vast dysgenic conspiracy. People have understood the concept of money (a good you trade not for its own use, but for its exchange value) since at least Mesopotamia. Why would they forget about it now?

            You also seem to be suggesting they will regress to some theoretical Hobbesian state of nature–of a war of all against all–but again, why on earth would this happen, just because the rich have fancy robots and don’t need much from the poor? Are the poor going to forget what police and courts and private property are? It doesn’t matter if nobody in the 10% wants the things the 90% produce, or the labor services they can offer, so long as somebody else in the 90% wants something the 90% can offer.

            All of this, in general, seems to me to stem from an incorrect view of “jobs” as an end in themselves. Sure, some people enjoy their work to some degree, but to the extent they are doing it not because they love it, but because they need to earn a living (i. e. most labor most people do most of the time), then what they are doing is a “job” and not an avocation, passion, or hobby. If everyone could have everything he or she wanted without “jobs” then I don’t see any problem with that. So, again, if everybody gets to enjoy the largess of the robot utopia, then there’s no problem. If the robot-made stuff is too expensive for the poor, but the poor are free to work and trade amongst themselves, then, again, no problem.

            Or, more likely, if the robots actually make the CHEAPER stuff (as it is now), which the poor buy, and the poor and middle-class produce hand-crafted, artisanal stuff for the rich, then, again, no problem.

            This last scenario, which is the one which obtains now, and which has obtained since the industrial revolution, actually shows that, historically, more mechanization redounds MORE to the benefit of the poor than the rich. But even if, in the future, some robots are invented that can make things the rich desire more than any hand-crafted object or any labor service the 90% can provide, it’s still not a problem, since there is still demand for the labor of the 90% among the 90% themselves, who, unless they are literally enslaved, always have the opportunity to sell their labor and accumulate assets.

          • My nightmare is closer to a partial UFAI victory– the 89% have nowhere to live because the 11% have other uses for the land.

            IIRC, an early version of the problem showed up in Chicago, which had a combination of a lot of homeless people and vacant buildings.

          • Matt C says:

            > 4. We are past the point where the world can support 90% of the human population by unassisted subsistence farming, even if we spot the poor 90% of the good farmland.

            The Auto Micro Farm guys are trying to make a farming/aquaponics system that is affordable and doesn’t take up a lot of land area. (Spoiler: appears to be stuck in prototype.)

            I doubt we are facing an automation apocalypse, myself. And if it happens, it will happen slowly, not all at once. But for people who are worried about it, I wish they’d think harder about ways to put the means of subsistence into the hands of poor people, instead of reflexively yelling for Basic Income.

            Someone, I think it was William Gibson, wrote a story that had a tribe of future day nomads who were mostly self sufficient, running their caravans off of solar panels and making their own laptops out of pressed plant matter. The specifics were a little silly but the overall vision was appealing.

            Nancy, I’ve also thought that we might end up with an entourage/patronage system if we get a grotesque have/have-not society. Distasteful but could be worse. Not as bad if being a client-sycophant is one option among several for the have-nots.

          • John Schilling says:

            onyomi: No. The 90% are “gorrilas”, relative to the 10%. Who are maybe nigh-transcendant demigods. The 90% are not reduced to slavery or to stone-age savagery, they are reduced to economic impotence in spite of their substantial but no longer competitive intelligence and skills.

            So let’s try this again, but make it small and personal and most importantly make it contemporary, so we don’t have to worry about whether we are all talking about the same hypothetical future. But there’s one difference in the hypothetical present: I’m filthy rich, and I hate you.

            Even filthy rich doesn’t mean I’m above the law, at least not the big ones like theft and murder and slavery. But, I own the Jolly Fats Wehawkin Temp Agency, whose staff includes people who are better than you at anything you can do. Seriously, these guys are good and they always deliver. And I subsidize them, so they don’t have to make a profit.

            One of their sales reps follows you around, day and night, everywhere*. Whenever you apply for a job, he offers up the services of JFW to do the same job better, for ten cents an hour. No strings attached, infinite flexibility, no worries about vacation or sick time, you want to terminate the position during a lean period and open it up again a year later, no problem, no hard feelings.

            You don’t get the job. ANY job. Unless you are willing to work for nine cents an hour, in which case you will starve. And I also own Amazon.com, so if you try to set up your own business selling geegaws you make in your basement, I’ll undercut you on that as well.

            The money you have right now, you will spend on food and other necessities until it runs out. Five years from now, give or take, you will have no money. None.

            Really, you think you will have money? Where did it come from? Barring outright charity, and we’re trying to avoid the scenario where most of humanity winds up perpetual welfare cases here, why would anyone ever give you any money? Every time you ask someone for more than literally pennies, one of my agents is standing next to you offering them a better deal if they give the money to me instead.

            I can do this without enslaving you, without using force against you, without in any way diminishing your knowledge or skills or intellect. You’ll still be a perfectly competent whatever-it-is-you-do, and you’ll starve to death in a world full of people who actually want and are willing to pay for whatever it is you do.

            Except, doing it right now would be hideously expensive. I have to pay for a full-time worker to actually do, for years, every job you even apply for – else you’ll double back and reapply for the job once my temps pull out, and I’ll get a reputation for being unreliable. It’s not a viable plan unless I am very, very rich and I hate you a godawful lot.

            But if I have a stable of robots that can actually do any job you can do, and really only cost nine cents an hour to run, then it is simply profitable for me to do this. If there are lots of people with stables of such robots, you are almost certainly going to have this done to you. Not targeting you specifically, but their collective greed means everywhere you look for work, there’s a robot salesman ahead of you angling for the same deal at ten cents an hour. And you’re down to hoping for charity, else you starve to death in a world full of people who want what you have to sell.

            [*] And promptly get arrested for stalking or harassment, allowing you to sneak off and get a job while I’m not looking. There are, fortunately, lots of micro-scale reasons why it isn’t practical to actually target people this way in the here and now.

          • onyomi says:

            You still don’t seem to understand my primary objection to this scenario of yours. TO WHOM ARE THESE PEOPLE WITH THE UNDERCUTTING, SUPER-EFFICIENT ROBOTS SELLING THEIR GOODS AND SERVICES?

            If they’re not selling anything to the poor, because the poor have “no money,” then the poor have an opportunity to sell to the poor, in exchange for whatever non-robot goods or services the other poor can offer. Alternatively, if they ARE selling to the poor, because the poor CAN afford the stuff made by the undercutting robots, then what’s the problem?

          • John Schilling says:

            They are selling to everyone with money. The one percent, the ten, the ninety – if you’ve got money, you buy stuff from the 1% and their robots, and you buy some specialized personal services (including robot-wrangling) from the 10%. Whatever money the poor have at the outset, whatever money the poor may obtain by some economic fluctuation, flows up and away and there is no sustainable way for them to get more.

            Except charity from above, but that gets you a straight cycle in which the poor have only whatever money the rich give them, which they promptly use to buy stuff the rich will sell them.

            The poor trading among themselves for whatever they can produce by themselves? Sure, but what can they produce by themselves? Entire tiers of specialized labor and expertise have been stripped away because the 1% will offer those people a better deal than the 90. You can’t run an industrial economy with just the bottom 90% of the population. Without industrial agriculture or charity you get mass starvation; maybe the survivors put together a preindustrial economy around low-tech agriculture running in parallel with the 10% next door.
            Who don’t have much use for anything they have to sell.

          • Alex Godofsky says:

            You don’t get the job. ANY job. Unless you are willing to work for nine cents an hour, in which case you will starve.

            Except that if the rich are selling the services of hypercompetent people for 10 cents an hour, you won’t starve because you can just work for 9 cents an hour for 10 hours, and with that purchase 9 hours of labor from these hypercompetent people (who are presumably able to do stuff like grow food).

          • onyomi says:

            Yes, exactly.

            John Schilling, you seem to be missing comparative advantage. Even if the robots can do everything better than your average 90%er, the 90%ers can still undercut them by working for less than the cost of their production and maintenance. Unless their cost of production and maintenance is literally 0, in which case we are in Star Trek again.

          • Jiro says:

            onyomi: The fact that the 90% has needs and desires doesn’t mean that all of the 90% can be employed providing them. For instance, I would guess a large portion of that 90% wants to play video games, but it won’t take all of the 90% to produce video games.

            Furthermore, the idea fails when applied to the world we already have. You suggest that if the 90% wants X, then they want it from the 90% as well, creating job opportunities. But by that reasoning, if some of the 90% want yachts, that means that enough jobs will be created so that the 90% will afford to buy yachts, and that’s obviously false.

          • onyomi says:

            Jiro, I’m certainly not saying that all of the 90%’s needs and desires will be fulfilled just by virtue of their having them. What I am saying, is that so long as ANY need or desire remains unfulfilled, there will be employment opportunities.

            In the case of “yachts for poor people,” the reason it hasn’t been fulfilled yet is that no one has yet figured out how to make a yacht cheaply enough for poor people to afford. If they did (an improvement in efficiency which would probably involve robots, I might add), then poor people would have yachts.

            Now maybe “yachts for poor people” is not a need anyone will be able to figure out how to fulfill anytime soon, but so long as there remain ANY needs or desires which human labor can fulfill, there will be employment opportunities in fulfilling them.

            To imagine people will stop wanting things or stop thinking of ways to fulfill those wants after only half the population is employed, seems a drastic underestimate of the depths of human desire and ingenuity, even among people with less than 120 IQ.

          • MugaSofer says:

            >Even if the robots can do everything better than your average 90%er, the 90%ers can still undercut them by working for less than the cost of their production and maintenance. Unless their cost of production and maintenance is literally 0, in which case we are in Star Trek again.

            There seems to be a large gap in between “costs literally nothing to maintain” and “costs less than humans to maintain” that you’re ignoring. If the going wage for a robot it less than what it would take to keep a human alive, then humans can’t survive by undercutting the robots

          • Alex Godofsky says:

            Bare human subsistence is really cheap. If we really do ever get anywhere close to the point you’re imagining, then all we have to do is notice just before that point, and have all of the about-to-be-obsolete humans put aside just a little bit of money to buy these magic robots.

          • John Schilling says:

            Alex: If it’s really magic robots, yeah, the problem goes away and we have the singularity, or at least the post-scarcity economy.

            I’m concerned about the case where the robots aren’t magic; they can do most jobs very well but they still require some highly skilled human supervision, and there are some critical tasks that just don’t automate. So just giving the 90% the robots doesn’t help, because they don’t have the robot-wrangling skills.

            So, what do they have to offer the people who do grok robot-wrangling, or the other non-automatable skills? They desperately need someone to make sure their agriculture-bots stay on track and don’t start making paperclips, or whatever. They don’t know how to do anything a robot can’t do faster, better, and cheaper; in this scenario that’s the definition of “90%”.

            So what’s there offer? “Hey, don’t bother spending an hour programming your robot to do [X], I’ll spend all week doing it by hand”? Certainly they can do that. If [X] is what they do best, that’s what they should offer. Because comparative advantage, which yes, I have heard of.

            But comparative advantage does not come with a minimum wage guarantee. If the very best you can make of your advantage is to do in a week what a middle-class person can do for themself in an hour, you may have trouble paying for groceries. Even if you don’t literally starve, you may be still be stuck in a poverty trap.

          • Alex Godofsky says:

            So just giving the 90% the robots doesn’t help, because they don’t have the robot-wrangling skills.

            If the robots require expensive supervision from highly skilled humans, then they can’t be used to undercut the 90% at the rate of 10c/hour.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            The point is, in a world where robots do everything, your filet mignon is going to cost like 1 penny, which you can earn by giving the robot repairman a shoulder rub for two seconds

            Doesn’t work, because housing and status are zero-sum, which means people with full-time jobs can outcompete the shit out of the unemployed. So what you actually get is a vast mass of low-status homeless or ghettoized people who eat filet mignon for every meal, and a few robot designers/builders/mainteners/owners who get all the land and respect. Hell, we’re half-way there already.

            People have been predicting that excess efficiency would take all the jobs since the Luddites

            And they have been increasingly correct because humans are not infinitely intelligent, infinitely trainable idealized beings.

            post-scarcity

            I swear to God almighty, every time someone utters this dumb phrase, I feel a strong urge to grab an economics textbook in one hand and a physics textbook in the other, that I may smack them with alternating tomes until they realize the error of their ways.

            This is why no one in the third world have any jobs- because everything they do can be done cheaper in the first.

            Is this supposed to be a reducto? Because you know what they say about one man’s modus ponens being another man’s modus tollens. Have you ever tried to get a job in a third world country? They have unemployment rates that make the Great Recession look like an average Tuesday.

          • Mr Breakfast says:

            @ Matt C

            I doubt we are facing an automation apocalypse, myself. And if it happens, it will happen slowly, not all at once. But for people who are worried about it, I wish they’d think harder about ways to put the means of subsistence into the hands of poor people, instead of reflexively yelling for Basic Income.</cite)

            I find myself yearning for the phantom upvote button.

            This is a very difficult leap to make as long as the smartest people model "good", "wellbeing", "happiness" etc. in terms of having the food and trinkets, not the means to produce them. If we model people as thinkers, producers, competitors and problem solvers rather than as consumers who want to go on permanent vacation, we arrive at the distribution of capital goods rather than alms as an ideal.

            I think technological (secular) distributism is the more sustainable future to aim for because it aligns the selection pressures on the population with the characteristics which perpetuate the system itself. Basic income does not incentivise intelligence, self-discipline, creativity, or effort, and so it is likely to become less viable as population adapts to it.

          • Mr Breakfast says:

            @ onyomi

            ” This last scenario, which is the one which obtains now, and which has obtained since the industrial revolution, actually shows that, historically, more mechanization redounds MORE to the benefit of the poor than the rich. “

            This tendancy is precisely the reason that the poor have come to be in a precarious position, or will in the future.

            If the wages are generally determined by something like the “Iron law of Wages” – the least someone will work for is the ammount that keeps them barely out of starvation, and so others can demand higher pay only to the degree that they can distinguish themselves from the poorest:

            wage = (starvation wage) + (status)

            Then first of all, what people earn in the market bears no relation to their productivity and will not necessarily rise when there are gains in productivity. And also, lowered cost of living through capital substitution for labor means that relatively more “hours” of subsitance are required to pay for the capital to produce an “hour” of perpetual future subsitance. The price of aquiring capital goods and so escaping the wage / charity trap keeps infalting and they become more and more unreachable to the poor.

            Eventually, the poor just become superfluous, in the extreme case of “post-scarcity”, only those who already own their own means of production may be economically viable.

          • onyomi says:

            I certainly never predicted we’ll arrive at “post-scarcity,” since there are always things like “property with a view of the Mediterranean” and “the original Mona Lisa by the hand of Da Vinci” which cannot be duplicated, to say nothing of the other technical challenges, and the fact that anytime we thought we’d arrived, someone would invent some new, scarce thing. I only used it as a theoretical construct to show that even if we somehow arrived at the state where every single want and need of every human could be met for free by robots, it would not be a problem, since, who needs a job when everything is free.

            It also makes no sense to say that there will be a big underclass of superfluous poor people in a “post-scarcity” world. “Post-scarcity” means everything people want or need is as plentiful as air, and therefore free. If certain robot experts are needed to run the robots, then that’s not truly post-scarcity, since “robot expert labor” will still be scarce, and in demand. But then, if we lived in a world where most people don’t have to do anything, yet they still have unlimited access to almost everything, while a few people have to repair robots, and, in exchange, they get to own the sea- front property and the Mona Lisa, then I don’t think that would be so bad.

    • William O. B'Livion says:

      Given the traffic on the way into the office Tuesday and Wednesday, I’m all for Christmas once a week.

  17. Deiseach says:

    The gilgul thing explains, or sheds light on, John 1:21 when the Pharisees are questioning John the Baptist: 21And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”

    And also the question Jesus asked the disciples:

    Mark 8: 27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

    Matthew 16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

    Luke 9: 18 Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.”

    Since Jesus and John were contemporaries, and John had been executed by Herod, I never understood why the people were saying “This is John come again”, but if there was a popular idea of “transmigration of souls”, it sheds a lot of light on why they might have said that.

  18. Panflutist says:

    Scott, do I understand correctly that you are considering moving to Europe? If so, could you elaborate on why? I’m European but potentially moving to the Americas soonish.

    • Deiseach says:

      My impression is less that he wanted to move to Europe (he went to medical school in Cork, if I’m correct, and if that didn’t cure him of any lingering romanticism about The Old Country, whichever old country it might be, nothing would), it’s more that he wants to move away from The Arse-End of Nowhere where he currently lives and works and has his being (I mean no slight to the particular part of America where he is domiciled at present, I have no biases for or against any part of the U.S.A.)

      • drunk_meyerkev248 says:

        I believe his particular arse-end of America is suburban Detroit, which, as an ex-resident, has 3 great saving graces.

        1) That it has practically zero traffic given the size of the urban area allowing you to live 30-60 miles out of Detroit and have a decent commute.
        2) That it has the best wage/COL ratio in the country, thus allowing poor people to have decent lives and middle-class people to live like kings and take lots and lots of vacations to get the hell out of suburban Detroit.
        3) That, related to #2, Michigan proper has a tremendous amount of natural beauty which is covered with 2nd homes all across the state. Which lets middle-class single-income families have 2 or 3 homes scattered across the state on beautiful lakes.

    • William O. B'Livion says:

      Can’t speak for Scott, but from my perspective it’s cheaper to find a job overseas and have someone pay you to go live in a foreign country for a while than to take vacations, and you get to see more of it while you’re there.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      No, not thinking of that. However, there are other benefits to Euro citizenship. For example, I went to med school in Ireland and paid full price, but for some bureaucratic reason, some other American friends who went to med school in Ireland and had a passport from a European country got it paid for free by some European program.

      • Deiseach says:

        some other American friends who went to med school in Ireland and had a passport from a European country got it paid for free by some European program

        Possibly the Erasmus programme? Also, if you are an EU national, you are entitled to apply for a student grant which will, at a minimum, pay your course fees (it’s all part of the “free movement within and between member states” principle, which means people from other EU member states can’t be discriminated against when it comes to applying for jobs and the like in a different EU state):

        Nationality

        To qualify you must be either:
        •an Irish national,
        •a national of another EU Member State, the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland:

        If you are an Irish national you will be requested by SUSI later in the process to provide a photocopy of the long version of your birth certificate if you were born on the island of Ireland before 1 January 2005.

        For a national of another EU Member State, the EEA or Switzerland you will be requested by SUSI later in the process to provide at least one or more of the following:
        •a certified photocopy of your passport.
        •a national ID card issued by an EU Member State
        •a certificate of naturalisation together with a certified copy of your passport or other official documentation;
        •a foreign births registration certificate together with a certified copy of your passport

        Your American friends with a “passport from a European country” are covered here 🙂

        The maintenance portion of the grant is small (100% non-adjacent rate is currently €3,025 per academic year of nine months, which works out to about €336 per month) but the main expense for most students is course fees and the point of the grant is to have those paid.

        If your EU-passport possessing friends got the student grant plus the Erasmus, that might have been it? Though I thought America was not big on dual-nationality?

  19. If you’re interested in nuclear powered rockets then this page will be an interesting read, it has everything that anyone has seriously proposed and lots of juicy numbers.

    • Eggo says:

      Winchell Chung has some fantastic resource sites, and Atomic Rockets is one of the best.

      • Eggo says:

        Although I’d caution people that it’ll inevitably lead to you banging your head on your desk and moaning that there’s no such thing as a free launch.

  20. gattsuru says:

    But this seems to be the exception – a study of gender bias in survival of maritime disasters (REALLY? NOW YOU’RE JUST TROLLING US, GENDER BIAS RESEARCHERS) finds that men are more likely to survive than women, with the pattern only occasionally reversed on the rare occasions when captains make “women first” into a major evacuation priority.

    It’s worth looking at exactly what they studied. TL;DR version : small sample size, sample weighting by population, very large time gap with vastly different social norms on each end, and conflating question of whether order was given and improved survival with actual survival rates. It’s /interesting/, but it essentially only says that the social norm for the “woman and children first” order died out somewhere in the earlier 1920s and mostly reduced a preexisting disparity.

    Part of me thinks this is good, since it means both sides will have incentives to find ways to cooperate and lower the temperature, but obviously until that happens it’s just twice as annoying.

    Unfortunately, I’m increasingly convinced that we’re not going to see a ‘lower-the-temperature’ phase, since the incentives are all pushed toward loud and meaningless debate the more public the sphere gets. Small groups can favor accuracy or punish intentionally misleading folk, but larger, psuedo-anonymous, or word-of-mouth speech lacks such tools.

    A picture of the future — Tumblr, stamping on the human mind forever.

    Very occasional studies have found similar levels in the West, but their methodology tends to get strongly criticized; I’m not sure how the Delhi study compares.

    This reddit thread suggests a large number were filed by the parents of the alleged victim, which don’t seem to be typical modes for Western studies. A separate newspaper report says that 40% of surveyed cases that went to trial involved consensual sex where the couple eloped and the parents brought charges. On the other hand, and the paper glosses over this, the age of consent is 18 in India, and many of the seem to involve women between the age of 15 and 18, usually with accused assailants of the same age.

    ((On the gripping hand, the paper’s description of parental abuse is chilling, and seems to cover a quarter or more of the analyzed cases.))

    More on “niche dating sites have gone too far” – commie dating site OKComrade has gone from a mostly-joke Facebook page to actually trying to become a thing.

    There are a surprising amount of self-identified communists out there, and not all Maoist or Stalinist apologists. It certainly seems like where concordant relationships are likely to be more stable than discordant ones, at least extrapolating from experience with relationships that merely had a gap between grey tribe and blue tribe.

    Here’s another thing that’s not going to help: Aaronson writes an extremely moving and passionate comment about what it’s like being a shy male geek in a feminist world.

    This is really good reading, and it’s a blog comment. *sigh*

    The really frustrating thing is that many of the feminist perspectives aren’t even wrong, per say. A large part of the Rape Culture that they describe actually exists in some fashions, even if there’s a tendency toward confabulation in the extremes. But the cultural issues inside the tech industry are nothing like the ones plaguing sports. Worse, the effort to generalize isn’t just wrong, it’s unhealthy for the movement as a whole.

    I’ve seen transmen with unfortunate political views dismissed (not to their faces, thankfully) because of course *men* think everything is about them. I’ve seen the misogyny in gay male culture — and believe me, it’s there — explained as a faucet of straight culture, because there’s obviously no important formative experiences or desires gay men might have that differ. This isn’t a movement tries to model the more subtle differences from being raised in different time periods or classes well.

    • lmm says:

      “per se”. “facet”.

    • Eggo says:

      Misoggyny in gay male culture? Are accusations of that the feminist version of getting upset over friendzoning?
      Seriously though, as someone who knows very little about “the ancient ways of our people” except through individual relationships, I’m curious about what you’ve observed.

      • gattsuru says:

        Sometimes, but less than you’d expect.

        There are issues. Gay guys treating the female genitalia like the Sarlaac Pit is frustratingly common behavior. There’s a lot of friction between the goal of openness and the fundamental aims of gay-specific spaces, often resulting in outright exclusion. Denigrating slurs aimed toward women are treated as cultural touchstones, not merely in terms for sex roles but even as intergroup signaling. A lot of social understandings about acceptable-behavior-as-determined-by-sex and as-determined-by-orientation society as a whole really hasn’t really figured out yet.

        There are a lot of gay men who’ve had early and very unpleasant relationships with women in their youth before they came out and generalize those failings to the entire gender. More than straight folk of either gender, there’s a lot of discomfort with the actual physical differences between the sexes. And while some straight men live separate from women, I don’t think it’s treated quite as normal.

        This isn’t common to all gay men or even all groups of gay men, but it is still common.

        What’s interesting is how differently this is shaped.

        • Eggo says:

          Well, the sarlaac pit thing is understandable, if you consider the attitude of heterosexual men to penises, and add in the “strange and alien (and horrifying)” factor.
          The “goal of openness vs” thing smells at first whiff like an attempt to maintain group identity in the face of… let’s just say “extremely aggressive evangelism and colonization” on the part of other movements we’ve become associated with.

          Very interesting re. physical differences. Where I grew up gay men were expected to be more acquainted with the Occult and Mystic Intricacies of bra-fitting and tampon purchases, but that might have just been the result of straight guys assuming we picked it up though… Osmosis or being half-woman or something.

          I’d never thought about things like “I’m a such a silly bitch” as intergroup signaling. Very interesting, and likely to cause a lot of amusing fights with the Joyless Brigade at some point.

          • drunkenrabbit says:

            Just as an aside, I wouldn’t say straight men are afraid of penises, per se (a few minutes browsing YouPorn will demonstrate this pretty thoroughly). Rather, it’s the idea that a penis could be directed at you that’s terrifying.

          • Eggo says:

            Clearly we need some kind of 1940s army-educational style film to calm their fears.

            It’s coming right at us!
            “Stand aside, men, I’ll save you!”
            (later)
            “So you see boys, the penis is nothing to fear: any man can tackle one if he handles it firmly and confidently. Now let’s all practice together!”

            Ok, script’s ready. Actors expect about $800-900 for this kind of gig, right?

    • cassander says:

      >There are a surprising amount of self-identified communists out there, and not all Maoist or Stalinist apologists

      Bullshit. Not the numbers, but the lack of apologists. They are all apologists. No one gets to call themselves a nazi and disavow hitler, and rightly so. No one who calls himself a communist should get to disavow Mao and Stalin and all the other communist murderocracies.

      • social justice warlock says:

        I am an apologist, but this doesn’t really work. “Communist” as a political label extends back and beyond Marxism-Leninism, so we don’t have a better claim to the title than ancoms or leftcoms.

        Likewise, not all white supremacists are Nazis, and it would be silly to act as if they were.

        • cassander says:

          >I am an apologist, but this doesn’t really work. “Communist” as a political label extends back and beyond Marxism-Leninism, so we don’t have a better claim to the title than ancoms or leftcoms.

          this would be a much more compelling argument if virtually all of them hadn’t spent the 20th century running cover for, and proclaiming solidarity, with the marxists and leninists. It’s like guys in the 1300s who donated money to the templars saying “those crusaders aren’t real christians.”

