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Links 3/15: Linksmanship

The OKCupid Bullshit-To-English Filter makes dating site cliches more interesting. “Random” becomes “banal”, “I love X” becomes “I for the most part tolerate X”, and “I like to have fun” becomes “I like institutionalized racism”. And it only gets worse from there.

People predicted online education would give everyone access to free courses on every subject taught by the world’s top experts. It did exactly that and disrupted approximately nothing. So how do we adapt online education to a credentialist world?

I liked this idea when it was speculative. Now it’s supported: Anorexia and body dysmorphic disorder have similar brain anomalies.

Here’s some utopian but creative speculation about weird alternative basic income systems.

Political bubble segregation alert: did you know Fox News is the most trusted news channel in America, and it’s not even close? But beware – the article claims this is true “even among Democrats”, which seems to contradict its own data.

When I lived in Ireland I never really got the impression that the government was very good at what it did. Sure enough, in one week Ireland manages to accidentally legalize all drugs, and almost accidentally ban non-homosexual marriage. On the plus side, they’ve finally gotten around to repealing the law that anyone selling horses outside Dublin will be put to death.

Researchers who probably have never done calibration training are 99% sure endocrine disrupting pollutants are linked to diabetes, ADHD, etc.

Infinite Jest in Legos.

Astrology meets economics: In Singapore, kids born in the Year Of The Dragon are considered lucky. So lots of parents have kids in the Year Of The Dragon, the class sizes are bigger those years, and it’s harder to get into good colleges and entry-level jobs. Not so lucky now, are you?

More than 6% of American synaesthetics have color-letter associations that match a popular set of Fisher-Price alphabet magnets.

Marginal Revolution: Larger companies means more income inequality.

The 2014 Effective Altruist survey results are out.

An article on divestment which makes a point I’m slapping myself for not realizing earlier: divestment can’t possibly have any economic consequences on the companies it targets because of the efficiency of the stock market. It then goes on to point out that the largest divestment campaign in history, against apartheid South Africa, didn’t change the prices of South African company shares one bit. It concludes divestment might be a good way to raise discussion, but nothing more.

The Justice Department recently joined all the other experts who took a careful look at the case in concluding that Darren Wilson shot Mike Brown in self-defense, and the whole “hands up, don’t shoot” story was made up by Brown’s friend. That isn’t news. What’s news is that a columnist who pushed the opposite narrative has apologized.

Speaking of Ferguson, why are there more than twice as many black women as black men there and what effect does it have on the culture? (h/t Marginal Revolution)

The Most Decade Specific Words In Billboard Hits, 1890 – 2014. One day our children are going to be astounded that we survived the 2010s.

I recently wrote about the Bay Area rationality community being difficult to get into. Well, not anymore! www.bayrationality.com is a central listing of all their events and directory of people to contact. Thanks, Oliver!

The social justice movement is telling people to stop reading books by white male authors to fight the “inherent bias” of the literary world. But if you know how these things work, you shouldn’t be surprised that a rudimentary investigation finds that books written by women are just as likely to get reviewed in prestigious publications as those by men, and there are simply fewer of the former.

More shared-environment-mattering-blogging: a natural quasi-experiment in Norway finds that when maternity leave is increased, the children do better in school and make more money growing up.

More money-not-mattering-blogging: a natural quasi-experiment in Sweden finds that lottery winners’ children (who are raised rich) do no better than other children in school, in avoiding drugs, etc (suggesting that the clear real-world correlation between wealth and child success is genetic rather than financial). But of course Sweden has one of the world’s strongest social safety nets, so money may matter more in other countries.

Why are so many people myopic (ie need glasses) these days? It used to be thought that the problem was kids straining their young eyes reading too many books. A new study convincingly finds that it’s more likely kids not spending enough time in bright sunlight outside.

One reason California has become such an important tech center despite having some pretty terrible laws is that it got the important law right, says a group who track inventor movements and find the most important factor is banning non-compete agreements. This kind of thing could form the core of an interesting argument against libertarianism.

The Battle Of Castle Itter was the only time in history the US military defended a besieged castle.

I’ve seen a lot of smart people defending the Trans-Pacific Partnership recently. Here’s Noah Smith: A Trade Deal Liberals Can Live With. And Tyler Cowen: Why Paul Krugman Is Wrong To Oppose Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Scientists cure Alzheimers in mice. Human trials to begin in 20-something something who cares THEY’RE ONE WEEK LATE! A WEEK! WHY COULDN’T YOU HAVE JUST CURED ALZHEIMERS ONE WEEK EARLIER!

A pretty good explanation of the conflicting claims about sea ice at the South Pole.

As far as I can tell, this is not an early April Fools’ joke, a viral marketing campaign, or an urban legend. As far as I can tell, this is actually true: Mr. T will star in a home improvement show called “I Pity The Tool”

Bleeding Heart Libertarians argues against compulsory voting – not only won’t it help, but if it’s a sneaky plot to get the Democrats to win elections, it won’t do that either.

Colleges improve critical thinking skills, says research with no control group so they can’t differentiate it from the effects of normal aging. I dunno, maybe they didn’t go to college so they didn’t think of that.

Buying copies of your own music or books to game the best-sellers charts is practically universal.

It’s like rain on your wedding day. It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife. It’s like…

Hospitals are starting to try to address poverty among their patients to prevent easily preventable poverty-related problems from eating up too many health resources. Don’t be fooled by this looking like an expansion of the creeping social services bureaucracy – this is highly-competent profit-seeking institutions being given an economic incentive to improve the lives of specific poor people assigned to them, which is the same kind of promising as social impact bonds.

The Less Wrong Sequences by Eliezer Yudkowsky are now available as an ebook:

But those of you who are looking for something steamier don’t even have to go entirely off topic!

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766 Responses to Links 3/15: Linksmanship

  1. Dale says:

    > divestment can’t possibly have any economic consequences on the companies it targets because of the efficiency of the stock market

    There are actually (or at least were) Sin Funds, whose purpose was to invest in ‘unethical’ industries like oil, defense, pharma etc. in order to take advantage of the *slightly* lower prices that might result from ‘ethical’ investing.

    So ethical investing *might* have one economic consequence: transferring wealth from you to amoral investors (and to the financial company that is charging you higher fees for this more complicated product).

    • Ptoliporthos says:

      Investment would be more likely to effect change than divestment anyway. You buy the shares, and then show up at shareholder meetings, and demand changes in the way the company does business. It’s just an obvious extension of business’s “golden rule” (i.e. “He who has the gold makes the rules”).

      • Menno says:

        That’s how a lot of advocacy groups work these days. My company has an ethical investment arm, and they do this. We’re also a part of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility which organizes socially responsible investing advocacy.

        Whether or not it’s effective is another story. Sure we like to tout the changes companies make, but most of the time they’re marginal and cost-neutral. Which I guess is a win-win in that we* get to look effective and the companies look responsible.

        *Personally, I don’t care all that much and just invest in index funds.

  2. Anthony says:

    Your “something steamier” link has the disclaimer “It’s for super mature audiences only.”

    Which really should read “It’s for immature but over-18 audiences who want lots of gratuitous sex, possibly with an unfriendly AI.”

  3. The link and your link text about not reading cis, straight, white male authors exaggerates matters a little– Bradford found her life was better after not reading such authors for a year, and issued a challenge for other people to do the same. She also said elsewhere that being pushed (for lack of reading material) to go outside her usual genres was fun/informative.

    She does imply that it’s better to not read such authors and I don’t like that point of view, but she isn’t pushing for a lifetime ban.

    In regards to myopia, how certain is it that being outdoors helps because of brighter light rather than (as well as?) having more distant things to look at and or moving more while having distant things to look at?

    • CaptainBooshi says:

      Speaking as a feminist, sentences like “The social justice movement is demanding people stop reading books by white male authors to fight the “inherent bias” of the literary world,” are a huge part of the reason why I have real trouble taking Scott seriously when he talks about feminism. This is more than an exaggeration, it’s a straight up lie. I doubt Scott is intentionally lying, but that doesn’t change the fact that’s it a mistruth.

      I double-checked all the links in that article above, just to make sure the argument wasn’t being made and I wasn’t aware of it, but not a single one of them even comes close. Several of them challenge (not demand, not even say it’s something you should do, just that it’s something that would be good for you to do) that people try reading books by non-white, non-male, non-cis authors for a year, and then go back to whatever reading habits you like. The last link doesn’t even go that far, and is just trying to get people to read and make more books by authors like that.

      I’d also like to point out Scott’s following note about the study is pretty much a non-sequitur. The study shows that literary reviews are not actually biased, and feature books by women to about the proportion that there are books by women. This is really nice to see, but doesn’t actually apply to anything being discussed.

      The tumblr campaign just wants to see more diversity in books, and the study shows that yes, most books are by men. The whole point of the challenge is that since there are so many white, cis male authors, it’s really easy to read stuff that is primarily by white, cis men, and overlook good stuff outside your comfort range. It’s perfectly possible to argue this point, but it has nothing to do with the study Scott quoted, since it does indeed show that most stuff published is by men. That’s the problem when you so completely misrepresent your opponent’s views; it means you can’t even argue against them properly.

      • Derived Absurdity says:

        I strongly agree with this comment. I read the original article on xojane shortly after it was posted and I found it eminently, completely reasonable. It wasn’t “demanding” anything, it was simply encouraging and suggesting people to branch out of their comfort zones a little and try something new, to expand their perspective a bit and also at the same time help out some people who are largely overlooked in favor of white male voices. And even if Scott’s link that women are reviewed just as much as men is true, the original article explicitly pointed out that the problem goes beyond just men and women. Did Scott read the article? I can’t imagine how any reasonable person could have a problem with it at all, let alone claim it’s “demanding” anything.

        And that Telegraph article he linked was a disgusting strawman. Tempest’s article was not an “attack on white men”, and from what I can tell neither was anything else he linked. That’s just pure victimizing smearing bullshit. It’s really disappointing, IMO, that Scott – someone whom I grealy respect – would positively link to such crap.

        • gattsuru says:

          At a more immediate level, the XOJane article does claim that there is systemic bias in reviewing of books and determining the worthiness of books, linking to a HuffingtonPost article that claims outfits like the New York Times ignore well-written works by a woman author as ‘genre fictions’.

          It wasn’t “demanding” anything, it was simply encouraging and suggesting people to branch out of their comfort zones a little and try something new, to expand their perspective a bit and also at the same time help out some people who are largely overlooked in favor of white male voices

          May I ask why Mrs. Bradford requested folk stop reading white, cis, straight males, instead of starting to read other authors? One could match her challenge by being in a coma for fifty-two weeks, while the month I read through McBujould’s entire library and a serious part of Diane Duane’s original universe works was tainted by the release of a EarthScorpion fanfic chapter.

          And that’s before we get to the purpose of this task. Whiteness (and to a lesser extent heterosexuality and transexuality) are culturally defined, of course, but it’s Mrs Bradford tells us that we should stop reading white straight authors because they write books that make her rage-quit. That’s not how those traits actually work : neither my race nor my orientation mean that I must write politically acceptable fiction. I’m somewhat skeptical that Mrs Bradford would hold Ender’s Game up as an example of acceptable fiction were the author — who’s kidding no one — to come out of the closet, and it’s very clear that she doesn’t find Larry Correia or Sarah Hoyt less rage-worthy than Neil Gaiman.

          ((And then under that, it’s becoming increasingly clear that “white, straight, cis male” has become a ‘boo’ phrase, used where this isn’t much related to the objection at hand and sometimes even when it’s not an accurate descriptor.))

          • Pete says:

            This is a great post. You should read more X will always convince me more than you should read less Y. That said, I will make an effort to read more black authors so maybe something good will come out of it. Also, most people demanding more women in politics aren’t very fond of Thatcher.

            On your final point, it regularly amuses me when people say things like “too many video games are written by SWMs” and then go onto criticise Mario, Zelda, Bayonetta etc. Video game development is one area where there is no real white dominance but ‘white’ often gets lumped in anyway.

          • Jiro says:

            Zelda doesn’t count as created by non-whites for the same reason that most people promoting this challenge wouldn’t count manga as something with a non-white author: Asians are only considered non-whites by SJWs in specific situations where they are marginalized. “Non-white”, in other words, really means “non-oppressor non-white” or “non-white whom I like”.

          • Anonymous says:

            just like how any discussion of minorities in tech sweeps all east asian and indian men under the rug…

        • Mary says:

          “it was simply encouraging and suggesting people to branch out of their comfort zones a little ”

          Tempest, by her own admission, was giving up coming out of her comfort zone. She found reading works by white males, well — “I would come across stories that I didn’t enjoy or that I actively hated or that offended me so much I rage-quit the issue. ”

          One suspects that checking the bylines first may have been a contributing factor. . . .

          • Jaskologist says:

            Here is C.S. Lewis properly exhorting people to reach out of their reading comfort zones. Note how he doesn’t talk about how reading stuff by white people makes him fly into a rage; his goal really is to help get people out of their comfort zone, whereas Tempest’s is to get everyone into her comfort zone and block out the rest. And even he doesn’t advocate completely abandoning new books, just interspersing every couple of them with an old book.

            (The essay is a preface to Athanasius’ On The Incarnation. SJW’s can safely read that; Athanasius was probably a POC, and was so oppressed that he was exiled at least 5 times.)

          • nydwracu says:

            Anyone who flies into a rage at reading books by straight white men ought to abandon all the ideas of Marx, Foucault, and Derrida, and instead read Ayn Rand, Thomas Sowell, and Savitri Devi.

            Has Martin Ssempa written anything?

            (^:

        • Peter says:

          Evidently I don’t count as a reasonable person.

          A juxtaposition:

          Scott: The social justice movement is _telling_ people to stop reading books by white male authors
          CaptainBooshi: not even say it’s something you _should_ do
          Bradford: The “Reading Only X Writers For A Year” a challenge is one every person who loves to read (and who loves to write) _should_ take.

          So CaptainBooshi is wrong. Whether this line of Bradford’s amounts to “telling” (not demanding) is not entirely clear but it looks like telling to me.

          An “attack on white men”. Well, there were plenty of men who weren’t being attacked, myself included, due to being non-straight or non-cis (I wonder what she’d say about people who identified as “not entirely cis” or “mostly male”). If I said that I had stopped reading stuff by SJ types, and taken technological measures to avoid reading stuff by SJ types, because what they said enraged me, then that would be an attack on SJ types. (The truth is more complicated than that, also I try to mitigate the attack but sometimes the frustration comes through.)

          That said there seems to be a difference in tone between the unadulterated XOJane article and the version with Larry Correia’s commentaries attached (thanks Richard). If I let the XOJane article flow and ignore the crashingly bad bits, then I can sort of see what she’s driving at, whereas the Correia annotations sort-of obscure it. OTOH, whereas I don’t agree with everything Correia says, he does have quite a lot of points.

          I seem to be in the middle camp that says that taking some positive action to seek out new life and new civilisation different things to read isn’t a bad thing to do, but setting any sort of quota or ban is taking things too far. I mean, I wouldn’t have The Secret History of the Mongols on order if I wasn’t interested in broader horizons and different points of view – however, that’s not fiction, so maybe I’m straying off topic.

          • Anonymous says:

            Scot edited his post, presumably in response to Booshi.

          • Anonymous says:

            Sorry for the lack of clarity. I’d rather not have said anything than go on at this length, but now that Peter is quoting me, I feel compelled to clarify: Scott changed the word “demanding” to “telling.” So Peter is wrong to accuse Booshi of misquoting.

          • Peter says:

            My point stands even without Scott’s original point; indeed you will see that I had expressed reservations about whether Scott’s amended point was even correct, whereas I didn’t show any reservations about whether CaptainBooshi was wrong.

            The key juxtaposition – well, the clear one at any rate – is between CaptainBooshi and Bradford. So CaptainBooshi… isn’t quoting anyone _as such_ but is still misrepresenting Bradford’s article.

          • Jiro says:

            An “attack on white men”. Well, there were plenty of men who weren’t being attacked, myself included, due to being non-straight or non-cis

            An “attack on white men” means an attack on central examples of white men.

          • Peter says:

            Oh yes, erm, bare plural generics, my favourite hobby horse, how could I miss that?

            I think my point was that “an attack on white men” hadn’t spelled out the demographic quite right, but the basic idea was OK. That said, on further reflection, I don’t think that level of pedantry is actually called for.

          • pkinsky says:

            >An “attack on white men”. Well, there were plenty of men who weren’t being attacked, myself included, due to being non-straight or non-cis

            Oh, cool, it’s not an attack on me. Assuming, of course, I decide to put my sexual identity on the cover of any book I might write. Is this supposed to be an *improvement*?

          • Peter says:

            pkinsky: Nope – I was just attempting to be pedantic about how the article could be labelled, and not quite getting it right.

            In fact, I’d go further, and say, you’ve found another way in which the no-SWM-books-for-a-year meme is pernicious. People should be able to exercise privacy about their personal information – at any rate, only have to disclose when it’s actually relevant. This is especially important if you’re not sure what category you fit in to, or are mistaken about which one.

        • Randy M says:

          Bigotry can be demanded or bigotry can be suggested. It’s amusing how upsetting some get when the more subtle forms of it are called out.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Derived Absurdity – “It wasn’t “demanding” anything, it was simply encouraging and suggesting people to branch out of their comfort zones a little and try something new, to expand their perspective a bit and also at the same time help out some people who are largely overlooked in favor of white male voices.”

          The author explicitly stated that certain perspectives gave her negative feelings ranging from frustration to ragequit, and that excluding straight, white male authors allowed her to easily avoid such perspectives, thus increasing her reading enjoyment and reducing stress.

          There is no part of that statement that is in any way compatible with “getting out of ones’ comfort zone” or “expanding one’s perspective”. The author pays lip service to these ideas in the mid-part of the article, but that merely serves to make her point increasingly incoherent. Why argue that a policy that allows you to avoid ideas that you don’t like is also a good way for others to expand their comfort zone? If expanding one’s comfort zone is a good thing, why has she explicitly set out to devise a method to avoid doing so herself?

      • Sniffnoy says:

        The thing is that, without a lot of disclaimers, it’s basically impossible to state that something SJ-related is good but supererogatory. For a lot of people, everything they say carries the force of obligation. Because if you don’t do something they suggest, then you are sexist or racist and thus a terrible person. (That doesn’t mean they’re saying this of you, it just means most readers are thinking this.) Even something that’s merely “good for you” can’t escape this, since among the senses in which it’s good for you it’s probably also good for you in the sense of making you less sexist or racist (and thus it becomes obligatory).

        Now you can fault Scott for not noticing that this was intended as supererogatory, but it’s still the case that if you want to be clear in general when saying something like that you’re going to have to be prepared. It’s annoying but until the state of things changes it has to be dealt with, and that probably means disclaimers for now.

        • Airgap says:

          I don’t think SJers get to complain about having to insert lots of disclaimers.

        • Godzillarissa says:

          Well SJ (the movement), that’s what you get for letting all those toxic characters be your figureheads.