        • Tracy W says:

          The disavowing thing, I think is more that, after the 20th century, if you’re going to advocate Communism you should really have some pretty strong theoretical reasons as to why the Communism you advocate is not going to lead to an oppressive totalitarian dictatorship (and saying that Soviet Russia and the like “don’t count as they were really state capitalist” is a lousy argument.)

          After all very few Communists before 1917 said that they favoured totalitarian dictatorships and yet that’s what happened. So saying you’re a Communist who favours democracy and civil liberties and etc isn’t that reassuring.

          • cassander says:

            >After all very few Communists before 1917 said that they favoured totalitarian dictatorships and yet that’s what happened.

            Except they did say that. the dictatorship of the proletariat was never meant to be everyone holding hands and singing kumbaya. There are multiple direct quotes from marx and engels endorsing terror and the elimination of whole classes of people. Lenin was even more explicit, “whoever expects that socialism will be achieved without a social revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat is not a socialist. Dictatorship is state power based directly on violence. And in the twentieth century — as in the age of civilisation generally — violence means neither a fist nor a club, but troops. To put “disarmament” in the programme is tantamount to making the general declaration: We are opposed to the use of arms. There is as little Marxism in this as there would be if we were to say: We are opposed to violence!” and “The proletariat should not ignore peaceful methods of struggle — they serve its ordinary, day-to-day interests, they are necessary in periods of preparation for revolution — but it must never forget that in certain conditions the class struggle assumes the form of armed conflict and civil war; there are times when the interests of the proletariat call for ruthless extermination of its enemies in open armed clashes.”

            Now, to be sure, this dictatorship was supposed to melt away once socialism had been achieved (though the mechanism on how this was supposed to happen was always vague), but it is simply inaccurate to say that communists in general, and even marx, did not call for a totalitarian state.

    • Harald K says:

      On the Aaronson post: It’s not the first post in this genre that I’ve read (besides Alexander’s). If you’ve frequented the more “civilized” MRA sympathetic blogs, there are dozens, maybe hundred of such posts, telling the same story about young heterosexual men being crippled by shame over their sexuality, totally terrified of making anything that could even remotely be interpreted as an unwanted advance. Here’s one by Daran of Feminist Critics, who has been making the point for years.

      (You can find such posts on less civilized MRA blogs as well – tons of them.)

      The worst is, I know it’s not entirely an unjustified fear. Although I never had Aaronson’s, Alexander’s or Daran’s crippling anxiety, for reasons I don’t fully understand there were periods in my teenage years where I was seen as quite attractive, and periods where it was completely the opposite. When I was “ugly”, there were some times I went “wait, wait, wait, did you think I was hitting on you?”, getting rejected in situations I absolutely hadn’t considered advances.

      I noticed it directed at other people too: when there was a teacher who was just a tad on the weird side, it was if they were transformed into some leering Puck-like figures in the minds of their female students.

      It’s not just ugly people revealing that they have a sexuality that is creepy, it goes the other way too. If you’re judged creepy for non-sexual reasons, you can be sexualized in a very unflattering way – at least by teenage girls, which for teenage boys is a rather important demographic not to fall out with.

      The irony about Aaronson’s post, is that the immediate reply links to the Vi Hart parable of the polygons that was linked earlier, as an attempt at rebuttal. But if they actually thought about the models they discuss there (in particular this model) they’d see that there’s absolutely no contradiction between women in tech experiencing a lot of sexism and men in tech checking their privileges to the point of neurosis.

      In fact, that model should teach them that making men in tech less sexist would make very little difference to how much sexism women (in male dominated-environments) experience. So if you needed another reason to not inflict neuroses on people, there’s one: it doesn’t even work.

      • Jaskologist says:

        It was a very interesting entry in the annals of leftist religion.

        That I managed to climb out of the pit with my feminist beliefs mostly intact, you might call a triumph of abstract reason over experience.

        This is a triumph more of faith than abstract reason. Now, I’m quite sympathetic to not wanting to abandon the religion you were trained in from birth, but you can see how it hinders him down the line:

        if any of your beliefs, even your most private ones, contain traces of misogyny, then you need to confront the misogyny and root it out… once you’ve examined each of your moral beliefs, asking whether it could withstand the most withering Enlightenment critique, and whether you’d still defend that belief if you had been born female rather than male

        In other words, real-world experience should be checked against received truth, and discarded where they conflict.

        And I totally understand why an orthodox believer would go that route, but it’s not going to fly for most people. Most of us, myself included, were raised mere cultural feminists. We believe in equality of the sexes the same way most Americans believe in God. It is not a deep faith, and once the real world starts to conflict with that, it won’t last long. And don’t expect a second hearing after torturing folks throughout their formative years.

        • Eggo says:

          The “climb out of the pit” and “root it out” lines struck me, too. Mid conversation tone shift towards fire and brimstone preaching are scary to see from intelligent people.

        • Nick T says:

          This makes sense if Scott means descriptive beliefs, but it seems to me that by “beliefs” he mostly actually means terminal values.

          • John Schilling says:

            Not sure that I buy “feminism” in the usual sense as a terminal value. Equality for women, sure. Or even female supremacy. But feminism is an ideology or movement aimed at achieving and securing that state; it is intrinsically subject to evaluation on at least three descriptive grounds:

            Are we there yet?

            Is this process getting us closer?

            Are we hurting too many innocent bystanders along the way?

            And even if we take Scott to mean “equality for women”, that still has to be weighed against the other terminal values he presumably has. “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”, is a plausible and laudable-sounding terminal value, but we expect actual Communists to look at the empirical results of the best efforts they could make towards that goal and, well, stop being Communists. Put the whole means/needs thing on the list of values that one still holds in the abstract and will get around to actively pursuing some time after the Second Coming, and work on something else for a while.

            As any social, political, or economic movement asymptotically approaches its secure and perfectly-valued end state, it will almost certainly reach a point of diminishing returns in its further efforts. This will probably not be associated with a dimunution in the collateral damage.

            At that point, the proper response is to say, “I am no longer a communist, feminist, whatever. I may still hold this terminal value in reserve, against the rare opportunity for further progress without harm, but that’s not really what I am about any more”.

            People who are not willing to periodically reevaluate such matters on the facts, are likely to become dangerous fanatics.

          • Jaskologist says:

            While I’m admittedly running this off my model of a doctrinaire feminist rather than any knowledge of Other Scott, I’m pretty sure that “traces of misogyny” is meant to include any idea that men and women are fundamentally different. This is a belief, not a terminal value.

          • Jaskologist says:

            He’s followed up with another post. There’s stuff to like in it, but also this gem:

            5. I believe there still exist men who think women are inferior, that they have no business in science, that they’re good only for sandwich-making and sex. Though I don’t consider it legally practicable, as a moral matter I’d be fine if every such man were thrown in prison for life.

            If wanting heretics thrown into prison isn’t a sign of dangerous religious extremism, I’m not sure what is.

          • John Schilling says:

            And I note in the comments (#34) he links back to our Scott A, so the circle is complete.

            But, yeah, a lot of this looks almost like Stockholm syndrome. “Why won’t you love me, Feminism? I let you treat me like shit, I believe everything you tell me to believe and I always will, I hate all of your enemies with the fire of a thousand sons, and I am ever so grateful for any scrap of sympathy or attention you give me. I love you unconditionally, Feminism; why won’t you love me back?”

            This is not going to end well for him.

          • Jaskologist says:

            And now they’re attacking him for not sufficiently checking his privilege or something. I can only imagine this is what a predestination debate looks like from the outside, if you could find one where one of the participants was nearly driven to suicide by the idea of free will.

      • veronica d says:

        there’s absolutely no contradiction between women in tech experiencing a lot of sexism and men in tech checking their privileges to the point of neurosis.

        This is an important point, which to my view is plainly true, and not only in tech. I think it’s true in general geek spaces.

        For example, geeks often go on about “female privilege” and how easy women have it, as if it’s so great being one of five weirdo geek girls among thirty or so nerdy men with a panoply of social dysfunctions and weird attitudes about gender roles.

        This sucks for everyone. The numerical imbalance sucks (for both groups for different reasons). The social awkwardness sucks. The gender-weirdness sucks.

        ####

        Some strategic advice for men (which please at least consider this): when women, particularly geek-feminist women, hear stories such as Aaronson’s, we often round them off to the nearest Redpill garbage. We do this for reasons, some of which are good reasons, simply that these stories are often the candy coating for a gross Redpill center. I think feminists need to hear these stories, insofar as I want things to get better, but it will help if they are communicated well clear of the Redpill.

        I think both Scotts (Aaronson and Alexander) have managed to do this, but we need more of it.

        (This is a “tone argument” I guess. But pick your strategy.)

        ####

        In fact, that model should teach them that making men in tech less sexist would make very little difference to how much sexism women (in male dominated-environments) experience. So if you needed another reason to not inflict neuroses on people, there’s one: it doesn’t even work.

        On this, I don’t see how that follows. Certainly we want to teach sexist men to be less sexist. But more, I think we want to teach men-in-general to understand women better, to have better communication skills, particularly regarding romance, and to better at achieving their goals in a healthy way.

        Regarding what women need to do, well, don’t be a shitty Jezebel-style feminist who beats up on nerdy men. Which does not mean we’re gonna shut up or be not-feminist. These are our spaces also and we will take the stage. We gotta hear you, but you gotta hear us too.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Regarding your advice: it really really does not help hearing feminists talk among themselves how men self-identifying as feminists makes them automatically suspect.

          Really, it’d be wrong to arrive at a point where there’s no way for a dude to briefly and respectfully signal his desire to align with feminists in general, but disagreement/confusion on a particular issue without being taken as a potential danger or defector.

          I mean, feminists know that it’s supposed to target men like Hugo Schwyzer, not like a Scott… but to qualify things is to show laxity is to show weakness, isn’t it?

        • haishan says:

          Some strategic advice for men (which please at least consider this): when women, particularly geek-feminist women, hear stories such as Aaronson’s, we often round them off to the nearest Redpill garbage.

          This sounds an awful lot like Moloch optimizing for controversy by making sure the outgroup appears as out as possible. Transposed to a different setting:

          When theologians, particularly Roman theologians, hear Christological theories such as Nestorius’, we often round them off to the nearest Gnostic garbage.

          If it’s really Moloch behind this, I don’t think telling men to signal non-Redpillness, or non-Gnosticism (aGnosticism?) as loudly as possible is gonna work. Either no one will come up with a believable signal, or He’ll just find a new heresy for everyone to get mad about.

          • Nita says:

            That’s a little overpessimistic. If you interpret Scott’s Moloch hypothesis to mean that all human effort is futile, we might as well give up and go home right now.

            Besides, I think Veronica’s diagnosis of “rounding to the nearest cliche” is correct, and the cause of this ailment is a lack of familiarity with the actual point presented. That’s just how the human brain works – before creating a brand-new basket for a previously unseen thing, it will try to fit the new experience into one of the old baskets.

            Personally, I became convinced that this crippling fear of creepiness is an actual (even if uncommon) social phenomenon after reading multiple similar accounts on the Feminist Critics blog. Before that, I had no idea something like that was possible, and I have social anxiety myself!

            So, some misreading is inevitable while this hasn’t reached public awareness. And at this stage, I don’t blame Amy et al. for perceiving it as Aaronson’s individual problem — if he was literally the only person to interpret feminism this way, therapy would be the solution. (I also think Aaronson is wrong to ascribe this issue to all shy male nerds, but that’s just good old Typical Mind bias.)

        • Harald K says:

          > “For example, geeks often go on about “female privilege” and how easy women have it, as if it’s so great being one of five weirdo geek girls among thirty or so nerdy men with a panoply of social dysfunctions and weird attitudes about gender roles.”

          No, in my experience they rarely do. The attitudes I see tend to be abject terror of being sexist (a la Aaronson), and attempts at policing to “don’t scare away the girl”. Of course I don’t doubt that the lone geeky woman has bad experiences aplenty – Petri’s model shows why that will likely still be the case.

          But if you like that model, you have to accept that it does follow. Until you eliminate all bad attitudes and all awkwardness, the gender imbalance will drown that out. And since you can’t just target the sexists, and the people most amenable to “fixing” aren’t the ones most in need of it, you’ll probably create a lot of Aaronson-style neuroses on the way.

          It isn’t just a tone argument you use. It’s a smear by association. You’re linking people (the Scotts) to the one group they’re terrified of being linked to. That in fact proves that their fears are legitimate: as a man you have to be super careful about revealing how sad, lonely and desperate you are. You have to have Scott-levels of eloquence (which face it, is beyond most of us!) otherwise you’re going to be called out as some sort of redpill Kaonashi (if you’ve seen Spirited Away).

        • Anonymous says:

          Some strategic advice for men (which please at least consider this): when women, particularly geek-feminist women, hear stories such as Aaronson’s, we often round them off to the nearest Redpill garbage. We do this for reasons, some of which are good reasons, simply that these stories are often the candy coating for a gross Redpill center. I think feminists need to hear these stories, insofar as I want things to get better, but it will help if they are communicated well clear of the Redpill.

          Well, if everyone would have better communication skills, the world would be better, but…

          My first thought after reading this was:
          This is how under siege paranoid mentality looks like. If a person cannot even empathize with another individual without making it all about ideology, if a person’s null hypothesis is “this is about ideologies”, and “this is a matter of individual experiences” is merely an alternative hypothesis that is considered only if the null hypothesis is rejected, something has terribly wrong. Shifting the burden of proof (“it is better that I sent X innocent people away than I accidentally empathize with a person whose ideology I find repugnant”?) is a very bad thing. I think those people should treat everything as stories of individual people and only consider ideological explanation when there is a clear proof that ideologies are actually involved.

          For the record, I think that RedPill is bullshit. They are echo chamber of self-selected people. Even if it true that mainstream polite society neglects certain things, collecting all neglected things is not a good strategy. Reverse stupidity is not intelligence. Moreover, echo chambers like RedPill leads them to develop “under siege” mentality which leads to some pretty ugly attitudes, such as treating individual stories as examples that have to be shoehorned into their ideology instead of individual stories of individual people.

        • Anonymous says:

          “when women, particularly geek-feminist women, hear stories such as Aaronson’s, we often round them off to the nearest Redpill garbage.”

          I strongly disagree that most women would round off these experiences to “nearest redpill garbage.” For one thing most women don’t even know what the redpill means. Alot of men say that women have difficulty understanding male problems in dating. But I don’t see most women reacting with such hostility to stories of men they know having serious problems.

          However you might be right that most “geek feminist” women are going to hear “Redpill garbage” when men talk about their experiences. However if this is true I don’t think your advice to men is very good. What they should do is stay as far away from “geek feminists” as they can. Certainly they need to maintain emotional distance. But any social interaction should be minimized if the “geek feminists” are going to smear them as sexist redpill types.

          I am very clearly not saying men should avoid women. Mostly because I think most women are nothing like the “geek feminists” you describe. But avoiding geek feminists might be a very good idea. Thankfully they are a small minority of women.

          *Also its not “rounding” to take a story like Scott’s and make it about the redpill. The guy endorses affirmative action for women repeatedly. If act he calls it extremely important. Over and over he makes his concrete “pro-women” views perfectly clear. Yet some people think its even plausible to throw his views in with the Redpill? When the repdill consider “Woman, the most responsible teenager in the house” required reading for informed members?

          **And some repdillers think “teenager” is giving women too much credit. WTF

          • Eggo says:

            As much as I would personally benefit from more geeky men avoiding women (“have you considered the benefits of homosexuality, handsome?), it’s certainly better for them to just avoid those particular red flags.

            Which is probably one reason why most straight women make sure to signal that that they are not the type to be involved in, say, geekfeminism.wikia.com

            People with those attitudes seem to be well on the way to joining the Jehovah’s Witnesses Club of social interaction (turn out the lights and hide behind the couch!).

          • Ano says:

            Which is itself a danger. Part of the reason that stuff like the Red Pill and tumblr feminism are so crazy is because the people in them refuse to engage with people outside their political bubble. And while on an individual level they all have the right to refuse to talk to their enemies and I can’t judge someone for avoiding a group that hates them and makes them feel unhappy, I also recognize that part of the reason these groups exist is because they’ve festered in an echo chamber.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Scott Aaronson’s anxiety (depression?) about is yet another example of evils of public life (in this case – feminist politics) invading private life (in this case – Scott’s personal life and relations with other people in general and women in particular). Political should never become personal.

    Twitter and other social media platforms that tend to conflate public and personal are dangerous precisely for this reason. They make it easier for public life to invade private life. Google+ “circles” was a good idea that, in the best case scenario, could have mitigated the effects of social media. It is quite sad they never took off.

    • lmm says:

      Sadly they were combined with “real names please” (a false description of the real policy, which was more like “real names or GTFO”), which encouraged a much bigger conflation of political and personal.

    • social justice warlock says:

      Political should never become personal.

      I don’t see how this could be possible, or, if possible, desirable. The existence of any moral rules at all entails the invasion of the personal by the political. There are always going to be Type I and Type II errors in any enforcement regime. This doesn’t mean that we can’t be concerned about overactive policing, whether of the body or the soul, but it does suggest doing so on deontological grounds is unlikely to be productive.

      • Eggo says:

        Can that be my response the next time someone screams “it’s my body, so you don’t get an opinion”?

        But yes, any division made between the personal and the political is probably a just a fundamental ground rule rather than an unvarying universal truth (although many of the boundaries are likely determined by universal aspects of the human condition).

        Just because a group disagrees on the boundary placement does not give them the right to demand the domination the personal and the extermination of private life, as their ideology calls for.

      • Anonymous says:

        If we define the “political” as meaning “engaging with the polis“, then “the personal is political” is almost trivially true for everyone who isn’t a hermit. I don’t think this is what people generally mean when they say that “the personal is political”. In context, I think what they are generally trying to convey by “political” is membership in some coalition bent on imposing some explicit ideological agenda onto the society.

      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t see how this could be possible, or, if possible, desirable.

        I think it is desirable, because private life of a single person is small and fragile, whereas public life is large and involves large institutions. If we do not separate them, the public life will nearly always crush private life. This means you would not be able to optimize your private life according to how do you think you should live your private life, you would not be able to optimize your private life for your happiness. You would have to live your private life strictly in a way that your public life forces you to do.

        I admit that I am really disturbed when I read that some people cut their friendships with other people over political disagreements, when none of their viewpoints are even outside Overton’s window! Or how some people like to make fun of their parents’ political views in order to gain acceptance in the crowd of internet stranger on Reddit. You… you simply shouldn’t do that. None of those internet strangers are going to be your friends in need. Personal relationships between real human beings are so much richer and meaningful than any political stuff. Prioritizing public life and politics over personal relations seems… I don’t know. Wrong. Backwards. A thing that can only lead to unhappiness.

        • Eggo says:

          A thing that can only lead to tumblr, and “please support my patreon because my stupid mom is kicking me out of the house for having the courage to burn her culturally appropriative curtains”.

        • llamathatducks says:

          But politics can affect private life. Politics affects whether and how someone can get an abortion or go through physical gender transition or in general access healthcare; whether someone can be fired for discriminatory reasons (or on the other side, whether you can fire someone for any reason you want); whether one can go see their same-sex partner in the hospital (or indeed safely kiss them in a public place); whether a business has to cater to everyone or gets to discriminate; what counts as rape; whether a family that includes undocumented immigrants gets to stay together; whether and how people can divorce; whether and how someone can find a place to live; whether someone gets to carry a gun (which might determine whether they or someone else live or die); etc.

          I think it’s strange to expect that people treat politics as something completely separate from their actual lives, when indeed politics is a way to regulate aspects of people’s lives.

    • RCF says:

      But feminism isn’t politics, in the sense of dealing with governance (at least, not solely). It deals with interpersonal relationships.

      • John Schilling says:

        Yes, and wherever possible it does so by lobbying governments and other powerful institutions to pass punitive rules against interpersonal relationships it disapproves of.

        That is the purest form of politics. It may be politics in a worthy cause, but it is still politics. And it is sufficiently embedded in feminism as actually practiced in the real world that I don’t think you can meaningfully separate the two.

      • Eggo says:

        Seyla Benhabib has some interesting remarks on the push for the bureaucratic administration of the personal. I don’t have my notes with right now, but IIRC “The Rights of Others” is a good place to start.

  22. Tarrou says:

    For what it’s worth, the racial bias thing is taken way farther in America than anywhere I’ve ever lived (and I’ve lived just under half my life in the States). The idea that you shouldn’t stereotype is almost uniquely American. Every country I’ve ever been in is WAY more open and casual about low-level cultural stereotyping, which here in America raises the hounds of “TEH RACISMS!@”.

    My theory is that we’re such a young country, we don’t have a ton of misdeeds to have made our peace with. We’re still guilt-ridden over the 1840s. France? They have fifty or sixty crusades, genocides, ethnic cleansings, collaborations etc. No one has time to be guilty about all that. So they don’t much worry about it. The hold that the fear of racism has on the psyche of Americans never fails to astound me. We are now down to “microaggressions” and our First Lady is calling racism because a short person asked her to grab something off a high shelf while she was in disguise in a store. And still we beat our chests over it. Hilarious.

    Maybe some day we’ll commit enough atrocities to grow up as a society.

    • Anonymous says:

      USA is a young country and is full of naivety. 🙂 Many adolescents and young adults are similarly naive. They see everything as black and white (pun not intended) with no grey in between. USA is both young and has no “life experience”. For example, USA has never lost any significant war on its soil. This leads to unsophisticated thinking similar to that of adolescents.

      Another thing. It is my impression that USA is the most “Pop culture” influenced country in the world. It has the most powerful film, sports, music industries in the world. As a general rule, these pop culture industries cater to young people. I have a conjecture that American culture is influence by young people to a significantly larger extent than the culture of any other country (of course, this conjecture is likely to turn out to be incorrect).

      Another thing. Perhaps the ridiculous amount of new religions in the USA is a related phenomenon? I.e. in the USA everyone believes they can be a prophet, everyone believes they can change the world and make the world a better place (in most other countries you would be laughed at for expressing such opinion – it would be as outlandish as claiming that you can go to the Moon – not impossible, but it is stupid to make such claims, every other country has been beaten down by reality too many times, whereas USA has never lost an important war.). Perhaps black-and-white thinkers’ ideas are disproportionally affected by the the reality? Thus, if a country has no reality checks, they are disproportionally visible?
      A conjecture: countries that have not lost a war in a significant amount of time are more likely to engage in black and white thinking.

      • Anonymous says:

        Agreed. One of those tiny cultural things that slapped me and stuck in my mind was that the Arab word for “stupid” or “idiotic” transliterates as “beardless”, i.e. immature.

        America exalts the 17-year-old, to the benefit of no one*, least of all real 17-year-olds.

        *No one with the exception of the forty year old actors playing 17.

        • Taradino C. says:

          And yet the U.S. has some of the highest legal age limits in the world. We don’t exalt 17 year olds enough to let them vote, run for office, drink beer, or (in many states) have sex.

          • Anonymous says:

            Good point

          • cbhacking says:

            Or smoke, buy porn, or take pornographic pictures of themselves. There are probably other countries where a 17-year-old couple can legally get naked and get it on (in some states; AOConsent is 16 where I live), but are together committing at least three felonies (of the “registered sex offender for life” variety) if one of them takes a nude photo of themselves and privately sends it to the other.

        • call_me_aka says:

          the Arab word for “stupid” or “idiotic” transliterates as “beardless”, i.e. immature

          Um, this native speaker of Arabic has no idea what you’re talking about.

      • MichaelM says:

        Hm, let’s try this commenting thing.

        Your conjectures are generally accurate, but not quite as much as they might once have been. The US has historically been a very young country in the sense that the largest portion of the population for long stretches of US history was under 25. For the first 50 years of the US’ existence as an independent country, for example, the population was doubling every 20 years almost entirely from native birth-rates. Immigration didn’t really take off until the 1840’s and, even then, immigrants tended to marry and start families younger than contemporary Europeans. The social upheaval that usually attends a youth bulge dominated American society for the first two centuries of its existence.

        This has had immense influence on the general course of evolution of American culture. That we’re an aging society like every other first world country has become a less salient factor simply because it’s pushing up against two hundred years of cultural precedent: The Baby Boomers no more want to think and act like ‘elderly persons’ than their kids do because their entire lives they’ve been bombarded by a youth oriented cultural milieu.

        This is changing, though slowly. The underlying demographics are going to keep trending upwards in age and that’s going to effect the overall culture as more and more time passes. I’m of the belief that demographics is destiny in a much deeper sense than those who use the phrase usually mean it.

      • William O. B'Livion says:

        Another thing. It is my impression that USA is the most “Pop culture” influenced country in the world.

        Japan, Korea, Taiwan.

        Hell, India, though only in the larger/richer cities.

      • alexp says:

        -“Another thing. Perhaps the ridiculous amount of new religions in the USA is a related phenomenon? I.e. in the USA everyone believes they can be a prophet, everyone believes they can change the world and make the world a better place (in most other countries you would be laughed at for expressing such opinion – it would be as outlandish as claiming that you can go to the Moon – not impossible, but it is stupid to make such claims, every other country has been beaten down by reality too many times, whereas USA has never lost an important war.). Perhaps black-and-white thinkers’ ideas are disproportionally affected by the the reality? Thus, if a country has no reality checks, they are disproportionally visible?
        A conjecture: countries that have not lost a war in a significant amount of time are more likely to engage in black and white thinking.”

        I think that’s just a legacy of Protestant Christianity, where the Bible is the sole source of spiritual truth, and every person should learn that truth himself.

        It’s also hard to keep a movement that founded by breaking away from a strong, hierarchical organization from breaking apart.

      • Anonymous says:

        Interesting. Has interpreting everything through the lenses of racism became more fashionable? Or more politically useful? If so, why?

        • Anonymous says:

          Yes. Because white guilt. When the most powerful woman in the world is oppressed because someone asked her a favor………we’ve jumped every shark ever.

        • llamathatducks says:

          It’s also perfectly possible that she always thought the incident was racism-tinged but didn’t think it would be a good idea to share that suspicion back in that 2013 interview. There are a few good reasons for that.

          1. Since there seems to be a substantial gap between what black people see as evidence of racism and what white people see as evidence of racism, she was probably aware that she would be ridiculed if she brought up racism in this context back in 2013.
          2. Also because of this gap in perceptions of what racism is, she probably could have reasonably expected that when she told that story, many black viewers would see this as a probably racist experience even if she didn’t say those words herself.
          3. Now, in 2014, the whole country is talking about racism. So it wouldn’t be Michelle Obama bringing it up out of nowhere.
          4. This anecdote by itself is not strong evidence of racism, so it makes sense that she wouldn’t want to bring it up by itself in isolation. But in this newer interview, it’s combined with other anecdotes from her husband that are stronger evidence.

          By the way, it kind of annoys me that people often read that article and latch onto the weakest anecdote and ridicule it while ignoring the clearer examples of racism (Barack Obama being mistaken for a waiter or a valet). If an argument is supported by one strong piece of evidence and one weaker piece of evidence, that doesn’t mean the argument is invalid.

          As for why she’d think this is racism in the first place, the relevant context is that people of color seem to often have the experience of being mistaken for employees or service people in stores. It’s not clear from Michelle Obama’s story whether the other woman thought she was an employee or just asked her to help, but either way it’s not that surprising that this would bring up echoes of that. (Though I agree that by itself this anecdote isn’t really strong evidence of anything.)

          • Jiro says:

            By the way, it kind of annoys me that people often read that article and latch onto the weakest anecdote

            Latching onto the weakest anecdote is necessary in order to avoid the Gish Gallop, where someone produces so many arguments that you can’t possibly address them all. (Although this doesn’t seem like the classic Gish Gallop, I’m pretty sure if you add up everything said by the President and his wife, you’d get too much to reasonably address.)

            the relevant context is that people of color seem to often have the experience of being mistaken for employees or service people in stores.

            I’d ask two questions:

            1) Are black people statistically more likely to be employees in stores, at least where that store is? If so, then this is just punishing people for being Bayseians.

            2) Even if not, do we actually know that she is treated this way more often than a white person in a similar situation? Or does she just have the same experiences as a white person but interprets them through a different lens?

          • MrBreakfast says:

            ” do we actually know that she is treated this way more often than a white person in a similar situation “

            By way of anecdata, I am white and get asked to fetch things off the high shelf in stores all the time.

            I suspect it is because everyone can see that I am tall.

          • Anonymous says:

            Also by way of anecdote, I am occasionally asked for assistance in stores and mistaken for an usher at black tie events.

          • llamathatducks says:

            Jiro:

            Are black people statistically more likely to be employees in stores, at least where that store is? If so, then this is just punishing people for being Bayseians.

            I actually think that even if black people are more statistically likely to be employees, people should nevertheless not make that assumption about any black person they see who isn’t clearly an employee. Making that assumption results in aggravation for people of color who are shopping: people distract them from what they came to do, try to get them to do work when they’re on leisure time (or busy running errands), and send the message that they don’t belong in that store as a shopper. Moreover, it is just aggravating in itself to have people make assumptions about you because of your race (or gender, etc.). There are a lot of better cues than race as to whether one is an employee, and people should use those cues.

            Even if not, do we actually know that she is treated this way more often than a white person in a similar situation? Or does she just have the same experiences as a white person but interprets them through a different lens?

            That is an interesting question and I don’t have time to see if someone has studied this somehow. That said, we do know that people absolutely do discriminate against people of color based on assumptions about people of different races. This means:
            1. It is very likely that in at least some instances when someone makes a wrong (and stereotype-concordant) assumption about a person of color, it is because of their race.
            2. Because it is very likely that that is sometimes the case, and because it’s not always obvious in a given case whether an assumption is race-based or not, it’s reasonable for a person of color to wonder in any given case whether racism was involved. (And that wondering in itself gets stressful.)

        • William O. B'Livion says:

          More politically useful, at least for the First Couple.

          President Obama has been pressing forward on a lot of controversial issues in constitutionally questionable ways, and is getting a lot of pushback.

          This can *only* be racism, because there are only 40 or 50 people in the country who aren’t *really* big government tax and spend types, and THEY all work for “REASON”.

    • I feel like the reason the US pays more lip service to being racially tolerant is that other countries don’t have the same level of racial diversity that we do, and therefore they don’t have to spend as much effort dealing with the problem of racism. And of course, the largest minority in the US comes from a big group of people that were enslaved for a few hundred years because it was thought they were inferior, so we have to deal with that tension as well.

      • Tarrou says:

        Perhaps, but the only thing that distinguishes us from other nations is age, really. Plenty of other nations enslaved huge populations that still live there (Georgians in Russia spring to mind). Plenty of other nations are more diverse and have significant cultural and language barriers that we don’t (Netherlands, India for instance).

        I should add that America’s position as sole superpower naturally diffuses its externality of nationality. We have no competition, so our competition is ourselves. Russians can band together under the banner of resisting “western imperialism”, Brits in resentment of France and the US, Saudi Arabia around Islam, etc. But the only thing that threatens most Americans is Americans. Our national identity is fragmented by the lack of serious external threat, either military, economic or cultural. It is the nature of an ingroup that wins too hard to succumb to infighting.

        • Anonymous says:

          I should add that America’s position as sole superpower naturally diffuses its externality of nationality. We have no competition, so our competition is ourselves. Russians can band together under the banner of resisting “western imperialism”, Brits in resentment of France and the US, Saudi Arabia around Islam, etc. But the only thing that threatens most Americans is Americans. Our national identity is fragmented by the lack of serious external threat, either military, economic or cultural. It is the nature of an ingroup that wins too hard to succumb to infighting.

          This is a very good point. See the unity immediately after 9/11.

          • cbhacking says:

            Well, except against Arabs, obviously. I remember reading stories of things like a guy who named his shop after himself – “Osama’s Place” – finding himself in serious trouble. His argument against renaming the place, or at least against why he should need to, was basically “Nobody who had ‘Tim’ or ‘Timothy’ in their business name had to rename it post-McVeigh”. 13 years could change a lot regardless, but I also don’t remember hearing any anti-Arab ethnic slurs prior to Sep 11.

    • William O. B'Livion says:

      My theory is that we’re such a young country, we don’t have a ton of misdeeds to have made our peace with.

      I’d more put it down to our Puritan & Protestant roots.

    • Harald K says:

      I used to be (still am, I suppose) a big fan of bande dessinee, or franco-belgian comics, and it would always amuse me to read that this comic is translated to sixteen languages – but English isn’t one of them!

      There have been attempts. But cultural stereotyping is, I think, one of the big reason why this large cultural phenomenon never got a foothold in the US (except for the Smurfs and Tintin). Even someone like Franquin, who was politically on the left, simply could not draw a black or asian person in a way that wouldn’t cause outrage in the US.

    • alexp says:

      funny, I’ve noticed that same thing, though I’ve spent most of my life in the United States, but I’d characterize this a positive thing. At least we’re trying to eliminate casual racism.

      • Tom says:

        Agreed. I was actually a bit surprised moving to Europe and experiencing just how casually racist many people here are. Certainly, it is much more prevalent than in Australia (I can’t speak for the US). As one example, just mention Gypsies and watch the sparks begin to fly!

        • John Schilling says:

          Everybody knows it only counts as “racism” if it is directed against black- or brown-skinned people. I don’t know if this has reached Australia yet, but here in the US there are no shortage of people who will explain to you that it is literally impossible for anyone, even a genocidally militant black supremacist, to be “racist” against whites. Because privilege. And it is increasingly common for (east) Asians to be lumped in as “white” in the statistics used to show how bad racism is.

          Gypsies, that’s the derogatory name but it doesn’t negate the white skin so nobody objects if you say it’s all cultural and it’s their own fault for not assimilating.

          So, where do you have, A: a significant population of black- or brown-skinned people, and B: a significant population of WEIRDs who have figured out or been taught that racism is a bad thing that we should try to eliminate? The United States, certainly. Australia, for a different set of blacks, and similarly New Zealand. Maybe Canada. The United Kingdom maybe, if we count Pakistanis etc as “brown” rather than “Asian”. Probably some others that I’ve missed, but I don’t think it is a frequent combination.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Is it possible that their new-found wealth has increased the longevity of the depressed while having no affects on the happiness of those who would be able to hack it in an impoverished China?

  24. Jinnayah says:

    … cardiological procedures have high immediate mortality if they fail but buy higher lifespan years down the road if they work.

    Well, hopefully some of them do. Bypass surgery and angioplasty don’t extend lifespan, based on 40 years of data for the first and 25 for the second:
    Each intervention, promising lifesaving relief, was embraced with enthusiasm by cardiologists and cardiac surgeons—and both techniques often do provide rapid, dramatic reduction of the alarming pain associated with angina. Yet, as Jones painstakingly explains, it took years to show whether the procedures prolonged lives; in both cases, subsequent research deflated those early hopes. The interventions—major procedures, with potentially significant side effects—provided little or no improvement in survival rates over standard medical and lifestyle treatment except in the very sickest patients.

    • MugaSofer says:

      If something has no effect on mortality, but has a significant risk of instant death, then it *is* making people significantly healthier – it’s just too risky for that to be worth it.

      Which would suggest it’s a promising area for research, and other, similar treatments have a decent chance of succeeding.

  25. Jiro says:

    Many of the climate change controversies you link to are exactly what you’d expect if a lot of the people on the anti-climate-change bandwagon are there for ideological reasons and just want their pet causes to be justified by the threat of climate change.

    • Anonymous says:

      http://imgur.com/r/energy/up6yu

      Asking others (but not yourself) to make self-sacrifices is as old as the world itself 🙂

      • Glen Raphael says:

        That cartoon ignores that “acting on climate” might make the world WORSE rather than better.

        For instance, we might – oh, I dunno – subsidize or mandate the use of “green biofuels” which waste food, and drive up food prices worldwide, cause starvation in the third-world, and in the end it turns out biofuel doesn’t help with CO2 either, but now we’re stuck subsidizing it because…politics.

        The fact that some green reformers truly and honestly wish to “create a better world” doesn’t mean we should turn off our brain. We still need to be skeptical and apply cost-benefit analysis, including the use of a sensible discount rate.

    • g says:

      Would you like to give more details?

  26. Kolya says:

    If Scott is descended from anyone who was resident inside Poland’s borders when it became independent in 1918, he *possibly* is a Polish citizen (depending on when his family acquired US citizenship) right now, he just has to fill out the paperwork as I did.

    Some Jews were expelled and deprived of Polish citizenship in the anti-Zionist campaign of 1968, but they can regain it. There isn’t an expulsion comparable to the expulsion from Spain in Poland’s history – which is why there were so many Jews there in 1939.

  27. E. Harding says:

    but we shouldn’t forget that the Russian economy is a basketcase at the best of times and Putin’s management has been a disaster.

    -Scott, I don’t get it. Since when is having a better recovery from the Great Recession than the U.S. (up to this year) a disaster? Since when is having your country win the most Olympic medals it ever has at any Winter Olympics a disaster? Since when is having 7% growth up until the Great Recession (concentrated in the lowest income quintile, I might add) a disaster? Since when was reunification with a territory the vast majority of your country’s citizens and the vast majority of that territory’s residents wanted to be reunified with a disaster? Since when was restoring a country to its place among the Great Powers and world’s key economies a disaster? Didn’t you post a link a few weeks ago about Russia not being a basket case? Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, that there is a basket case.

    But maybe we also shouldn’t forget Jeffrey Sachs’ analysis that the West threw Russia under the bus in 1989 and totally failed to give it the economic aid that could have made it a post-communist success story like Poland.

    -Aid?! Russia didn’t need aid. It needed fewer political prostitutes. Aid might have improved the U.S.’s relationship with Russia and have discouraged the development of a sense of resentment, but it certainly would not have helped the typical Russian citizen with the “reformers” that Russia had.

  28. E. Harding says:

    Now what is true is that this seasonal boom-and-bust cycle is highly inefficient, as George Mason University’s Tyler Cowen has argued. But as the great British economist John Maynard Keynes argued decades ago, “the right remedy from the trade cycle is not to be found in abolishing booms and thus keeping us permanently in a semi-slump; but in abolishing slumps and thus keeping us permanently in a quasi-boom.”

    -This is broken windowry at its finest. Soviet Russia also abolished slumps and was permanently in a quasi-boom, but this did not save it from the middle-income trap. Thus saith Hazlitt:
    “The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”
    The long run matters.

  29. void says:

    I’m no expert, but the claim in the gizmodo article that graphene can reduce the energy use of desalination by 100x seems obviously false (and I don’t know where the 1000x number in the summary came from). Wikipedia says that the free energy of mixing salt with freshwater to make seawater is 0.81 kw/m^3 and that the best current desalination techniques (including incidental energy use for pumping, filtering, etc) are ~3kw/m^3, so no 100x improvement is possible.

    Maybe the cost of pumping freshwater through the membrane is reduced by 100x, which would be a substantial improvement but unlikely to even halve the overall energy cost of desalination.

    • Brandon Berg says:

      That’s kWh/m^3 for anyone else who was confused.

    • cassander says:

      If you really wanted to be clever about it, you’d just use nuclear powerplants to desalanize. instead of a pressurized loop, just use salt water once through. it’ll recondense as clear water you can sell, the only cost is a bit of clever engineering to clear away the salt.

      • cbhacking says:

        Water is corrosive, and gets more so when it’s heated. This is a major issue in, among other use cases, designing high-performance coolant systems that use water for coolant.

        Salt water is vastly more corrosive. Hot, pressurized salt water in a nuclear reactor? Eek. You can use salt water for cooling the primary coolant – that’s how marine engines, including nuclear ones, work – but you still need a pressurized primary coolant loop to actually absorb heat from the reactor directly. As to whether you could practically do evaporative desalination from the heat exchange out of the primary coolant loop, though… interesting question.

    • RCF says:

      It doesn’t say it can reduce it by 100x, it says it can reduce it by 99%. And when SA says that costs have plateaued, shouldn’t he have said they have basined?

      • Anonymous says:

        Reducing by 100x is the same as reducing by 99%.

        • RCF says:

          No, it’s not. Literally, reducing by 100x would mean reducing by 10,000%. People understand it to mean reducing by 99%, but that’s not what it actually is.

          • Anonymous says:

            You have ignored the letter “x” It changes the meaning. The literal meaning.

          • RCF says:

            No, the letter x signifies multiplication. Reducing by 100x means reducing by 100 times the original. I.e. 10,000%. Or, if you’re a homeopath, multiplying by 10^-100. It’s sloppy wording, especially when quoting an article that uses more precise language. If were to write “reduce by 99%” and someone were to quote me as saying “reduce by 100x”, I would be mildly annoyed. Yes, people understand it means “reduce by 99%”, just as people understand that “five times smaller” means “one fifth as large”, but “reduce by 100x”/”five times smaller” is an ugly idiom that should be discouraged.

  30. social justice warlock says:

    Giving money to Land is probably some sort of defection, but I already bought Bryce’s goofy ebook, and there’s no way this won’t be entertaining, so *click*

  31. benk says:

    a study of gender bias in survival of maritime disasters (REALLY? NOW YOU’RE JUST TROLLING US, GENDER BIAS RESEARCHERS) finds that men are more likely to survive than women

    Well, if that’s as far as you go, that’s fine. But if you try to stretch that into saying that we didn’t try to prioritize women and children when we could, you fucked up. IIRC the researchers used a stunningly bad methodology for determining that “women and children first” wasn’t really a thing – they divided the number of passengers by the time it took the ship to sink, and used the fact that that metric didn’t correlate with more women surviving to “prove” that women and children first wasn’t really a thing.

    The problem is that obviously realizing the situation and getting things organized takes a certain irreducible amount of time, so even if a ship that sank ten times faster than the titanic had ten times less passengers, there is far less opportunity to organize who gets on lifeboats and who doesn’t. In addition, I actually bothered to go through the story of every sinking that they used as a data point (not hard, there weren’t too many) and it gets much worse. Things like fire and mutiny, for instance, would prevent “women and children first” whatever the authority’s desire, and whatever the time to sink was. Another amusing case, where all the people who survived were male, was one where everyone who got to the lifeboats died, and the only survivors were those who swam instead. When you’re not using that many examples – not that there are many to use – those sorts of things really matter.

    There was only one example I recall seeing, among all the sinkings, that was a good analogue to the Titanic – the Vestris, which sank over a nice long period of time, and didn’t have a fire or a goddamn mutiny. The first people on the lifeboats were full of women and children. The first lifeboats down happened to be swamped. That changes the statistics, obviously, but changes nothing about whose lives society clearly valued more.

    • Anonymous says:

      If those things are rare enough not to matter, then with few examples, they probably won’t occur. There might be one on that list. If there’s more than that, they definitely matter.

  32. Anonymous says:

    >The Gordian solution to coordination problems in urban planning: the Great Boston Fire of 1872 allowed more rational redevelopment – enough so to compensate for the cost of all buildings burned. Probably no political party is going to propose “set every city on fire once every few decades”, but it might be a pretty good plan.

    Another example in the same city: Boston’s West End was demolished to make way for a hospital and luxury condos. Was it good for the city? I don’t think so — the development could have gone elsewhere, and Boston would have another dense yet cohesive neighborhood.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_End,_Boston#Urban_renewal

    • Anonymous says:

      I propose a Slate Star Conspiracy of well-meaning arsonists across the country. The obvious first target is San Francisco.

      • Eggo says:

        If you drop the “well-meaning” requirement, you have your first volunteer.

        • Vulture says:

          If you’re not the same guy as the aspiring despot up there, you two should totally hang out. Or really shouldn’t.

          • Eggo says:

            Come now. I’m sure you’d agree that good intentions are no excuse for taking actions that ultimately lead to harmful outcomes.
            So surely ill-intent can’t sully a positive outcome?

          • Anonymous says:

            You may not do evil that good may come of it.

            How are the well-meaning arsonists going to be absolutely sure that every person is out of the buildings they intend to immolate? Or that the fire will remain in the areas intended to be razed, and not spread?

            Congratulations, you’ve just burned to the ground those horrible slums where the poor live and now good housing or offices or business can go up in their place.

            In the meantime, where do the poor live? And what about all their clothes and possessions you’ve just made go up in smoke? Insurance, you say? Let me laugh hollowly here.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Obviously the solution is to inform people in advance so they can move their stuff.

      • Anonymous says:

        That sounds like Fight Club 😀

    • RCF says:

      I found the term “Gordian” odd. Presumably, it’s a reference to the Gordian Knot, but if so, doesn’t “Gordian” refer to the knot, not the sword? Shouldn’t it be the Alexandrian Solution?

      • Anonymous says:

        Alexander had solutions to many things; this was his to the Gordian Knot. (His other solutions were not known well enough to get names lol.)

  33. William O. B'Livion says:

    “Members of Congress in both political parties judged that a manned mission to Mars would be a tacit commitment for the United States to decades more of the expensive Space Race. Manned Mars missions were enabled by nuclear rockets; therefore, if NERVA could be discontinued the Space Race might wind down and the budget would be saved.

    (emphasis mine)

    That didn’t exactly go as planned then. Or maybe it did, and the goal was simply to shift the budget to bribe different people for votes.

    During the sinking of the Titanic, the captain famously declared that women and children would get first priority on the lifeboats, leading to occasional vague grumbling about female privilege for the following hundred years….

    I was originally irked that the study seemed to start with the Titanic, as the more-or-less acknowledged *start* of the “Women and Children First” meme was the HMS Birkenhead in 1852 off the coast of Africa, as The Man Hisself wrote in “Soldier an Sailor too” ( http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poems_soldiersailor.htm )


    To take your chance in the thick of a rush, with firing all about,
    Is nothing so bad when you’ve cover to ’and, an’ leave an’ likin’ to shout;
    But to stand an’ be still to the Birken’ead drill is a damn tough bullet to chew,
    An’ they done it, the Jollies—’Er Majesty’s Jollies—soldier an’ sailor too!
    Their work was done when it ’adn’t begun; they was younger nor me an’ you;
    Their choice it was plain between drownin’ in ’eaps an’ bein’ mopped by the screw,
    So they stood an’ was still to the Birken’ead drill, (2) soldier an’ sailor too!

    But way down at the bottom of the page they acknowledge that, and have included it in their study. It still kind of (to me) sullies the paper that they choose to slap the Titanic all over it. Reeks of click bait.

    And yes, Women and Children First is probably honor’d more in the breach, but it was always an attempt at civilization overriding savagery, which pretty much peaked in the 1800s and has been slowly dying ever since. GET OFF MY LAWN YOU WHPPERSNAPPERS.

    There was an article I read a decade plus ago that referenced a social norm in IIRC Pakistan, or Afghanistan, where for 10s of generations the norm was for women to walk 10 paces behind them men. In less than one generation this was reversed because landmines. Yes, in that culture women had so little value that men used their wives to check for landmines on the road.

    If men and women really are “equal”, why should they be given preferential treatment for lifeboat access? (and I didn’t see anywhere in the article whether they accounted for ability to survive between the time they hit the water and the time rescue happened). Children, yes. Women? Equality means equal all the way down the line.

    As Glenn Reynolds points out from time to time:

    I’m prone to point out that chivalry was a system, one that imposed obligations of behavior on women and girls as well as on men.

    In the “recent” sinking of the cruise ship off Italy the Captain (more of a figurehead on those boats than a real Captain I’m given to understand) was one of the first off.

    He should have been shot.

    The dependent variable (survival) is binary and equals 1 if the person survived the disaster and 0 if the person died.

    And I presume -1 if they came out Zombied?

    The United States is one of the world’s most racially tolerant countries. Or at least one of the countries where the most people say they’re racially tolerant when asked directly.

    We are one of the most diverse nations, and the most mixed. I live in a middle/lower-middle class suburb of Denver, and there’s more races & countries represented on my block than most UN commissions. Hell, my family christmas dinners have more nations races and colors represented than most UN commissions.

    I’ve been to a few other countries, including some most would think of as less racist than the US. They aren’t. They just think they have a good reason for their racism, and that we don’t. I had one Aussie say “you just don’t know…” as if the stuff in … settled it, and was significantly different than what we had in the US.

    Which is something I’ve also heard from others–that in most of Europe they think that their prejudices rest on “facts”, while we have no good reason.

    I would counter argue that most of our “racism” is culture bias, not racial bias, but uses skin color as a proxy for culture, thus the “I’m not racist because I have black friends” thing that gets ridiculed. That, and the US has a tendency to air it’s dirty laundry in public much more than other countries, and we’re actively trying to confront and dispose of our racism (at least some of us).

    Will cheap oil destroy the current revolution in renewable energy?

    The current “revolution” in renewable energy was falling part before the price drop. Wind farms *absolutely suck*, solar only works in certain areas, geothermal in even fewer (and I don’t know how *that* is considered renewable), and we absolutely have our heads in a warm dank hole over modern, safe nuclear plants.

    This respite (and it’s only a respite, I’m guessing within a decade prices will dramatically rise again) won’t *stop* research into renewable energy sources, the better economy will help fund some of it, including field trials.

    Neil Stephenson writes this (fictional) dialogue between Alan Turing and Waterhouse:

    “You had to work with the available technology,” Lawrence says.

    “Oh, Lawrence! I’m surprised at you! If it will take ten years to make the machine with available technology, and only five years to make it with a new technology, and it will only take two years to invent the new technology, then you can do it in seven years by inventing the new technology first!”

    “Touché.”

    If we were to take petrochemicals off the table today what would our energy solutions look like?

    If we do it in 2025 2022 what do our solutions look like?

    More on “niche dating sites have gone too far” – commie dating site OKComrade has gone from a mostly-joke Facebook page to actually trying to become a thing.

    I thoroughly approve of this. keeps it from ruining two families.

    • Doug Muir says:

      “The current “revolution” in renewable energy was falling part before the price drop.”

      — cite, please? Because wind and solar installation rates have been increasing pretty steadily.

      It’s true that 2013 and 2014 were relatively weak years for growth in wind and solar. Global installed capacity for these two “only” grew by about 13% in 2013 and 14% in 2014. This represents a noticeable decrease from the annual ~20% growth rates seen over the previous several years. For some reason this has driven a lot of triumphant crowing about renewables “hitting a wall”. 14% annual growth is a wall?

      “Wind farms *absolutely suck*”

      — can you expand on this a bit? Because in 2014, the world added about another 40 gigawatts of windpower installations. If windpower absolutely sucks, a lot of people are very confused.

      Doug M.

    • Doug Muir says:

      “geothermal in even fewer (and I don’t know how *that* is considered renewable)”

      If you’re thinking of active geothermal — tapping hot springs and magmatic heat and such — it’s actually right on the border between “renewable” and “non-renewable”. That’s because each site has a certain power output, up to which it is renewable. (Basically it’s the rate at which heat moves into that particular site.) If you take more than that amount, the site can begin to “cool out” — that is, you can exhaust the available heat by cooling the local magma or hot rock faster than it reheats. So, you could have a site that will provide you with power forever at a rate of 10 MW — but if you tap it for 20 MW, it will cool out in 50 years, and at 30 MW it may cool out in just 10 years. So, active geothermal is “renewable with an asterisk”.

      Also, there’s an unfortunate confusion of terminology between “let’s tap a geyser” active geothermal and the much more common system of geothermal heat pumps (GHPs), also known as geoexchange systems. GHPs are just a field of pipes laid 20′ or so underground, where the temperature tends to stay around 60 degrees Fahrenheit all year round. In summer, you pump water or another fluid through the pipes and voila… cheap air conditioning. In winter, same-same, free heat.

      GHPs tend to be annoyingly expensive — you have to dig up 20′ of ground, right? On the other hand, if done right they’ll sit invisibly under your back yard, will last for decades with little or no maintenance, and will very dramatically cut your heating and aircon bills. GHPs are most certainly renewable, and — here in Germany, at least — they’re becoming relatively common; over a million homes around the country have them.

      Doug M.

      • William O. B'Livion says:

        I was familiar with the GHPs. They’ve been around for a long time.

        It just seems to me that ones the earths core runs down you get no more geothermal energy, and the cost of “renewing” that is prohibitively high. In the vicinity of “Let there be Light”.