          Now everyone thinks you’re a pushy, “do this or you’re horrible” movement and everyone associated with you will have to add a gazillion disclaimers to make a fair point.

        • veronica d says:

          The thing is that, without a lot of disclaimers, it’s basically impossible to state that something SJ-related is good but supererogatory. For a lot of people, everything they say carries the force of obligation. Because if you don’t do something they suggest, then you are sexist or racist and thus a terrible person.

          Reverse stupidity isn’t smart. The point is, we hope for better from Scott.

        • Faradn says:

          I get the sense that there are a lot of anti-SJW’s who take SJW rhetoric a lot more seriously than most actual SJW’s. To them showing agreement with an extreme position is more about ingroup signaling and expressing frustration than literal agreement. I usually find SJW’s to have a diversity of viewpoints–and an unwillingness to debate them very much.

      • Airgap says:

        Several of them challenge (not demand, not even say it’s something you should do, just that it’s something that would be good for you to do) that people try reading books by non-white, non-male, non-cis authors for a year, and then go back to whatever reading habits you like.

        1. Bradford says after completing the No White Cis Men For A Year challenge, you should move on to No Books With White Cis Male Protagonists (duration unspecified).

        2. Bradford also says:

        The “Reading Only X Writers For A Year” a [sic] challenge is one every person who loves to read (and who loves to write) should take.

        I don’t think I should take this challenge. Bradford says this means I don’t really like to read, or at least not as much as I like propping up White Supremacy.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          1. Bradford says after completing the No White Cis Men For A Year challenge, you should move on to No Books With White Cis Male Protagonists (duration unspecified).

          Seems like there would be a lot of overlap there. Might be an idea to start with books with WCM protagonists, written by NWCM.

          • vV_Vv says:

            How many books actually specify the race of the protagonist?

          • Mary says:

            People default to white. Which is why someone can complain that Asimov’s Foundation trilogy contains only white characters even though the total sum of physical descriptions is that one character has a beard.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Yes, I’ve also noticed that Western people, including myself, tend to see the characters in Japanese manga, anime and videogames as white, even when these characters aren’t described as having a Western background and don’t have any “exclusively” white feature such as blond hair or blue/green eyes.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Which is why someone can complain that Asimov’s Foundation trilogy contains only white characters even though the total sum of physical descriptions is that one character has a beard.

            I call bullshit on that. I remember at the very least The Mule’s physical deformity was described in some detail.

        • Julie K says:

          “Move on to no books with WCM protagonists.”

          Just remember, only the right has purity rules.

      • Irrelevant says:

        Social Justice “suggests” you do things like the Corleones do. Translating them all as moralizing demands is simple honesty.

      • Tarrou says:

        No offense mate, but NPR ran something along this line just the other day, and even THEY were bemoaning and chest-beating about how many white men everyone was reading, and the interviewee was vowing to never read a book by a man again until his reading list was in perfect parity with world demographics. I won’t quote from my imperfect memory, but both the plain meaning and the implication was that anyone whose reading list isn’t 51% female (and 12% black, 1% American Indian etc.) was a Bad Person full of Unconscious Bias who was Part of the Problem. Hilarious bit was, one of the dudes self-flagellating was a military history professor. I wonder why his reading list skewed?

      • Deiseach says:

        I have read books by non-male and non-white authors (as to are they cis or not, I don’t know). And I do get that this is about “expand your reading, try reading outside your comfort zone”.

        But when the accompanying photo is of Bradford holding up a Neil Gaiman book as “don’t read this example of the dominant white cis male majority”, without any seeming acknowledgement or knowledge that Neil Gaiman is Jewish, that undermines her call for diversity somewhat and does help it look like this is about “I want you to read FOR GREAT SOCIAL JUSTICE!!!!” Now, probably she picked Gaiman ont the grounds “hugely popular, sells by the truckload, doesn’t need any boosting”, and that’s fine.

        But I’ve never read his most famous work (the Sandman stories). I think I’ve read one book by him. There are a lot of hugely popular authors that I’ve never read, not because I think they’re bad writers, but because I’m just not interested in the stories. And there are a lot of non-white/non-cis/non-male/non-how’s your father writers I won’t read, because I’m not interested in the stories plus the added hitting over the head with THE MESSAGE (about feminism or being queer or anything else) turns me off.

        I can proudly boast I’ve never read a Tom Clancy novel. I think in future I will proudly boast I’ve never read anything likely to bring a smile to the countenance of Bradford (well, only if Samuel Delany/Keri Hulme/Tanith Lee/S.P. Somtow don’t count).

        • See, my plan is actually to continue reading what I want to read with total indifference bordering on contempt for what K. Tempest Bradford thinks I should read. By coincidence, this includes people of color and quite a few women.

          (Was I the only one amused by the reference to Bradford as a “little-known” writer? I suppose if you’re writing for the NYT she’s not terribly well-known, but within the online SFF community she’s a pretty prominent SJW.)

        • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

          >without any seeming acknowledgement or knowledge that Neil Gaiman is Jewish

          Jews, like Hispanics, have long been “white when it’s (in)convenient”. East Asians, not being able to pass as white, are merely “invisible when it’s (in)convenient”.

          I’m not entirely sure which one is worse.

          • I used to think that anyone who said I wasn’t white was a very dangerous anti-Semite. The world has changed enough that some of the people who say I’m not white are sort of letting me off the hook, though I’m inclined to think that the second bunch could be quite dangerous if they got political power.

          • vV_Vv says:

            The world has changed enough that some of the people who say I’m not white are sort of letting me off the hook,

            Wait until they ask you to prove that you are not one of those dirty Mischlinge…

          • It’s pretty much something I think is funny, but it’s purely on the verbal level. In the real world, I look Jewish.

            I’ve even gotten $20 for being Jewish. When I was travelling the west (of the US), a woman offered me $20 because there’s a biblical verse about nations prosper which are good to the Jews.

            I demurred several times because I’m not at all observant (which I suppose says something about I construct being really Jewish), but she kept insisting, so I took the money.

            Anti-semitism this time around isn’t looking like Hitler’s anti-semitism. I don’t think it will be based on ancestry.

          • Airgap says:

            A much better term is “Jewlatto.” Sounds delicious!

            On the other hand “Dirty Jewlatto” sounds like a combination of a martini and an irish coffee that somebody’s entered in some sort of “worst cocktail” contest.

            When I was travelling the west (of the US), a woman offered me $20 because there’s a biblical verse about nations prosper which are good to the Jews.

            According to Wikipedia, there’s also a biblical verse about how nations prosper which are good to Airgap’s immediate family.

      • stillnotking says:

        Okay, so if I were to “challenge” you to read only books written by men for a year, you wouldn’t take that amiss? You wouldn’t think that maybe I’m a tad sexist, not to mention an insufferable busybody for presuming your reading choices are somehow my business?

      • Anthony says:

        You’re wrong.

        not even say it’s something you should do,

        The “Reading Only X Writers For A Year” a challenge is one every person who loves to read (and who loves to write) should take.

        The study shows that literary reviews are not actually biased, and feature books by women to about the proportion that there are books by women. This is really nice to see, but doesn’t actually apply to anything being discussed.

        A few years ago, some best-selling women writers pointed out that the New York Times reviewed significantly more books by men than by women. The problem is not limited to the Times. Nor limited to just men vs women.

        • Magnap says:

          Your last two paragraphs are not in contradiction. If books by men and women have the same probability of being reviewed, but men write significantly more books, significantly more books written by men will be published. In mathier terms, if P(review|male-author) = P(review|female-author), but P(male-author) > P(female-author), then P(male-author|review) > P(female-author|review).

      • RCF says:

        Speaking as someone who values precision, I am bothered both by the sentence “The social justice movement is demanding people stop reading books by white male authors to fight the “inherent bias” of the literary world,” and by the sentence “Speaking as a feminist, sentences .. “

        • Creutzer says:

          Why? The first one is easy to disambiguate in context, and I can’t even see the ambiguity in the second one.

          • RCF says:

            The second one has a dangling modifier; according to the standard rules of English grammar, it asserts that sentences speak as a feminist.

          • Creutzer says:

            Ah, okay, there’s the ambiguity. That reading is so absurd that my unconscious language processing neglected to tell me about it, so I saw only the reading where “speaking as X” is a speech act adverbial. (Which exists regardless of whether any written grammar neglects to mention it. I’m sure idiolect includes it, too – unlike probably the speech act adverbial reading of “as an X”, which is ungrammatical for me.)

    • ishaan says:

      Re: Myopia – I’m very certain light is a factor. I’d bet on distance not being a factor, but not confidently.

      1) Bright artificial light therapy was sufficient to slow myopia (!)

      2) Rate of myopia progression linked to seasonal changes in light cycle (but don’t forget, that could also impact time outdoors)

      3) Link with reading, computers, and other near work disappears when time outside is controlled for.

      From my memory, and I read all this several months ago, so you might want to double check.

      Otherwise, my thinking is that the “distance” hypothesis had the benefit of conventional wisdom increasing the number of people trying to find proof of it, not to mention people trying to develop and validate various eye exercises. So in this case, the absence of clear evidence for distance is conspicuous.

    • Richard says:

      The link may be exaggerated a bit, but if you actually followed the resulting debate, the impression that I’m a terrible person for not checking out what sex, gender and colour the author is before reading a book is rather overwhelming.

      On the other hand, our friendly neighbourhood gun-toting right-wing author has something to say about it too. Amusing even if you don’t agree.

      wrt Myopia, I now have fixed-focus eyes that see clearly only at the distance my computer screen is at. I can refocus at other distances, but it takes minutes, not milliseconds. I suspect the fact that I have spent at least 8 hours a day in front of a computer since the age of 5 may have something to do with that…..

    • veronica d says:

      Reading many comments on this topic, but here and on Ozy’s blog, it appears that Scott and many others want to be endlessly aggrieved by the evils of social justice. Which is to say, even if someone makes a good faith suggestion, which contains none of the social justice shaming tactics, they will assume those tactics are present anyhow and then turn everything completely tribal.

      In other words, they seem incapable of having a good faith social justice conversation without having to reply the toxic parts of the fight. They bring the toxicity with them everywhere.

      Stop doing that.

      • Highly Effective People says:

        I lack the rhetorical skill to properly convey the sheer irony of an SJW calling anyone endlessly aggrieved with a straight face.

        • veronica d says:

          Why? This is how people have behaved on this topic.

          Reverse stupidity is not smart.

          • Highly Effective People says:

            Social Justice is, quite literally, the vanguard of grievance politics. It is group in which “microaggressions” are carefully cataloged as evidence of oppression on a societal scale. If there is any group of people on the planet Earth who deserve the description of endlessly aggrieved it is them.

        • Cauê says:

          I’m also highly amused by this, but indulging in it doesn’t look very helpful.

        • Fibs says:

          It is pretty funny that someone writes about a tendency towards assuming toxicity, and your reply is: “oh yeah? But you’re toxic, you don’t get to complain!”, though.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        This is what happens when your movement burns through every iota of good will and disproves every assumption of good faith that people have foolishly granted it in the past.

        • I find this combination unhelpful: ‘Ah, SJ did something wrong! This is an excellent opportunity to talk about how terrible SJ is.’ plus ‘Ah, we made a mistake while trying to talk about SJ! This is an excellent opportunity to talk about how terrible SJ is — they’re so terrible that even we eminently rational types are driven to exaggerate and emulate their flaws!’

          If we’re more interested in using our errors as an opportunity to take more potshots at SJ (it’s so delightfully ‘ironic’ we’re exhibiting mistakes analogous to theirs!) than in using the opportunity to self-improve, something has gone wrong.

          • Pete says:

            Indeed. In fact, isn’t this something Scott argued against in one of his “things I never want to see on the internet again” with regards to Poe’s Law?

          • Airgap says:

            Tit-for-tat has been known to induce cooperation, so I don’t see why you talk about taking potshots at SJ like it’s a bad thing. There might be better ways to take potshots of ultimately inducing cooperation was your goal though.

            ‘they’re so terrible that even we eminently rational types are driven to exaggerate and emulate their flaws!’

            Like Tom Wolfe says “But exactly.” This is accurate, a bad thing, and the sort of thing SJers deserve to be apprised of.

            I used to implicitly trust left-wing activists who said so-and-so was an innocent victim of the police or a political prisoner or whatever (let’s not use named cases, please), until I examined enough cases for myself that I now automatically assume they’re lying (at least constructively). Most people probably assume that said activists write me and those like me off in their calculations, and forge ahead. But it’s entirely possible that they’re not aware of this, and would behave differently if they knew. Why not tell them and see what happens?

          • veronica d says:

            If we’re more interested in using our errors as an opportunity to take more potshots at SJ (it’s so delightfully ‘ironic’ we’re exhibiting mistakes analogous to theirs!) than in using the opportunity to self-improve, something has gone wrong.

            Right. This. Some time back Scott Alexander coined a phrase that I found very insightful. He talked about folks “rounding people off to the nearest X,” where X was the “nearest sexist” or the “nearest racist” or whatever. I don’t recall the precise thing he was saying, but he was pointing out how it is hard to talk about controversial subjects in a non-tribal way, since people will not give you a chartable reading.

            He was correct, and since then I’ve tried to listen to what others say and how it might be different from my lowest expectations.

            For instance, many feminists “rounded off” Scott Aaronson to the nearest sadsack sexist “nice guy.” And yeah, some things Aaronson said could be read that way. However, I think he was clearly worth listening to. He had a point worth engaging with.

            The discourse surrounding this article, both from Scott and many on this blog, has been pretty uncharitable. Many of you are rounding off this point to the nearest raving Twitter SJ activist, instead of actually listening.

            It’s a pity, I think. Scott is in my mind rapidly slipping from “fair minded” to “raving anti-SJW troll.” This forum has become too much that, at least much of the time.

            I hope he stops this decline, cuz I really like him.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Veronica: I believe you’re thinking of this, with a little of this mixed in. 🙂

          • veronica d says:

            @Sniffnoy — I’m pretty sure the first link was the one I was thinking of, except there Scott uses the “pattern match” language rather than the “round off to X” language.

            So my memory sucks. But still, the principle is pretty much the same.

            (If anyone has a guess as to where I got the “round off to the nearest X” thing from, let me know. I like to credit sources.)

            Anyway, yeah. Scott is doing exactly what he dislikes. So are many of the posters here: a not-particularly-militant SJ suggestion is instantly promoted to full-on anti-social justice outrage!

            Rah! Fight!

          • Sniffnoy says:

            You might have gotten that from me, honestly, I’ve deliberately mixed the two before…

          • Nornagest says:

            Bradford leading with how squicked it makes her feel to read white straight men doesn’t exactly get my principle of charity pumping.

          • Irrelevant says:

            Many of you are rounding off this point to the nearest raving Twitter SJ activist, instead of actually listening.

            No, I’m painfully aware that 90% of the “soldiers” on every political team don’t meaningfully understand their own arguments. I’m rounding the Twitter activists off to her.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Veronica D – “So are many of the posters here: a not-particularly-militant SJ suggestion is instantly promoted to full-on anti-social justice outrage!”

            An accounting of my internal thought processes gives evidence in your favor. As I read the discussions about this topic, I notice myself pattern-matching to examples and arguments from numerous other SJ-centric debates, which add up to obvious prejudice against this article and its author. From the headline, I have an immediate model of the argument loaded with negative affect based on previous experience.

            It seems you think people like me are being unfair to Social Justice. My knee-jerk reaction is that social justice is unfair to people like me. maybe both or neither are correct. So what do we do about it?

            Social Justice has an aggressive streak. I think my negative instinctual reaction is a response to that aggressive streak. It is learned behavior, and it certainly feels like a highly adaptive survival response to me. I lack charity because my charity has been exhausted, and nothing has been done to replenish it. I am burned over. So what do I do about it?

            I am not sure anything can be done. I am not sure charity toward ones’ opponents is a viable long-term strategy. Certainly positions I’ve seen you take, for example over Eich’s firing, indicate that you do not consider Charity toward “enemies” to be a primary goal either, and you are pretty much my default example for a dedicated, zealous, and rational Social Justice advocate.

            I am not sure coexistence is possible, and I’m not sure you think it is either. Every Social Justice campaign I’ve observed has resulted in either capitulation or partition of the communities in question. If compromise is only a pause to re-arm for the next fight, what room is there for Charity?

            tl;dr – the least worst option available is still better than the others. Charity does not seem to be a terminal value for anyone involved in the discussion.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Rob Bensinger – “they’re so terrible that even we eminently rational types are driven to exaggerate and emulate their flaws!”

            I listened to two neat lectures on WWI recently; one by the Extra Credits folks, and a Hardcore History series by Dan Carlin. Both of them emphasized how none of the major powers involved wanted war, how all of them strove mightily to prevent it, and how all their efforts were undone by the iron logic of logistics and communications lag. The diplomatic and military structures of the great powers had implicit rules, and those rules superseded the intentions of their creators, and dragged everyone screaming into the meatgrinder.

            Social Justice has a structure, irrespective of what its opponents or even its progenitors want. I believe that structure makes Charity a fatal liability regardless of which side you’re on. I don’t like that much, but I’m not sure if there’s a way to fix it short of dismantling Social Justice. Calling for more charity is pointless, because both sides are settling into an agreement that charity is counterproductive.

          • Tit-for-tat has been known to induce cooperation

            Tit-for-tat is our default mode. People are willing to incur huge costs to punish what they see as defectors, and we aren’t good at turning that mode on and off based on its situational usefulness, or at adjusting our strategy to an environment where we’re playing against billions of other agents with thousands of complex points of divergence in background and belief.

            If our system 1 has evolved to yell at rival factions and out-groups and enemies (and to rationalize its policies), we should try to adopt a skeptical prior about whether a given instance of ‘yelling at our political opponents’ is both (a) epistemically rational and (b) instrumentally useful. Scoring points against the other side will probably feel like both of those things in many cases where it’s only one of those things — or neither.

            ‘they’re so terrible that even we eminently rational types are driven to exaggerate and emulate their flaws!’ Like Tom Wolfe says “But exactly.” This is accurate, a bad thing, and the sort of thing SJers deserve to be apprised of.

            I could understand playing fast and loose with the facts in an anti-SJ comment on the Big SJ Blog. (I’m wary of it, but I at least see a not-purely-rationalized reason behind it.) It doesn’t work as well as a defense of anti-SJ comments on the Big Rationalist Blog. Here, the main effect is the encourage sloppy thinking, not to improve our model of the problems with SJ, and certainly not to change SJ.

            If we then, upon noticing such a mistake, instantly turn away from our mistake so that we can make more points about how those SJers are so terrible and bear so much of the blame and responsibility for our mistake, we strongly risk redirecting our attention from the mistake. We’re unlikely to fully process the ‘oops’ and change our mental habits for the better. (In fact, we risk reinforcing our mistake. We now get the extra hedons of yelling at the bad guys twice! When we yell at them in a fair and measured way we only get to chastise them and feel superior once!! This is so much better..!!!)