        I was mostly being snarky about the use of the term “renewable”, as neither Solar nor Geothermal is really renewable, we can either capture it or allow it to bleed off, but it’s either use it or lose it, the only questions are the costs and the externalities.

        • RCF says:

          Well, nothing is literally renewable, and the only interpretation of the term that makes sense is that it really means “use it or lose it”.

          • cbhacking says:

            That’s a pretty good definition, actually, and not one I’d encountered before. The “earths core runs down” -> !renewable is true in the same way that “sun will eventually exhaust all light elements” -> !renewable.

    • alexp says:

      -“I would counter argue that most of our “racism” is culture bias, not racial bias, but uses skin color as a proxy for culture, thus the “I’m not racist because I have black friends” thing that gets ridiculed. ”

      You may be on to something there, but unfortunately, even a black man who is completely assimilated into white upper class culture will, because of the color of his skin, often be mistaken for and treated like a member of the lower class.

  34. John Schilling says:

    In related news, Lockheed-Martin announced the invention of Maxwell’s Demon and the consequent repeal of the second law of thermodynamics.

    There is an irreducible minimum energy of ~1 kWh per cubic meter associated with sea water desalination, in this case due to osmotic pressure impeding forward flow across the membrane (and encouraging reverse flow, undoing your good work). You cannot simply postulate a magic, lossless filter that allows water molecules to pass while blocking salt, any more than you can postulate an imaginary lossless barrier that allows fast-moving air molecules to pass while blocking the slow ones. The best current reverse-osmosis desalination systems operate at about 50% of theoretical maximum thermodynamic efficiency, which does not seem to allow much room for a clever new scheme that is “a thousand times better” than what we have now. Details and math here.

    The Lockheed-Martin engineer who developed “perforene”, did not understand the thermodynamics of desalination, and apparently assumed that the limiting factor was the mechanical flow loss associated with the membrane. He made the false claim that his clever new scheme would be a thousand times better than what we have now, which was of course repeated across the length and breadth of the interenet at a speed that casts doubt on special relativity. Lockheed subsequently released a datasheet indicating that the true improvement is a 10-20% reduction in energy requirements, approximately what Elimielech indicates would be possible with an arbitrarily high-permeability membrane. Almost nobody seems to have noticed Lockheed’s correction.

    • haishan says:

      So if one were inclined to be optimistic, one could spin this as “Lockheed just invented the best possible membrane for desalinization”?

      • John Schilling says:

        Yes, but this would be akin to inventing the best possible transmission for an automobile, or the best possible propeller for an airplane. If you don’t point out that this is one of the smaller poles in the tent, and the audience doesn’t already know that, it may be misleading.

  35. Doug Muir says:

    The piece on “will cheap oil kill renewables” is really, really bad.

    1) In the developed world, hydro is already built out — there just aren’t many sites left where you could build a big dam. Small local hydro is still on the table, but see below.

    2) Renewables mostly aren’t competing with oil! They’re competing with natural gas, coal, and (in a few places) nuclear. So *the whole premise of the article* is poorly founded. Yes, there will be some knockon effects from cheap oil. But these will be secondary and complex, and in some cases will help renewables as much as harm them.

    Data point: I live in Germany. Germany is currently getting about 30% of its electricity and about 10% of its heating energy from renewables (mostly wind and mostly biogas respectively). The Germans, being Germans, have set out detailed plans for the future; by 2020, they want to have 50% of their electricity and 10% of their heating energy coming from renewables. For the record, I think they’ll just miss the first goal — they’re getting there, but it’ll probably be a year or two after the target date — and are on schedule to hit the second one.

    So far, cheap gas hasn’t made the slightest bit of difference in Germany’s energy plans.

    I note in passing that the article cites no studies or even publicly available facts about energy pricing. It’s also wrong on various factual details. For instance, it claims that lower fuel prices will lead to cheaper air fares. Ha ha ha no. That’s not only untrue, it’s currently the subject of a lot of angry commentary; the airlines have pretty much all decided not to lower fares, but rather to increase their profits.

    There are a bunch of things like that. Bad, bad article.

    Doug M.

    • Tarrou says:

      I agree that the competition isn’t between oil and renewables, but it is between oil and nuclear. The math doesn’t work for the world to run on renewables unless we either:

      A: Reduce the population drastically…….like nuclear winter drastically.

      or

      B: Keep most of the world’s population so poor they have no use for energy beyond firewood.

      If we want a world similar to that in which we live, and in which the poorer nations have a reasonable shot at development, you cannot slide back down the kW/hr per acre ladder. You need denser and more efficient energy, not more diffuse and expensive. As things stand, nuclear is the only improvement on oil. I do hope that new tech brings further options online, but all this focus on “green” and “renewable”, while fine for a few very rich nations who can afford an environmental indulgence to soothe their electorate’s conscience while the rest of the world struggles to afford the basics, cannot work for all of us.

      • Doug Muir says:

        “The math doesn’t work for the world to run on renewables”

        — as noted, I live in a country that currently gets 30% of its electricity from renewables, with that figure expected to pass 50% within the decade. And Germany isn’t Denmark or Ireland; it’s a large, massively industrialized First World country with very high per capita energy use.

        So when I hear “the math doesn’t work”, I kinda want to see a cite.

        — BTW, you do know that the world gets a lot more energy from renewables than from nuclear, right? Worldwide in 2014, total installed nuclear energy capacity was a bit under 400 Gigawatts. Windpower in 2014 was about 370 Gigawatts, PV solar was about 145 GW, and hydro was about 450 GW. Just those three alone are outproducing nuclear by about 2 to 1.

        Doug M.

        • Tarrou says:

          You are quite right, Doug. You do live in a country ditching nuclear to go “renewable”. The issue is that there isn’t enough space in, say, Germany to grow and collect all those “renewables”. There just might be enough for the US to grow our own, but we’re a very large country with a very low population density and are very rich. What there isn’t is enough space and efficiency for China and India to follow suit. In fact, there isn’t enough space or efficiency for Europe to follow suit, at least not all of them. And there sure as hell isn’t the money, space, or time for Africa and the impoverished Asiatics to follow suit.

          https://www.ted.com/talks/david_mackay_a_reality_check_on_renewables

          • Doug Muir says:

            Dude, you just linked to a TED talk sketching a bunch of BOTEs. “For the United Kingdom to get all its energy from wind farms, half the area of the country would have to be wind farms”. — Yes, because he’s lumping electricity, heating and transportation together. WTF?

            He’s also assuming no significant increases in efficiency in wind or solar. Since those two technologies have both increased their efficiency dramatically in the last 20 years, that’s a head-scratcher.

            — There’s a certain amount of straw-manning here. Am I suggesting that the world can get all its energy needs from renewables any time soon? No. What I am pointing out is that Germany is a proof-of-concept: a large, industrialized First World Economy can get most of its electricity from renewables, and can do so with relative ease.

            Doug M.

        • William O. B'Livion says:

          Didn’t Wanda say something to the effect of “No, Burno, the Will To Power isn’t about electrical production. That was a mistake, I looked it up.”?

          No. No, you’re right she didn’t.

          In the US we’ve had legislators try to set the value of pi (Indiana, 1897, pi == 3.2) and do all sorts of other crazy sh!t, but generally passing a law doesn’t really change the underlying reality.

          And the underlying reality is that Germany is having serious, serious problems implementing it’s green energy platform AND closing down it’s Nuke plants.

          People want clean energy. They want *cheap* energy. They’re willing to pay a little more for clean, but not a LOT more as they also need to eat and pay for housing.

          The news for the last year on Germany’s energy plans suggest that it’s REALLY rough going.

          • Doug Muir says:

            “Germany is having serious, serious problems implementing it’s green energy platform AND closing down it’s Nuke plants… The news for the last year on Germany’s energy plans suggest that it’s REALLY rough going.”

            — cite, please?

            There’s no shortage of news stories about the difficulties. Germany’s electricity has become more expensive, yup. Germany’s consumers and businesses are unhappy about that, yup.

            But has Germany’s economic growth slowed? Nope — no change at the macro level. Okay, has its total electricity output declined? Nope — it’s generating just as much as ever, and is still a net energy exporter. Have the Germans decided that it’s just too much trouble? Nope again — there’s no change in policy, and the _Energiewende_ is continuing in full force.

            Doug M.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Where is your data from?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_Germany

            The last year they list (2012) has smaller electricity production than any of the previous 8 (with the exception of 2009 when the recession started).

            The page on German renewables states two rather important things
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_Germany

            1) “Electricity consumption—reduction of 10% from 2008 level by 2020, and 25% less by 2050”

            That is a pretty explicit admission they can’t supply the same amount of power with renewables as with the current system and

            2)Wind: 26.7 TWh (10.1%)
            Solar: 18.3 TWh (7.0%)
            Biogas: 25.6 TWh (9.7%)
            Hydro: 10.5 TWh (4.0%)

            Almost half (13/30) of German renewables are nonexpandable (hydropower) or biomass. And counting biomass as a triumph of renewables is iffy.

          • Doug Muir says:

            1) They want to decrease output, but so far that hasn’t happened. It was level from 2009 to 2011 at about 590 TwH, dropped in 2012 to around 560, but surged in 2013 to over 600 TwH. 2014 figures will also probably be high. Part of the reason seems to be exports — despite the high cost of producing German electricity, it’s produced in ways and at times that still make it profitable to sell to neighboring countries. Another reason is that the price hike from 2011 to 2012 was sharp, possibly causing a one-off dip in consumption. I suspect that output will indeed decrease by 2020, but by rather less than originally planned.

            2) Hydro is actually quite expandable. Better materials, better turbine technology and much better hydrodynamic analysis mean that it’s increasingly possible to build hydropower plants (especially small ones) in places where they weren’t previously practical, and also to refit old ones with better, more efficient equipment that will produce more energy from the same site.

            That said, sure: it’s not expandable in the same way wind and solar are. Germany might increase hydro output from 10.5 TwH to 15 or even 20, but they can’t possibly increase it to 50.

            Biomass, I actually agree with the haters. Biomass is good for exactly one thing: producing natural gas for household heating and cooking. Its efficiency is too low for anything else.

            Wind and solar: yes, my point. The Germans are on schedule to double both wind and solar output by the early 2020s. Throw in a modest increase in hydro, leave biomass alone, and that brings them to 50% of current production… or more, if they cut production. Which they could do tomorrow if they really wanted to, because about 4-5% of German electricity ends up exported. They’d lose a nice source of ready cash, which is why they don’t want to. But they could.

            So, yes — 50% of electricity from renewables is a thing that’s happening. (Along with 12%-14% of heating, but that’s another story.)

            BTW, if you want a better source than wikipedia, try http://energytransition.de/. That’s the dumbed-down English version of the official German site, but everything there is based on official statistics. It’s unabashedly a booster site, but it’s still well worth a read.

            Doug M.

          • Anonymous says:

            Click reply on the one above. The nesting has a limit.

            “. They’re on schedule to double both wind and solar by the early 2020s. Run the numbers. Throw in a modest increase in hydro, leave biomass alone, and they’re still at 50% of current production”

            Without biomass increasing they won’t reach 50% of current electricity production.

            They will go from (assuming everything else doubles 31-52) which won’t push them over 42.5%. Biomass is simply too large a portion of the renewable portion for simply doubling everything else to allow them to meet their target. If you dump biomass out of the renewable category they only hit a third of total electrical output.

            Looking at the german site… why, just why.
            “Per megawatt-hour generated, renewables create more jobs than the fossil and nuclear sectors, and most of those jobs occur at home, not abroad. Germany already has twice as many people employed in the renewables sector than in all other energy sectors combined. ”

            No Germany, this is a bad thing. You want to reduce the inputs required for a given output, not increase them.

            The site also insists on combining nuclear and coal to show costs will increase if you stick with both of them instead of more honestly showing if it is just brought up by one of the two (the second graph in infographics).

            That doesn’t inspire confidence in me that the author knows what they are talking about.

          • Creutzer says:

            In the US we’ve had legislators try to set the value of pi (Indiana, 1897, pi == 3.2)

            I believe that should be pi = 3.2.

            God, I hope the percentage of programmers here is high enough for this comment to not appear ridiculously stupid to everyone…

          • RCF says:

            ““Per megawatt-hour generated, renewables create more jobs””

            Why is it per MWh? Shouldn’t it be per MW?

          • Anonymous says:

            Why is it per MWh? Shouldn’t it be per MW?

            That’s kind of complicated. Sometimes (e.g. when you’re talking about installed capacity) it makes more sense to discuss electricity generation in terms of megawatts. Sometimes (e.g. when you’re talking about the power generated by a project over its lifetime) it makes more sense to be talking in terms of megawatt-hours.

            With my charitable hat on, I can see a case for talking about MWh since renewables tend to be very front-loaded in terms of employment: typically you’ll expend a lot of labor putting up some solar panels or a turbine, and then you’ll forget about it for ten years until it needs maintenance. That pattern gives you well-defined labor consumption per MWh, but per MW it’s a lot less intuitive. Contrast with e.g. coal, where most labor consumption is spread out over a plant’s lifetime in the form of miners, transport drivers, plant technicians, etc.

          • Nornagest says:

            Cookie monster got me. Last anon was me.

          • RCF says:

            @Nornagest

            My point is that watts are energy per time, and a job is labor per time; 2000 hours of labor per year is one job. A kwh is a measure of energy. If you measure something in jobs/kwh, you’re saying that the amount of labor is proportional to the energy (not power, but energy) produced multiplied by the time elapsed. That doesn’t make any sense. Producing a certain amount of energy should take a set amount of labor, regardless of how long one spends making that energy.

            Apparently, though, something that politicians do is play some sleight of hand and treat 2000 hours of labor as one “job”, so if a project is going to last 10 years and require 100,000 hours of labor, they’ll claim that’s 50 jobs, when in fact only five people will actually be employed for the duration of the project. If every ten years, you need to hire 100 people to do maintenance for a year, a politician’s going to claim that as 100 jobs, but really it’s 10 jobs.

      • John Schilling says:

        How is there a competition between oil and nuclear? Did someone invent the nuclear-powered car while I wasn’t looking?

        For about the past half-century, there have been two largely decoupled energy markets – fixed power (mostly electricity, some heating), and transportation power. Fixed power is from coal, natural gas, most of the renewables, and nuclear where it exists. Transportation power is oil. Some oil is used to provide fixed power, but in most places I believe it is less than 10% of the total. Some transportation is electrified and hence draws from the fixed-power market, mostly railroads and a few cars, but again less than 10% of the total.

        Two different markets, and I want to scream every time I hear someone talk about “energy” as if it were a fungible commodity. Competing with oil in its core market is going to be damn hard; economically viable general-purpose electric cars are only part of the equation, and we don’t really have even those yet.

        • Tarrou says:

          You are largely correct, nonetheless it makes more sense to lump together for broad argument. “Energy” is both fixed and transport, and we need both. As nations move from primitive through industrialization, they need more and more transport energy, but use still more fixed energy for all the toys. Oil is with us for the forseeable future, but we could drastically cut our usage of coal, natural gas etc. by replacing with nuclear. It does have the potential for catastrophic meltdown on very rare occasions. Is this better or worse than the coal and natural gas is the question?

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think that it does; lumping the two promotes bad arguments, with examples such as we have seen here. And I’ve seen no shortage of bad arguments that seem likely to lead to bad policy, e.g. subsidizing solar energy to reduce American dependence on foreign oil and thus need to meddle in Middle Eastern wars (i.e. beyond the extent to which solar-energy subsidies might be genuinely useful for other purposes).

            The closest analogy I can come to would be combining the biological necessities of nutritious food and potable water “for broad argument”, and then concluding that Lockheed-Martin has just solved the problem of world hunger.

            Ideally, I would like to taboo the word “energy” from policy discussions, and substitute, maybe, “electricity” and “fuel”. Electricity is a good proxy for fixed power; heating often enough comes from overlapping sources. Not as happy with “fuel” as a shorthand for transportation power sources, but I don’t have anything better right now.

          • William O. B'Livion says:

            And I’ve seen no shortage of bad arguments that seem likely to lead to bad policy, e.g. subsidizing solar energy to reduce American dependence on foreign oil and thus need to meddle in Middle Eastern wars (i.e. beyond the extent to which solar-energy subsidies might be genuinely useful for other purposes).

            There are those (and I’m not among them) who believe that since *most* people travel less than 60 miles a day (or whatever the number is) we can replace most of the cars on the road with electric vehicles.

            These same folks also advocate bicycling[1] and mass transit[2], ignoring the fact that both have been around for over 100 years and both simply not going to happen for most Americans for lots of reasons. Americans are also not going to adopt electric cars in any great number until the price comes *way* down, and then they’ll only do it for their second/commuter car, because they want to be *able* to take 200 mile a day trips whenever they want. Same reason people have big ass SUVs because they may need to haul something. Once a year. (I should note here that I have a old diesel land cruiser that qualifies as a “big ass SUV”, and I don’t haul anything, but I love it).

            I wouldn’t mind an electric car as a commuter, but it would have to *reliably* get 75 miles on a charge, because that’s my longest driving day M-F. It should get a little better performance up here (Denver) because of reduced drag.

            [1] I’ve done this on a regular basis. It kinda sucks to do it places like Detroit and Chicago–in fact anywhere north of I-70 in the US–in the winter. Takes dedication and a bit of toughness.

            [2] Mass Transit only works in dense urban environments. For various reasons people prefer NOT to live in these sorts of densities if they don’t have to. Whenever people’s preferences and Wonk’s policies collide it’s the people who are wrong and who need to change/be changed.

          • Jadagul says:

            I submit that the amount of extra money people spend to live in dense urban environments suggests that people don’t have a general preference “not” to do that. A significant fraction of people, clearly, think living in a dense urban environment is strongly preferable, on balance, to living in a suburban environment; otherwise, they wouldn’t pay outrageous sums of money for the privilege.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            I wonder if I am the only environmentalist who thinks bicycling has no clothes. If enough of us refrain from buying X gallons of gasoline, the price of gasoline goes down, and the chain saws and bulldozers lap it up. The smoke gets into the air anyway, so better we should drive around in SUVs ourselves, wasting it.

            I’m poking around a similar idea about plastic disposables. The petroleum will be dug up anyway, and if not sold for plastic may become fuel, see above. Perhaps better it goes back into the ground via landfill than into the air as smoke, see above.

          • llamathatducks says:

            houseboatonstyx:

            But if demand for oil goes down, then there’s less of an incentive for energy companies to dig up more and more oil using sometimes environmentally destructive practices.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ llama

            Short term effects from incremental changes may be opposite from long term effects after a large tipping point is reached. On a large scale, solar panels on buildings, and solar and wind farms taking the place of oil wells and mines, will make a big, permanent difference.
            But the immediate effect, if any, of bicyclists buying less or no gasoline is the bulldozer and chainsaw users immediately going to the station and filling up and immediately going to remove some trees. The price of gasoline goes down and comes back up, but the trees don’t.
            Imo it’s best to spend our time on tech research or lobbying (or earning to give to such causes).

        • William O. B'Livion says:

          How is there a competition between oil and nuclear?

          Sort of, in some ways.

          Most directly there are some homes still being heated with “home heating oil” that could, if we had safe, effective, economical nuclear facilities (Helium cooled or liquid sodium cooled) be converted to electrical heat.

          In a more general way, if we had those safe, effective, economical nuclear facilities we could first shut of the nasty ass coal plants, then use the extra electricity to power biomass conversion facilities of various sorts (when we get that sorted better).

      • Doug Muir says:

        “all this focus on “green” and “renewable”, while fine for a few very rich nations who can afford an environmental indulgence”

        …actually, PV solar is taking off like a goddamn rocket all over sub-Saharan Africa.

        If you drive around, for instance, Tanzania? You’ll see PV solar panels on rooftops in every village now. (People use them to charge mobile phones, keep a fridge full of beer cool, and the like.) Ghana has a 20 MW solar plant already, and has broken ground on a 155 MW plant; it should be finished next year. South Africa just finished a 50 MW plant this spring. Total PV solar in sub-Saharan Africa is currently around a gigawatt; that’s expected to double by 2018.

        Solar in Africa provides about twice as much power per square meter as in Europe or the US. So it’s actually cheaper per watt than most other energy sources. And its diffuseness is actually a benefit there; people aren’t using a lot of energy, and there’s not a lot of capital to invest in long-distance transmission systems.

        Note that none of this is particularly hard to discover by google. But people have fixed ideas — renewables must be an expensive luxury, poor backward Africans couldn’t possibly etc. etc.

        Doug M.

        • Anonymous says:

          Okay, so it is true that small solar installations in SS-Africa are proliferating like crazy but you pretty well miss the mark on why. In “most” parts thereof the electrical grid ranges from “unreliable” to “useless” so an alternate source is effectively mandatory. The choices are basically running a backup diesel generator or solar. Diesel fuel is expensive and supplies are almost as unreliable as the grid. (There is just something about everyone always needing it at exactly the same time….)

          The calculus in SS-Africa does not generalize well.

          • Doug Muir says:

            “you pretty well miss the mark on why.”

            — Not to pull rank, but I’ve actually spent large amounts of time in sub-Saharan Africa.

            Household PV solar is growing like crazy, but so are large (5 MW and bigger) solar installations; in one country I’m familiar with (Senegal), several have already broken ground, and there are a dozen or so in the planning and financing stage. And wind is growing even faster than solar.

            Here’s a drop-dead certain prediction: by 2030, most African countries will be getting at least 20% of their electricity from renewables. The demand is there, the technology is there, the sites are there. It is simply and purely a matter of time. Don’t take my word for it; google around. This is not a controversial position.

            Doug M.

        • Anonymous says:

          Continuing from above, and mostly as an aside… These underserved portions of SS-Africa are locked into a coordination problem. The disfunctional grid causes real economic damage (from amung other things discouraging foreign investment) but instead of solving the coordination problem to fix the grid, actors are working independently to install more expensive, less efficient local systems that embody extensive redundant capacity. This explosion of local systems further disincentives solving the coordination problem. And all this often happens with tacit government (or NGO, or whathaveyou) backing because… “ZOMG, green = good.”

          • Doug Muir says:

            “more expensive, less efficient local systems”

            — cite for the proposition that household PV in Africa is “more expensive, less efficient”? Because I think you’re assuming your conclusion here.

            Again: a PV solar power panel in Tanzania produces about twice as much electricity/m^2 as the same panel in Detroit, Seoul or Rome. I’m not sure you’re grasping the significance of that. A PV system that would be marginal in those northern climes is a show-stopper in Tanzania.

            As to “discouraging investment” in transmission lines… well, that’s a bit like claiming that mobile phones in Africa are bad, because they’ve created a disincentive against building new fixed phone lines.

            Doug M.

        • Tarrou says:

          And you continue to substitute anecdote for data. You once saw an African country with some solar panels, ergo there are no problems of scale or opportunity cost in spending trillions of dollars that could be spent advancing more promising tech or improving existing. Sure, you get solar to produce a gigawatt per square kilometre, and I’m all ears.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            I think the issue is that the prediction of “solar/wind don’t work” and “solar/wind do work” is that they give the same opening results. We should see people investing in them to start when the best spots are unused and their niches are unfulfilled. The difference should occur once you have to start supplying power for night time (or good spots run out or the raw materials rise in price).

          • Doug Muir says:

            I’m sorry, but I’ve been providing all sorts of data. Current wind in Africa is about 1 GW — that’s not spread very evenly, though, it’s concentrated in four or five countries. Current solar in SSA is also about 1 GW. (Excluding the northern African tier there, because they’re already at a different level.) In both cases, that figure is expected to double in the next four years. In the particular case of solar, that will include a mixture of small (household) PV, medium (0.5-5 MW) and large installations. All of this is easily googlable. What’s hard here?

            “advancing more promising tech” — well, what are you thinking of? PV solar in Africa works great — it produces a crapload of energy per dollar, delivers it directly where it’s needed, lasts for decades, and requires only minimal skills to install and maintain. Is your proposition that Africans should throw away their rooftop PV solar panels and build fission plants instead? Seriously, I can’t parse this.

            Doug M.

          • Doug Muir says:

            @Samuel, “opening results”? The world is currently getting more electricity from wind and solar than it is from nuclear fission. (And within a few years, it won’t even be close. In 2020 PV solar alone will be ahead of nuclear, and wind alone will be about twice as big.)

            This is not some hippy-dippy woo thing. We’re talking hundreds of gigawatts today, right now.

            “Do work / Don’t work” is kind of a silly dichotomy. Work under what circumstances? Work to do what? Renewables have a bunch of serious drawbacks, no question. So does every other form of power generation. But wind and solar have already claimed a place at the table. They’re huge, they’re here, and they’re not going away.

            Doug M.

          • Anonymous says:

            “Is your proposition that Africans should throw away their rooftop PV solar panels and build fission plants instead?”

            His position is that investment should be directed at power solutions that benefit the majority of the people using electrical power. You know, the first world, China, India, the people who produce the worlds
            CO2.

            ” All of this is easily googlable. What’s hard here?”

            Because his position is that this is occurring in Africa because the power grid sucks. If it was a solution you’d see it be the main driver in India and China.

            “The world is currently getting more electricity from wind and solar than it is from nuclear fission.”

            And? That is opening results! Renewables are not like fossils fuels and after a certain percentage of production they are expected to require how energy is produced to be changed to accommodate them.

            “Work under what circumstances? Work to do what?”

            I thought it was pretty clear- the issue at hand is “using renewables to deal with climate change”. You have people who think renewables are useless, people who think they can achieve that goal and people who think that renewables cannot achieve that goal. The latter doesn’t require thinking renewables are useless; the issue of whether or not they can be competitive without subsidies doesn’t apply to that.

            The issue is whether or not they can replace enough of the existing infrastructure. Given the limitations they work under you are going to need large scale power storage in order to pull that off. No one has done that. We should be very skeptical because it has historically proven cheaper to build more power plants than to store electricity.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            Gah, last comment was mine.

          • Doug Muir says:

            “His position is that investment should be directed at power solutions that benefit the majority of the people using electrical power. You know, the first world, China, India… If it was a solution you’d see it be the main driver in India and China.”