          • Cauê says:

            Eliezer’s post linked by Sniffnoy is from 2008.

            Nancy Lebovitz comments in that post (in 2010) that “”Nearest Cliche” is a handy phrase which I’m adding to my mental toolbox”, which at least suggests it wasn’t in widespread use in the community at that time.

            http://lesswrong.com/lw/x1/imaginary_positions/

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Rob Bensinger – “I could understand playing fast and loose with the facts in an anti-SJ comment on the Big SJ Blog.”

            What errors of fact have been committed?

            Bradford’s original article advocates naked bigotry because she finds it personally convenient, and suggests that such behavior is virtuous presumably because it will help people think more like she does.

            By any charitable reading of Social Justice, she is being an ass. To defend her position is to compound bigotry by hypocrisy. The double-helping of hedons via mockery are well-earned.

            [EDIT] – To be clear, I know my own knee-jerk reaction was highly negative, so I went and re-read the article again, and then a second time, and then a third. It really does seem pretty awful to me. The knee-jerk response is troubling, but not as troubling as the fact that upon further inspection, it seems amply warranted.

          • Raemon says:

            It’s not even that I think we should be applying “charity” to a SJ post. It’s that we should not be *deliberately inflammatory about it.*

            The other Scott post pretty relevant here is “Toxaplasma of Rage.”

            If we’re supposed to be on the side of thinking clearly, and of NOT automatically escalating to get people angry… we should not be willfully engaging in tribal sniping.

            (I don’t think Scott’s original link here was especially bad, but the seething ragefont I’m seeing in the comments makes me sad)

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Raemon – “I don’t think Scott’s original link here was especially bad, but the seething ragefont I’m seeing in the comments makes me sad”

            There is a fight happening. It’s been going on for a long time, and it never ends, and the Charity boils away until the dregs burn on the bottom of the pot. If you have a way to fix it, please say so.

          • Robert Liguori says:

            FacelessCraven: If you can’t say anything scrupulously kind, necessary, and/or true, don’t say anything at all?

            I mean, do you really need to fight this fight? Given two worlds, one in which the Forces of Defending The Good Name Of The Bradford Article are saying with frequency and vehemence “It’s not as bad as you all are making out.” and the replies are all super-scrupulous around saying “OK, that’s fair, she was only talking about people who enjoy reading, not people in general.”, and one in which, well, people fight the aforementioned Fight and the responses are less super-scrupulous, is the second really preferable?

            I guess my own view is that what’s actually said in the article is so terrible, that you can be completely calm, dispassionate, and scrupulously focused on what was said, and still produce an appropriate response. I don’t want people to stop defending the article because they’ve been shouted into silence for supporting something terrible, I want them to have a full range of calm, dispassionate, and scrupulous responses to choose from to see exactly how the article is terrible.

            Charity’s not about doing a favor to Them, it’s about helping myself stay on the side of angels when all around me seems to be anger and tribalism. I don’t want all around me to be anger and tribalism, even against the tribes I genuinely consider harmful and dangerous.

          • Airgap says:

            There is a fight happening. It’s been going on for a long time, and it never ends, and the Charity boils away until the dregs burn on the bottom of the pot.

            I dunno. You don’t have to take it so seriously. I’m happy to the opposition that they’re mindkilled SJW scum and the cancer that is killing rationality, and now let’s all get a beer and play Mafia. Why not? Folks here seem nice enough.

          • 27chaos says:

            Tit for tat doesn’t induce cooperation without forgiveness.

          • What Robert Liguori said. (Though I think reasonable people can disagree about how “terrible” it is to discourage people from reading straight white male authors. If the idea sounds so manifestly bigoted and pointless to you that only a supervillain could come up with it, keep in mind advice you might give to a devout evangelical Christian: ‘Read only non-Christian authors for the next year.’ Even if you personally endorse only one of those ideas, or neither, you should be able to think of at least three reasons a non-supervillain might endorse both ideas. You should be able to see why calling the latter idea “religiously bigoted” does not end the conversation, and why the situation isn’t exactly symmetric to asking the evangelical Christian (or, for that matter, a Zoroastrian) to read only non-Zoroastrian authors for a year.)

            It seems you think people like me are being unfair to Social Justice. My knee-jerk reaction is that social justice is unfair to people like me. maybe both or neither are correct. So what do we do about it?

            This is one of the ways the evolved tit-for-tat instinct feels from the inside — the immediate urge to pivot from ‘Did I screw up?’ to ‘But what about Enemy’s faults–!!!’, as though your virtue relative to the Enemy mattered more than, for example, your virtue relative to the important problems and goals in your life. At least, I definitely have a lot of flinch reactions that take that form, against my better judgment.

            It’s a very good sign when we can talk about our own problems, and how to do better, without it even occurring to us to ask whether we’re doing worse or better than the Enemy. That mere feeling that it’s a relevant issue is a large encumbrance.

            Calling for more charity is pointless, because both sides are settling into an agreement that charity is counterproductive.

            Why bring up SJ at all if we’re going to use it as an opportunity to be less austerely, strictly rational than usual, rather than to be more than usual? Why is it our job to clobber the progressive sexual minorities, ethnic minorities, etc. who make a rationality error, any more than it’s our job to clobber every creationist or every Democrat who makes a rationality error?

            If we’re going to throw self-improvement out the window when we discuss SJ, then I don’t think it’s a worthwhile topic. There are lots of interesting and useful things the collective resources and abilities of the larger EA and LW communities could be put to. I would be surprised if ‘get into a giant flame war with people who write about women’s issues and racism and so on so we can convince some fence-sitters to also write angry anti-feminist things’ overwhelmed the usefulness of everything else we could possibly work together on.

            And if ‘defeat the feminists’ does become one of our top priorities, I’m pretty sure that our other priorities are moot at that point. Our impact on the future, at least for the next few decades, will be almost purely mediated by the ‘defeat the feminists’ campaign.

          • I can’t imagine being rude enough to ask one religious person to spend a year reading outside their religion, let alone asking all religious people to do so. It would be an obvious effort at conversion or deconversion, even without mention of ragequitting or saying something like this a project for everyone who loves the truth.

          • Irrelevant says:

            keep in mind advice you might give to a devout evangelical Christian: ‘Read only non-Christian authors for the next year.’

            Not only would I never do this, but I can scarcely conceive of that as a thought a human might have, because I am not literally a barbarian. Everyone who wants art shut out on ideological grounds can go hang out with the Soviets and McCarthy and ISIS, the rest of us will be over here working on that “civilization” thing.

          • Airgap says:

            It’s a very good sign when we can talk about our own problems, and how to do better, without it even occurring to us to ask whether we’re doing worse or better than the Enemy. That mere feeling that it’s a relevant issue is a large encumbrance.

            At this point, I think we can call the thread for Robby. Everyone else: good effort!

          • Jaskologist says:

            If our system 1 has evolved to yell at rival factions and out-groups and enemies (and to rationalize its policies), we should try to adopt a skeptical prior about whether a given instance of ‘yelling at our political opponents’ is both (a) epistemically rational and (b) instrumentally useful.

            If our system 1 evolving a certain way isn’t extremely strong evidence for it being instrumentally useful, then evolution don’t real.

          • Cauê says:

            @Rob B: Your message is good, but it would be more effective if it looked like you were talking about the actual article…

            Your hypothetical would be more similar to the original if it were about telling *non-Christians* to read no books by Christian authors, be them about Christianity or not. And you’d be saying it *because Christians annoy you and your life would be more comfortable away from things they write*.

            Now, I agree that we should hold to our rationality and our niceness norms here. But I’d tell people to stay nice even when *that* happens, not when something else happens which is not as bad.

            @Jaskologist: It’s strong evidence for those adaptations being useful in the ancestral environment, not necessarily today.

          • veronica d says:

            Thanks, @houseboatonstyx. That’s the stuff I Remember.

            “Rounding off to the nearest cliché” — it does have a nice ring to it.

            #####

            On the main topic, here is how I look at it: say you actually want to increase the diversity of what you read in a meaningful way —

            Okay, wait! So what if you don’t?

            Then fine, ignore the article. Go read what you would have read anyhow. Most people are going to anyhow. So when Ms Bradford said you “should” do X, her “should” has no particular force. Fixating on that seems petty.

            In any case, the title of the article presents it as a challenge. If someone challenges me to something I don’t want to do, I say no.

            But back to my point, say you really want more diversity.

            Fine, go read more diverse books.

            But what if that is not working? What if, in fact, as time proceeds you find yourself drifting back to the same typical material you always read, which turns out to be mostly white guys?

            (But, you ask, what if I’m already reading tons of stuff by not-whites-or-non-guys? I’ll come back to that.)

            Okay, so you want to change your reading habits, but you are finding it hard. What to do?

            Simple. You come up with a life hack. Many life hacks might work. One you might try is this: deny yourself the thing you overdo, so as to force yourself to do the thing you want to do.

            (”Don’t have snacks around the house so I’ll eat better.”)

            This simple tradeoff, between short-term habits and longer term self-discipline, is common enough human behavior.

            But what if you already read, in addition to white dudes, tons of white women?

            Well, what are your goals here? Just to “punish” white-cis guys? That seems silly. If you goal is to branch out, to do some self-discovery, then maybe you could say “no white men or women,” or “only authors from the African diaspora,” or any number of other choices, depending on your interests and goals.

            It’s only a year. If a year seems too long, do less. Easy peasy.

            #####

            You all don’t have to like Bradford. To me, she comes across a bit grumbly and smug. Fine. Whatever. This idea is bigger than her.

          • Cauê says:

            Veronica, these are good points (better points than the article that started this makes, and I think it’s important to keep that in mind when assessing people’s reactions).

            But if you want to increase diversity in what you read, isn’t the best way to do that to, well, increase diversity in what you read?

            Try new literary genres and traditions, try non-fiction on new subjects, or try books by *people who think in ways you’re not used to*, like people from different ideologies or religions. If that’s the goal, the author’s race or gender would be at best a less efficient proxy for that. So one suspects that that’s not really the goal, or at least that there’s more than that to the goal.

          • Your message is good, but it would be more effective if it looked like you were talking about the actual article…

            Your hypothetical would be more similar to the original if it were about telling *non-Christians* to read no books by Christian authors, be them about Christianity or not. And you’d be saying it *because Christians annoy you and your life would be more comfortable away from things they write*.

            The original article is a Rorschach test. Absolutely nothing concrete is said about the kinds of problems Bradford actually runs into while reading; everything is about her reactions. With the result that unsympathetic readers assume she’s closed-minded and sympathetic readers assume she’s bored of seeing the same set of biases and assumptions in everything she reads. (Neither with particularly good evidence.)

            If happenstance or motivated cognition leads you to a negative view, you’ll fixate on passages that make it sound like a diverse, challenging reading list is being replaced by a homogeneous one that plays into a narrow set of biases or demands: “[E]very time I tried to get through a magazine, I would come across stories that I didn’t enjoy or that I actively hated or that offended me so much I rage-quit the issue. Go through enough of that, and you start to resist the idea of reading at all. Then I thought: What if I only read stories by a certain type of author?”

            If happenstance or motivated cognition leads you to a positive view, you’ll fixate on passages that make it sound like a homogeneous reading list is being replaced with a more diverse one: “Just like opening up space for more stories from women, there needs to be a conscious effort to support multicultural voices and fight the assumptions surrounding what the mainstream market supposedly wants. Govinnage is a writer of color herself, yet she still learned a few things from the experience, including ‘just how white [her] reading world was.’ Even when you’re coming from the viewpoint of a marginalized identity, the privileged view is everywhere and pervasive. It’s easy to buy into it without really knowing that you are.”

            Take your pick! This is the grand tradition of Internet arguments. This is where it all starts.

          • Cauê says:

            Fair enough.

            But when people get mad and react to the first part, it doesn’t help to say they shouldn’t be mad at the second part.

          • Toggle says:

            Rob, I just want to say thanks for being sane. It was a real balm while I was reading through the rest of the thread.

          • Jiro says:

            If happenstance or motivated cognition leads you to a negative view, you’ll fixate on passages that make it sound like a diverse, challenging reading list is being replaced by a homogeneous one that plays into a narrow set of biases or demands… If happenstance or motivated cognition leads you to a positive view, you’ll fixate on passages that make it sound like a homogeneous reading list is being replaced with a more diverse one

            That’s like the observation/sort of joke that if you put wine in sewage you get sewage, and if you put sewage in wine you also get sewage. An article that is half full of nasty passages and half full of nice passages is nasty.

          • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

            >That’s like the observation/sort of joke that if you put wine in sewage you get sewage, and if you put sewage in wine you also get sewage. An article that is half full of nasty passages and half full of nice passages is nasty.

            You’re sounding scarily like a SJW.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            If “ragequit” is something SJWs do when they’re bored, I’ve got to wonder what they do when they’re enraged. Are explosives involved?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Veronica D – “This idea is bigger than her.”

            Indeed it is, and it is the idea that people are reacting to. Two ideas, actually:
            1. Race fundamentally constrains artistic output, and
            2. Diversity of ideas is zero-sum.

            The first seems explicit in the article in question, and the second seems strongly implied. Both are deeply ugly ideas. I’ve seen people argue in this forum that, say, research into racial differences in IQ should be suppressed, as its potential harm outweighs any benefit we might derive from it. This is on the same order, only without any apparent factual basis to back it up. I don’t think they need to be censored from discussion, but to raise these ideas without very, very good evidence behind them is excellent proof of bad faith. Bradford appears to assume both are true out of hand. To me, and apparently many others, those are fighting words. To see apparent surrender to bigotry defended as a call for diversity beggars belief. To see demands for extra charity toward an ideology infamous for its lack of same, from people who have casually refused the same to others, is a descent into farce.

            I don’t particularly want increased diversity in my reading material. Part of that is because my reading material is already as diverse as it can practicably be without straying well outside my circle of interests. The rest of it is that I do not appreciate the encroachment of politics into my personal life. “The Personal is Political” can go straight to hell.

            Otherwise, your arguments all seem perfectly reasonable. If we systematically ignore all the awful, ugly, vicious parts of Bradford’s article and its subsequent defense, what remains is by definition mild, reasonable, and silly to raise a fuss over. It’s amazing how many conflicts could be diffused by such a simple philosophy. I’ll have to remember to employ it in the next fracas.

            [EDIT] – Forgot to mention the “achieve celebrity through clickbait” angle, which I strongly suspect is also in play. Take it away, Penny Arcade!
            http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2008/01/16

        • There are a few individual SJWs to whom I will still grant the assumption of goodwill, as well as a few fora (like this one) where the meta-level norms are strong enough that I don’t automatically need to treat SJWs as trolls. But these are a minority.

        • Anonymous says:

          The original article is a Rorschach test. Absolutely nothing concrete is said about the kinds of problems Bradford actually runs into while reading; everything is about her reactions. With the result that unsympathetic readers assume she’s closed-minded and sympathetic readers assume she’s bored of seeing the same set of biases and assumptions in everything she reads. (Neither with particularly good evidence.)

          Your comment is a very useful and wonderfully charitable summary of this thread, and I am rather in awe of it.

          But I’d like to take issue with your final parenthetical in the quote above.

          The article was posted on xoJane. There’s a context, in which that article was intended to be interpreted, and an intended audience who was intended to interpret it.

          And people who belong to that intended audience are united here in the “sympathetic” interpretation.

          If a substantial part of the actual target audience thought it meant “art created by straight white men is invalid art” or “if you don’t exclude straight white male authors from your reading you are a Bad Person” or whatever other goofball interpretation then I’d agree with you that neither interpretation has strong evidence to back it.

          But what’s happening here is that a bunch of rabid anti-SJW types, who are clearly not the target audience of the article, are getting outraged about an interpretation that people who are in the target audience don’t share. Presumably some context/ background knowledge/assumptions/understanding of nuance is missing in the anti-SJW types, and that is causing this alternative interpretation. But it doesn’t actually matter what’s causing it for the purposes of understanding who’s right. The people who are interpreting it right are the people whom it’s targeted at; they’re the people who understand the culture and speak the language in question.

          • Peter says:

            Well, what seems to be happening to me is the following:

            ASJ: The article is bad, it says X.
            SJ: No, it doesn’t say X, it says Y.
            ASJ: Look, it says “X”. Here’s a direct quote.
            SJ:

            I’m reminded of the philosopher jokes at http://consc.net/misc/proofs.html – “Zabludowski has insinuated that my thesis that p is false, on the basis of alleged counterexamples. But these so- called “counterexamples” depend on construing my thesis that p in a way that it was obviously not intended — for I intended my thesis to have no counterexamples. Therefore p.”

            Edit to add: the last SJ: was meant to be SJ: <minor nitpick of some tangentially related point> but that bit got interpreted as an HTML tag. Which probably makes my response to Anonymous a little harsher than it should have been. Oooops, and apologies.

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t see that happening at all, and once again, I really have to wonder why you (collective you) think you’re more qualified to interpret the article than the people it’s aimed at.

            I suspect some of what’s going on here is extreme literal-mindedness combined with being uncharitable? But I suspect it might be very unpleasant to try and understand this mindset.

          • Peter says:

            Anonymous: “I don’t see that happening at all”.

            Upthread:
            “CaptainBooshi: not even say it’s something you _should_ do
            Bradford: The “Reading Only X Writers For A Year” a challenge is one every person who loves to read (and who loves to write) _should_ take.”
            Anonymous: “Scot edited his post, presumably in response to Booshi.” and nothing else.

            If people are plainly incapable of reading whats right in front of them, then anyone with half-decent general reading comprehension is better qualified to interpret.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            I’m reminded of the philosopher jokes at http://consc.net/misc/proofs.html – “Zabludowski has insinuated that my thesis that p is false, on the basis of alleged counterexamples. But these so-called “counterexamples” depend on construing my thesis that p in a way that it was obviously not intended — for I intended my thesis to have no counterexamples. Therefore p.”

            Ha! I’ll have to save that for next time I encounter that sort of argument…

          • I take it the people who dislike the article’s proposal have this mental image in mind: A reader encounters a weird, challenging new idea — some philosophical or political insight, perhaps, that doesn’t obviously accord with orthodox progressivism — and now has an Extremely General Excuse for ignoring the idea’s contents and dismissing its source thereafter: ‘the author is male, and/or straight, and/or white’. (This is already a thing that clearly happens in many SJ circles.)

            I take it the people who like the article’s proposal have this mental image in mind: A reader (or filmgoer, etc.) gets bored of the eleventh work of fiction in a row that writes its women in the same way, or treats Hispanics as flat caricatures, or makes the same old-hat anti-trans jokes we’ve heard a million times. Now that reader has a simple heuristic for filtering out some of these annoying, overused (and potentially bias-reinforcing) distractions — not a perfect heuristic, but one that does help, and has the nice side-effect of exposing the reader to interesting new genres, styles, ideas, tropes, etc. that happen to be more common in various minority groups.

            I have no idea how common those two situations are. ‘Dumb regressive tropes’ and ‘interesting ideas that contradict my expectations or values’ are both pretty common in the media I’ve encountered, though the latter probably takes more active work to find.

            The fact that xojane readers don’t interpret the article in the more extreme ways SSC commenters have come up with doesn’t mean SSC commenters’ fears are completely ungrounded. There is some cause to worry that this effort to pop the bubbles of people who never read ‘SJ-friendly’ books could simultaneously exacerbate the bubbles of people who only read SJ-friendly books. I think this criticism hasn’t been made very convincingly in this particular comment section, but I do think a discussion-worthy case could be made.

          • Anonymous says:

            Peter: “should” can mean a multitude of different things.

            There are wildly different value judgements attached to, e.g. “you should read this new book!” or “You should wear skinny jeans more often!” or “you should eat less sugar” or “you should be a virgin till you’re married” or “you should stop sacrificing human infants to Beelzebub.”

            I’ve arranged those example “shoulds” in a particular order to make a kind of should-spectrum, to hopefully give you a sense of what I’m talking about. The “should” in the article is close to the skinny-jeans part of the spectrum. The anti-SJWs are interpreting it as if it belongs on the Beelzebub part of the spectrum.

            I’ll be honest here: I found the above rather exasperating to explain, and we’re talking about one little tiny word in a whole article full of words, all of them ripe for riotous indignant misinterpretations. If you’re seeing a lot of people revert to “…” then that’s probably why. This is not a function of reading comprehension, at least not in the way that you imagine it to be.

          • Unique Identifier says:

            R.Bensinger:
            My own criticism of the article applies just as well to your second – let’s call it the charitable – interpretation. In my opinion, the same goes for most of what others have written as well, such as S.Alexander’s rather critical response.

            It doesn’t seem to me like these differing interpretations resolves the conflict at all. I also have trouble finding anybody whose criticism of the article hinges on the first interpretation being the right one.

          • Anonymous says:

            Wondering@ Rob’s comment: Do you think it’s even possible to read only SJ-friendly books? I think anyone who likes reading is going to have been exposed to some writing that has extremely regressive attitudes embedded within it. A lot of books were written in the politically incorrect past after all! Most classic literature isn’t SJ-friendly. Most current literature isn’t SJ-friendly. (Unless we have very different ideas of what SJ-friendly is?) If someone’s managed to develop their literacy and taste to the point that they are actually able to curate everything they read to be SJ friendly, then more power to them; they’ll already have been exposed to plenty of stuff they disagree with along the way.

          • Peter says:

            I personally took that one word because it was a way of demonstrating that the defenders of the article were saying false things about it. Furthermore it was a real clear case of something that could be nailed down solidly; a lot of the issues were vaguer, but this one was a clear case of people failing to see what was right in front of them.

            OTOH now I put it like that I realise that if I engage in points-scoring then people are going to score points against me, and now things are getting horribly messed up because the computer did some “misinterpretation” of its own, by which I mean I wasn’t clear in my markup.

            The literal-mindedness and lack of charity… I don’t feel this thread – well, this part of the thread, is a safe place for self-disclosure. I’ve let myself get angry, and anger makes people stupid…

          • Highly Effective People says:

            The thing is Rob, you seem to be wanting to have it both ways here.

            If the argument is that the intended readers are fluent enough in progressive lingo* to interpret the essay correctly (i.e. at odds with both it’s literal meaning and it’s implications), then presumably their minds aren’t going to be blown by reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X or The Word for World is Forest. It’s not exactly broadening your literary palate to read more of the kind of things you already read after all**.

            If anything, this seems to be asking people who are already committed to the cause to narrow their reading lists only to the morally approved segment: in other words, it reads just like your average Church-lady recommending that you only listen to music which glorifies Jesus rather than heathen pop.

            Now to be clear, aside from my incredulity at non-SJ folks being called ‘endlessly aggrieved,’ I have to admit this doesn’t make me upset in the slightest. It’s silly and has a rather ugly sentiment but I’m a live-and-let-live guy and have more serious issues than what other people refuse to read. The main issue for me is the hypocrisy on display.

            *Which I (and others here) have somehow missed despite being raised as progressives, by progressives, in progressive enclaves, and spending a fair bit of time on progressive fora.
            **Somehow I doubt the people taking up this challenge are going to be picking up The Book of Lord Shang or Romance of the Three Kingdoms. At this point even the infamous Dead White Men are foreign enough to shake people’s perspectives whereas the average minority fantasy writer is comfortable and familiar.

          • Anonymous says:

            HEP: I have the impression you’re responding to my argument rather than Rob’s.
            I think your response is easy to refute though. I didn’t have any problem interpreting the article. And I read books by white male authors in about the same disproportion as publishers publish them.
            I’ve never read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I’m pretty sure reading that book would in fact teach me something new. Though I’m not planning to read it.

            So it’s not a case of preaching to the converted, it’s a case of making a suggestion to a group of people who have the requisite priors to think it might be a good idea. (SJW types who value diversity and who hold the belief that writers’ life experiences affect their writing.)

            Basically, you can’t assume that everyone who reads xoJane also makes an effort to read books by POC.

            Peter: I see where the markup issue caused us to get some crossed wires. I may have got more snide than necessary because of that; sorry. I hope you’re not too upset by the thread.

            Jiro: I’m talking about a specific interpretation that was labelled “sympathetic” in the comment I was replying to. I wasn’t merely making the observation that the intended audience was sympathetic to the article.

            By the way the quoted comment was just one example of anti-SJWs interpreting things differently from the actual audience of the piece. I quoted that paragraph because it was a rather good example, elegantly described.

            However it seems that every idea and possibly every word in that article has been misinterpreted for maximum outrage in the comments here. The weird thing is that I don’t think the misinterpretation was conscious for the most part.

          • Jiro says:

            people who belong to that intended audience are united here in the “sympathetic” interpretation.

            There can be several reasons why the intended audience is sympathetic.

            1. They interpret it to mean something completely different from how other people interpret it.

            2. They interpret it exactly the same way as outsiders, but they’re just more sympathetic to the same ideas than outsiders.

            3. They interpret it in a way that, if followed to its logical conclusion, implies the less-innocuous interpretation that the outsiders have. But they refuse to admit that their beliefs have such implications (perhaps they’re not good at logic, or they’re willfully blind).

            The truth is a mixture of these. But there’s enough of 2 and 3 in there that it’s wrong to just dismiss the critics by saying “oh, the intended audience doesn’t interpret it that way”.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Anonymous – “But what’s happening here is that a bunch of rabid anti-SJW types, who are clearly not the target audience of the article, are getting outraged about an interpretation that people who are in the target audience don’t share. […] The people who are interpreting it right are the people whom it’s targeted at; they’re the people who understand the culture and speak the language in question.”

            “The interpretation of a message from inside a group should be left up to members of that group. Interpretations drawn by outsiders should not be expected to be more accurate than those of insiders.”

            Is that a fair summary of your point?

            What an interesting and highly convenient rule of interpretation! I’m sure you intend this maxim as a globally applicable rule that would clearly apply in, say, other disputes that might happen to arise in different circumstances. And of course it sounds so neat, so eminently logical, that naturally this must be a rule that others have heard of and have a history of consistently applying, both to their own communication and that of others?
            Of course?
            Of course.
            …Or maybe groups have blind spots. Maybe people have an uncanny capacity for ignoring the unpleasant implications of their beliefs.

            Naw. I like your idea much better.

          • Anonymous says:

            My claim: The target demographic of xoJane are better placed to interpret a suggestion made to the readers of xoJane, than people who hate the target demographic of xoJane.

            If you insist on metastasizing the conversation, feel free to replace “xoJane” in the above statement with whatever other publication with whatever kind of politics you desire. It holds.

            Your hypergeneralisation of the statement away from all context and the subsequent repetitive rant/chant thing are meaningless, although I did find the rant entertaining.

            I guess if I was going to hypergeneralise my own statement to the extent that you have tried to do, I’d say the general underlying principle is this: Context is important.

            And so is a sense of proportion.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Anonymous – Metastasizing a conversation sounds unpleasant. Let’s not do that.

            I find it hard to believe that you would take the position if the parties in question were neutrals, much less part of your out-group. I find it hard to believe that a significant population exists anywhere that parses things the way you describe. I’m not even sure I think it’s a good idea in the abstract, because it seems pretty obviously to be a general excuse for odious behavior. In this circumstance, you are dismissing the concerns and arguments of others out of hand, simply because they aren’t members of the group. That doesn’t seem like a very good argument to me.

          • Robert Liguori says:

            You know, I don’t think I need a deep understanding of a community to determine that when they’re saying “Don’t read that! The author’s the wrong race or sex! You will improve things if you only read things by people of the right race or sex!” are being horrifyingly racist and sexist.

            But hey, let’s be maximally charitable; I’m sure that when someone changes the channel on the radio whenever a nonwhite singer comes on and starts muttering about ‘those people’, we should carefully consider the context, and recognize that we’re not a member of their group and that their mutterings aren’t for us, and surely can better be interpreted by others.

            Or, you know, not. I think that culture can actually explain some apparently horrifying things; I cheerfully submit the -fag notation of 4chan as something which looks worse than it is.

            But I also think that someone attempting to explain it to outsiders would be well served by starting with “Yes, this looks horrifying, but if you actually look into the usage…”.

            Plus, as I said, I don’t actually think that a nuanced and contextual reading of the article is any less racist and sexist; it’s just from a context where people are quite sure that then it’s them doing it it’s not racism or sexism, so they can discriminate away.

            I might be wrong; I’ve not done an extensive survey xoJane’s readership. On the other hand, I’ve got one shining example of that right here. So, I guess I can be convinced by an argument that the article isn’t as horrible as it seems on first read, but I need to actually see that argument.

          • Anonymous says:

            Robert: you’ll find the argument you’re looking for all over the thread. You are responding to a comment that was itself a response to a response to some of the arguments you’re saying you “need to actually see.” I think Ozy also has a thread on it, if you need more.

            Faceless, I don’t see how to respond without repeating myself. It’s nothing to do with outgroups. It’s about how some writing is targeted at particular audiences. But I said that already.

          • Anthony says:

            Anonymous, the fact that Bradford’s article was targeted at a particular slice of humanity doesn’t excuse the racism she’s exhibiting in the article, it merely informs us that the particular slice of humanity shares Bradford’s racist assumptions.

      • Quixote says:

        Very much this.

      • Unique Identifier says:

        Personally, I find Bradford’s blog post deserves the criticism it has gotten – that the grievances aren’t imported.

        The whole thing is a long-winded way of saying that race, sex or sexual orientation of the author should be taken into account, when we choose what books to read – more specifically, that the author being black, female, transgender or homosexual counts as a positive.

        Furthermore, it suggests that this is such a valuable heuristic, that we should set aside a whole month or year or whatever, where this heuristic -trumps every other consideration-; thus, abstinence from white male literature.

        This is of course utter nonsense.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          This, I think, is my core objection as well. I am not willing to entertain the premise that demographic categories define our minds so absolutely as to fundamentally constrain our creativity.

          Veronica D had an interesting counterargument about trans literature by cis authors vs trans authors in another forum that was ripe for debate, but seeing two other people get banned while debating them indicated that I should keep my opinions to myself. The short of it, though, is that I still don’t think there’s anything a dedicated and skilled author can’t write. If some lacunae of human experience aren’t often well-described except by those they directly effect, that might indicate that they are sufficiently uncommon experiences to have little to offer to a general audience.

          • Highly Effective People says:

            Well to be fair you could say the same about the experience of daily life aboard the ISS (said astronauts being several orders of magnitude less common than transsexuals) so I’d doubt it’s the rarity of the experience per se making it uninteresting or even unrelatable.

            I think it’s fairly uncontroversial that for any given topic someone with personal experience, expert knowledge, or ideally both will generally portray it more accurately than a less well informed person. Of course accuracy isn’t always important and focusing on realism means narrowing your talent pool as well as making concessions between drama and verisimilitude. The most factually accurate medical drama is probably not also the best, even in the minds of watching doctors and nurses.

          • Unique Identifier says:

            That [people who have personal experience with X are more suited to write about X], is a far weaker and more defensible claim than Bradford’s.

          • Nornagest says:

            Well to be fair you could say the same about the experience of daily life aboard the ISS

            You know, that’s actually an interesting question. Who is best equipped to write about the experience of daily life aboard the ISS, given that astronauts are incredibly rare and writing talent could be expected to be largely uncorrelated with astronaut status? You’re going to miss something if you haven’t been there, but you’re also going to miss getting some things across if you aren’t an effective communicator.

            I suspect the optimal point would end up being something like “a professional writer that did a lot of research and interviews with retired astronauts” — but on the other hand, The Right Stuff was pretty good, so maybe there is enough writing skill floating around the profession.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Nornagest, what do you mean by “on the other hand”? Are you claiming that Wolfe is not “a professional writer that did a lot of research and interviews with retired astronauts”?

          • Nornagest says:

            No, you’re right, I’m misremembering or conflating.

          • randy m says:

            Fairly safe guess the skills need to be an astronaut are correlated with writing talent enough.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yes. The reductio ad absurdum of her appeal is that if we take White Cis Het Middle-class Female Author and White Cis Het Middle-class Male Author, all else being equal, we should read Author A rather Author B on no other grounds than her biological sex. And we should then parse all our reading for the entire year so that, between two authors, the criteria of selection will (or should) be not “Is this writing good?” but “What shade of colour on the Human Hue Paint Chart is this writer? Do I know what they like to do in bed? Do they present themselves as, if binary, this side of the binary, or as non-binary?”

          I don’t like prescriptive “don’t read” or “shouldn’t read” on grounds other than “This is a terrible book because it is so badly written”. And now I think I’ve come full circle to Oscar Wilde’s “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book.
          Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” Though I think I do disagree about moral or immoral books – and, again, taking the argument to the extreme, we could see campaigns about ‘more diversity in your reading’ degenerating into moral tests: non-cis/white/het/male author and characters are more virtuous, ergo moral, reading than the opposite.

      • anon says:

        You say Scott assumes the evil shaming tactics are present and brings them into the discussion about a good faith suggestion. Please, point out to me where Scott mentioned something about shaming or toxicity? He said that the movement is telling people to stop reading white male literature. Where does he mention shame or evil or toxicity? He’s accurately retelling the content of the ‘good faith suggestion’!:

        >The “Reading Only X Writers For A Year” a challenge is one every person who loves to read (and who loves to write) should take.

        The only inaccuracy on Scott’s part is that Bradford is not telling literally everyone that they should stop reading white male books, no, she’s only telling it to the people who love reading. If you don’t love reading you can read whatever you want, whereas from Scott’s post you might infer that she’s talking to everyone.

        • Airgap says:

          As a crazy hypothetical, suppose you were raised to regard reading as noble, and admitting you didn’t really care for reading as shameful.

          • Deiseach says:

            “I refuse to read this course textbook on the grounds that the author is white/cis/het/male/all of the above! And I dare the university to fail me!” 🙂

      • Alexander Stanislaw says:

        I agree but:

        In other words, they seem incapable of having a good faith social justice conversation without having to reply the toxic parts of the fight.

        It is possible to have a good faith social justice conversation anywhere? Not for lack of trying, I just can’t figure out what specific policies and changes in the world the social justice movement is after. I can envision a neoractionary world, a libertarian world, an anarchocapitalist world, a socialist world (though this was a struggle), but a social justice world? I have no idea what it would look like.

        • Airgap says:

          Ted Kaczynski famously argued that specific policies wasn’t the point of the SJW. On the other hand, he was Ted Kaczynski, so YMMV.

        • nydwracu says:

          It’s easy to imagine what a social justice world would look like. In fact, social justice is one of the easiest political movements to model — because, in the end, there’s only one policy that matters. War of each tribe against every other is not a terribly uncommon state, although, in the past, the tribes tended to come from about the same region.

      • stillnotking says:

        Veronica, I don’t think there is a “good-faith” way to challenge people to stop reading books written by members of a particular race or gender. That is simply a bad-faith suggestion, not to mention a bigoted one. The phrasing of it doesn’t really matter.

      • Deiseach says:

        I think the trouble is that, even given the best intentions, to most of us it comes across as “Stop reading authors you like because they’re problematic”.

        And not necessarily “Problematic because of their attitudes to/about sex, gender, race, religion or lack thereof, politics” but “They’re the wrong sex and the wrong skin colour and never questioned their gender”.

        I get the part about “Go beyond the mainstream, explore alternative views and voices”. But nobody likes being told “Stop reading books you like because the author doesn’t fit the template of diversity”.

        • I’d say that’s pretty accurate, except that Bradford is at least implying that cis, straight, white men are detestable people writing detestable fiction.

          This isn’t just about meeting a diversity requirement.

      • Jiro says:

        Just because the article did not flat out use the words “and if you don’t, you’re evil” doesn’t mean that that’s not the implication.

        Plausible deniability may be a thing, but there’s no need to fall for it.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        “In other words, they seem incapable of having a good faith social justice conversation without having to reply the toxic parts of the fight. They bring the toxicity with them everywhere.”

        I mentioned previously that I thought you had a point, but on further reflection and after rereading the article a few more times, I’m not so sure.

        This does not seem to me to be a discussion about expanding one’s horizons. The author bookends her article with explicit rejections of that idea, while mentioning it only in passing in the middle. The author states that she avoids straight white male stories because they make her uncomfortable and angry, and that she enjoys reading a great deal more now that she’s excluded the demographics that seem to annoy her the most.

        This is not even the shadow of a serious, defensible position. It begs so many questions that I’m not even sure where to begin. Has she tried double-blinding her story selection, to check whether her frustration has to do with bias on her part? Isn’t engaging with diverse viewpoints and stepping outside your comfort zone supposed to be a good thing? How can she brag about excluding viewpoints she finds unpleasant one moment, and then laud the virtues of diverse viewpoints the next? If she’s right and our demographic data does constrain what we can understand and thus create, doesn’t that strongly imply that cross-demographic communication is impractical? …And so on.

        The defenses of the article I’ve seen from you and others seem to ignore the article itself, and run with the “diversity is good” idea. I wholeheartedly agree. I lurk Thing of Things because because while the Social Justice movement seems like a communicable form of insanity to me, I want to understand why decent people still see value in it. If you think that’s the sort of article people need to see, you should write it. If Bradford was trying to, she failed spectacularly. The mockery she is receiving seems well-deserved.

        • I think that Social Justice points out some real problems about a lot of people not being fully welcome in mainstream society, and often enough, they’re abused, not just excluded.

          Very unfortunately, Social Justice involves tactics which are unlikely to solve the problems, and may make matters worse. What’s more, it distracts and drives away people who might otherwise be working on the real problems.

          Still, pointing out some real problems isn’t nothing.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        1. The writer doesn’t exactly phrase it as “you should read more authors of color”. She phrases it as “you should read fewer straight white men”. Technically, if you stopped reading books for a year, you would satisfy her challenge as long as you never touched anything written by a white guy. There are different ways you can phrase the same issue. and she is working out of a very specific tradition in choosing the one she did.