            One, why do we have to assume that what works for (say) Britain is going to work for Africa, and vice versa? Different countries, different answers.

            Two, China and India ARE using rooftop PV solar. Which, you know — ten seconds, man. Google “rooftop solar India/ China”.

            India is full of exactly the same sorts of rooftop PV solar setups that are becoming common across Africa. Currently there’s about 800 megawatts of irooftop solar in India; that’s expected to rise to around 1500 MW by 2018. China, the situation is slightly different; they’re putting up rooftop solar, not because people aren’t connected to the grid, but because the system is hungry for power. They already have a couple of GW, and they’re planning to add an eye-watering 8 GW of capacity in the next two years.

            Three, you do know that China is a major, major player in renewables, right? Go check how much windpower China is running right now, and how much they’re planning to build in the next few years. Then, just for fun, do the same with PV solar. Don’t mind me, I’ll wait.

            Also — and I’ve said this twice now — rooftop PV solar is just one part of what’s happening with renewables in Africa. You have neighborhood PV solar, largescale PV solar, wind, biomass, and even new hydro — Ethiopia is building a bunch of new dams right now, including the largest in Africa (and fifth largest in the world).

            “Renewables are not like fossils fuels and after a certain percentage of production they are expected to require how energy is produced in order to accommodate them”

            — Okay, I can’t make sense of that. I think you’re talking about transmission issues, and things like the inability of wind and solar to provide baseload? Because those are real issues, sure.

            But let’s remember where we started here: the OC said that “all this focus on “green” and “renewable”, while fine for a few very rich nations who can afford an environmental indulgence”. That’s nonsense on stilts, and demonstrably so; poor and developing countries are investing massively in renewables.

            Doug M.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “One, why do we have to assume that what works for (say) Britain is going to work for Africa, and vice versa?”

            I’m sorry, I thought this was about dealing with global warming and opportunity costs of technological investment to deal with it, not “how to power Africa”.

            “Two, China and India ARE using rooftop PV solar. ”

            Wow, what could I have said- lets see “the main driver”- that sounds awfully different from “not using them”.

            “Then, just for fun, do the same with PV solar. Don’t mind me, I’ll wait. ”

            Since I never claimed China wasn’t using renewables I don’t see how your rant has any relevance.

            “But let’s remember where we started here: the OC said that “all this focus on “green” and “renewable”, while fine for a few very rich nations who can afford an environmental indulgence”. ”

            You mean this post:

            Tarrou
            “I agree that the competition isn’t between oil and renewables, but it is between oil and nuclear. The math doesn’t work for the world to run on renewables unless we either:”

            He isn’t talking about “some renewables”- he is talking about being able to run the entire power grid off them.

            I mean he says
            “You are quite right, Doug. You do live in a country ditching nuclear to go “renewable”. The issue is that there isn’t enough space in, say, Germany to grow and collect all those “renewables”. ”

            Which sort of implies what he is referring to is “using more renewables than current Germany”.

          • Doug Muir says:

            “I thought this was about dealing with global warming and opportunity costs of technological investment to deal with it, not “how to power Africa”.”

            Is it? I’ve been responding to the comment about how renewables would never work in Africa.

            “Since I never claimed China wasn’t using renewables I don’t see how your rant has any relevance.”

            Well, you seem to think that nothing is relevant unless it’s a “main driver”. But that’s your term, not mine. I’m not even sure what you mean by that.

            “He isn’t talking about “some renewables”- he is talking about being able to run the entire power grid off them.”

            Yes well, I’ve never once suggested that. (Go on — go back and look.) Sooner or later, of course, we’ll have to go all-renewable — by definition, nonrenewables are going to run out at *some* point — but I’m silent on that point.

            I started by saying that renewables can provide the majority of electricity for an advanced, First World economy. Not heating, not transport energy — just electricity. Then we got off on a tangent about Africa; I say the renewables can and will provide the majority of Africa’s electricity too. Neither of these are particularly controversial claims.

            “The issue is that there isn’t enough space in, say, Germany to grow and collect all those “renewables”. ”

            Well, that’s just plain wrong. Barring some catastrophe, Germany is going to be getting half its electricity from renewables by the early 2020s. That’s pretty much a lock.

            Doug M.

          • RCF says:

            How much power/area do other types of energy have? And how is land area the most important issue? Even at just 1 kW/m^2, an acre would produce 4 MW. At current prices of around $0.10 per kW, that’s $400/hr, or about $3.5 million a year. If the plant is paying $35,000/year in rent, then just 1% of the cost of the power is land cost.

          • Nornagest says:

            @RCF — I’m afraid your assumptions are optimistic. The solar irradiance at noon on a sunny day at sea level on the equator is over 1 kW/m^2, but that’ll go down at higher latitudes, or on cloudy days, or at any time other than noon; and the current state of the art for commercial solar panels is around 20% efficiency or less. Large-scale generation would probably use cheaper, less efficient cells.

            100 W/m^2 is a more realistic figure for actual power generation in well-sited areas, and even that might be high.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Is it? I’ve been responding to the comment about how renewables would never work in Africa. ”

            No one ever claimed that. Seriously, Tarrou said
            “The math doesn’t work for the world to run on renewables unless we either:”
            “What there isn’t is enough space and efficiency for China and India to follow suit. In fact, there isn’t enough space or efficiency for Europe to follow suit, at least not all of them. And there sure as hell isn’t the money, space, or time for Africa and the impoverished Asiatics to follow suit. ”
            “You once saw an African country with some solar panels, ergo there are no problems of scale or opportunity cost in spending trillions of dollars that could be spent advancing more promising tech or improving existing.”

            He isn’t saying renewables will never work in Africa. He is saying the Green project of “replace everything with renewables” won’t work. He isn’t claiming they will never use renewables, he is saying that they will industrialize far before they convert over (money and time).

            Whether you think his comment about space is relevant depends on whether you are looking at all power sources or just electricity; however given that dealing with CO2 requires dealing with all power sources it is a defensible position to take.

            “Well, you seem to think that nothing is relevant unless it’s a “main driver”. But that’s your term, not mine. I’m not even sure what you mean by that.”

            You are aware China has the highest CO2 output on the planet, right? It produces about as much as the US and the EU COMBINED. The increase in renewables is not having much of an effect on this- the Chinese are building coal plants like it is going out of style. If your goal is “prevent global warming catastrophe” it isn’t working.

            Main driver in this case is “sure the Chinese are building renewables. They are also building coal plants. Which one are they building a lot more of?”.

            “Yes well, I’ve never once suggested that. (Go on — go back and look.) Sooner or later, of course, we’ll have to go all-renewable — by definition, nonrenewables are going to run out at *some* point — but I’m silent on that point. ”

            Wow, that would be a great point if he hadn’t made an explicit distinction between renewables and nuclear power.

            Also the “running the power grid off renewables” is based on the stated goals of Greens (aka 80% CO2 reduction by 2050).

            “I started by saying that renewables can provide the majority of electricity for an advanced, First World economy. Not heating, not transport energy — just electricity. ”

            You started by attacking the piece “oil is killing the renewable energy revolution”. You stated that the Germans will probably meet their goal for electricity, but you didn’t show it applied to “an advanced First World economy” and not just Germany (which is what several of comments further on were poking at).

            It isn’t that renewables simply are incapable of working- it is that renewables require significant subsidies to compete AND can’t satisfy all the market demand. Solar doesn’t work at night and wind doesn’t work when the wind stops. Both of these factors are ones that increase the larger the percentage of the infrastructure is run off renewables.

            “Then we got off on a tangent about Africa; I say the renewables can and will provide the majority of Africa’s electricity too. Neither of these are particularly controversial claims.”

            Er…
            “Here’s a drop-dead certain prediction: by 2030, most African countries will be getting at least 20% of their electricity from renewables. The demand is there, the technology is there, the sites are there.”

            So exactly what time frame are we talking about “majority”? Because the most developed subsharan African country (South Africa) gets almost all its energy from fossil fuels.

            In fact given that wiki mentions that only 10% have access to the electrical grid, I’m not seeing how you can use current trends to extrapolate what the path will be once they actually hook everyone up instead of what countries like South Africa are currently doing.

            “Well, that’s just plain wrong. Barring some catastrophe, Germany is going to be getting half its electricity from renewables by the early 2020s. That’s pretty much a lock.”

            Why do you say that? People have pointed out that there are issues scaling beyond a certain point (because you start to need storage) and issues if your neighbors start to follow suit (hard to sell excess power when they also have surpluses; hard to buy during low points when their low points are the same).

            You can deal with those, but it is a lot more expensive than conventional sources which is why the whole “only rich first worlders will do it”.

      • RCF says:

        “The math doesn’t work for the world to run on renewables”

        It’s not the math, it’s the technology. There’s nothing mathematically preventing us from running the world on solar. If the entire Sahara desert were converted into a solar plant, then even if it were running at 10%, it would produce about 1000 TW. Current global usage is around 20 TW.

        “If we want a world similar to that in which we live, and in which the poorer nations have a reasonable shot at development, you cannot slide back down the kW/hr per acre ladder.”

        A watt is a measure of energy per second. W/hr is energy per second per hour.

        Side note: who the fuck came up with the term “kilowatt-hour per year”? That’s just an abomination.

        • Doug Muir says:

          No, it actually makes sense. Power output from a power plant fluctuates a lot. For traditional power plants, it fluctuates depending on demand; for wind and solar, it fluctuates depending on whether the wind is blowing and the sun is shining. So saying “this is a 100 MW power plant” doesn’t tell you all that much, when the plant’s actual output might vary from 100 MW down to 40 and then back again over the course of a day.

          Kilowatt hours tell you how much energy the plant actually produced. (If you draw the power output as a curve, the total energy is the integral of that curve.) So, kilo-, mega-, giga-, and terawatt hours are all in regular use in the industry; they’re the units used to buy and sell electricity, for instance. And even “kilowatt hour per year” is actually a meaningful and useful term in certain circumstances. It can tell you, for instance, how much electricity a power plant actually produced last year, as opposed to its nominal or “nameplate” capacity.

          Doug M.

    • cassander says:

      do those german figures include power imports from france?

      • Doug Muir says:

        I’m not sure what your question is. Germany both imports and exports electrical power, but in 2014 it was a net exporter.

        Possibly you’re referring to the idea that Germany can only go renewable because it will end up importing massive amounts of nuclear-generated electricity from France? (So nuclear really wins after all!)

        Alas, no. That was a very popular notion a few years ago, but it has — so far — not turned out to be the case. Germany’s imports from its neighbors have barely budged, and the country continues to be a net exporter of electricity.

        Doug M.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Electricity is not fungible, so it is nonsense to take net numbers and ignore the source of imports. The system only works because it imports massive amounts of nuclear power (and the French system is better off importing massive amounts of non-nuclear power).

          • Doug Muir says:

            — I’ve never suggested otherwise. Electricity trade is a crazy complicated topic.

            But FWIW, here’s a chart of all Germany’s imports and exports: https://www.energy-charts.de/exchange.htm. It’s confusing at first, but if you mouse over the different countries you’ll get detailed information on imports and exports.

            As you can see, Germany is indeed a net importer of electricity from France. It’s also a massive exporter of electricity to several of its other neighbors, most notably the Netherlands, Austria, and Switzerland. At the end of the day Germany is exporting a lot more electricity than it’s importing, but I agree that the Devil is in the details.

            Doug M.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I say that your numbers are nonsense, and you say that you’ve never suggested otherwise?

          • Doug Muir says:

            I’m sincerely confused. Which of “my numbers” are you talking about, and what’s the nonsense part?

            Doug M.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Net numbers are nonsense. Dividing renewables produced in Germany by electricity consumed in Germany is nonsense. Similarly, claiming that France gets 110% of its power from nuclear is nonsense. It’s clearly meaningless on its face, but it is the same meaningless calculation that leads to your 30% and 50% numbers.

            Germany is able to import and export because its neighbors have different energy sources. That 50% number is extremely misleading, because it cannot be copied by other countries because it is predicated on the neighbors acting differently. It’s great that Germany is filling that niche that other countries are failing to, but dividing those plants by consumption in Germany is pretending that the consumption is for Germany.

          • Doug Muir says:

            “Dividing renewables produced in Germany by electricity consumed in Germany is nonsense. ”

            [shrug] Neither the Germans nor the EU seem to think so. They’ve spent a lot of time and effort working out their renewable goals, and have gone into considerable detail.

            “Germany is able to import and export because its neighbors have different energy sources. That 50% number is extremely misleading, because it cannot be copied by other countries because it is predicated on the neighbors acting differently. ”

            Well, all of Germany’s neighbors are part of the EU. And they’ve all agreed to their own energy plans, which include dramatic increases in renewables, with specific targets set for 2020 and 2030. France, for instance, has set itself targets of 27% renewables in the electricity sector, 33% in heating and cooling, and 10.5% in transport. The EU as a whole is shooting for 20% of *all* energy from renewables by 2020. Personally, I doubt they’ll make it, but they’re very probably going to reach 16-18%, and 20% by the early 2020s seems likely.

            So, yes, Germany’s neighbors are going to try to copy Germany. Not exact copies, of course! France is keeping its nuclear plants, Austria can get more than half its electricity from hydro, Denmark is almost half windpower (though the other half is all coal). But they’re all shifting hard towards renewables. Not as hard and as fast as Germany, but they’re all going the same way.

            Doug M.

          • cassander says:

            why god why would they display things in a mix of giga and tera watts?!?

            And on the german export ground, my understanding is that a lot of those exports are merely transfers through germany.

    • RCF says:

      “about 10% of its heating energy from renewables … by 2020, they want … 10% of their heating energy coming from renewables.”

      Did you give a wrong number somewhere?

      “For instance, it claims that lower fuel prices will lead to cheaper air fares. Ha ha ha no. That’s not only untrue, it’s currently the subject of a lot of angry commentary; the airlines have pretty much all decided not to lower fares, but rather to increase their profits.”

      That is an economically incoherent claim. For it to be true, not only would all airlines have to be perfectly coordinating their pricing and constituting an effective monopoly, but the demand for flights would have to be perfectly inelastic.

      • Doug Muir says:

        — Yes, the second number should be 14%, not 10. My bad.

        As to the airlines, most large US carriers are either near-monopolists (when they’re running out of hubs) or oligopolists competing with a small number of fellow carriers. They don’t even need active coordination; tacit collusion will do just as well.

        But to bring it back: the article claimed that, hey, lower oil prices would lead to cheaper air fares! For whatever reason, this is demonstrably not happening.

        Doug M.

        • RCF says:

          Either the airlines are acting irrationally, or demand is inelastic, or there is a flaw in the analysis that concludes that prices are steady. I’m putting my money on the latter.

        • John Schilling says:

          Most airlines engage in fuel hedging. The flights they make in 2015, will use mostly fuel bought on the futures market in roughly 2012-2014 at the then-current market prices.

          When the combination of fuel hedging and airline competition result in lower prices than would otherwise be expected, which is approximately half the time, this is taken as the natural order of things and not worthy of comment. When it results in higher than expected prices, it is taken as proof of the insatiable greed of the airline corporations.

          • RCF says:

            If the price of fuel goes up, the airlines have to pay more for fuel. Buying futures doesn’t change that. If an airline has a futures contract to buy oil at $100, and prices go up to $120, then fuel costs them $120. Saying that they have a futures contract with a strike price of $100 doesn’t change that; if they buy the oil, they have to pay $100, and if they instead sell the futures contact, they get $20, so if they buy the oil, they’re $120 poorer than if they didn’t buy it. Therefore, the oil costs them $120.

          • John Schilling says:

            No, if they instead sell the futures contract for $120, they have to turn around and buy the fuel on the spot market for $120, meaning a small net loss due to transaction costs.

            If they don’t do this, they go broke. Actual bankruptcy. The $20/bbl profit they will make on the wonderful fuel deal you propose, will not cover the lease payments on the billions of dollars of airplanes that are now sitting idle because you told them not to buy any actual fuel. Never mind the loss of goodwill and customer loyalty and so forth.

            For institutions whose demand for a commodity is highly inflexible, hedging actually does minimize variability in the cash flow associated with their purchase that commodity. And in the price at which they can competitively and profitably sell whatever good or service they use that commodity to provide. Yes, even when you factor in all of the actually realizable opportunity costs.

            That’s why most airlines actually do pay the transaction costs associated with hedging. This may not have been Econ 101 material at your school, but it is nonetheless true.

          • RCF says:

            @John Schilling

            I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make with your first paragraph. First of all, the futures contract is worth $20, not $120. And given that the futures contract is worth $20, when they buy fuel at $100, it costs them $120, because they have to fork over $100 in cash, plus a futures contract worth $20, for a total of $120.

            Hedging does reduce variation in profits, but it does not reduce variation in marginal costs. And it’s the marginal cost that determine where the boundary of profitability is.

          • Jiro says:

            RCF: All you’re showing is that buying the oil costs them $120 more than not buying the oil. But the proper comparison is their total expenditure, not the price of the oil alone.

            If they have a futures contract and the price stays the same, they pay a total of $100. If they have one and the price goes up by X, they either pay $100 using the contract, or they sell the contract for X and then pay $100+X, and in either case they pay a total of $100.

          • Alex Godofsky says:

            Jiro:

            RCF: All you’re showing is that buying the oil costs them $120 more than not buying the oil. But the proper comparison is their total expenditure, not the price of the oil alone.

            No, the marginal cost is precisely the thing that matters!

            Imagine, for a moment, that the airline has a single shareholder/owner. And then imagine that it transfers ownership of the futures contract to him. No economic reality has changed; just slightly different accounting, in which the firm’s value is a little more exposed to oil price risk, but the shareholder has hedged this risk in his portfolio by buying a derivative.

            In this new scenario, are you saying the airline would behave differently and price things differently? Why would the shareholder want the airline to do that? Economic reality is what matters not accounting conventions.

        • veronica d says:

          [wrong place. Why!]

  36. [A] study of gender bias in survival of maritime disasters […] finds that men are more likely to survive than women, with the pattern only occasionally reversed on the rare occasions when captains make “women first” into a major evacuation priority.

    I seem to recall that the first lifeboats off the Titanic went down half empty, or if you prefer, half full of women and children. That makes me wonder: Would more lives have been saved if the order had been “every man for himself” and the lifeboats had been full of men?

    • Eggo says:

      Well, the rule assured that Ladies of Name would be saved first, and lifeboat capacity utilization mattered much less than if Mrs. Astor and Harris survived.
      Going by the relative font sizes on the New York Times headlines, the number of peasants saved would count only in the event of a tie.

      Worse than being full of men, the lifeboats might have been full of those awful burly poor people.

    • Mary says:

      Yup. And many of the later ones were overloaded. This was the logical result of not having any plans to actually use them, so they didn’t realize how many they could put on.

      • John Schilling says:

        No; pretty much everyone had a good plan for using lifeboats in that era. One predicated on the ship sinking in coastal waters on account of e.g. having hit a rock. Roughly speaking, you expect half the lifeboats to be rendered unusable by the circumstances of the sinking, and use the remaining lifeboats – plus those of the nearest port or coastal town, and any other passing ships – to ferry the passengers and crew to shore in stages.

        The idea that you could use lifeboats to save the passengers and crew of a liner that sank in the middle of the ocean, was at the time considered borderline ridiculous as it required an extremely unlikely coincidence of favorable circumstances. The ship would have to sink slowly, without fire, on an even keel, in reasonably calm waters, and with either Bligh-esque levels of seamanship from a lifeboat crewed mostly by civilians or another ship passing within signalling distance of the lifeboat before everyone perishes of thirst or exposure. Everything lines up that well for you, and you couldn’t stop the ship from sinking in the first place? You’re obviously a character in a work of sensational fiction and the author wants half of you to perish for dramatic effect.

        Ubiquitous marine radio helped change the equation by expanding signalling distance by a factor of a hundred or so, and robust self-deploying life rafts finished the job. RMS Titanic deployed essentially beta-test versions of both technologies, but hadn’t figured out the doctrinal implications. Then perished in a freak accident that might as well have been contrived as an “everybody lives IFF you do everything right” morality play.

        • RCF says:

          The failure mode of the Titanic was hardly unforeseeaeble. An iceberg would result in sinking without fire, would most likely happen in calm water, and whether it sinks with even keel would depend on the hull design. It would hardly take a high level of seamanship to row away from the sinking ship, and with sea lanes as busy as they were, it wouldn’t be difficult for another ship to be within a few days away (the Carpathia arrived four later, and the Californian arrived about six hours later). People don’t die of thirst in six hours, they die of hypothermia from being immersed in water.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Unforseeable” is an almost impossible bar to clear if defined both literally and in hindsight. But prior to 1912, most iceberg collisions did not result in the loss of a ship, and when they did the ship almost always sank within minutes. Five out of six, for the cases I could easily find data, and the sixth stayed afloat for over a day.

            RMS Titanic was built with the intent and reasonable expectation of being always in the “not sink, or at least stay afloat for over a day” category. Even neglecting that, a passenger ship sinking hours after striking an iceberg seems to have been literally unprecedented in 1912.

            I am also unaware of the phenomenon by which the presence of icebergs somehow negates the North Atlantic’s normally not-calm state, and I am particularly unclear as to the relevance of the Carpathian and the Californian. Those ships arrived within hours because they were summoned by ship-to-ship radio, a technology that did not exist when the Titanic was conceived. Without marine radio, neither of them ever comes within twenty miles of the Titanic, and it is likely days before anyone spots a lifeboat. In the North Atlantic in winter, “but we’re in the shipping lanes; someone will rescue us” is mostly false hope to civilians in open boats.

            Marine radio, and inflatable life rafts, change everything. Carrying enough open wooden boats to theoretically hold the entire ship’s complement at once, that’s not as useful as you think.

          • Anonymous says:

            How large were those ships that sank in minutes? The massive size of the Titanic, combined with its failure mode (bulkheads prevented water from immediately going from one compartment to another at first, instead each compartment filled up until the water level was enough to overflow into the next) were what kept it afloat. My understanding is that it had a volume of about 50,000 m^3, so sinking in five minutes would require a water flow of about 200 m^3/sec.

            I did not assert that icebergs cause calm water, and I don’t think that it is a good faith reading of my post to pretend that I did. If you wish to assert that the water is not normally calm, it is possible to do so politely.

            The relevance of the other ships is quite clear. That the people making the Titanic were not aware of how other ships would be relevant when they first began designing it, while worth noting, does not make my observation worthless. And your claim that radio technology did not exist when the Titanic was conceived is false; the issue was implementation of the technology, not its existence.

  37. Mike Blume says:

    Similar to London, Alyssa Vance posted This picture to her timeline with the caption:

    “The United States: So bad at urban planning that earthquakes actually make our cities better.

    (Top: San Francisco waterfront, pre-earthquake. Bottom, post-earthquake.)”.

    • William O. B'Livion says:

      Only if you’re utterly ignorant of history.

      Hint: what does “embarcadero” mean?

    • Anonymous says:

      As far as I can tell it is the exact same waterfront except taken in a slightly different location… and without the parking garage. I am not sure removing the parking at the waterfront is an overall good land-use decision.

      • Nornagest says:

        It’s not a parking garage, it’s the Embarcadero Freeway, a few years after the Loma Prieta earthquake collapsed sections of it.

        It’s hard to say whether the freeway was a good decision. If I were looking at San Francisco as it is now, I wouldn’t put a freeway through the waterfront — Van Ness Avenue strikes me as a better route, though in wild if-I-had-a-pony speculation mode I’d rather tunnel it from the Presidio south to about Market — but the SF docks were probably much less tourist-friendly in 1968 than they are now. And the city’s transportation infrastructure really is grossly inadequate as it stands.

    • anon1 says:

      The first picture shows the partly demolished Embarcadero Freeway, not a parking structure. The park shown in the second picture, plus historic buildings etc, now make the area a major tourist attraction.

      William: I’m not sure how the etymology is relevant. I don’t think having a freeway connecting to the north bay was very important for the activities of the port.

  38. Anonymous says:

    > Aaronson writes an extremely moving and passionate comment about what it’s like being a shy male geek in a feminist world.

    My queer theory prof has an answer for this. Her lecture on fandom was even based on her own published papers in this area. They’ll just adopt you! You see, apparently, geeks are just big fans. They’re fans of technology, Star Trek, or what have you. This fandom is considered out of control, and bringing fandom under control is literally achieving the self-control that is expected of a white male. Yes, we tarred the very concept of self-control with being a white thing. If you’re not taking part in self-control, you’re missing this aspect of white heteronormativity, and thus, you’re actually oppressed! Cousin!

    …err, wait. You might have to be the illegitimate, redheaded adopted cousin. I wrote down the following conversation verbatim, because I knew it was giving away the game.

    Professor: You have less privilege as a result of your fandom, but you don’t get rid of it.

    Student: Would you say that they have more privilege than people of color?

    Professor: Yep.

    Forget that this completely betrays the fact that we claimed a principle on day two that there is no oppression/privilege scale. It is not 1944 for the oppression olympics.

    • Eggo says:

      People need to start recording these and putting them on youtube. People need to know what young people are being trained to believe.

      • Anonymous says:

        This is only the tip of the iceberg. I spent an entire semester sitting in a queer theory class just hoping that I’d find a way to understand how their theory all fits together (I legitimately had hopes that they’d have a salvageable core within the outlandish political rhetoric). Instead, I collected the largest set of quotes displaying blatant cognitive dissonance that I’ve ever seen. Occasionally, I thought, “I should blog this,” but I always thought 1) If I got doxxed, they could literally make my life a living hell (…I heard their conversations about how they planned to achieve their political aims… including a quote where a person explicitly stated that their plan was to show up everywhere our Chancellor appeared and behave in a way intended to make her as uncomfortable as possible), and 2) No one would want to read me anyway… I’m just a random guy sitting in on a class of crazies.

    • Tarrou says:

      Oppression/privilege is the status of the left.

      Of COURSE there’s a scale.

      • MugaSofer says:

        Like all forms of status, publicly discussing ways to play games with it is Extremely Low-Status.

        Hence why people will say “there’s no Privilege Scale” in one breath and “you’re way more privileged than a black person” in another.