        2. She’s not just saying writers of color are underrepresented, she’s saying that when she reads works by white men, “every time I tried to get through a magazine, I would come across stories that I didn’t enjoy or that I actively hated or that offended me so much I rage-quit the issue.”

        3. She then argues that this is because literature is biased against non-SWM, and “the idea of a meritocracy in literature is as fictitious as Westeros”.

        So she’s taking a false claim that could have been proven false with a quick Google search, using it to impugn the literary world as racist and sexist, tarring all straight white authors as generally so offensive that decent people can’t read their stories, and suggesting that you cut an entire race’s cultural work out of your life (instead of suggesting reading more work by people of other races). And so I, as a white male writer, deserve to lose my entire audience just because of my race.

        If you can’t see what’s wrong with this, I don’t really think there’s any hope for you. The Nazis banned literature by Jews because there was supposedly something about the Jewish spirit that corrupted even their writing. The correct counterargument is that what kind of books you write isn’t limited by your skin color or religion. The social justice response is that the Nazis were basically right, they just got the specific race to avoid wrong.

        And you say I’m being “perpetually aggrieved” by worrying about this!

        (Hopefully going to a white male doctor is still okay, or else I’m in *real* trouble.)

        If you really think this sort of thing is okay, stick to your guns and stop reading this blog, which is written by a straight white man and therefore doesn’t deserve to have its ideas paid attention to.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          None of this conversation about Bradford has been productive, but I’d like to take a slight detour:

          She then argues that this is because literature is biased against non-SWM, and “the idea of a meritocracy in literature is as fictitious as Westeros”.

          So she’s taking a false claim that could have been proven false with a quick Google search

          I find it surprising you make this claim. SJ frequently makes the distinction between explicit bias and structural bias (which is confusing because they don’t often say which they are referring to and many of them are confused on the issue) so arguing against the former does not rule out the latter. It may well be the case that individual book reviewers are not prejudiced, but that societal forces discourage women or people of color from trying to get published. Now that is very hard to prove or disprove and Bradford is wrong in deciding its a settled case, but the data so far doesn’t rule out the existence of structural bias.

          • gattsuru says:

            At least as presented in the XOJane article and through follow-up the FluidArtist page, Mrs. Bradford does discuss explicit bias — the New York Times reviewer decisions most obviously, including decisions to review specific authors over others and to review some authors more often than others.

            ((For bonus irony, one of the critiques Mrs. Bradford links points to Jon-Jon Goulian getting multiple fawning reviews where Jesmyn Ward received one late one. Jon-Jon Goulian’s critical reception and giant paper advance are well-worth examining from a critical lens, far outside of the norm and coincidentally aimed at a politically and socially connected individual. But it’s probably also worth at least mentioning that his book was named The Man In the Gray Flannel Skirt.))

            I’m very hard-pressed to read the critique of meritocrisy as a focus on structural bias, given the context, for that matter.

        • Tibor says:

          I have a question that’s been bothering me for a while: How many of these people are there around in the US? My impression is that they are a very small group of radicals who just shout too loud. Is it worth talking about them at all? I mean, there are a lot of neo-nazis who show similar patterns of behaviour (with different props). But I would not say it is worth the energy to even acknowledge their existence by responding to the nonsense they write. How are the SJWs different? Obviously, there is a difference if the majority takes the SJWs seriously or if they are able to actually enforce some crazy legislature or something. Does that happen? Or is it just an isolated case that the media picks up, because it makes people who read about it angry and that means they will repost it to others and that means a lot of traffic, therefore a lot of advertisement money?

          I am asking, because it seems to me that in Europe (at least continental Europe…ok, Germany and the Czech republic) these people either do not exist or are so marginal that one does not hear about them, one always reads about SJWs from the US or the UK (although they seem to have a foothold in Norway, where they are trying things like kindergartens where “gendered toys” such as little cars or barbie dolls are prohibited since the kids are supposed to “choose their gender identity for themselves”…I am not doing the argument full justice but this is not what I wanted to talk about anyway). The European feminists seem to also be a lot more reasonable than these US SJW ones I keep hearing about (I still disagree with them on a lot of issues, such as 30% female quotas for the boards of big companies that are now in place in Germany…but usually they focus not on “male oppression” but on things like “women are disadvantaged by nature since it is more difficult for them to have children and a career at the same time, so let’s create some infrastructure or rules that make it easier for them to do those things together”, which is about 100 times more constructive than hysterically blaming white men for everything wrong in the world)

          So could someone here estimate what kind of influence these SJW people actually have?

          • Hadlowe says:

            The acolyte numbers for the SJ movement in the US are pretty small — likely comparable to those in Europe.

            The movement has an outsized voice due to its locus of power and influence being in the University systems and popular media. It also has a strong voice in the steering of the feminist, minority, and LGBTQ demographics, which comprise an essential part of the Democratic Party.

            Where you would normally get pushback against a radical ideology from the multiple mainstream parties in a parliamentary system, you have one-half of the American political system playing footsie with SJ in order to win elections. Republicans have a similar problem with the evangelical right, but without the air cover of sympathetic media and tenure in the university.

          • Jiro says:

            I remember the subject being brought up in the context of the Julian Assange rape case in Sweden, which has sounded like it could involve lowered standards for accusation resulting from the equivalent of SJWs (or by American pressure taking advantage of the equivalent of SJWs.) Of course you do mention Norway, and Sweden is right next to Norway.

          • Tibor says:

            Hadlowe: So you think they get more influence because of the two-party majority system? On the other hand, in the representative system, it often happens that there is a small party with minority views (something like the Green party for example) which has a larger power than it would have had in the majority system, because their few votes can tip the balance in the parliament. The people who vote the Green party (or some “Social Justice Party” ) in the US are not ever going to vote Republican anyway…so the Democrats don’t need to pay that much attention to them, their votes are guaranteed. In the representative system, they might get some 3-5 seats in the Parliament, which can sometimes mean a lot, because they can condition voting for something the government wants by making the government propose some of their political programme.

            On the other hand, it might be that Democrats who do not care about this group at all, could lose their votes anyway. Not to Republicans, those people would simply not vote at all or would vote for a third-party candidate. And since the population votes roughly 50/50, every additional vote counts.

            I have to say that I still don’t know whether the parliamentary representative or the majority system is better (I am pretty sure the presidential system is not a good idea though).

          • Tibor says:

            Jiro: The Swedish rape statistic is strange. It has increased over the past 20 years and quite extremely so. According to this table http://www.civitas.org.uk/crime/crime_stats_oecdjan2012.pdf they are way above every other European OECD country, most of which are under 10 cases per 10k population. Actually, only Nordic countries (except for Denmark), Belgium, France and Britain are above 10, but Sweden has about 58 per 10k.

            That, and the change of rape incidence, can suggest one (or most likely both) of the following:

            1. The definition of rape changed in the meantime. On the other hand, I believe that the increase was gradual and not sudden, which means it is not probably just that.
            2. The demographics changes are the source of this increase. I have read some estimates on the rape rate by immigrants from the middle east in Sweden (although official statistics on that don’t exist, I believe) and they were suggesting that this is what drives these numbers up a lot. That said, the site where I read this has an obvious anti-muslim immigration bias, so while I think they are right to a degree, they might be prone to “forget” to mention that also the legal definition of rape changed in the country. Also, Denmark has about 3% Muslims, which is not that much different from 5% in Sweden…so this alone can hardly explain almost 10 times more rape cases in Sweden than in Denmark. Sweden and Denmark also are both Nordic countries with similar history, although Denmark seems to be the most “conservative” of the three Germanic Nordic countries.

          • Anthony says:

            It’s hard to say how much *actual* influence American SJWs have, but they are taken, at least somewhat seriously, by the media, and by universities.

            For example, that most recent stories about some awful thing some white (or honorary white) person did have fallen apart under inspection, but that the media rather uncritically parroted the SJW party line, and still refers to those stories in ways which assume the truth of the SJW line.

            Universities are hotbeds of this stuff, and have been for quite a long time – long enough that many faculty are second-generation SJWs. It’s gotten bad enough at the universities that anti-semitism has made a big comeback. However, it’s also contributed to people paying less and less attention to the output of the universities.

            Eric Holder’s Department of “Justice” seems to be particularly infected by SJW ideas, as most recently seen in the Ferguson report, where the two big takeaways were that Mike Brown deserved to get shot, and that the Ferguson PD is racist because it arrests blacks at a rate (relative to whites) similar to that of every other police department in the U.S.

          • Airgap says:

            I am asking, because it seems to me that in Europe (at least continental Europe…ok, Germany and the Czech republic) these people either do not exist or are so marginal that one does not hear about them

            My working hypothesis used to be that America owns the planet, so there’s more percentage in being political here, but the whole Germany thing is throwing me a bit.

          • Tibor says:

            Airgap: Well, on the other hand, there are idiots who “protest against capitalism” by going to the opening of the new EZB (European Central Bank..which is kind of funny, because that is not quite the most capitalist institution I could think of, but hey banks = Evil Capitalists, right?) HQ, burning a couple of police cars and generally demolishing stuff…and then a SPD (social democrats) politician says something like:”Well, violence is bad m-kay, but this is not like what the neo-nazis do, because neo-nazis use violence against the weak, and these guys are trying to stick it to the Man and that somehow makes vandalizing a lot of stuff less bad”.

            So maybe just left-wing ultras here just stick more to the traditional left-wing extremism 😀 I guess that pretty much nobody would call himself a communist (like real deal Marxist communist, not some kind of a something-something-socialist) in the US as it is perceived there about as favourably as neo-Nazism is (IMO very rightly so)…or is that not correct? It is not quite easy to get an undistorted picture while just observing from across the ocean. Well, if it is, then maybe the “SJW” is stronger there for the reasons of race (which is a bigger issue in the more racially diverse US than in Europe) and for the reason that being a communist is not as appealing there as it might be for the same kind of people in Europe. But bear in mind that these are all just wild speculations 🙂

          • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

            >I am asking, because it seems to me that in Europe (at least continental Europe…ok, Germany and the Czech republic) these people either do not exist or are so marginal that one does not hear about them

            I think it might have to do with Sociology/Gender Studies degrees in the US probably being much more expensive than in Europe.

          • Airgap says:

            I guess that pretty much nobody would call himself a communist (like real deal Marxist communist, not some kind of a something-something-socialist) in the US as it is perceived there about as favourably as neo-Nazism is (IMO very rightly so)…or is that not correct?

            Not even close. Have a look at some of the photoessays here: http://zombietime.com/. From the middle-class up, the left loves commies.

            My intuitions would be the opposite of yours. If you live in Germany, I figure there’s a decent chance a member of your family was the victim of communist persecution. I understand communism used to be even bigger there than David Hasselhoff. In the US, we mostly just stared menacingly at each other across the ocean.

          • Nornagest says:

            There was a Marxist club at my university. There were Marxist professors at my university. Connections to Marxism are electoral poison over here, and even among the radical Left it’s not as popular as various forms of anarchism or non-Marxist socialism, but it’s nowhere near as stigmatized as neo-Nazism.

          • Jiro says:

            When asking “what do people think about X in the US”, remember that the US is a big country by European standards and people are likely to think very different things in different parts of it.

          • Pete says:

            When asking “what do people think about X in the US”, remember that the US is a big country by European standards and people are likely to think very different things in different parts of it.

            It’s not even that the US is a large country, it’s a silly question anyway. If you were to ask me, “what do people about christianity in your family” I could give you at least 4 different answers (there are 8 of us). If you can’t answer the question for families, how can you for entire countries?

            It’s even funnier when people try to talk about “European” opinions or values. As if an unemployed youth in Greece should have the same opinions about everything as a CEO of a German car manufacturer. Or Portuguese culture should be essentially the same as Polish culture.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            When asking “what do people think about X in the US”, remember that the US is a big country by European standards and people are likely to think very different things in different parts of it.

            My mental model equates individual states with European countries, and the United States with the European Union/Schengen Area/Eurozone. It’s not a perfect correspondence, but it’s better than thinking than any one European country is directly comparable to America.

          • Airgap says:

            @Jiro

            Clearly, he wants to know what Real Americans think, which should be obvious.

          • Tibor says:

            Ok, let me clarify the question (I took it for granted to be understood in this way, which was probably wrong).

            I am asking about the prevalent opinion in the US. That is something like “Is it true that the vast majority of Americans would condemn communism about the same way they would condemn neo-Nazis”? It is not “what is the One Answer for All Americans?” which would obviously be nonsense. Now that is obviously not true of Germany, because Die Linke (which are a blend of the old DDR communists and the New Left) get about 10% support in all of Germany, and as high as 25% support in the former DDR (Eastern Germany) and almost zero in Bavaria for example and most other former West Germany…The story in the Czech republic is similar, there the communists have a support of about 15%. Which suggests to me that your intuition would be wrong, although to be honest, I don’t understand why it is wrong either 🙂 I guess their voter demographics are skewered heavily to the older people, who vote them because they had to vote for them the whole life and because they remember the time of their reign as the time where they were young and so everything was nice even if you lived in an oppressive regime which had to force people to stay in the country or else 95% of them would leave. Here is a map with the percentage of votes Die Linke obtained in the 2013 federal elections:
            http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_Linke#/media/File:Btw13_linke_zweit_endgueltig.svg
            This kind of a map, where you can still sharply see the former border, shows up pretty often actually (in socioeconomic issues like health, life expectancy, income and so on). 25 years after the fall of the Berlin wall, the differences are still clear. Obviously, nowhere near the 1989 levels, but one can tell.

            Also, I was under the impression that the US states differ far less than the countries in Europe. For one, everyone speaks the same language, has the same currency and the same government and has had all that ever since the civil war (and before that too). Most of the individual states are relatively new and pretty much everyone is a relatively recent immigrant (unless the descendants of the first settlers in New England make a large part of the population, which they do not seem to), so I guess there are going to be some differences between the culture in the south and in the north and then some weird places like Utah, but other than that I would expect bigger cultural differences between Bavaria and Holstein than between California and Florida and about as big as between Texas and Michigan (even thought the distances are vastly greater). I am wrong on that?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I estimate that 10% of the US gene pool derives from the 50k immigrants to New England in the before the English Civil War. And that’s not counting the early settlers to other places.

          • Tibor says:

            Douglas: I was thinking more in the way of culture than genetics. It seems to me that all those cultural influences blended in the “melting pot” of America, so that the differences would average out. Of course, you’d end up with a very different story if all Californians were descendants of say Italian immigrants and all Michiganese (you see, there is not even a word Michiganese :)) were descendants of Swedish immigrants. But if it is relatively well mixed (on the other hand: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States#/media/File:Census-2000-Data-Top-US-Ancestries-by-County.svg ) then any differences would have had to come form the last 200 years or so. This is unlikely to create differences in culture as big as that between say Norway and Italy.

            Getting back to the SJWs, I think some (most?) of the young (but probably not the old) marxists here actually do endorse that to a certain degree too, although I think this is a side thing for them and the more important part remains to be the “fight against capitalism and fascism”.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Tibor – “I am asking about the prevalent opinion in the US. That is something like “Is it true that the vast majority of Americans would condemn communism about the same way they would condemn neo-Nazis”?”

            No, not really. A large majority of the country sees communism as a low-status delusion, somewhat like membership in the Flat Earth Society. Significant pockets of society still consider communism interesting or valuable to various degrees, but the public perception is generally that it was a failed ideology that we trampled beneath our mighty stride. Communists don’t get any appreciable percentage of the vote.

            Neo-Naziism, on the other hand, is seen as immediately dangerous and criminal. The question isn’t whether neo-nazis can win elections, its whether they can hold a job and keep a roof over their head.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Tibor – ” This is unlikely to create differences in culture as big as that between say Norway and Italy.”

            Having never been to Norway or Italy, I have no real idea to what degree their cultures differ.

            The split in america is ideological. We don’t hate each other because of differences over food or dress or lifestyle, we hate each other over politics and ideology. The food and dress and lifestyle prejudices come after, not before. That being said, while geographic areas lean heavily one way or the other, there’s still enough diversity in most population centers to find people much like yourself, whatever you may be. There’s plenty of gun nuts in Cali and bleeding-heart vegans in Texas.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Tibor, on the contrary, the settlers made an even bigger impact on the culture than on the genetics. They did not mix, but spread west in parallel lines. And then, as your map shows, later immigrants clumped together.

        • Nita says:

          stop reading this blog, which is written by a straight white man and therefore doesn’t deserve to have its ideas paid attention to

          I’m sorry, sir, but I’m afraid you’re mistaken about your race. Jews have been declared non-white by Deiseach upthread, and she’s the closest thing to the Voice of God we have around here 🙂

        • Rob Bensinger says:

          I’m pretty sure I understand the point you’re making, and where it’s coming from. And I have some sympathy for the general deontic prohibition you want to endorse (‘don’t ever ever ever advise people to filter who they read by race/gender/orientation/etc.’), and I unequivocally agree with you that Bradford’s rhetoric was harmful and the main evidence she cited was manifestly wrong. So I don’t think I’m being completely mindkilled by this issue. Yet, having read all the comments discussing this on the thread, I am not persuaded.

          I may be wrong in remaining unconvinced that Bradford’s article is very very evil and her idea fundamentally and irredeemably wicked; but if so I think it’s ‘wrong because I haven’t seen very good arguments’ more so than ‘wrong because no possible argument could persuade me’. I don’t think it would be completely impossible for a reasonable, innocent soul to arrive at this discussion without any prior knowledge of SJ, and be perplexed by the inability or unwillingness of Bradford’s critics here to find a charitable interpretation of the unstated examples Bradford had in mind that cause her to ‘ragequit.’

          (‘I’m taking a break from straight cis white male comedians because I tried ten different ones in a row and they *all* made the same inane transphobic jokes’ is fundamentally unlike ‘I’m taking a break from straight cis white male comedians because I just saw one tell a thoughtful, interesting joke I’d never heard before that favored libertarianism over socialism, and I hate being forced to reconsider my anti-libertarian assumptions.’ Which of those two prototypes you have in mind for ‘thing likely to make Bradford ragequit’ is, I think, the main node determining whether Bradford’s post is manifestly anti-Enlightenment, anti-intellectual, anti-diversity, closed-minded, or what-have-you. If ‘filtering out dumb transphobic jokes that don’t produce any interesting new ideas or conversations’ is the prototype, then it may still be a bad idea, but if so it’s for nuanced and debatable reasons, not Because Hitler.)

          I also don’t think it obvious that the Innocent Person-Who-Hasn’t-Heard-Of-SJ would immediately assent to ‘it is always evil to filter your reading list by the author’s background, or to propose that others do so’. That idea for a universal principle is an interesting one, and worth talking about, but to immediately condemn anyone who’s the least bit skeptical of it as Enemies Of Enlightenment, as a lot of people on this thread have been doing, is… at best premature.

          I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and I endorse many of the ideas you’ve come up with here, and I’ve had my mind changed by a large number of them, and yet somehow I still think a sane and good person can suggest that everyone spend a year reading more authors whose background causes them to be read less often. (And I’m convinced by Jacob Schmidst’s point regarding phrasing the idea positively v. negatively: “Pledging to to use more of an alternative resource is vague, and vague goals tend to not be realized.” Ditto complicated goals v. simpler ones.)

          I don’t think a good case has yet been made for the position you’re advocating on this thread, even though it’s been repeated quite a few times now by a lot of different thoughtful people. I also think the approach you and others have been adopting to establishing your conclusion (‘be fiery and passionate and Principled’) is much less effective than if you invested effort into understanding and responding to less weak-man-ish interpretations and manifestations of Bradford’s idea.

          I enjoy reading the fiery passionate battle-cry stuff, but it can occlude more interesting multi-sided views of debates. And it may have a polarizing, schism-producing effect if it acts as an attractor for everyone who’s one inferential step away from your position, while doing zilch for people who are two or three inferential steps away. (Though I’m not yet convinced that learning more will bring me to your position; if I were, I’d already be at your position, to the extent I understand it.)

          • Cauê says:

            I’m not sure there’s anything I disagree with here, except:

            ‘I’m taking a break from straight cis white male comedians because I tried ten different ones in a row and they *all* made the same inane transphobic jokes’ is fundamentally unlike ‘I’m taking a break from straight cis white male comedians because I just saw one tell a thoughtful, interesting joke I’d never heard before that favored libertarianism over socialism, and I hate being forced to reconsider my anti-libertarian assumptions.’ Which of those two prototypes you have in mind (…)

            We’re talking about humans here. People do the second one all the time, but will always act like they’re doing the first one, and probably believe it. The first one is what the second one feels like.

            This is how echo chambers are born.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Rob Bensinger – “I don’t think it would be completely impossible for a reasonable, innocent soul to arrive at this discussion without any prior knowledge of SJ, and be perplexed by the inability or unwillingness of Bradford’s critics here to find a charitable interpretation of the unstated examples Bradford had in mind that cause her to ‘ragequit.’”

            It’s possible you’re right.

            We talk about “American” or “Russian” or “Japanese” novels. No one much objects to the idea that a book is a product of the culture that formed its author. If culture can be demarcated by national boundaries, surely the same can be done for cultures based on ethnic boundaries, or gender boundaries. So there’s Gay culture, Black culture, Female culture, and presumably there’s books that specifically match those cultures. It seems highly likely to me that an author’s membership in the demographic those cultures arise from doesn’t mean they’re necessarily well-integrated into that culture, or that their work is a product of it. Nevertheless, if you only read things by authors who match the demographic, you’re much more likely to read material from that demographic’s specific culture than otherwise.

            Bradford is actually trying to be relatively open-minded; rather than telling you which authors and cultures take priority, she leaves that decision to the individual. The only restriction is from reading material from the mainstream, that is, white, straight, and male. If you’re looking for diversity in your reading, avoiding SWM authors won’t guarantee you find it, but will greatly improve your chances. The time and demographic restrictions aren’t statements about the authors being excluded (“you need to not read white people for a year”), they’re artifacts of the difficulty of identifying voices that are actually “diverse” (“if you read authors who aren’t straight white men for a year, you’ll most likely get a useful amount of diverse thought in the mix.”)

            …Something along those lines?

          • Irrelevant says:

            Which of those two prototypes you have in mind for ‘thing likely to make Bradford ragequit’ is, I think, the main node determining whether Bradford’s post is manifestly anti-Enlightenment, anti-intellectual, anti-diversity, closed-minded, or what-have-you.

            No, it isn’t. This is a path-independent judgment. I literally don’t care what rationalization she’s using to reach her conclusion, because to reach it she necessarily must be missing the “Thou Shalt Judge Statements By Their Content Rather Than Their Speaker” rule and is The Enemy.

      • Gbdub says:

        You seem to be suggesting that the toxicity should just be ignored. Responding to toxicity with toxicity is often bad, but calling out toxicity for what it is is usually good. Keeping in mind that Scott’s link posts are usually of the “pithy snark” variety compared to his more thought out posts, I think his intent was pretty clearly the latter.

        Also, if you think the linked article “contains none of the social justice shaming tactics” then one or both of us needs to reread it a few more times. Because to me, any good point in there is lost behind the core structure of her argument, which is effectively “I can’t rationally engage stories written by and for people who are the wrong gender and color, but that’s okay because I’m a woman of color so my bigoted irrationality is a good thing. You’re a white cisgendered male, so you really ought to switch your bigotry to match my comfort zone, if you’re a REAL reader”.

        While the good point could easily be phrased, “I think it’s good for people to reach outside their comfort zone and in particular read stories from people of different cultures/genders/orientations/whatever. Here are some of my favorite authors of that type you may want to look into”.

        So she may not have been being deliberately toxic, but she certainly wasn’t going out of her way to be charitable. And being charitable to her doesn’t require me to make a more palatable argument for her that she didn’t make herself. In fact, I’m going to go one step further – Bradford’s defenders here are the ones being uncharitable to Bradford, because they are warping her argument into something it isn’t, and ignoring all the parts they don’t like!

    • vV_Vv says:

      I found my life better after I stopped buying stuff from businesses owned by black people, gays and women. Being pushed to go outside my usual shops was fun/informative.

      I challenge you to do the same for one year. /s

      • veronica d says:

        These kind of reversals just make you seem petty.

        • anon says:

          Truthful, necessary or kind?

        • suntzuanime says:

          These kind of reversals are the easiest way to see the hypocrisy of leftist racialism.

          • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

            Yes, but in a place where pretty much everyone acknowledges said hypocrisy, it feels more like signaling than anything else.

          • suntzuanime says:

            This original post of this thread doesn’t seem to acknowledge it, nor does veronica d to whom I was directly replying. Yes, everyone agrees with me except the people who don’t agree with me, and yes, all blog commenting is more signaling than anything else. What are you gonna do.

          • Whatever happened to Anonymous says:

            It doesn’t seem to me that veronica isn’t acknowledging that this is true, but rather complaining that it’s not constructive.

            For whatever it’s worth, I think it’s OK to make fun of SJW, it’s just that there’s no need to make a justification for it. The response to veronica shouldn’t be “this is actually important”, it should be (a probably more articulate variation of) “you mad?”.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ suntzuanime
            These kind of reversals are the easiest way to see the hypocrisy of leftist racialism.

            Or of anything else.

            And vV_Vv’s was very well done. In ‘see the hypocrisy’, the ‘see’ is a dead metaphor, meaning only ‘perceive,’ ‘agree that it is,’ etc. There’s nothing to imagine literally ‘seeing’ except whatever page of print some argument is on.

            But vV_Vv’s unexpected reversal took me to scene/s that were visual, in a visible street. Having to walk past the little deli with the red checked table cloth because the owner/operator is Lebanese. Past the halal butcher’s. Past the Japanese doctor’s acupuncture clinic. Etc etc.

            That may have been a little unfair, since many books by white men are not stifling like Sears and Applebees. Many are about mountain climbing, solving locked room murders, real cultural interaction (like Tony Hillerman’s) … yanno, real interesting stories in the real world.

            I wonder, would Bradford’s standard accept women like Colette, Ayn Rand, Christie, Isak Denisen, Sayers*, Diana Wynne Jones, and POC authors like Samuel Delany*?

            * Gaudy Night, and really all of Sayers, were openly feminist; but as parts of each real story. Babel_17 … just wow.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Would Bradford allow Delany? Yes, she specifically recommended Babel-17.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            *sigh* http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/725803.stm

            I’ll admit that SJ as a movement does a poor job of directing people to their answer to reversal arguments, but this is well-trodden.

            I don’t actually know the good canonical SJ 101 resources, so let’s just use Scott. See ‘the obvious liberal response’ http://squid314.livejournal.com/354385.html

      • Alexander Stanislaw says:

        This reply is on the level of “But if men came from apes then why are there still apes?”. It only makes sense if you haven’t bothered to think about what your opponent is arguing.

        In this case its “Many people read mostly books written by white male authors. Reading only authors that do not fit said category is a good way of expanding your literary horizons”. The reversal test doesn’t make sense. Most businesses are not run by women/gay/black people. Most people do not shop exclusively from businesses run by said demographic. There is no diversity gained from abstaining from said businesses.

        Now whether diversifying your reading on the basis of race/gender is a worthwhile thing to do … That is an argument that could be had. But come on, don’t be intellectually lazy just because your arguing with a much hated enemy. At least respond to what your interlocutor is saying.

        • Cauê says:

          Point of order:

          “Many people read exclusively books written by white male authors.”

          For reasonable values of “many people”, this looks exceedingly unlikely.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_books

          • Alexander Stanislaw says:

            Alright I amended it to mostly.

          • rttf says:

            Alexander Stanislaw says:

            >I was wrong so I’m moving the goalpost.

          • Alexander Stanislaw says:

            @rttf

            Conceding a point isn’t a slippery slope. And vV_Vv’s argument is still just as catastrophically wrong. Would you agree that the analogy makes no sense given the premise of the SJ argument?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Alexander Stanislaw – “Would you agree that the analogy makes no sense given the premise of the SJ argument?”

            I certainly wouldn’t. Bradford’s article explicitly rejects the concept of diversity. She explicitly states that she is avoiding works by straight white men because they make her uncomfortable and angry, and she would rather read things that she finds pleasant.

            Frankly, I have no idea where so many of the comments in this thread are getting the diversity idea from. Not from Bradford’s article, certainly. I’m also not sure why people are so comfortable “defending” her by ignoring most everything she said and providing new talking points out of whole cloth.

            Bradford’s arguments are terrible, but at least they are hers.

        • vV_Vv says:

          In this case its “Many people read mostly books written by white male authors. Reading only authors that do not fit said category is a good way of expanding your literary horizons”. The reversal test doesn’t make sense. Most businesses are not run by women/gay/black people. Most people do not shop exclusively from businesses run by said demographic. There is no diversity gained from abstaining from said businesses.

          Fair point.

          Most people primarily use Internet sites owned by Jews. Let’s abstain from these sites for one year, because of muh diversity!
          Bye bye Google, Facebook, LessWrong, SSC, etc., I guess that finding suitable alternatives will be really a fun and informative experience, won’t it?

          • Alexander Stanislaw says:

            Its obvious this thread is not going anywhere productive so I’ll stop, but at least we’ve made progress. Now your argument at least makes sense – diversity for diversity’s sake isn’t necessarily good. I think that’s true in many cases, but that’s a partially a matter of values.

          • efnre says:

            @Alexander Stanislaw

            His argument has always made sense. It’s not his fault that you didn’t get it before now.

  4. I would hope that MOOCs make the world better because they lead to people knowing more, but I have no idea how to even begin to test the hypothesis.

    • John Schilling says:

      We’ve had textbooks and libraries for a few centuries now; it’s not clear to me that MOOCs offer a broad and general advantage. Certainly there will be some people whose learning style favors an auditory component. I doubt they are the majority. And for people who learn well enough with text and illustration, the greater diversity and more flexible pacing of books would seem to give them the edge over MOOCs.

      But, while we have had some conspicuously successful autodidacts, we’ve never found any reason to establish a formal protocol for “OK, so you’ve read lots of the right books – now here’s the certification hoop you need to jump through and we’ll give you a good middle-class job”. It seems to me that either we have been missing something all along, or we are missing something now. I don’t think the odds favor the former hypothesis, but as you say – how do we begin to test for this?

      • zz says:

        nb. that, while people often prefer to learn in one manner or another, different people don’t learn more effectively with different learning styles. That is, there may be value in MOOCs because there exists a nontrivial segment of the population who just wouldn’t learn if their only choice were textbooks, but you can’t justify them because there’s a segment of the population who don’t learn effectively from textbooks.

        There also exist certification hoops; it’s only mostly correct to say they don’t exist (and entirely correct that they don’t carry the job-getting power of bs); I certainly hadn’t heard of any of them until I dropped out of college because my professors were getting in the way of learning.

        • 27chaos says:

          “Learning styles” might not exist, but that doesn’t suffice to prove MOOCs don’t offer new opportunities for some groups of people. It lets people be more flexible with scheduling, and gives them access to a course even if they’re not in a certain geographical region.

        • Godzillarissa says:

          If some people ‘like’ to learn more in one style, won’t that lead to them learning longer in that style? You know, because they don’t hate it like hell.
          If so, how is that not more effective, provided the prefered method is not super inefficient at the same time?

          • zz says:

            You’ll notice I made that exact point: MOOCs (and, I suppose, other approaches to learning) create value because people will spend time learning from them that otherwise wouldn’t have been spent learning because they enjoy it more.

            I think of the efficacy of an approach to learning in terms of amt learned / time. Going by this metric (which, admittedly, isn’t the only reasonable metric), there aren’t gains to be had by switching to a style that the learner prefers; being an intensive-ish property, it doesn’t rely on time. (“But there’s ‘time’ right there in the equation!” Yes, but amt learned is directly proportional to time, so it divides out, just like the density of a substance doesn’t depend on volume, even though there’s ‘volume’ in the equation.) That is, the claim that you can’t justify MOOCs because some people learn more effectively aurally means that there aren’t people who will now have access to better learning outcomes because the existing technology [textbooks] didn’t match their learning style, and doesn’t mean that there don’t exist people who will learn stuff they wouldn’t have otherwise (a claim which is transparently false.)

      • John Schilling says:

        If the benefit of MOOCs is that they offer to people with particular learning styles, geographic constraints, etc, all of the advantages already available to effective readers in large cities, well, that latter is a sufficiently large number that we should be able to see the advantages plainly, here and now, in the large population who have achieved a university-equivalent education and corresponding professional success through hanging around in libraries.

        I see no reason to expect that MOOCs will do more than apply a small multiplier to the current population of successful autodidacts. If that population were large, doubling or trebling it would be a great thing. But I’m not seeing it. So all I expect from MOOCs is that they will be a good thing for a relatively tiny number of people, and a source of unrealistic expectations and wasted time for the rest.

        If there’s reason to expect more, I’d like to see that articulated, and in a way that explicitly addresses why we aren’t already seeing more from our libraries and highly literate populations.

        • Anthony says:

          The one major advantage you’re missing is money. Most MOOCs are free, or almost, and combined with the flexible scheduling that makes it possible to take classes on a schedule compatible with your job, that’s going to be a big advantage over traditional courses, though only a smaller advantage over books.

          When I was in college, a friend who was a grad student there said “In lower division courses, the lectures are to explain the readings. In upper division courses, the readings are to explain the lectures.” For MOOCs (or other online courses) offering the equivalent of lower-division courses, having the lecture will help learning.

          • John Schilling says:

            Last time I checked, most libraries were also free, or almost free. Indeed, I can’t offhand think of any library that charges a substantial fee, though I’m certain the commentariat will provide some examples. University libraries at least charge a significant fee for borrowing privileges, though I’ve never found one that would stop me from walking in off the streets and spending an hour or an afternoon in the stacks.

            So, yes, if you live in an area where the public libraries are academically useless and you can’t arrange any sort of affiliate status with the local college or university and your job doesn’t have any schedule flexibility, advantage MOOC. I don’t think I’ve ever suggested there aren’t advantages for MOOCs in some circumstances.

            I am saying that in other circumstances, other quite common circumstances, the advantages of MOOCs over libraries seem to me extremely limited, so if there was some great untapped potential in MOOC-like education, we would expect to have seen a lesser but still substantial version of it long ago.

          • Anthony says:

            You’ve completely ignored my second paragraph.

          • pthagnar says:

            The nearest major academic library to me is in Manchester, and is run by fascists. They say they will graciously let you through the train-station-ticket-barrier-style portals only once, and the satisfaction of any further desire to see the books will cost you. Borrowing privileges cost extra, and of COURSE you don’t get access to most of the online material because of ‘licensing issues’.

            This is the only British academic library i know of that is quite so Hitlerian. My vague impressions of the rest are that they have a much more liberal policy and every so often I wonder why this is.

      • I wasn’t suggesting that MOOCs could be a substitute for other certification, I was suggesting that if people end up knowing more (about their work or otherwise), they might be able to act more intelligently.

      • Peter says:

        “OK, so you’ve read lots of the right books – now here’s the certification hoop you need to jump through and we’ll give you a good middle-class job”

        This reminds me of something I see a need for: “OK, you’ve got some nice papers in good journals, now here’s an opportunity to staple them together to make a thesis, have a viva, and get a PhD”. There aren’t many people who should be able to claim a PhD by this route, but definitely some.

      • Nornagest says:

        I’ve done a few MOOCs, and I think the biggest value-add isn’t the A/V lecture aspect (which I’ve found to be somewhere between obnoxious and mildly helpful depending on the presenter’s rhetorical skill) or the opportunity to participate in the class forums (which is useful, but not more useful than hanging out on a technical subreddit) but rather the mere fact of being structured as a class. Having weekly study time in the form of lectures, along with well-defined goals with a time limit attached (finish this assignment in such a way that the unit test’s happy with it; pass this quiz; do both by the end of the week) does wonders for my learning process over self-paced study, and I expect it’s even more dramatic for people that aren’t good at self-study.

      • Jiro says:

        Going to college is mainly useful for signalling that you’re willing to spend lots of resources on getting ahead in the job market, not for the skills you learn in college. Getting a certificate which merely shows that you have learned the skills won’t signal likewise, and unless certificates become as expensive as college, never will.

        • zz says:

          College signals intelligence, conscientiousness, and conformity. Administering final exams from MIT courses for a certificate gives the first two.

          If “spending lots of resources to get ahead in the job market” were the signal employers primarily paid attention to, App Academy graduates wouldn’t earn $100K.

          • Anthony says:

            If “spending lots of resources to get ahead in the job market” were the signal employers primarily paid attention to, App Academy graduates wouldn’t earn $100K.

            From the link:

            The course requires 60+ hours of work per week for 12 weeks.

          • zz says:

            Let’s round 60+ hours off to 80; then 12 weeks comes to 960 invested.

            If we assume college is a full-time job, students should work 40 hours a week, 15 weeks/semester, for 8 semesters, comes to 4800 hours, or 5x the upper-bound time investment of App Academy.

            Grabbing the first link Google returned, your median college graduate should expect to earn 50K, half of what you expect an App Academy graduate to earn.

            Additionally, App Academy costs a fraction of traditional education.

            So… App Academy costs a fraction of traditional education and yields a significantly higher income. This is incompatible with the “education mainly signals you spend lots of resources to get ahead in the job market” (if that were true, we would expect people who invested a fraction as much to be paid less), but makes a lot of sense in Caplan’s intelligence/conscientiousness/conformity model: being able to get through that curriculum under that time constraint requires quite some intelligence, being conscientious (if you’re not a hard worker who’s thorough, careful, and vigilant, you won’t be able to produce the programs that go into your portfolio), and conformist (at the breakneck speed at which these programs go, if you stop to question authority, you’ll get left behind.)

            Is this what you were getting at?

          • Airgap says:

            So… App Academy costs a fraction of traditional education and yields a significantly higher income.