        Compare the libertarian “if you’re poor, you’re just not working hard enough” and “people who are downsized should retrain and join the tech industry, like me!”. Or the Christian assertion that “everyone is a sinner before God, nothing you can do can make you Officially Virtuous” (complete with parables!), but some people are “saints” or “living saints”, like the Mother Theresa or the most recent Popes.

        • Mary says:

          ” the Christian assertion that “everyone is a sinner before God, nothing you can do can make you Officially Virtuous” ”

          Eh, sounds more Calvinist than Christian in general to me.

        • RCF says:

          Libertarianism says that in many cases in which the government interferes with the market, the government should not be interfering. It is deeply fallacious to observe libertarians arguing that the government should not interfere to prevent some harm, and conclude that libertarians think that people deserve the harm, and I think that I am reasonable in expecting better at a rationalist site.

          • llamathatducks says:

            My interpretation is that MugaSofer was not extrapolating “if you’re poor, you’re just not working hard enough” from libertarian ideology but simply paraphrasing a thing they’ve actually heard people say. I’ve certainly seen/heard people say things very similar to that, although I’m not sure how many of them were libertarians.

    • William O. B'Livion says:

      People who are excessively into Star Trek, or like to dress up as an cartoon Fox are not (necessarily) either “Geeks” or “Nerds”.

      Aside from the traditional definition of “Geek” involving chicken’s heads, generally a “Geek” is just a slightly better socialized “Nerd” (as I like to put it, a geek is a nerd who’s had someone else help him with an orgasm).

      Geeks and Nerds are, generally, people whose fascination with technical arcana is of more import in their life than pop culture, haute couture or getting a blowjob from a high-status MOTAS.

      The notion that someone has the ability to command salary that is *multiples* of the US average salary is “oppressed” is horse shit.

      I have a degree in *fine art*. I make almost 100k a year–enough that my wife can stay home with our daughter. I am, in many situations socially awkward enough that it bothers people. Mostly other people. (I don’t have an attitude problem. I have an attitude, if it’s a problem it’s yours 🙂 ). I’ve been called a “Nerd” or a “Geek” since the early 80s.

      Your queer theory prof. Yeah, I think you know where I’d take that.

      • Anonymous says:

        The notion that someone has the ability to command salary that is *multiples* of the US average salary is “oppressed” is horse shit.

        So, Alan Turing wasn’t oppressed? The man commanded roughly twice the US average salary, and three times the UK average, during the late 1940s and early 1950s.

        I think a more nuanced view of the various forms of oppression, and the limitations of wealth as a palliative, might be in order.

        • Eggo says:

          Nuance makes an awful club to beat people with, though.

        • Anonymous says:

          Within group variance is way larger than between group variance. No amount of babble about intersectionalism will ever make their worldview any better if they don’t understand this.

        • veronica d says:

          Well Turning, if I recall correctly, was chemically castrated against his will. So yeah, a gay man in that era was oppressed regardless of income. Your average geek dude today? Not the same.

          • John Schilling says:

            Right, because the geek dude is just socially castrated, and that is ever so much better.

            Seriously, did you even read the article under discussion? The Other Scott A explicitly stated that he had begged a psychiatrist to chemically castrate him, in the hope that this would be less painful than what he was experiencing. He was, of course, refused. And for that matter, Turing was functional, productive, and reportedly in good humour during the period of his chemical castration. A year after the treatment ceased, and he was subject to merely social castration, the man committed suicide.

            But why bother you with facts, especially ones you’d have to read whole paragraphs of text to uncover? You heard something about whiny geeks with poor social lives, you obviously understand the issue so much better than the people who have actually lived it, and you did not delay in sharing your great wisdom with us. Mission, I sincerely hope, accomplished.

          • Anonymous says:

            For the record, yes I read the post. I read the whole thread. I rather like Amy.

            But Aaronson’s problems were to a large degree due to his own neuro/mental issues, whereas Turing’s was simple bigotry full stop. Likewise Aaronson outgrew his issues. In other words, he kinda grew up, got successful, and got out of it. It sucked for him, but it was temporary. In Turning’s case the laws needed to change.

            These differences matter. With better treatment, maybe guys like Aaronson can have it easier. And yes, I think feminism should do a better job understanding men like him, while at the same time working to improve conditions for women. In Turning’s case, the laws were unjust to the core and completely indefensible.

          • veronica d says:

            Uh, that was me.

          • John Schilling says:

            “These differences matter. With better laws, maybe guys like Turing could have had it it easier. And yes, I think the British legal system should do a better job understanding men like him, while at the same time working to improve conditions for people I actually care about. In Aaronsen’s case, the rules and mores were unjust to the core and completely indefensible.”

            Oh, wait, that wasn’t exactly what you said. But it just as well could have been.
            You don’t get to compare the 1950s British legal system as it actually was to feminism as it ideally should be.

            You don’t get to blame the victim with crap about “neuro/mental” issues, because these come either from biology or from the environment, and who created the relevant social environment?

            And you don’t get to claim credit, or even reduced blame, for the victim managing to survive and overcome the load of crap your tribe dumped on him.

            If you try to impose rules that lead people to ask, “Please may I be chemically castrated; that would hurt less”, you don’t get to claim moral superiority over the people who hounded Turing to his death.
            You, and Amy, at least seem to recognize that there is a problem, but you haven’t owned up to the fact that you are part of the problem. You talk about how maybe the problem should be solved, but I don’t see you doing a damn thing to solve it.

          • Anonymous says:

            I cannot solve it, as I cannot provide a steady stream of woman for guys like him to sleep with. Nor can I make women want to flirt with him, nor teach him how to flirt. Nor can I make women comfortable being sexualized, nor comfortable among men who have a very unrealistic idea of what women are, what they want, and what they can provide. Some dudes just have problems with women.

            Women cannot necessary fix this, as it is not our job to fix men. In fact, the idea that we should is a patriarchal belief, that we exist to perform emotional labor, to be your dreamgirls. Ain’t so. We got our own stuff to deal with.

            Personally I think most such men work their way through it over a few years. In fact, I suspect this is mostly a matter of maturation.

            (Plus if you read the article, you’ll see this is exactly what happened with Aaronson. He had some bad years. Then he figured things out.)

            All that said, however, I do want to lessen the degree we feminists demonize such men, and I believe the geek-branches of feminism have done a bad job in this space. The “NiceGuy” discourse got really awful and I want to do better. Which does not mean I abandon feminism.

            Sorry, but no.

            So what do I do, since you don’t “see me doing a damn thing to solve it”? I talk about this among feminist. I link to articles such as Aaronson’s and try to provide insight. Also I try to steer the conversations in productive directions.

            Which of course you do not see because you are not part of that conversation.

          • veronica d says:

            (That was me again, obviously. And dammit fix this site!)

          • Jaskologist says:

            Aaronson doesn’t need a stream of women to sleep with him, just one. Even that is getting ahead of his real problem, which was not knowing how to even ask a woman out. And he only overcame that by ignoring what feminism had taught him.

            It is not a good sign when your followers can only satisfy their most basic human drives by disregarding what you’ve taught them, and you shouldn’t be so blasé about it. Aaronson is not asking anything unreasonable here, and most men are not so dedicated to their feminist religion that they’ll stick to it once it fails them. They’ll join the red pill instead.

          • Later Rodent says:

            I cannot provide a steady stream of woman for guys like him to sleep with

            Aaronson’s problem was that he had been told of hundreds of things he should never do when approaching a woman, because they were creepy/rapey/sexual assault. And no example of something he’s allowed to do.

            So he was left with the strong urges we all get, but no way he could understand too work towards satisfying them.

            To read that as demanding a steady stream of women to sleep with him is really strange! All he’s asking for is some way to approach a woman he adores without risking social and possibly legal disaster.

          • Anonymous says:

            > Women cannot necessary fix this, as it is not our job to fix men.

            Can it be not our job to fix women? Some women just have problems with dudes. The idea that we should fix it is a bad belief (I use the word bad instead of patriarchal, because you’ve in no way connected the claim to patriarchy in any way; rather, it’s just a thing that you think is bad occurring in a society that you think is patriarchal). That we exist to perform emotional labor, to be your dreamguys… ain’t so. We got our own stuff to deal with.

            It probably helps if I claim that you’ll find a way to work through your terrible political rhetoric over a few years. In fact, I suspect this is mostly a matter of maturation.

          • Eggo says:

            “provide a steady stream of woman for guys like him to sleep with” forces me to wonder if you’ve generalized your criticisims of pick-up-artist types to all men.
            Is having sex with a “steady supply” of sex objects really the only thing you can imagine satisfying an emotionally-troubled man?
            Do they not benefit from being treated with basic respect and human dignity, because they don’t really count as human–just sex-obsessed animals?

            I may have misread you, and I apologize. It is difficult to feel particularly charitable to your lot these days.

          • veronica d says:

            You both are missing the other things I said, namely that neither can women teach him how to flirt. Plenty of other men figure out how to do this. For example, kink culture is filled with nerdy guys who figure things out. But then, they had to figure it out.

            When women complain about unwanted sexual attention, this is because unwanted sexual attention really sucks, especially when you are outnumbered, especially when the men are socially awkward. Immature dudes looking for their manic pixie are, frankly, probably not ready to date. And this fine maybe in 7th grade, but by college age most women are done with that stuff.

            Short version, this dude’s issues ain’t our fault.

            Trust me, being a sexual target sucks a lot. And we are not going to stop talking about it or pushing back. And the discourse on this topic usually has some stuff about how men can approach, but it’s a hard problem and feminist dating advice isn’t so great. Partly this is, I think, because young nerdy guys really do have major social dysfunctions that make it hard for them to deal, completely aside from what women say.

            Laurie Penny has a new article on this. I think it is quite good: http://www.newstatesman.com/laurie-penny/on-nerd-entitlement-rebel-alliance-empire.

          • John Schilling says:

            To be fair, Veronica D talked about providing a “steady stream of women”, plural, to sleep with “guys like him”, plural. It is plausible that she was suggesting a one-woman-per-shy-geek ratio and recognizing that the problem goes beyond the singular Scott Aaronson.

            In which case, that very likely is a problem she could help solve, at least locally on the micro scale. Presuming there are any shy geeks in her extended social circle, this seems like the sort of thing that quaint, archaic customs like matchmaking and double-dating were invented for. Same goes for e.g. teaching shy geeks how to flirt, and really most of the rest of her list with greater or lesser degrees of social engineering.

            All of which is probably more than she signed up for when she thought this was just going to be dispensing anonymous wisdom and insight on the internet. Fair enough. If we’re going to limit things to that domain, I will point out that four particular forms of “wisdom” are at best not helpful:

            1. Victim-blaming.

            2. Saying “It’s not that bad” in apparently complete disregard to the self-reporting of the (surviving) victims.

            3. Suggesting that the victims need to get therapy and then they’ll be fine with everything.

            4. Asserting, without further guidance, that the victim’s descriptions of their circumstances make them sound like evil misogynists that all women will hate or ignore.

            What else do you have in your arsenal, Ms. D? Anything at all?

          • Anonymous says:

            > Plenty of other men figure out how to do this.

            Yeah. And plenty of people figure out how to walk on our own, so why should we care if some kid is too lazy to figure it out? “Epileptic”? Pah. Lrn2walk, noob.

          • anonymous says:

            “Immature dudes looking for their manic pixie are, frankly, probably not ready to date. And this fine maybe in 7th grade, but by college age most women are done with that stuff.”

            In other words, men who don’t know how to interact with women will never learn, because women only want to deal with men who know how to interact with women. The only way out of this catch-22 is to practice during the 7th grade, when being immature is acceptable. Once you get to college, you’ve missed your window. If you don’t know how to interact with women by then, you can go fuck yourself. Literally.

            The fact of the matter is that in many cases, the only way to learn how to interact with women is to treat women as opportunities to practice interacting with women, which means objectifying women, which feminists has pounded into men’s heads is REALLY REALLY BAD.

            “Short version, this dude’s issues ain’t our fault.”

            Given how much feminists treat their problems as being the responsibilities of men, this is really quite hypocritical. You are causing the problem.

            “Trust me, being a sexual target sucks a lot.”

            If, by “sexual target”, you mean “someone someone would like to have sex with”, clearly that’s not true, insofar as women do, in general, like having sex. If you mean something else, you really should be more precise. When you say “being a sexual target suck a lot”, the message that you send is that seeking sex is wrong, which is exactly what Scott A said was the message that screwed him up so much. There’s a big difference between “there are ways of expressing sexual desire that makes women uncomfortable” and “the mere existence of sexual desire offends women”, and that difference has not been adequately expressed.

          • John Schilling says:

            In other words, men who don’t know how to interact with women will never learn, because women only want to deal with men who know how to interact with women. The only way out of this catch-22 is to practice during the 7th grade, when being immature is acceptable. Once you get to college, you’ve missed your window.

            This.

            Traditionally, the window was open to about age 30, which was good enough even for most shy geeks. But the movement for “rape-free” campuses, implemented by federal law in the clumsiest possible manner, is likely to bring that forward to the end of high school, at least for people whose post-high-school lives are going to be focused on college. Like, say, geeks.

            I, for one, would not have made that window. And I literally would not exist if that had been the rule in my father’s day.

            Being alive and well past university, I suppose perhaps I should be selfishly looking forward to all the well-educated twenty-something women, fresh out of college and coming up against a distinct shortage of socially ept men their own age. Thank Ronnie D for setting me up such a target-rich dating pool.

            But these are my people she’s hurting in the process, in addition to some of her own. And I’ve experienced other branches of her movement coming after me where I live. So, no.

          • John Schilling says:

            OK, I just read the Laurie Penny article our Veronica D recommended. Almost TL;DR, but since I persevered:

            What am I missing?

            I got about 30% “I feel your pain”, each dose promptly followed by at least twice that much “…but our pain is ever so much worse, which is why this is all about us”. A soupcon of “Don’t worry, it will get better (maybe, we hope, don’t look here for directions)”. And some highly questionable assertions about the great social status, power, and mobility, of the STEM professional.

            How is any of this helpful, to anyone here? Do you honestly believe that we have been heretofore unaware of the sufferings of young women in the modern social environment? Do you really think us that stupid and ignorant?

            And, really, how is anything in that article helpful to any of the young women over in your tribe? Or, really, to anyone at all. It makes you feel good to hear someone say things you agree with, I guess, but if there’s anything more to it than that, you’re going to need to point it out to me.

            We should be allies in this fight. I think you understand that. But too much of what your movement is doing to us, and I think everything you have said since you got here, makes that harder.

            Your tribe is using tactics that I believe will not secure the goals you are fighting for, and which I am certain are causing unacceptable collateral damage. I’d compare you to the CIA and their drone strikes, but really, you’re more into carpet-bombing from B-52s – while carefully avoiding the actual patriarchy strongholds, because they have the antiaircraft guns and some of the suave, high-status hot guys you want to date when the fighting is over.

            And all you and Ms. Penny can do is tell us that you are not going to stop, not going to change course, not even going to apologize, because you are suffering so much. But that it’s all good, because you feel our pain and it will get better.

            Finally, you all might want to be careful about that whole “Rebel Alliance vs. Empire” analogy. The empire has the best uniforms, the best music, Stardestroyers, Death Stars, Boba Fett, and Ice Princess Leia on a leash in a metal bikini. The Rebel Alliance has a guy with a blindfold swinging a lightsaber at random inside a crowded spaceship. And I know how to put armored louvres on a thermal exhaust port. Explain to all us geeks why we are supposed to be on the Alliance side again?

          • Jaskologist says:

            I actually agree that women shouldn’t be teaching men how to flirt, mostly for the practical reason that they’re not very good at it. It is the job of men to teach boys how to talk to girls.

            But then, that’s what the red pill pretty much exists for. Don’t tell men to go elsewhere and then complain when they do exactly that.

          • Anonymous says:

            Unless you’re an Omega, in which case redpill advocates celibacy or suicide.

          • Multiheaded says:

            (Feminist, queer) women taught me to flirt just fine, tyvm ^^

            and some of the suave, high-status hot guys you want to date when the fighting is over.

            John, I agree with you a good deal, but please don’t fucking do that! You don’t get to coax the opponent into being more charitable by being uncharitable in a very culturally loaded way, and besides, men often bend over backwards for cool high-status men too! That’s what status is, it provides a halo effect.

            P.S. Laurie Penny is a person of rather little integrity (having, unlike some less well-known feminists, thrown Eron Gjoni under the bus and all that) – but that article is not nearly as bad as expected. Still unable to let go of double standards and oppression olympics, though. But Laurie does bring up a lot of completely true and valid points.

          • Anonymous says:

            > and besides, men often bend over backwards for cool high-status men too! That’s what status is, it provides a halo effect.

            Theory question time! Can you draw a meaningful distinction between status and privilege?

          • Bugmaster says:

            @veronica d:

            I’ve read the other Scott A’s article, and I believe you are misinterpreting his point. He is not saying, “oh, if only I learned how to flirt earlier, that would’ve been nice”. Instead, he’s saying, “the tropes of feminism made it impossible for me to learn how to approach women at all, because I honestly believed that approaching a woman in the wrong way would make me a monster — and it’s highly unlikely that anyone could do everything 100% correctly on his first try”.

            That’s a pretty important difference, and by blaming the victim here, you are not doing anyone any favors.

          • Multiheaded says:

            status and privilege

            Scott himself has already drawn a neat illustration a while ago.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            John Schilling:

            You talk about how maybe the problem should be solved, but I don’t see you doing a damn thing to solve it.

            Are any of us? 😛 I’m not sure exactly what you expect of Veronica here! This seems needlessly harsh.

            Veronica D:

            Women cannot necessary fix this, as it is not our job to fix men. In fact, the idea that we should is a patriarchal belief, that we exist to perform emotional labor, to be your dreamgirls. Ain’t so. We got our own stuff to deal with.

            M, I don’t know if the idea here is so much “it’s women’s job to fix men” but rather “it’s feminists’ job to fix gender relations”. After all, they’re the only ones on the side of good who are actively working in that space, right? That means it’s on them to make an accurate assessment of the situation and respond appropriately. Obviously they have limited resources, but we expect them to at least not actively make things worse.

            When women complain about unwanted sexual attention,

            Let me leave a brief reply fragment here, since this comment reminded me of this — part of the problem here is the question of just exactly the word “unwanted” means. Now that I’ve somewhat escaped the trap, I get the impression that by “unwanted” feminists mean “actually not wanted by the actual person in question”. But part of the problem is that it’s easy to read feminist writings and come to a much broader interpretation of the word “unwanted”.

            Anyway, as for a more general reply to Veronica D:

            I think you’ve missed an important point, which is that this is not about rejection, the distinction of yes-vs.-no. Rather, this is about the distinction of either yes or no vs. “How dare you!” I’m not saying teach us to flirt; I’m saying allow us to learn as others do. It’s not about getting someone to date you or sleep with you, it’s about getting to try while not being evil and not being considered evil. If you like, “getting to no” rather than “getting to yes”. I’m not saying help us succeed; I’m saying let us fail on our own merits, rather than crippling us by filling our actually-active consciences with mistargeted guilt.

            That is to say, I’m not saying I’m not saying “build us a platform”; I’m saying stop digging.

            Regarding Laurie Penny:

            Other objections aside, Laurie Penny needs to learn about the contrarian hierarchy. The Rebellion-against-the-Rebellion is not the Empire, even if they share an enemy. There’s a reason you don’t see people talking about this problem often, and it is because they’re afraid of getting exiled from the Rebellion. But hey, they can just go join the Empire, right? Hell no! The Empire is against everything they stand for! If I could only choose between the two, I’d sooner bite my tongue and tough it out in the Rebellion. But we seem to be having a hard time convincing the Rebellion that not everyone who disagrees with them is the Empire.

          • llamathatducks says:

            Now that I’ve somewhat escaped the trap, I get the impression that by “unwanted” feminists mean “actually not wanted by the actual person in question”. But part of the problem is that it’s easy to read feminist writings and come to a much broader interpretation of the word “unwanted”.

            I don’t get this at all. How else might one interpret “unwanted”, and why?

            On the broader topic of this subthread, I always find it really frustrating when this sort of argument is framed as “men are frustrated in seeking sex/romance and women are frustrated in trying to escape solicitations of sex/romance” because I’m a woman and I’ve been routinely frustrated in seeking sex/romance, and I’ve known quite a lot of other women like myself in this regard! I also haven’t experienced many unwanted sexual/romantic advances. This doesn’t make me think that women who routinely encounter unwanted advances are necessarily more privileged than me, only that we have different struggles. (And that their struggles are more tied to a problem of sexism in society than mine are.)

            Sure, I haven’t been warned a bunch that my advances might be harrassment. But I almost wish I had been, because in retrospect I was actually very thoughtlessly obnoxious to some people I was interested in in the past, because I didn’t really realize that “respect ‘no'” is relevant always and in every situation, not just when you might have sex.

            I totally agree that Scott Aaronson’s feminist readings were bad advice for him. I think this is because he chose bad sources of advice (he admitted as much in the thread), not because he chose to take advice from feminists but because he picked some particularly extreme feminists. I absolutely think the psychological professionals he talked to failed him. I do think society in general (not just feminism!) should do better at recognizing that people can have difficulties understanding social norms.

            But there so are feminists who make it pretty darn clear that the solution to not knowing when it’s okay to do what is to use your damn words and also escalate gradually. I know some non-feminists here disagree a lot with Captain Awkward’s advice that guys looking for women to date should consume art by women, but even if you don’t like that bit of advice, still it remains true that e.g. these three posts clearly advocate asking girls out and more or less say how to do it! (The last one’s LW seems to be a trans woman, but perceived entirely as a guy, so this is still relevant.)

            I suppose Captain Awkward’s site wasn’t around when all this was happening in Scott Aaronson’s life, so perhaps at the time there actually was no helpful feminist thought to draw on (I don’t know). But if so, that has changed.

            Also I strongly second Veronica’s point that Scott Aaronson’s experience in no way invalidates the experience of women who have bad experiences in male-dominated fields. He seems to think that “privilege” means that all men are better off than all women, whereas what it really means is that (a) in general men are better off than women, and (b) for the most part, all else being equal, a man will be better off than a woman. (He tried to deny “privilege” by comparing his lonely, suicidal past self to happy partying women, when he should’ve been comparing his lonely, suicidal past self to lonely, suicidal women, plenty of whom exist. Not sure what that comparison would’ve yielded.)

          • Harald K says:

            “The only way out of this catch-22 is to practice during the 7th grade, when being immature is acceptable.”

            Immaturity is not so much acceptable in 7th grade. It’s just that everyone from shop owners, bus drivers to slightly older peers are going to prejudge you and treat you with scarcely concealed contempt. So you might as well play the part.

            There is a saying in Norway, “The cow forgets she was a calf”. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only non-cow around.

            Anonymousveronica d, you’re bordering on the offensive here. Patriarchy says it’s women’s role to fix this? Bullshit! Patriarchy says anything that needs to be done must be done by men, women are only about being. Which mean’s it’s men’s job to write seduction tips books, arrange double dates, provide matchmaking services, or whatever is needed to solve the problem (assuming patriarchy sees a problem at all).

            No one ever said you’re obliged to find (or be) a mate to any particular man, that’s a colossal strawman. We are talking about the general problem. Not the problem of personally including every particular pariah, but the problem of fighting institutions that make them outcasts for reasons they can’t possibly help.

            Even that is not your obligation as a woman, and no one says it is (not even gender traditionalists, as you seem to imagine).

            However, if you say you’re an activist in a movement for gender equality (which feminism is, right?) then you can’t deny the general problem. As a feminist, you should hopefully have a better answer than “sucks for them, but they need to grow up”? It’s good that you reject the explicit shame-heaping on these men, but it doesn’t look like you’re really rejecting its assumption: that the problem is ultimately with these men, not with, say, norms for dating.

            Men’s issues being individualized and made into questions of personal responsibility/virtue/maturity, while women’s issues are collectivized and blamed on external forces – that sounds more like patriarchy to me. The being/doing dichtonomy all over again.

          • veronica d says:

            Good morning everyone. Too much here to go point by point, but I have some general thoughts.

            (Look, I’m thinking out loud here. Please read with that understanding.)

            Anyway, I was thinking about some feminists who stand in contrast to the Dworkin stuff. Laurie Penny is certainly among them, even if you all don’t like her 100%. I would also include Julia Serano and Clarisse Thorn. (Plus Captain Awkward is pretty awesome. Thanks for mentioning them.)

            However, one thing I notice: I’m not sure if those women are really in tune with neuro-diversity. (Perhaps Captain Awkward is.) And thus much of what they say must come from a neuro-typical perspective.

            For instance, Clarisse Thorn writes a lot of great stuff about relationships. However, I suspect she’s NT. I mean, I don’t get to diagnose her or anything. But reading her book I see a woman who understands flirting, who likes flirting, and likes men who can do it well. Most of us here are not like her.

            Anyway, Her value to us as a feminist is this: she delivers a message that your sexuality is okay. Really, any consensual sexuality is okay. It’s okay to lust for women.

            I kinda wonder, if Aaronson had read her book, rather than fucking-Dworkin, would he have done better? Maybe. Probably. I dunno.

            But all that said, she perhaps doesn’t have much concrete for guys who just don’t get it. The men in her world have skills, they have game.

            On “unwanted” sexual attention: it’s about being hit on when you do not want to be hit on. But not just once, but again and again, until it feels like your whole purpose is as a sexual object. This sucks. Some women really experience this. It’s something we work hard to overcome. So yeah we’re gonna be prickly about it.

            This is bad enough at a gaming convention, but it’s really bad in a professional context. And you all underestimate the degree nerdy men can do this. You seem to have a model where each nerd is too shy to move. Maybe you are, but this ain’t the general case. While nerds are often clumsy in their advances, they still make advances.

            Regarding whose job this is, this is a conversation. You can expect women to speak to our own interests — and dammit there is a long history when we kinda didn’t get to, at least not in the public space. This is a new power we have and it’s really super important. (Feminism is bigger than the struggles of nerds.) However, in this model you have to speak to your own interests. It’s not our job to fix gender, not alone. You guys have to step up.