            …for the people who can get in. If you compare it to an institution with a similar acceptance rate, say Caltech, it may provide better ROI for people who just want to become web developers, but lots of Caltech people have other ambitions.

  5. Cryptonomicon says:

    Hospitals are starting to try to address poverty among their patients to prevent easily preventable poverty-related problems from eating up too many health resources.

    This is so obvious it’s amazing it is not common practice as of now in all countries…

    this is highly-competent profit-seeking institutions being given an economic incentive to improve the lives of specific poor people assigned to them

    Scott, do you think this would be possible in David Friedman’s “utopia”? If so, how?
    [my answer: probably not]

    • Shenpen says:

      >This is so obvious it’s amazing it is not common practice as of now in all countries…

      I am of the opposite view. In three steps it means hospitals working as another welfare office because everybody goes like OMG they give me free money at the hospital, which is something they are not equipped to and have comparative disadvantage doing. If anything, they should cooperate better with the welfare office i.e. prescribe “welfare treatment” but not try to do it themselves, they are not specialized for that.

      • Cryptonomicon says:

        Well, this kind of program seems to be managed by social workers.
        Why not having a welfare office inside the hospital? It seems to be much more effective to prescribe “welfare treatment” by taking the patient to the “social treatment” ward instead of giving them a paper and tell them to go the welfare office on the other side of the town.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          Good. It would help if some young people from the hospital welfare office, would cruise the waiting rooms and patient rooms. Patients’ families have long boring times, but don’t dare leave to go to an office, lest the doctor come in or the patient have some need.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I mean, it’s possible if someone funds it. Anything is possible if someone funds it.

      If there was a thriving trade in something like Paul Christiano’s certificates of impact, then companies might line up to try to help the poor as efficiently as possible.

  6. meyerkev248 says:

    Last Psychiatrist on marriage rates and a lack of males

    We know what effects having no men around has on the culture.

    1 in 9 black men in their 20s is in jail. And only a third of black women 30-44 are married. The study, Male Incarceration, The Marriage Market, and Female Outcomes, from which the above hypothetical is drawn estimates that for every percent of incarcerated men, there’s a 2.4% drop in marriage rates.

    You might say that the educated black women are not likely to marry the kind of men who are being incarcerated. Maybe, but besides the point: the key statistic is that 96% of black women marry black men, and if 10% are in jail, well, what is she supposed to do?

    Women settle, and men relax. And in this case, relax means “Don’t get married”. Which means that they’re not around to raise the kids, which does wonderful things for said kid’s chance of being successful.

    • 27chaos says:

      “We know what effects having no men around has on the culture.”

      Do we?

      • Airgap says:

        If not, we can always make them up. We’ll call them “Priors” so it sounds rational.

    • We might even suspect that removing men from a culture is the result of a malign conspiracy.

      • Mary says:

        Ah, but whose? Blacks are much more likely than whites to report that they have the victims of a black criminal.

        • Airgap says:

          I read somewhere that if you remove the decisions of black judges from the dataset, the evidence that blacks are punished more harshly for the same crimes as whites disappears. Means, motive, opportunity.

        • Nicholas says:

          All races report that they are more likely to suffer a crime perpetrated by a member of their own race.

          • Mary says:

            So all of us are really racist — against their own race!

            Any attempt to suggest that the general population is not the population to compare to is, of course, racist. (What isn’t, nowadays?)

          • Airgap says:

            @Mary: Familiarity breeds contempt.

  7. Joe says:

    “The researchers found that people with both disorders had abnormal activity in the visual cortex of the brain during the very first instants when the brain processes “global” information, or images as a whole, as opposed to a tiny detail.” Makes reductionist philosophies sound pathological.

  8. Cauê says:

    On the Fox News thing: they asked people which channel they trusted most. If they had asked how many people trust each channel, or how much do people trust each channel, the picture would be different.

    The reporter says that “Fox News’ dominance puts its frequent complaints about the “mainstream media” into perspective.” – Now, I’ve never set foot in the US, but the painfully obvious guess to me is that liberals were split about which of the many liberal-friendly channels is the “most trusted”, and conservatives gathered around the clearly identified conservative-friendly channel.

    • James Picone says:

      And that’s why surveys like this should use preferential voting.

    • John Schilling says:

      Exactly right, from what I can tell. And the “even among Democrats” gaffe was from a clumsy compound sentence that seemed to be trying to say that MSNBC, nominally the liberal equivalent to Fox News, isn’t nearly as popular among Democrats as Fox is among Republicans or even independents. Which per their data is true, and due to the same sort of vote-splitting.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        No, it was trying to say that MSNBC lags CNN, even among Democrats.

        • Not only trying to say. That’s the most natural reading of what they do say, although it’s pretty easy to misread it.

          “Fox News Channel beats out CNN for America’s most trusted cable or broadcast news coverage, and MSNBC lags far behind, even among Democrats”

    • isn’t that unnecessary if the objective is simply to figure out which channel people trust the most? Although I could see an issue of vote splitting between CNN and MSNBC. There is only one republican dominated network, but several moderate / liberal ones.

      • James Picone says:

        Say you ask five people which channel they trust the most for news. Person 1 and 2 prefer channel A. 3, 4 and 5 prefer B, C and D respectively. So channel A comes out as most trusted.

        But maybe A is Fox News, persons 1/2 are conservatives, persons 3-5 are liberal, and channels B, C, and D are competing not-Fox channels. In that situation, if you asked people to rank the channels they trust, they might give you these:
        1: A, B, C, D
        2: A, D, C, B
        3: B, C, D, A
        4: C, D, B, A
        5: D, B, C, A

        there are several different ways of tallying up those preferences to determine a global preference, but very few of them will put A at the top. Consider, for example, if the system is eliminating the option with the least first-preference choices and distributing those preferences. Here, we’ll eliminate B. Now we have these preferences:

        A, C, D
        A, D, C
        C, D, A
        C, D, A
        D, C, A

        then eliminate D, because it now has the least first-preferences:

        A, C
        A, C
        C, A
        C, A
        C, A

        and C is most trusted (although obviously it depends on which one is eliminated first in the tie, but the process can’t generate A with that set of votes).

        • Airgap says:

          While I can’t fault your underlying point, I conclude from your argument that you’re one of those people who think STV is a good idea despite being good enough at math to know better. Bro, do you even Range?

          • James Picone says:

            I know enough maths to know that no voting system is perfect, and also that STV is strictly better than simple majority. 😛

            Range voting is totally okay though.

          • Harald K says:

            Range voting is advocated by basically just two very vocal people (who have an active google search on it, so they’ll be around shortly), disguising their untenable assumptions in software models.

            There is strong reason to think that stated strength of preferences is junk information which simply cannot help, compared to just rankings.

            There are two questions about 2+option voting systems that matter, and those are:

            1. when there is a Condorcet winner, do they find it? and

            2. when there is no Condorcet winner, how do they justify their pick?

          • Airgap says:

            I know enough maths to know that no voting system is perfect

            Not enough, then. No ranked system is perfect. Perfect nonranked systems are still in the offing.

            Range voting is advocated by basically just two very vocal people (who have an active google search on it, so they’ll be around shortly)

            Christ, I’m sorry. I’d tell Scott to take the posts down, except Google’s fast index has already picked them up by now.

            There is strong reason to think that stated strength of preferences is junk information which simply cannot help, compared to just rankings.

            That’s a pretty brave stand to take among Bayesians.

            when there is a Condorcet winner, do they find it?

            They’re not trying to. They want the candidate whose most liked overall, which may not be the Condorcet winner.

            However, I agree with your critique of the “Magic software proves Range is doubleplustits” approach.

          • Harald K says:

            One of the reason the extra information is junk, is that voting is a game, and you have a strong incentive to put junk into that information.

            Interpersonal comparisons of utility are a headache, and it should not be controversial to throw out assertions of the type, “yeah, but I care more in an absolute sense than you”.

            They’re not trying to. They want the candidate whose most liked overall, which may not be the Condorcet winner.

            “Most liked overall” is too vaguely defined even for the Range fans. Last time I checked they talked about “minimizing Bayesian regret”, but in their Bayesian regret simulations they made a lot of really awful assumptions, like that Alice can and will accurately measure how much she cares in an absolute sense about outcomes, compared to Bob.

            On any non-Condorcet method, you have to look first at the times they fail to pick the Condorcet winner. They better have a damn good excuse for doing so, and Range fans can only do so by assuming magical things about how people judge and present their interpersonal of utility.

          • Airgap says:

            Interpersonal comparisons of utility are a headache, and it should not be controversial to throw out assertions of the type, “yeah, but I care more in an absolute sense than you”.

            It’s not clear to me that throwing out these assertions is a problem for RV, since it normalizes the political significance of how much everyone cares to 1. But I agree it a black mark for RV. Can you elaborate on why RV depends on interpersonal utility comparisons?

            really awful assumptions, like that Alice can and will accurately measure how much she cares in an absolute sense about outcomes, compared to Bob.

            Apart from the other assumption, it’s not clear that we can’t tolerate a certain amount of innacuracy in Alice’s scores, given that she’s predicting how an uncertain future will make her feel.

            On any non-Condorcet method, you have to look first at the times they fail to pick the Condorcet winner. They better have a damn good excuse for doing so

            I don’t see why exactly. Either being the Condorcet winner is sufficient for being the guy who should win, in which case no excuse is good enough, or it isn’t, in which case this is like saying “If you don’t elect the tallest candidate, you better have a damned good reason” since it happens that under most agreed-good voting systems, the tallest candidate is usually selected.

            In any case, the excuse you usually hear is “We mostly don’t fail to elect to Condorcet winner.” In which case it seems like you’re probability of Condorcet fail has to be lower than the uncertainty attached to the voter’s utility reports. And figuring that out sounds like way more work than I care to do.

          • Harald K says:

            The Condorcet criterion isn’t just any criterion, it’s closely tied to Arrow’s theorem. You know how there is no perfect voting system that can satisfy those intuitively fair properties in all cases? Well, in the cases they ARE possible to satisfy, Condorcet systems are the ones, and the only ones, that satisfy them.

            That you can’t do perfectly in every case seems like a bad excuse to not do perfectly when you can. As I said, they’d better have a good excuse for doing so, and all the ones they have are actually very bad.

            Airgap you say of Range that “it normalizes the political significance of how much everyone cares to 1.”

            Do you mean that it normalizes things so that the option you rate lowest gets 0 and the one you rate highest gets 1? In the Bayesian regret experiments the range advocates use, they do not do that, and if you do it most of the supposed benefits of it go away.

            But even if you do normalize, if Alice votes

            A 1
            B 0,1
            C 0

            and Bob votes

            A 0,2
            B 1
            C 0

            You see that their absolute measure of how much they prefer outcomes, becomes decisive in this case. Alice gets her way because she in effect claims that her dislike of B is in an absolute sense higher than Bob’s dislike of A.

            Sorry, but Alice is full of it. She can’t know that. An interpersonal comparison of utility in absolute terms is nothing but posturing, and shouldn’t be decisive.

            Next time, they’re going to get swamped by the histrionic Carol and Dave, who rate everything either 0 or 1 (a strategy it is actually reasonable to pursue even with no information about how other people will vote). And then even more of the supposed benefits of Range evaporate, as you would expect when histrionic people are disproportionately empowered.

      • RCF says:

        Given that the reporter said ” “Fox News’ dominance puts its frequent complaints about the “mainstream media” into perspective.”, it is reasonable to conclude that the objective was not simply to figure out which channel people trust the most, but rather to put frequent complaints about the “mainstream media” into perspective. In which case the method employed was indeed inappropriate.

    • Emile says:

      Yep, if you read the University’s writeup they do just that : http://www.quinnipiac.edu/news-and-events/quinnipiac-university-poll/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=2173

      … and Fox News doesn’t come out as much more trusted than the other sources, is just that democrats are split about which of the other sources they like the *most*. There are lightly more people who trust Fox News “A great deal”, but then there are less people who trust it “somewhat” compared to other sources.

      In other words, nothing too surprising.

  9. the problem with MOOCS: cheating (profs have a hard enough time dealing with this in the real world). This makes MOOCs good for learning for the sake of learning, but not for authenticating genuine mastery. There is a place for MOOCs and traditional classes to coexist. Ppl can take the MOOC and then do the tests in a physical setting.

    It seems like IQ is more important than ever in terms of getting ahead in today’s economy.

    It seems like neo/classical liberalism of the John Stuart Mill variety is more popular in UK than in America. American politics seem very polarized.

    Flynn effect? Smarter kids= more glasses?

    IMHO, The SJW movement failed (or has gotten such a strong backlash) because they subjected a large, tech-savvy but innocent demographic (strait white males) to the very defamation they, the SJWs, supposedly decry. Being pro-women is fine, but not if it means being anti-male.

    College, especially in a STEM field, helps you make more money. Critical thinking skills, which are especially pertinent in STEM, are valued in virtually all professions.

    • Airgap says:

      Cheating is easy to fix. How much would it cost to run a proctored exam center? More than $50/test? You basically need a room for a day, some cheap computers, and a moonlighting mall cop to flunk you for breaking the rules. Two exams per course, 8 courses per year, and you’re talking maybe $3200-$4500 for a diploma. Would there be financial aid available too? Do you care that much?

      • zz says:

        I’m currently signed up for a set of exams that yield a certification equivalent to a “good UK honours degree”, which cost about $800. I expect I’ll spend about as much in transportation and lodging (there’s enough exam that I’ll need to spend two nights in Montreal).

        Because nobody’s brought it up yet, Eliezer Yudkowsky:

        Tell a real educator about how Earth classes are taught in three-month-sized units, and they would’ve sputtered and asked how you can iterate fast enough to learn how to teach that. Tell them that the same universities that taught were also responsible for certifying that teaching had occurred successfully – that the performance of education, and the verification and certification of education, were carried out by the same financial entity – and they would have just turned and walked away. Tell them that students paid up front whether the university succeeded or failed at training them, and they’d turn around and start yelling about dishonorable fraud.

        • Username says:

          That’s awesome! Did you hear about it from my post on LessWrong or from somewhere else?

          Good luck with it. If you did first hear about it on LW please consider writing a post about your experiences there, whether in the exam itself or afterwards in the job search or applying for grad school.

      • At a slight tangent, I’ve wondered why colleges don’t do something similar for testing applicants’ writing skill. It’s an important qualification, and the current test consists of the applicant sending the college an essay which the college has no way of knowing whether the applicant actually wrote. It would be easy enough to set up a proctored center, with computers and word processing programs. Student arrives, is given a choice of five topics and an hour, writes an essay. The same center could serve multiple colleges.

        • zz says:

          Harvard Extension School already implemented a version of this.

          The SAT has an essay section. From what I can tell, the scoring is all manner of terrible, but it’s also better than nothing.

          Students not having written their essays isn’t a large enough problem to merit actually doing something about it. I’m young enough that most of my social group is still in college—many of them among the most competitive students—and not writing your own essay is a thing not even on the radar. The essay submitted by the competitive applicant will have almost invariably been looked at by all manner of adults and peers and have nearly no resemblance to anything they’d actually write for class… but the essay is ultimately written by the student. (Admissions officers are probably experienced enough to notice when an essay doesn’t match with the rest of the application.) The improved admissions choices colleges would make based off a better essay assessment don’t justify the cost of overcoming quite some institutional inertia. (Also, what about the students who use Dvorak? Or the crazies like me who not only use Dvorak, but broke their ‘p’ key and remapped it to right super, and don’t like typing on nonmechanical keyboards?)

          Notice that if colleges were really about serving students (particularly prospective pupils), though, they’d replace the mediocre-quality assessment that eats endless hours with a higher-quality assessment that doesn’t. Hopefully, at some point some college will realize this and replace the college essay with some analogue of the Extension School writing test.

          • I think the terribleness of the SAT essay section grading is pretty much inevitable, given that the criteria have to be mechanical enough to give reasonably uniform results.

            If the question is if the student can write clear and competent English, an essay originated by him and then polished by someone hired for the purpose isn’t going to answer it. I gather there is a whole industry of getting students into good colleges by making their applications look better than they should.

        • Anthony says:

          Back in the 80s, Berkeley used to (and may still) offer this, for students who hadn’t qualified to get into Freshman English (or higher) via test scores or AP grades. But only after the student had already been accepted, and was trying to get out of having to take Bonehead English.

      • Harald K says:

        Proctored exams have been available on Coursera for several courses I’ve taken. I never bothered with them: they are expensive, and I don’t think they matter much.

    • “Ppl can take the MOOC and then do the tests in a physical setting.g

      Done, 46 years ago:-

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_University

      (Actually Michael Young should become sort of official hero of this blog, if he isnt already)

      • Airgap says:

        Young’s social research also contributed to the change in secondary education that led to widespread abolition of grammar schools and their replacement by comprehensive schools between 1965 and 1976, as well as the abolition of the eleven plus examination.

        Why Young? Has Stormfront got dibs on Oswald Mosley or something?

      • Geirr says:

        A great achievement to be sure but why didn’t they just have degree granting examinations? Or degree equivalents? Here are X books which cover the material for a Math/Sociology/English/Economics/Philosophy Bachelor’s degree. Exams take place once/twice a year, last three days and cost enough to be run on without subsidy into the future. Sample/past exam papers are available as well as sample answers. I’m sure they’re not the only organisations that run exams on this model but the Chartered Financial Analysts and the Royal Statistical Society run similar exams, though the CFA demand a Bachelor’s or substantial work experience to take their exams.

  10. I think you missed the best part of the Battle Of Castle Itter: it was an incident where a group of Americans, French, and Nazis teamed up to defend a castle.

    • John Schilling says:

      Except for the lack of actual Nazis among the castle’s defenders, yes.

    • Highly Effective People says:

      Technically a group of US Army, French / Polish prisoners, and allied German troops (surrendered Wehrmacht) teamed up to defend it against Nazis (Waffen SS).

      The Wehrmacht may have fought Hitler’s wars but most of them weren’t Nazi party members or particularly invested in it’s ideology, and after denazification enough personnel were left over that the BRD was ready to participate in it’s own defense against the USSR.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Wikipedia names an SS officer on the side of the prisoners.

        • Tibor says:

          Yes, one SSman, so that makes it 1 Nazi, 10 (very likely) non-nazi Germans, 13 Americans, an Austrian, and a couple of French defending a castle against 100-150 Nazis.

          It is also good to point out that not all, perhaps even not most Germans were Nazis. Hitler got elected once, but then made sure that he does not get out of the office. There was an anti-Nazi resistance in Germany as well (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Resistance_to_Nazism), even prior to the war and a lot of people paid for that with their lives. Also some people joined NSDAP and then when they realized what it was all about they left…which also was a very dangerous move to make.

          And for example I have a picture of my great-great-uncle in a Wehrmacht uniform…while his brother-in-law ended up in a concentration camp (as a jew). But his choice (as the choice of all male healthy adult Germans) was Wehrmacht or concentration camp too. Waffen SS is a different story, nobody forced anybody to join those, so those really were probably just all Nazis.