            Also keep in mind, we get to be broken also. We get to be neuro-diverse, crazy, broken-down, weird messes just the same as you.

            (They say women mature faster than men, and maybe that is true. But we do not all mature fast. I did not. It took me probably longer to figure out how to date than it took Aaronson. No, I’m serious. True story. I mean, I got dates before he did. I dated in high school, but they were a mess cuz I was mess and not ready to date. Then after high school I had a ten year slump. Ten years of no kisses. For real. And even after that I was kinda sexually dissociated till I figured out I was trans.)

            (So yeah, we all got problems. My point is, we cannot carry this weight any more than you.)

            Regarding those of you who think I am saying that “if you don’t figure it out now, then too late!” You’re missing a basic fact: most dudes do figure this out. Both Scotts did. Personally I think it has a lot to do with them getting their lives together, getting their careers going, and some growing up.

            Which, it still means folks miss a lot of good years. I’m not saying be happy about this. I am saying it gets better. (For most of us.)

            I think it’s useful to talk about neuro-typical dating patterns, not so much that we can do that, but so we can understand what we are seeing.

            Which, I mean, I want to talk about when it goes well and not when it goes bad. For example (when it goes bad), I’ve had men try to pick me up on the subway. Which, NOPE! Bad place to try that move. I’m trapped with you. I don’t like it. I’ve seen this happen to other women.

            On the other hand, I’ve seen men successfully pick up women on the subway. Which, observing it all, these were not douchebags. From my perspective, things looked totally fine and cool and good for him and good for her.

            (And spare me the alpha-beta-gamma bullshit. Just, no.)

            So what is the difference? I think it involves three things:

            1. Confidence (obviously)
            2. Sensitivity
            3. Communication

            So this stuff is obvious, right. But think it through. Confidence goes without saying. But I think the key to this, their “game,” is that they know how to signal to each other in non-threatening ways. Plus they can read the signals, and they proceed accordingly. So in other words, these are not two clumsy people stepping on toes. This is not some bro-dude talking loud and ignoring how much the woman he is confronting wishes he would go away. Instead, these folks have skills. This is high bandwidth communication.

            Plus it’s totes consensual!

            (And note, in these scenarios both the women and the men have skills. Trust me on this. Being hit on by decent, sensitive men requires social skills. If you lack them, the men sense you’re uncomfortable and they move on.)

            (Maybe if they really think you are hot and have master game they’ll get past that. I dunno. I’m not that hot and it doesn’t happen to me. For a woman like me, I need the skills.)

            So, okay, we’re nerds. Whatever else is true, we should admire skills.

            This is the kind of stuff that NT people want. This kind of flirting is enjoyable. They get good at it. But thing is, I’m not sure if they are aware they are doing it or how it might be super hard for others.

            (I have face blindness, and it’s hell trying to explain to NT people what it means that I just kinda don’t get faces.)

            (Face blindness fucking sucks.)

            Okay, so some of us can get those skills. The PUA stuff tries to teach them. And honestly, if that is your only choice, go for it. Seriously. (But read Clarrisse Thorn’s book first, to get perspective.) Most guys who do that stuff do not turn into horrible Redpill creeps. Most guys just learn to talk to women and then get a date and then get happy. (Well, that is what Thorn claims. I hope she is right.)

            But for the rest of us who cannot quite learn those skills…

            I dunno. Neuro-typical feminists are not going to solve this. Geek women alone are not either. That said, I think we need to start a conversation about neuro-diverse gender stuff. Which, actually, Ozy has started that conversation already. But we need to continue it. We also need to understand that NT feminists have their own shit to deal with. We need to understand what they want in terms of dating and flirting may not be what we offer, and we gotta respect that.

            So, yeah, “how dare you” is a shitty response, but I think what happened to this woman was also shitty: https://anontechlady.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/my-first-oscon/.

            The dudes hitting on her had poor boundaries. They lacked professional courtesy. Plus they lacked the skills to signal and read signals in a healthy way. Which is why NT feminists are pushing back against nerds. It’s why they act the way they do.

            So for us, the neuro-colorful, we need to find our own way through this.

            Anyway, myself, I’m marginally neuro-diverse: ADHD, dyslexia, and face blindness. Plus I’m trans. Anyway, I figured out kinda how to date NT people, how to flirt, how to signal and read signals. (I’m still waaaay too fucking shy.) But look, I’m in my 40’s. It took me hella long to get this stuff.

            Anyway, I’ve probably said enough. I’ll just add, I’m not necessarily saying we should ghettoize ourselves. Not exactly. But I am saying that NAT gender stuff ain’t like NT gender stuff and maybe we’re kinda on our own here.

          • Anonymous says:

            status and privilege

            Scott himself has already drawn a neat illustration a while ago.

            I like his post (of course), and I think it draws a nice distinction between structural and social power. However, I don’t think that distinction maps to the divide between status and privilege. Consider the example at hand – geeks. It’s agreed that they lack social power, but many would tie their structural power to their ability to hold lucrative careers (see comments above). On the other hand, while many would agree that they lack status, privilege doesn’t seem to turn on the same feature. You can see the comments above again, or I can recount what my queer theory prof said. It’s not the careers which determine anything about the privilege of geeks – it’s how they fulfill heteronormativity. Their perceived lack of self-control is not white enough for them to fully partake in heteronormativity, but they are otherwise white, male, and heterosexual. Thus, they lose some privilege, but not as much as others (…on that magical scale that doesn’t exist).

          • John Schilling says:

            Multiheaded:

            You may have some completely true and valid points of your own, but the part where you literally swear at me while demanding absolute courtesy towards someone who is being pointlessly and persistently offensive? I guarantee that is not going to have the results you want it to.

          • Anonymous says:

            she delivers a message that your sexuality is okay. Really, any consensual sexuality is okay.

            …until it feels like your whole purpose is as a sexual object. This sucks.

            There seems to be a tension here. From the first principle, men are able to adopt essentially any sexual posture they want, so long as they don’t run roughshod over consent. So, suppose that an appreciable number of men simply desire women as sexual objects. We have to accept this, so long as they don’t violate consent. Perhaps some will find women who find this acceptable… or even desirable! There’s no reason this can’t fall under more general kink principles.

            Now, as we increase the percentage of males who express this sexuality, one of our principles have to fail. Women will encounter men with this attitude in public spaces… and they’re going to be annoyed by it. Either it’s alright for men to simply desire sexual objects or we’re making an exception to the principle that any consensual sexual expression is acceptable. Cards on the table, I prefer the latter.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @veronica d:

            Sorry, but I still think you’re missing the point; or, perhaps, I am misinterpreting your comment.

            As far as I can tell, in your comment, you divide people into the neurotypical and neurodiverse. Under this model, neurotypical people can acquire flirting skills, and neurodiverse people cannot (some neurotypical people choose not to acquire those skills anyway, but these people are douchebags). Your proposal is to come up with some way for neurodiverse people to survive without the ability to flirt, which does not involve harming women.

            However, the model is flawed. Flirting skills are not somehow built-in. They are skills, and, as such, are acquired through training. A person who is born with good anaerobic metabolism and high muscle mass will not automatically become an Olympic athlete; in fact, an average person will beat him every single time, if the average person spends his weekends at the gym, while the proto-athlete does not. Similarly, a person with naturally high IQ will not automatically make any novel discoveries in physics, while a regular person who studies physics might.

            Unfortunately, training involves repeated failure. If you want to beat the long-jump record, you have to spend a lot of time on jumping, and falling short of the goal. If you want to discover something new, you have to test and reject a lot of hypotheses. If you want to date women, you have to strike out a bunch of times. In each case, you learn from your mistakes, and your next attempt is more likely to succeed.

            The problem that Scott A is articulating is that feminism (or, rather, certain versions of it) is making it impossible to train through repeated failure, by normalizing the idea that failing even once makes the man a monster (in his own eyes, as well as the eyes of society).

            This has the effect of gradually narrowing the bell curve — similar to installing spiked pits in the first meter or so on every long-jump track. People with exceptionally strong muscles can still train using those tracks; but people with weaker muscles cannot. And every year, the spike pit grows longer by a few decimeters, so more people get shut out, and are branded as “muscularly diverse”, and therefore unfit for jumping; whereas, without those spiked pits, those same people could’ve learned to jump a pretty fair distance.

            Similarly — assuming I understood Scott A’s point correctly — the tropes that render every unwelcome romantic advance as harassment or assault are making it impossible for more and more men to acquire any dating skills at all. To be fair, this is arguably a good deal for women, since it narrows down their dating pool to the cream of the crop, with most of the less capable men filtered out ahead of time. I am a man, and not a feminist, but still — I can’t help but think that the long-term impact of this strategy is very likely to be net negative.

          • John Schilling says:

            “…this is arguably a good deal for women, since it narrows down their dating pool to the cream of the crop”

            I think that would be a most amusing argument to hear. It is, at best, a good deal for the most attractive (broadly speaking) women. Not nearly so good for the women who are left out when the lopsided game of musical chairs plays out. I think we’ve already heard from some of them here.

            Feminism, like most movements, is dominated by its most charismatic members, and those probably are the ones who see themselves winning in the end if this strategy prevails. And they are probably right. But I would hope that they recognize the disservice they are doing to most of the people they are allegedly fighting for.

          • Eggo says:

            Actually, Bugmaster, even small gender imbalances dramatically improve the bargaining position of the minority gender, according to the microeconomists who get off on testing that kind of thing.
            I can’t find the speed-dating study I was thinking of right now, but there’s an econometrics study on men marrying up in France post-WWI titled “Marrying Up: The Role of Sex Ratio in Assortative Matching”.

            So essentially the dating pool would be massively improved for the men least likely to internalize feminist doctrine, and made much worse for all non-lesbian women (and particularly for feminists who would be least compatible with the remaining pool of partners).

            Of course, the biggest beneficiaries are those of us who gain sexual and emotional satisfaction from delicious irony.
            And lesbians, too. Now that would be a fun conspiracy theory to start.

          • Anonymous says:

            Veronica:

            I’d upvote your comment were there such a button, but I must raise some objections. I do also think you continue to miss the point somewhat, but one thing at a time.

            Firstly, like Bugmaster, I must object to the “neurotypical/neuroatypical” divide. He’s commented on that a lot already, but on a similar note, let me add–

            You keep talking about “nerds”. And you point out that a lot of nerds are not like us, a lot of nerds are terrible, and so forth, and all I can say is… why is this relevant?

            We’re talking about a particular problem — people who are paralyzed in due to the fear that everything they might do is evil[0]. Yes, a lot of people are not like that, this much is obvious. And a lot of those people are also nerds. So what? Of what relevance is the fact that we can name a category that includes both the people in question, and a whole bunch of people who aren’t the topic?

            More regarding your comment later, I’m trying to keep this relatively short for now.

            Llamathatducks:

            But there so are feminists who make it pretty darn clear that the solution to not knowing when it’s okay to do what is to use your damn words and also escalate gradually.

            But frequently “using your words” is the problem! Speech is not a neutral act and can, in fact, constitute harrassment. Hence a large part of why we’re afraid to do that. This, at the most, just pushes the problem back one step, and frequently doesn’t do even that.

            I don’t get this at all. How else might one interpret “unwanted”, and why?

            Something close to “not explicitly consented to”. Does this make absolutely no sense when talking about initiating something? Yes! Will we impose that restriction on ourselves anyway? Yes!

            (Actually, I just realized — my formulation is still ambiguous, because I didn’t specify whether whether “not wanted” is strict or not — dispreferred, or just not preferred? Really the whole notion of neutrality is missing from a lot of this discussion, it seems to me. Maybe neutrality just doesn’t come up much in practice?)

            I mean it basically comes down to the same things as always — if unwanted sexual advances are so terrible, then it must only be OK if you can be absolutely certain that it’s wanted. (Also, people might not tell you the truth. Now you have no way out!)

            [0]I’d say “due to feminist writings”, but it’s worth noting here that a lot of it is actually due to pre-feminist, “benevolently sexist” ideas as well! I don’t think Hugh Ristik or the Scotts have sufficiently acknowledged that (though I think Sarah Constantin indirectly mentioned it in a comment on the “Meditations” that I can no longer find). But this is a separate point so I’m not going to go on about this here.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Ugh, that was me. I really do need to be more careful…

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Alright. Time for the other part. Which is specifically a response to the following paragraph:

            Regarding whose job this is, this is a conversation. You can expect women to speak to our own interests — and dammit there is a long history when we kinda didn’t get to, at least not in the public space. This is a new power we have and it’s really super important. (Feminism is bigger than the struggles of nerds.) However, in this model you have to speak to your own interests. It’s not our job to fix gender, not alone. You guys have to step up.

            We’re trying!

            I’m going to be deliberately simplistic here, as sort of a how-this-feels-from-the-inside sort of thing. Yes, I realize the world doesn’t actually cleanly separate into goodguys and badguys; but I’m going to ignore that for now.

            So like I was saying — maybe this is an age thing, though Aaronson’s account makes that seem pretty unlikely to me. But while feminism may be new on the long scale, a hell of lot of people have now grown up with feminism. A hell of a lot of us have grown up as feminists.

            It doesn’t feel new, it feels like the way of things, at least here among the Blue Tribe. Sure, there’s the narrative of the fight against the xenophobes and misogynists of the Red Tribe — but those are always kept safely away. We sometimes encounter them on the internet, but we know better than to listen to anything they might have to say. Their feeble arguments are properly mocked and we go on our way.

            And so it goes — on the one side, the Blue Tribe, the feminists, the voice of reason, the goodguys; on the other side, the Red Tribe, the misogynists, the dogmatists, the badguys. Within the safety of our garden, there’s nothing rebellious about feminism at all.

            So here we are: People who’ve grown up as staunch Blue-Tribers but have come to the conclusion that feminism — our home, our garden, our people — is causing harm. What are we to do?

            The obvious answer is ask them to stop doing this thing. After all — feminists aren’t the enemy, to be fought; they’re good, reasonable people who listen and can be reasoned with. Right? They — we — care about truth, and questioning ourselves, and doubting, and arguing, right? We’re the “reality-based community”, aren’t we?

            Well, aparently not! This is the doublethink I put up with for a long time in myself — thinking that the Blue Tribe echo chamber was in fact the reality-based community it claimed to be, while at the same time seeing how they actually treated those who dared disagree. You want clarification? You want to test our principles against hard cases? You must be one of those concern trolls! Begone with you, to the Red Lands!

            Which is why it’s so scary — because we’re not Red-Tribers; Red-Tribers are the enemy. They’re Republicans and frat boys and other such barbaric sorts. Fine, there’ll still be people who will listen to you — but no decent person will take you seriously.

            So this is what happens when we “step up”, and petition those who are hurting us to stop — they ignore what we actually have to say, substitute their preconceptions, and group us in with the enemy.

            What, then, would you have us do? We’ve been making our case, as carefully and as sympathetically as we can, and still few pay attention to the actual content. We petition the feminists for two reasons: Firstly, because they’re the ones doing the harmful thing we want to stop, and, secondly, because they are our tribe, our civilization — would you have us petition the barbarians instead? They’re not the ones doing this; they’re not people we believe we can reason with; and we don’t live among them! It would be triply useless.

            So, again, what would you have us do? Stop trying to reason and overtly antagonize the feminists? Yeah, I’m sure that will be very successful in convincing them we’re actually reasonable people with legitimate goals. Strike out on our own, away from the Blue Tribe? To some extent that’s what we’ve started doing, here on the internet — but we’re not large enough to really carry this out, and this will help further cement the idea that we’re the enemy; for the echo chamber does not distinguish among its opponents. They will not admit a “reasonable opposition”, as we want to be. Meanwhile, all our friends are still back there. How do we extract them? How do we convince them of their mistakes?

            Seek an alliance with the Red Tribe? Ptah! I still know who the real enemy is.

            So what then? Who can we petition? Who on the side of good can we convince? How do we “step up” when all the people we thought of as good will not listen?

            People keep think we’re saying our problem is worse than theirs. We’re not saying that. We’re saying, our problem is more ignored than theirs; they may be attacked by the outside world, but they’ll always have a home in the Blue Tribe, the good people. We’re saying, you were attacked, but we were betrayed — that’s not necessarily more damaging in its effect, we’re not claiming that; yet still we draw a moral distinction between being attacked by those designated “bad”, as you were, and by those designated “good”, as we were. When the goodguys attack you, and the badguys continue to be abhorrent, who do you turn to?

            If it’s not to be the job of feminism alone to fix gender, then feminism needs to actually allow other groups to work on the problem. Right now, they see all alternatives as illegitimate — an implicit claim of monopoly power. In that case, I say, they need to take on the corresponding responsibility.

            I’m sure someone will respond saying that, you know, in the larger society, feminists are not unequivocally considered the side of good and those who oppose them are not unequivocally considered the side of evil. Well — I don’t care about the larger society! I’m not from some larger society, I’m from the Blue Tribe! It’s my home. I want to see it be better than this.

          • llamathatducks says:

            But frequently “using your words” is the problem! Speech is not a neutral act and can, in fact, constitute harrassment. Hence a large part of why we’re afraid to do that.

            That’s exactly why “use your damn words” is only half of the solution, the other half being to escalate gradually, as I said in the very sentence you’re replying to. Telling a platonic friend “your boobs are pretty and will you have sex with me?” is creepy precisely because it’s a very sudden escalation. Telling the same friend “would you like to go on a date sometime?”, then “would you like to go on another date?”, then perhaps “may I kiss you?”, then eventually perhaps “do you want to go back to my place?”, and then eventually “would you like to have sex?” is how you escalate gradually.

            That’s why I linked to some Captain Awkward posts that actually give men (and a person perceived as a man) very specific advice and scripts for how to use their words.

            Something close to “not explicitly consented to”. Does this make absolutely no sense when talking about initiating something? Yes! Will we impose that restriction on ourselves anyway? Yes!

            Ah, I see what you mean. Yeah, it’s awkward because when talking about sexual assault and rape people will sometimes use “unwanted” in a way that really means “not consented to”, but of course one can’t consent to someone initiating something.

            I mean it basically comes down to the same things as always — if unwanted sexual advances are so terrible, then it must only be OK if you can be absolutely certain that it’s wanted.

            Well, the way I (and I think many feminists) would correct this is that sexual advances are okay when you can reasonably believe that they may be wanted. And people do talk about when one might reasonably believe that and when one should not. (e.g. if someone’s just walking down the street, or at work, definitely not reasonable! If someone is flirting with you at a bar, possibly reasonable. If someone’s just your friend, a sexual advance is probably not reasonable but a romantic one probably is.) Which largely again comes down to escalating gradually.

            [Side note: I would really love a “reply” button on maximally indented comments that would actually reply to its parent comment. It’s kind of a pain right now to have to scroll waaaaay up to continue a subthread.]

          • John Schilling says:

            That’s exactly why “use your damn words” is only half of the solution, the other half being to escalate gradually, […] “would you like to go on a date sometime?”, then “would you like to go on another date?”, then perhaps “may I kiss you?”, then eventually perhaps “do you want to go back to my place?”, and then eventually “would you like to have sex?” is how you escalate gradually.

            Gradually. Or, alternately, to a Category Five Internet Shitstorm at the first step, if you make the mistake of asking someone for something vaguely resembling a date while standing in an elevator.

            The problem here isn’t guys who think grabbing boobs on first acquaintance is OK. I mean, those people exist, and they are a problem, and we should try to find a way to help them but really if they were the ones we were talking about we’d probably mostly be ignoring them or laughing at them.

            The problem we are talking about are the people that can’t or won’t take even the most innocuous first step on your ladder of escalation, because they know full well there is an utterly incomprehensible-to-them set of rules by which actual innocuous first steps are (not) distinguished from things that look like innocuous first steps but are actually “Well, that guy over there grabbed a woman’s boob, but this guy asked a woman for a DATE, in an ELEVATOR! Somebody get a rope”.

            To people not gifted in the field of applied sociology, the rules cannot be learned except by extensive trial and error. Where the penalty for error may be the immediate and summary Social Death Penalty.

            Applied to people who are trying to do exactly what you say you want them to.

          • So, again, what would you have us do? Stop trying to reason and overtly antagonize the feminists? Yeah, I’m sure that will be very successful in convincing them we’re actually reasonable people with legitimate goals. Strike out on our own, away from the Blue Tribe? To some extent that’s what we’ve started doing, here on the internet – but we’re not large enough to really carry this out, and this will help further cement the idea that we’re the enemy; for the echo chamber does not distinguish among its opponents. They will not admit a “reasonable opposition”, as we want to be. Meanwhile, all our friends are still back there. How do we extract them? How do we convince them of their mistakes?

            You are their enemy – not that this is necessarily a bad thing. You’re not the same enemy as the Red Tribe, but you’re still opposed to the establishment of an SJ hegemony, and in your circles, your interests are no longer closely aligned enough to make an alliance worthwhile, so being an enemy is the only way (except for the few people who are so exceptionally diplomatic, non-threatening, and kind that they could express almost any view and still be regarded positively). It helps to model them as similar to the Red Tribe, though with different rhetoric. What would you do if someone was stuck in a Red Tribe space and believes some mistaken things? The answer to that should provide a hint about what to do if someone is someone is in the equivalent Blue situation.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            llamathatducks:

            You’re absolutely right; I did ignore that. But here I’m going to make the claim that that still doesn’t suffice! I mean — I don’t disagree with “escalate gradually”, it’s just far from sufficient.

            [Also, for clarity: I was using “sexual” in the general sense. I may have to start saying “mating-related” again…]

            First let’s consider the other problem with “use your words”: The grain problem. “Ask about everything” is said a lot, but in order to be implementable, it needs some level of detail or resolution. Taken literally, where the only cap on resolution is your ability to convince yourself that two things are different, the result is absurd.

            (Ozy actually wrote a good thing a while back about what’s worth asking about; unfortunately it’s on Tumblr so finding it is very difficult.)

            Or — m, even that’s not really it. I guess maybe the thing is like I’m worried about the the stuff that you would call the “flirting” stage? And that’s largely not things you can ask about? Like maybe these are things that it didn’t even occur to you to class as “things” that need to be asked about? I don’t know.

            (To be fair, you didn’t say “ask about everything”; you said “use your damn words”. Which, while much more ambiguous and thus less constraining, is… much more ambiguous.)

            Sorry — I don’t think I’m succeeding at being very clear here. Well — you can bug me about it if necessary…

            Anyway, the reason I wanted to state this first is because this leads to the problem I wanted to point out with “escalate gradually”. Basically this requires some notion of what that constitutes. And, OK, a lot of this is pretty obvious. I’m not really worried that people will make the mistake of saying “Your boobs are pretty and will you have sex with me?” But, like, well, as for an example of a mistake I myself made — the right way to “escalate gradually” is not to gradually stand closer and closer to a person! That was probably a creepy thing to do…

          • Sniffnoy says:

            It helps to model them as similar to the Red Tribe, though with different rhetoric. What would you do if someone was stuck in a Red Tribe space and believes some mistaken things? The answer to that should provide a hint about what to do if someone is someone is in the equivalent Blue situation.

            Quite possibly! Unfortunately, that’s basically an unfamiliar situation to me… that’s what happens when you live in the echo chamber…

          • nydwracu says:

            When interacting with progressives outside places like SSC, I assume that, if I say anything that doesn’t fit within and reinforce their own reality-tunnel — or with the internet brand of progressive, if I even claim to be apolitical — they’re going to react like I slapped them across the face, fucked their wife, and converted all their sisters to Quiverfull.

            Relying on Red Tribe analogies to model internet progressivism is nowhere near strong enough. Your best bet is to not say anything. If you say anything, make sure you aren’t noticed. And if you aren’t noticed, make sure that not a single one of them has any reason to dislike you in particular.

          • DrBeat says:

            You can expect women to speak to our own interests — and dammit there is a long history when we kinda didn’t get to, at least not in the public space.

            No.

            There has never been a point in human history when the happiness and well being of women was not society’s number one priority.

            There were periods when the things that men and women agreed were the best methods to preserve women’s happiness and well-being were not the things you, personally, would have preferred.

            When MRAs say “Nobody hates women more than feminists”, this is the shit we’re talking about. You have to believe that all women who lived were completely incapable people-shaped wads of pure victimhood until the point when Mighty and Holy Feminism was created to finally give them a voice. If you think they were incapable of speaking up about their needs, you must think them incredibly weak, and you must think men, all men, hated them to a degree that makes no sense whatsoever and is backed up by no evidence. Both of these beliefs mark your worldview as so far afield of what actually is happening that speaking to you cannot produce any useful information.

          • llamathatducks says:

            Sniffnoy:

            I agree with you that the principles of “use your words” and “escalate gradually” are only first principles for understanding how to make romantic/sexual advances in a non-creepy way. I think these are the only principles you really need, but you’re right that one needs to not just know the principles but also figure out how to apply them. I’m sorry if I assumed that this stuff is necessarily obvious to everyone; I realize that that’s not true for a lot of people.

            But again, hence people like Captain Awkward giving out literal scripts and instructions on actual things that you can do and say to try and date people. I agree that this could be more widespread, but certainly this stuff exists.

            As for flirting – I really don’t have any opinion on this, since I have no idea how the fuck flirting works and I really can’t do it. I don’t know if it’s learnable, but in any case I don’t want to learn it, and I don’t think it’s totally necessary. My M.O. has always just been to replace flirting with getting to know a person + directly using my words, and while I can’t claim to be particularly successful in this arena, I don’t feel like I’m missing something absolutely crucial.

            John Schilling:

            Gradually. Or, alternately, to a Category Five Internet Shitstorm at the first step, if you make the mistake of asking someone for something vaguely resembling a date while standing in an elevator.

            My understanding of the chronology of Elevatorgate is this:
            1. Guy in elevator invited Rebecca Watson to his room.
            2. Rebecca Watson said, “Guys, don’t do that.” and explained why.
            3. Lots of people were angry at Rebecca Watson.
            4. Lots of people defended Rebecca Watson by explaining why they agree with her.
            5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until it becomes a hurricane of awful.

            If you want feminists to give you explicit rules about what’s okay and what’s not, with examples and reasoning, step 2 should be exactly what you want! Rebecca Watson described a situation that made her uncomfortable, explained why it made her uncomfortable, and gently advised men not to do that. The shitstorm happened when a lot of people were outraged that she felt uncomfortable at all. Which is seriously not a winning strategy for people who want to know how to approach women in a way they’ll appreciate.

            So I completely disagree with you that this is an example of the “Social Death Penalty”.

            (I say this as someone who could possibly have made the same mistake as the guy in the elevator; it was not obvious to me how that could make someone uncomfortable until Rebecca Watson explained it. I appreciate having that explanation!)

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            Re Elevatorgate, here are some details, as best I remember reading them, to add to your account.

            Step N. RW mentioned in a speech that there was too much sexual attention to women at the convention, and please don’t do that.

            Step N1. Around 4am RW and a man were in the elevator going up to the private rooms. The man said, “You interest me” and invited her to his room for coffee.

            Step N2. In another speech she mentioned this invitation and was annoyed that the man had done this right after her earlier mention that such things were offensive and please don’t do it.

            Step N3. The story went around, minus context and generalized, as “RW said never talk to women in elevators.”

          • Sniffnoy says:

            llamathatducks: In that case, I think we may be mostly in agreement!

            I had a few more comments on the topic, but I’m tired, so I’ll post them later if at all.

      • birdboy2000 says:

        Some geeks are rich. Some black people are rich. Some women are rich. No one uses the latter two facts to call the notion of racism or sexism horseshit, so why do the same to anti-geek sentiment?

        It’s important to note that it’s only some geeks who do well. There’s also a very large community of long-term unemployed on 4chan, for instance – check out a NEET thread sometime. My hobbies and circle of friends are exclusively geeky, and I can count the people I know with good jobs on my fingers.

        If you have data suggesting the geek community are wealthier than the average people in the country they come from, I’d be glad to see it.

        • fubarobfusco says:

          If you have data suggesting the geek community are wealthier than the average people in the country they come from, I’d be glad to see it.

          Tricky, because “geek” isn’t a demographic anyone measures across the population — unlike things like race, gender, religion, or language.

          For that matter, most of this sort of study look at income, not wealth.

          We can ask about “people with STEM degrees” and we’d readily find they have higher income than the general population. But there are a lot of doctors who don’t watch any subtitled anime and can’t hack Lisp code, so “people with STEM degrees” and “geeks” are hardly the same categories.

          • birdboy2000 says:

            People with STEM degrees probably do quite well, but using that as a proxy for “geeks” is indeed flawed – we’re still talking about a community stereotyped as living in their parent’s basement because they lack the money to move out. (as for wealth vs. income, I wasn’t thinking in those terms – I’d be more than happy with a survey of either.)

            You’re not going to get an answer without surveying geek communities themselves, which comes with its own pitfalls – you’re not going to get the same results at a major convention vs. a large mainstream forum vs. a place like 4chan and then there’s response bias and such. I’m aware of a survey of 4chan’s /a/ which finds 70% unemployment, which is probably more or less accurate for 4chan’s /a/ and I suspect is wildly different than you’d get at a place like the Anime News Network forums.

            STEM is probably geek-friendly compared to other fields, and it certainly pays well. But there’s no shortage of geeks who didn’t have the academic skill to complete a degree, or majored in a less geek-friendly field then STEM, or faced severe bullying, dropped out of high school or college and locked themselves in their rooms for years.

            Which is why equating geek with STEM major with rich person and then concluding that geeks aren’t oppressed is so irresponsible and damaging.

          • RCF says:

            Physicians aren’t exactly STEM.

      • Alex Godofsky says:

        The notion that someone has the ability to command salary that is *multiples* of the US world average salary is “oppressed” is horse shit.

        Do you still agree?

      • Anonymous says:

        >The notion that someone has the ability to command salary that is *multiples* of the US average salary is “oppressed” is horse shit.

        I know tons of “geeks” who are poor as shit. Fuck off.

    • Anonymous Coward says:

      Why wouldn’t some groups be more oppressed or less privileged than other ones? Obviously some people are more discriminated against than other people. For example, both are considered oppressed groups but a transwoman would undeniably have it harder than a cis woman. Likewise, it’s not absurd to say that a white nerd would be less oppressed than a black person.

      • drunkenrabbit says:

        Because the real point of that principle is to prevent the ostensibly oppressed groups from turning on each other or competing in the victimhood olympics, when the proper target of their outrage is clearly straight white men.

      • Anonymous says:

        > both are considered oppressed groups but a transwoman would undeniably have it harder than a cis woman.

        I’d like to start off by remarking that there’s often a conflation of “oppressed” and “has it harder” (and “has worse outcomes on some particular statistical measure”). For example, let’s consider something relatively common like having divorced parents. We can almost certainly find statistical measures which show worse outcomes for this class of people. Can we swiftly move to claim that they have it harder or are oppressed?

        Perhaps at this point, you can start to see that intersectionality is going to kill any attempt we have at measuring anything. Suppose I ask a question about whether people from location A have better outcomes than people from location B. I may be able to find a measure for this. Now, suppose I want to ask a question about how gender affects people from the various locations. We might get opposite answers for how gender affects outcomes in location A as opposed to location B. Do we ignore these variations and just sum up the effects in both locations? …now suppose I want to measure the effect of having divorced parents. Should have already selected a location? Should I have already selected a gender? What if some of these features cause a reversal in our answers?

        Pretty soon, we realize that we probably don’t have a good way of ordering these questions. Yet, it’s really tempting to think that being born in America in the 20th century are probably the most important features for my overall outcome and are in some sense ‘prior’ to other questions. It seems right to specify this prior intersection before we ask further questions (and, in fact, my queer theory class unashamedly recognized that most things they were dealing with were modern, US-only phenomena).

        This is an especially damning problem when people make specific claims like, “You, Mr. Anon, had it easier in life because you are _______.” Uhhh, well, according to what measure? What’s the prior intersection that we’re considering? What if I am/experienced other things which made it harder? Do those count? How do we measure them? Say, was being raised in a religious household a benefit or a harm? Do I get to assume that I’m gay/straight? Do I get to assume that I want a career in science (some would say this is much more difficult if you’re religious)? How much of my intersection counts? …aren’t we just re-deriving the principle that different people have different experiences? Wouldn’t it seem reasonable to acknowledge that it’s actually a Very Hard problem to compute a general measure of “hardness of life” across such vastly different experiences?

        There’s simply very few ways that you can answer meaningful questions for appropriately constructed intersections.

        • RCF says:

          Also, a lot of “privilege” is just eargreyishness. For instance, I supposedly have “privilege” because white people are more likely to get legacy admissions, even though I did not get legacy admissions. Much of “privilege” is pretending that all benefits that any white person receives benefits all white people, and thus is rather racist.

  39. MK says:

    If Poland does the same thing for descendants of its Jews, maybe I’ll sign up and get myself a shiny new passport.

    There is no need for a new law – if you can prove that any of your ancesors has been a Polish citizen (including the pre-WW2 Second Republic of Poland), obtaining Polish citizenship will not be a problem.

  40. Anonymous Coward says:

    “The good news – there’s a treatment for some forms of post-SSRI sexual dysfunction in men. The bad news: it involves doctors shooting lasers at your penis.”

    Could this also work for finasteride-induced penile anesthesia or is that a different issue?

  41. namae nanka says:

    “Aaronson writes an extremely moving and passionate comment about what it’s like being a shy male geek in a feminist world.”

    Displaying his male geek privilege in the process. Anyway, quite brave of him to talk that much in the land of Nancy Hopkins and Marilee Jones

    As for the maritime disasters, I remember reading this critique back in 2012.

    http://purplemotes.net/2012/04/22/deadly-sex-discrimination-in-titanic-chivalry-myth-reporting/

    More importantly, of the 5 women’s rights campaigners on board the ship, the male one died. And votes and boats rhyme.

  42. Steve Sailer says:

    “But maybe we also shouldn’t forget Jeffrey Sachs’ analysis that the West threw Russia under the bus in 1989 and totally failed to give it the economic aid that could have made it a post-communist success story like Poland.”

    Of course, the United States was hugely generous to Russia with economic advice, with Jeffrey Sachs, Andrei Shleifer, Larry Summers, and Stanley Fischer, among other luminaries of American economics, being intimately involved with economic reforms in Russia in the 1990s.

    How’d that work out, anyway? Stanley Fischer, for example, was recently made Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, so I guess he must have done a bang-up job with his advice to Russia in the 1990s.

  43. Jaskologist says:

    Since Links posts are kind of like Open Threads, I’d like to propose this comment as the unofficial Cookie Monster diagnosis thread. Technical people can reply here to experiment with the commenting system and hopefully debug it.

    For the rest, here’s a tip: If you comment again under your usual name, the Edit link will appear on your Anonymous comment. You can then clear out the content of that one, which will delete it.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Observation so far: using Chrome, the relevant cookies disappear only when I close the browser window (just closing the tab did not kill the cookies). As far as I can tell, they shouldn’t; they have expiration dates. Manually deleting those cookies which are set as Session does not cause the site to forget me.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Now testing IE.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Interesting. IE did *not* forget me, even after I closed the browser entirely. We may be dealing with a Chrome issue.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Now testing Firefox.

  44. cassander says:

    Sachs was the top advisor to the russian government in the early 90s. he’s basically saying “i didn’t fail, I was just insufficiently funded. if western governments had given me tens of billions of dollars, I could have fixed Russia.” It’s nonsense. Russia didn’t need money to succeed, more money would just have meant a few extra oligarchs got a little richer. What it needed was to adopt a capitalist economy. It started down that road, but reversed course after about 6 months, just enough to ensure all of the costs of such a transition, while providing none of the benefits.

  45. Zorgon says:

    The Dutch Bridges story made me smile on a very cold December morning. Thank you for that.

  46. Steve Reilly says:

    Looks like the Argentina story isn’t true:
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/29/argentina-kirchner-adopt-child-werewolf

    “But according to Argentine historian Daniel Balmaceda, there is no link between the two traditions. “The local myth of the lobizón is not in any way connected to the custom that began over 100 years ago by which every seventh son (or seventh daughter) born in Argentina becomes godchild to the president,” he said.

    That custom began in 1907, when Enrique Brost and Apolonia Holmann, Volga German emigrés from south-eastern Russia asked then-president José Figueroa Alcorta to become godfather to their seventh son, said the historian.

    “The couple wanted to maintain a custom from Czarist Russia, where the Tsar was said to become godfather to seventh sons, and Argentina’s president accepted.””

  47. Konkvistador says:

    Cheap oil of course being an aspect of economic warfare against Russia as well.

  48. alexp says:

    Burning a city down to rebuild it better has been before. Better is the key word, so I’m not talking about Nero.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haussmann%27s_renovation_of_Paris

  49. spxtr says:

    The second link in the graphene bit, “a solution looking for a problem,” is a dead link for me.

  50. Anonymous says:

    (forking)

    It’s agreed that [geeks] lack social power, but many would tie their structural power to their ability to hold lucrative careers (see comments above).

    Wait, how does this square with geeks being “basement-dwelling neckbeards” / “still living with their mothers”?

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s perfectly consistent with the notion that people need to leave their parents house at age X, many of these basement dwellers have lucrative/otherwise-considered-good jobs and in fact some actually provide for their parents, rather than the other way around. Much as one may loath that show, look at the jewish guy from TBBT.

      Still, as mentioned before, not all of these geeks “make it”, so it can just be two stereotypes about different people who share a bunch of characteristics, and are therefore conflated.

  51. Tom says:

    Funnily enough, in Australia (and maybe other southern hemisphere countries) it’s not uncommon to have a second Christmas, “Christmas in July”. This gives us an opportunity to try all those wintery traditions. However in my family there were never gifts or exaggerated consumption, it was really just a party with old fashioned food and a tree.

  52. John Maxwell IV says:

    Scientists contributing to the public discourse seem valuable. So it’s sad to see articles like this “Kardashians of Science” one discouraging scientists who are contributing to the public discourse and telling them to write more papers. What’s left off that list are the many, many people who contribute to the public discourse (like, say, the author of this blog) who haven’t really made significant scientific contributions. Does Science really want to cede Twitter to non-scientists?

    • John Schilling says:

      Also missing from the list is probably the most famous celebrity astrophysicist of the past half-century or so, Dr. Brian H May. I can’t easily find all the information I would need to calculate his “K-index”, e.g. the only citation index I can access from here doesn’t go back to May’s most active period. But with two peer-reviewed publications, one dissertation, and almost nine thousand tweets to a quarter million followers, I suspect he’s at least close on Neil’s K-index heels.

      In other words, yes, the list is just a clumsy, snarky way of saying “Celebrity science publicists are usually only mediocre scientists”. And that’s probably worth saying in a less-snarky way. “Science publicist” and “scientist” are two different things. Some science publicists start as scientists, and some keep at least a scientific job title and maybe do a little research on the side while doing publicity full-time. But that’s not necessary. If the Hayden Planetarium decides to become a research-focused institution and hires a new full-time director, that doesn’t make Neil Tyson any less effective a science publicist. And if CNN decides to hire a science correspondent with an MA in writing and a minor in astronomy, can read and understand scientific publications but has never produced any, that person might be more effective than Tyson or even Sagan.

      Or not, but in any event judge them on how well they are doing what they are actually trying to do.

  53. Mark says:

    Amanda Marcotte, a pretty mainstream feminist blogger, just wrote a response to Scott Aaronson’s post here that exemplifies the problems of political tribalism better than just about anything else I’ve ever seen. Linking it here probably constitutes outrage porn, for which I apologize, but once you get over the initial shock, there are interesting things going on there that I’d really enjoy seeing you comment on if you ever felt like it. Namely, when you dissent from some of the central dogmas of your tribe, you get labelled a bad person; but when you bow and scrape and swear that you’re still almost entirely on board with the program, you get labelled a dirty traitor, and all of your heartfelt explanations get twisted beyond any recognition in order to paint you as a despicable wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    • Multiheaded says:

      Argh.

      Oh heaven.

      Fuck 🙁

      This fucking article and them fucking comments have ruined my day.

      • Bugmaster says:

        How so ? It’s pretty much what I’ve expected upon reading Mark’s comment, and it’s also pretty humdrum, by sectarian outgroup shaming standards. I’d love to say, “see, this is exactly what’s wrong with Social Justice”, but I can’t, because in fact every single in-group acts this way (some more often than others, but still). Writing (and reading) articles like these is just part of being human — or, if you prefer, part of being ruled by Moloch, which is pretty much the same thing.

        Instead of judging a group by solely its worst actions, it is probably more useful to judge it by the ratio of good to bad actions, as well as by its efficiency in achieving its stated goals (assuming that we agree with the goals, of course). By this standard, online feminism still falls short, but the margin is a lot smaller.

        • nydwracu says:

          There’s sectarian outgroup shaming, and then there’s quoting something and immediately claiming that it says something completely different from what it obviously says.

          You can call that my personal psychological problem if you want, but it was strongly reinforced by everything I picked up from my environment: to take one example, the sexual-assault prevention workshops we had to attend regularly as undergrads, with their endless lists of all the forms of human interaction that “might be” sexual harassment or assault, and their refusal, ever, to specify anything that definitely wouldn’t be sexual harassment or assault. I left each of those workshops with enough fresh paranoia and self-hatred to last me through another year.

          Translation: I was too busy JAQ-ing off, throwing tantrums, and making sure the chip on my shoulder was felt by everyone in the room to be bothered to do something like listen.

          Then it gets worse.

          My recurring fantasy, through this period, was to have been born a woman, or a gay man, or best of all, completely asexual, so that I could simply devote my life to math, like my hero Paul Erdös did. Anything, really, other than the curse of having been born a heterosexual male, which for me, meant being consumed by desires that one couldn’t act on or even admit without running the risk of becoming an objectifier or a stalker or a harasser or some other creature of the darkness.

          Translation: I believe that women and gay men do not experience either sexual desire or fear of rejection, mostly because I haven’t considered the possibility that people not exactly like me have internal lives and desires of their own.

          If I hadn’t run across people like Marcotte before, I wouldn’t think she actually believes this. How do you get from “feminism creates guilt in a certain demographic, so Aaronson wished not to be in that demographic” to “Aaronson wished to be in a demographic that would never experience sexual desire or fear of rejection”?

          Anyway, let’s see what Marcotte thought about the Duke rape hoax.

          People who continue to wax on about the Duke rape case: People don’t respond because you’re right. (sic) They don’t respond because they know from experience that anyone who defends men who write thing like this:

          tommrow night, after tonights show, ive decided to have some strippers over to edens 2c. all are welcome.. however there will be no nudity. i plan on killing the bitches as soon as the walk in and proceding to cut their skin off while cumming in my duke issue spandex.. all besides arch and tack please respond

          Hates women and would defend a rapist who was caught in the act on videotape. No one talks to you because you are rape-loving scum. If you think otherwise, you are mistaken. Your beloved boys who scream “n—-r” at black women and joke about killing and raping them may escape the worst charges, but they are not angels. You know it, we know it. That you defend them makes you such lowly, sleazy scum that it’s no wonder no one talks to you. They’re afraid by acknowledging you, they will catch the evil. Know this. Absorb it. Hope you enjoy sleeping at night, you sick, hateful bastards.

          Oh, and she worked on a serious presidential campaign in 2008. Isn’t America great?

          • Nita says:

            Sure, Marcotte is a professional outrage factory and not a participant in civil discourse. But, that email she quotes was pretty terrible… right?

    • Deiseach says:

      I can’t say I consider Amanda Marcotte to be a mainstream anything and the degree of schadenfruede I get from seeing her make a plank of herself probably should make me more ashamed of myself than I am (2008 John Edwards campaign? The memory still makes me smile) 🙂

      Really, being surprised that Amanda Marcotte is yowlling about something is a bit like being surprised that grass is green.

      • Mark says:

        I can’t say I consider Amanda Marcotte to be a mainstream anything

        I got the impression that she’s mainstream since she’s written for major publications and hangs around other well-known feminists, but I confess I’m not really familiar with her at all beyond that. I take it from your comment that many feminists find her embarrassing, but does that disqualify her from mainstream status? Which feminists have distanced themselves from her or her expressed views? (Not trying to ask pointed questions – I seriously don’t know.)

        • Deiseach says:

          I don’t know if I can consider myself representative of the large mass of women out there, but I do know that the first experience I had of Amanda Marcotte’s writing was on pandagon at the time of the mini-controversy about giving girls the HPV vaccine.

          Now I was kind of interested in that, because this was before my own country instituted a mass HPV for twelve year old girls vaccination programme, and I thought the ins and outs of it might be thrashed out in fairly reasonable conversation.

          What I got was “The only reason anyone can object to this is because they are horrible religious bigots who want their daughters to get cancer and die in agony because they hate sex and want to punish women”.

          Now, part of what made me a little dubious about the programme in question was that the governor of the state was all gung-ho about this vaccine here, not that one there; that this was going to be pushed on young girls whether their parents liked it or not; that this was a mass vaccination programme that we had no idea really if there would be side-effects or what the actual efficacy of the vaccine in question was; and that allegedly the politician in question had business ties with the company making the vaccine he insisted would be used state-wide.

          I didn’t think it unreasonable that people might have some doubts about possible dodgy political ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ deals with pharmaceutical firms and I would have like some discussion of why, exactly, this vaccine here not that vaccine there, given that there are various strains of HPV and there is no one-size-fits-all vaccine.

          What I got was screeching hang-ups about religion (if I’m correct, she’s ex-Catholic?) and nothing to address any questions of the science or the business ties. Just that ALL SEX AT ANY AGE IS GOOD AND IF YOU OBJECT TO THIS VACCINE YOU HATE SEX YOU HATE WOMEN YOU WANT THEM TO DIE HORRIBLY TO PUNISH THEM BECAUSE YOU’RE A RELIGOUS BIGOT.

          So no, I don’t consider Amanda Marcotte mainstream, even if tomorrow she got a column in whatever newspaper is the most popular or a regular guest spot on some TV talk show, but that’s my own personal opinion and I can’t really gauge her reputation on a public level.

      • Eggo says:

        She writes for the Guardian. She gets to decide what a mainstream feminist is.

        That’s the problem.

    • llamathatducks says:

      Ugh. I’ve learned from things Amanda Marcotte’s written before, and there are even bits of this article that I agree with, but it’s just so goddamn cruel.

      I think one source of the problem is that she may be conflating “women” and “feminism”. Like, if you replace “feminism” with “women” in a complaint about feminism, you usually get a pretty terrible statement. And many feminists often assume that their interests are always the same as women’s interests. Gah.

      (I am pretty much a feminist and I do not endorse cruelty in the name of feminism.)

    • Harald K says:

      This is the sort of thing we have archive links for. If you suspect people are being deliberately offensive in order to make money on ads, please use it. And if you don’t suspect that about AM, you have a bad case of political blindness.

      • birdboy2000 says:

        To be fair, Marcotte’s been a complete and utter jackass since long before the rise of clickbait, and I have no doubts of her sincerity in that regard.

        But I agree, because the fact that people are publishing her diatribes is more than enough reason to use archive links.

    • MugaSofer says:

      Hey, I feel better about writing a ranty reply to Veronica (at Ozy’s place) about exactly this! something something superweapons!

      … yeah, this is outrage porn, isn’t it 🙁

      Still: I’m going to point out that this, mentally replacing stuff like this with “wah women don’t all feel obligated to have sex with me :(” is a i>great example of “anti-feminist bingo” or whatever you want to call it; and something Scott has written extensively about.

      There are many women out there who are also crippled by social anxieties who would prefer to hide in their hobbies and interests. The difference is a) they can’t blame the entire opposite sex instead of themselves for their mental health issues and b) when they actually try to turn those interests and hobbies into professions, they are told by various social forces, both explicitly and implicitly, that their femaleness means they will always be second-rate at best. Being able to hide in mathematics is, in fact, a privilege, because it is one that has long been and continues in many ways, denied to women.

      On the one hand, god damn, “they can’t blame the entire opposite sex instead of themselves for their mental health issues”? That’s … that statement indicates some fairly serious mindkilling.

      On the other hand, there are two great points here: social anxiety is not stereotypically associated with women, and neither is “nerdy” interests. There’s a definite risk that underreporting might skew our data, and thus our models, in this sort of situation. Is there an actual difference here? Is it mediated by feminism? Or is the existence of this response from feminists obscuring the real problem?

      Translation: I’ve completely absorbed the idea that dating nerds hurts your social status, so I only pay attention to women I have nothing in common with while turning my nose up to women who share my interests. When those women inevitably reject me, I refuse to accept that it might be because they don’t share my interests, but instead choose to believe that it’s because they are fundamentally broken and therefore must be attracted to men who are bad for them. I categorically refuse to accept that any of my romantic rivals might actually be okay guys.

      This seems like an interesting hypothesis. Anyone have any evidence or observations on this?

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Yes, Scott’s comment 171 is evidence against that hypothesis.

      • haishan says:

        It’s an awful big leap from “Other guys had success with women I was terrified would think I was a rapist if I hit on them” to “I only cared about hott chickz who didn’t share my interests and didn’t pay any attention to nerd girls.” In my experience nerdy guys who are shy are usually shy around hott chickz and also nerdy girls, and disproportionately likely to be attracted to the latter.

    • haishan says:

      This pisses me off greatly, which means there’s probably a memetic immune response going on, which means that this deserves more scrutiny.

      I’m pretty certain Aaronson doesn’t think of himself as believing he’s entitled to sex. I’ve met the man, and read his blog, and he seems generally pretty nice. But what if this is how “I deserve sex with beautiful women who I like!” feels from the inside?

      Let’s take this section:

      All this time, I faced constant reminders that the males who didn’t spend months reading and reflecting about feminism and their own shortcomings—even the ones who went to the opposite extreme, who engaged in what you called “good old-fashioned ass-grabbery”—actually had success that way. The same girls who I was terrified would pepper-spray me and call the police if I looked in their direction, often responded to the crudest advances of the most Neanderthal of men by accepting those advances. Yet it was I, the nerd, and not the Neanderthals, who needed to check his privilege and examine his hidden entitlement!

      Now refactor it a bit: “In the alternate universe in which I never read any feminism, I wouldn’t worry that hitting on female friends and acquaintances makes me a creepy weirdo basically-rapist, and then I’d be as confident as one of those Neanderthals — except also smart and successful, so I’d be drowning in pussy if it weren’t for you meddling feminists!”

      Yeah, I had to take a couple liberties, but the two arguments at least bear a family resemblance. It’s at least plausible to me that “feeling entitled to sex” doesn’t register as that, but as something else less obviously objectionable. Which, if true, is troubling.

      (By the way: there are definitely parts of the Marcotte piece that piss me off even after I try to steelman it as hard as possible. But I don’t want to focus on those, because I think “how does misogyny feel from the inside?” is way more important.)

      • Anonymous says:

        Your rephrasing is not what I think people usually mean by “entitled to sex.”

      • Eggo says:

        That might work, except all of the pain he’s expressing came from fear and self-loathing, not lack-of-pussy.

        • haishan says:

          The fear-and-loathing part and the not-getting-laid part seem pretty tightly bound together. Unless you think Aaronson would’ve had similar anxiety even if he were somehow drowning in pussy — I think the shtetl part indicates that this isn’t the case.

      • Princess Stargirl says:

        To some people “entitled to X” means: “I am allowed to obtain X through violent means if necessary.” By this definition no one is entitled to sex.

        However I use entitled to mean “Society should be very sad if a person wants but does not have X. And if society can do anything to alleviate this desire for X it would be morally good for them to do so. (modulo limited resources and competing needs).”

        So I basically think everyone is entitled to sex. Regardless of gender. Sex and relationships are very important to most people’s metal health and well being.

        • ATairov says:

          > So I basically think everyone is entitled to sex. Regardless of gender. Sex and relationships are very important to most people’s metal health and well being.

          I basically agree with this. Everyone deserves a happy, fulfilled life, but resources and other real-world factors (like differing preferences) prevent us from supplying this, or may make many of the methods to try to supply it immoral.

        • Anonymous says:

          Hmm. To me “entitled to” means “Society should provide X for people who don’t have it”. I think people are entitled to food and housing, but not sex.