          • Rowan says:

            He didn’t even really get elected, he got about 37% of the vote in a presidential election (coming second), same % seats in the reichstag (giving him the most seats but not a majority), and manipulated his way from there to dictatorship.

          • Tibor says:

            Rowan: Thanks for pointing that out, I thought he did. Same story with the commies in Czechoslovakia (although they would have had a much harder time without heavy support from Russia) and DDR (which would have never existed at all had it not been for Russian meddling).

          • John Schilling says:

            In a parliamentary system, “winning” means having your party come out with enough seats to be the largest partner in the ruling coalition when the negotiations are done. An absolute majority is one way to win, and guarantees winning without having to go through the troublesome coalition-negotiating step, but it isn’t necessary. The NSDAP’s way superficially meets the standard for winning a democratic election and forming a legitimate government in a parliamentary system.

            Where actual Nazis are concerned, however, you obviously don’t want to rule out the possibility of fraud or coercion in either the elections or the negotiations.

  11. Astrology meets economics: In Singapore, kids born in the Year Of The Dragon are considered lucky. So lots of parents have kids in the Year Of The Dragon, the class sizes are bigger those years, and it’s harder to get into good colleges and entry-level jobs. Not so lucky now, are you?

    I don’t know much about Singapore, but here in the USA, I have observed as follows:

    * Large generational cohorts (e.g. the Baby Boomers) revel in their numbers, hence in their political power, and tend to be more politically liberal.

    * Small generational cohorts (e.g. born in the mid-1960s) revel in their scarcity, hence in their market power, and tend to be more politically conservative.

  12. Jesse says:

    The Swedish study on the outcomes of lottery winners kids could just as easily imply inherited culture as genetics. Not definitive on either of these, but very strong against windfalls being particularly helpful.

    • LTP says:

      Came here to say that. For some reason the community around here loves to jump to “genetic” explanations even when other explanations are just as good.

      • Irrelevant says:

        The community skews transhumanist. Any genetically-rooted problem is a temporary inconvenience in that mindset. Blaming bad culture appeals to soc cons instead, who are less prevalent here.

        • Dain says:

          Which strangely implies that transhumanists, who are by and large live-and-let-live types, are the bigger enemies of the left than Bill O’Reilly sycophants. If there’s anything that makes progressives wanna vomit it’s genetic arguments for inequality.

          • Nita says:

            genetic arguments for inequality

            That’s the “HBD” crowd, not transhumanists. Transhumanists tend to be for equality (via enhancement).

          • Irrelevant says:

            Eh, transhumanists assume improvement, not equality. Economies of scale, diminishing returns on each discovered method of improvement, etc. suggest that in the future people (in whatever form) will mostly get brought up to par generation by generation. This keeps permanent and hard bifurcation of humanity out of the question, but Dune-like scenarios where things plateau and commoners get temporarily held in thrall by their superhuman and/or AI overlords are certainly conceivable, and deemed preferable to a future where none of the superhumans/AI are around.

      • PGD says:

        Likewise. The culture argument would if anything be more likely to come to mind for most people, telling that it wasn’t mentioned. This community has some tropisms toward genetic determinism and implausible libertarian arguments.

    • Anthony says:

      In the United States, many big lottery winners end up broke within a few years. The Swedish study only covered children of lottery winners who stayed rich. Can we say “restriction of range”, kids?

    • Svejk says:

      That’s a good point, Jesse. Inherited wealth usually becomes entangled with class, which has its own self-sustaining culture. One comedian had a whole riff on ‘rich v wealthy’

  13. Null Hypothesis says:

    I actually really like the basic income link. Decently thought-out, and while the expenditures it requires are non-ideal, they’re less than we’re paying now, and will likely trend downward rather than up. And it utilizes a lot of wasted unproductive, demoralizing time people spend today.

    If you combined it with something like the Fairtax, you’d be doing triple-duty on proportionally, autonomously, systematically unburdening the poor, encouraging illegal immigrants to self-deport or seek citizenship, and drive a huge degree of new productivity both from domestic and foreign countries. It strikes me as a bit Utopian, but I could really get excited about seeing those two things enacted side-by-side.

    • Jesse says:

      It strikes my as very naive. A huge bureaucracy to monitor for ‘real’ work, in a price range where the cost of consumables or errors could easily make the value of the work negative. I suspect that there would not be many takers, or it would in the end shift much of the cost of existing low wage work onto the government. If we are going to do that we wight as well implement a citizens allowance while eliminating minimum wage to at least take the bureaucracy and complexity out of it. For the ones worried about illegal immigration – no legal residency, no allowance.

      • Null Hypothesis says:

        I’m skeptical of the actual implementation. But at the moment we’re spending enough on entitlements that, if you took the bottom third of the country, and condensed them all into families of 4… we could just give each family a check for ~$50,000+ annually.

        If we currently spend enough to make the bottom third of America middle class over night (right before our whole system implodes, of course) then we can probably afford to super-subsidize entry-level work. Hell, my idea was to basically give $10,000 a year to anyone working, scaled down as income rises. That plus full time at minimum wage nets you ~$26,000 a year and technically lifts your single-earner family of four over the poverty line – and still drastically cut the costs of the welfare state.

        So I’m willing to listen to any plan that, in spirit, takes money that we’re throwing into a big black pit of sustaining people in their poverty, and using it to subsidize them into jobs and help them do a little climbing on the economic ladder. And I’d be happy to see it tried out in a large city or small state. At this point, it couldn’t make things worse.

      • disciplinaryarbitrage says:

        I think the negative marginal value problem, as expressed by one of the post’s top-level commentators, is key here. Could I find a zillion great things to do with $40/week labor? Sure, but I doubt it’s worth the risk and hassle of coordinating with a random person who the market is indicating is in the lowest-aptitude fraction of the labor pool… let alone letting them into my house. Is the threat of leaving a bad review on their profile sufficient to mitigate this risk? I’m skeptical.

        The other problem (much less fundamental but still worth consideration) is that the vast well of labor demand the author wants to tap isn’t nicely lumped into 40-hour chunks. (Hence much reporting on underemployment, precarious employment, the negative effects of ‘flexible’ scheduling for retail employees, etc.) If I only want to tap into the system for 5 hours of labor/week (let’s say mowing the lawn and washing some dishes), how do potential employees seeking an offer coordinate between this and other offers to get their 40 hours? Attempting to centrally coordinate this seems hard. Trusting individuals who can’t market their skills for more than $1/hr to personally coordinate times and locations of several jobs out of some number of competing offers… seems optimistic. Limiting the market to only offers of exactly 40 hours/week seems that it would significantly reduce the pool of labor, or involve quite a lot of rounding up (back to the make-work problem it’s intended to solve, and raising effective costs to employers to boot).

        Critiques aside, there’s a kernel of brilliance to the whole scheme. It doesn’t seem to me like a particularly adequate substitute for many social services/disability insurance, but would be worth experimenting with in place of unemployment + minimum wage.

        • Null Hypothesis says:

          Well said.

        • Anthony says:

          The author says that almost any changes to his idea will make it fail, and he’s mostly right. Though I think having the work be in 8-hour (1-day) chunks would just make it a little more complex – a little more server time, a little more check/credit-card processing, but would not otherwise break the scheme.

      • Dude Man says:

        So to expand on what others have said, what happens there aren’t enough employers who use this system? The author just sort of hand waves this concern away (“First fact: At $40 per week, there’s no able bodied / able minded person that some rational returns bidder won’t find use for.”), but I don’t buy his reasoning. What happens when the economy crashes and people are flooding the system so they don’t starve? What do you do with the zero marginal product workers? I understand that the rating system will cut down on this eventually, but the rating system won’t emerge fully formed when the system is created.

        This is an even bigger problem when you factor in that his solution to scumbag bosses is to let the rating system take care of it. If there are more applicants than jobs, then someone is going to have to make a decision between scumbag boss and going without money for that week. This means that someone will probably be stuck working for him. This isn’t a problem if labor laws are maintained, but then the cost to employ people becomes higher than the listed value.

      • Jake says:

        Another issue I saw with it, is that it really does not allow any sort of entrepreneurship which other implementations of a GBI encourage.

        For example, at the end of the article in mentioned someone cutting hair. If someone wanted to use this system to become a hair stylist, they could either A) find someone to pay them $40 a week to cut their hair (which actually compares to the cost in some salons), resulting in the government subsidizing $280 haircuts, or B) Find a small business owner willing to employ a hair stylist for $40/week guaranteeing they make $280/week, regardless of what the demand for their services would be.

        A better system would allow some form of self-employment where the potential hair-stylist would be guaranteed income of $240/week so their basic living expenses would be covered, but still profit based on how many customers they could service, encouraging efficiencies not promoted by the proposed system.

    • Derelict says:

      It was interesting to read about his proposal, for sure, but then I read the comments section and couldn’t help but think he was strangely fanatic about it. Especially because he kept saying keywords in all-caps like I usually see a certain breed of reactionary commenters do.

  14. Euphranoric says:

    “One day our children are going to be astounded that we survived the 2010s.”
    Famous last words.

  15. Andy says:

    The social justice movement is demanding people stop reading books by white male authors to fight the “inherent bias” of the literary world…

    Okay, if you’re talking about the We Need Diverse Books thing, it’s not “demanding” anything – it’s just challenging people to read books by people other than straight white males for a year. And Neil Gaiman, himself a SWM, endorsed it. I really think using the word “demanding” isn’t honest to the spirit of the campaign as I’ve seen it unfold so far. I plan to take up the challenge for a month or so when I have a book budget again. It’s not, for example, suggesting a punishment or coercive measures for those who refuse.
    In that spirit, anyone want to suggest military science fiction written by people other than SWMs? I have a love for Lois Bujold, Elizabeth Moon, Dan Abnett, and Max Gladstone.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      And Neil Gaiman, himself a SWM, endorsed it.

      That means very little. There is a long tradition of self-hating straight white males in the social justice movement.

      Personally, I think the correct response to this sort of demand is to channel Maddox; pick a social justice warrior to sponsor, and for every book by a straight white male they do not read, commit to reading three.

      • Airgap says:

        Possibly also Gaiman is smart enough to guess that he’ll get lots of name recognition from endorsing this and most people won’t actually follow through, so his expected income goes up.

      • James says:

        > Personally, I think the correct response to this sort of demand is to channel Maddox; pick a social justice warrior to sponsor, and for every book by a straight white male they do not read, commit to reading three.

        I think that might be harder than it initially sounds.

        • Airgap says:

          An easier solution is to pick reading lists which satistfy the requirements, but are otherwise objectionable. For example, you read “American Psycho” because Ellis is gay. Then you thank a bunch of feminists via twitter for broadening your horizons. Protip: this is funnier if played straight, instead of snarky.

          • Cauê says:

            Nice.

            “I can’t thank you enough, I think you’ve just changed my life. I kept hearing people talking about Ayn Rand, but needed this push to finally check her out.”

          • Jaskologist says:

            You can safely read through the whole Bible. If Jews are too white for you, there’s still the works of Augustine, an African. We’re a good way through De Doctrina Christiana right now, and will probably move on to another after that.

          • Deiseach says:

            Reading Rand would be a push outside of my comfort zone. But no, I’m sorry – not even FOR GREAT SOCIAL JUSTICE!!!! will I make the attempt 🙂

          • Airgap says:

            As a white man, reading the poetry of Amiri Baraka has helped me to promote a more intersectional rape culture.

          • How about Feminist Readings of Ayn Rand?

            Rand was both feminist (there’s damned little fiction about woman in charge of a big chunk of infrastructure even yet) and anti-feminist.

          • Cauê says:

            Yes. Her theme of people not having rights over other people’s lives automatically includes a large part of feminism’s messages (the better part, IMO). But she doesn’t mix well with the parts people seem to be focusing on lately.

            (I think people should read Rand. She’s *interestingly* bad)

          • Anthony says:

            I’m disappointed that the idea for a woman on the US $20 bill had already picked their choices before I found out about it. Because it would have been a hoot to flood the initial poll with votes for putting Ayn Rand on the $20.

          • There’s more…. should Rearden be read as coded female because his family resents his work?

            Rand is interesting about class, but I’ve never seen anyone discuss that.

          • Brian Donohue says:

            How about Thomas Sowell? Deidre McCloskey? Jane Austen?

            Expand your horizons, people!

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ deiseach
            Reading Rand would be a push outside of my comfort zone.

            I like Rand. Outside my comfort zone in an interesting direction, just like Bradford recommended. Iirc it was Victor Hugo she admired; one (or more) of those big heavy novelists of that era. She was born around 1900 iirc, and studied all this in a Russian school/college. So that was the sort of book she set out to write: almost like an allegory. Each major character represented some major type and their private lives acted out how their group was going to function in the real world.

            She didn’t just talk and write in a heavy Russian accent, it was a heavy European plot structure she was using. Fascinatingly alien.

            Scalzi complained that the heroes were really villians. But that sort of novel is also a fantasy. It’s just cartoon blood.

          • Tom says:

            Eh, sounds like hard work. I’ll just stick to reading Harry Potter, Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey.

          • One minor way that Rand seems not American to me is that she has important things happen at parties.

          • Airgap says:

            Eh, sounds like hard work. I’ll just stick to reading Harry Potter, Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey.

            With Rand, you get all three at once. It’s more efficient.

            Scalzi complained that the heroes were really villians.

            trans: “I didn’t actually read it, but I already know Rand is evil.”

            it was a heavy European plot structure she was using. Fascinatingly alien.

            More specifically, European Soviet Communist. Rand spends so much time talking shit about the commies that it’s easy to miss that she basically thinks the same way they do. Atlas Shrugged could have been an allegory for the Russian Revolution and you wouldn’t need to change any personalities, just what they say in their speeches.

            “The road is clear. We are coming back to Moscow.” said Lenin. Reaching into the air, he traced the sign of the hammer and sickle.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Say, isn’t Vox Day hispanic?

      • Korobeiniki says:

        Aren’t people constantly not reading the vast majority of books not written by a straight white male?

        • Randy M says:

          Well, yes, but people are constantly not reading the vast majority of books period.
          Or was that people a collective? Does it include slush-pile readers, etc.?

      • Andy says:

        Good luck, I’m unemployed and in a writing funk so in the near future I’ll be reading a book or two a day – two days for a Steven Erikson-sized doorstop.
        So *pats Jaime on the head* you have fun with that.
        And I do not think it is self-hatred; both Gaiman and Gladstone have expressed a desire for more diverse works, where the SWM is not such a Default Protagonist in a Default European Medieval Fantasyland, so frankly, take your diagnosis of self-hatred and shove it.
        (Well, self-hatred is common to us writers anyway, but not the kind you mean, we’re more prone to imposter syndrome, and Gaiman’s talked about having it.)

        • Nornagest says:

          There’s a big difference between wanting to read more books dealing with protagonists and settings outside the genre norm, and wanting to read fewer books by straight white men. That difference is that one is a statement about writing and the other is a statement about identity politics and representation. One could plausibly be bored by Default Fantasyland; I certainly am. But once you start putting authorial demographics before the actual writing you’re in territory that I believe is conventionally referred to as problematic.

          Gladstone, by the way, is definitely worth reading in the former respect: he’s got a real talent for coming up with interesting settings. Does he meet any of the latter criteria? I’ve no idea, and I don’t really care to.

          • Andy says:

            He has said that he does not. But the challenge is not a lifetime ban – I think (though I can’t find the original post in a flood of strawmanning commentary) the idea is an outside-the-comfort-zone period followed by a return to an expanded comfort zone.

          • Nornagest says:

            But the challenge is not a lifetime ban

            The original post specified a year-long ban, but I don’t think my reaction would have been appreciably different if it was a lifetime deal. I understand the motivations behind the challenge. I just think they’re fundamentally broken in several different ways: most seriously, by equating filling in the right identity checkboxes with originality/diversity in writing. Anyone who’s ever read any fanfic should know better.

            I’m totally cool with saying that we should read and write more about people who aren’t middle-class mid-century Englishmen or indistinguishable therefrom. But if that’s actually what we want, we can look for it directly; the writing is there, we don’t need to use authorial demographics as a proxy. It’s very hard for me to see that as anything other than dog-whistle.

            For example: Max Gladstone, for me, isn’t “cishet straightwhite male”, he’s “that guy who writes those cool books about god-killing Aztec necromantic lawyers”. I submit that this is the correct way to look at it.

          • Mary says:

            Why on earth are you defending it as “an outside-the-comfort-zone period” when Tempest explicitly and openly stated that it was because she really, really, really hates the works of white men? that it makes her angry? She is deliberately reading within her comfort zone, for whatever reason makes it her comfort zone.

          • Nicholas says:

            I think it might be possible to interpret from the data (the extreme and fraudulent efforts to game the NYT best-seller list) that book publishing is, or is perceived by its members, to be a zero sum or negative sum game, and thus it is not possible (given the fixed amount of discretionary time in a year, and the apparently fixed number of hobbyist readers) to increase the diversity in for-profit publishing without decreasing the number of read SWM.

        • Randy M says:

          Well, nobody thinks its actually self hatred, just hatred for those not sufficiently different from themselves. Homophobia, if you will.

          • Andy says:

            Why does it even have to be something as strong as hatred? Why is this “hatred of white people!” always the first strawman anti-SJ types reach for? I mean, I’ve yelled at enough stupid idiotic “White people suck!” Tumblr posts for three lifetimes, but is it so hard to believe that white authors might want a more diverse set of authors around?

          • Randy M says:

            I think the existence of those “White people suck” memes, and by extension the culture surrounding that, including more sophisticated sounding arguments that amount to the same thing, that paint campaigns like this in a strongly negative light, especially framed as it is in “Avoid works by this group” rather than “Hey, I read novel x, it’s pretty good, try it!”
            Ironic this is brought up in the same post as one touching on economic divestment, which is what this basically is on a personal level.

            And of course, Gaiman probably has no particular animus when he sees a white man on the street (though one cannot venture that about the more committed types) but bigotry is more than personal animus, we’re told, right? We need to take a critical, deconstructing eye to movements and institutions that promote bigotry and oppression without the particular intentions of anyone involved, who may even be of the target demographic.

          • Mary says:

            Because “hatred” is what SJWs always reach for. And we suspect they are projecting.

          • Irrelevant says:

            Why is this “hatred of white people!” always the first strawman anti-SJ types reach for?

            Bradford explicitly framed her perspective as “active hate” and “rage” at the products of white male authors. Some people are in fact made of straw.

          • pkinsky says:

            SJW’s actually do hate white people. At least, that’s the least-objectionable interpretation I’ve found for the SJW community’s reaction to the ongoing genocide of ethnic Christian groups (Assyrians, etc) by ISIS. In a nutshell, they pattern-matched the victims into the ‘Oppressor’ category and dismissed ongoing ethnic cleansing as “karma”. As an Assyrian this really opened my eyes.

            I can’t think of any explanation for this other than a general free-floating hatred of anyone falling into an ‘Oppressor’ category that was misapplied to an edge case. This is really worrying, because when SJW’s thought they saw literal ethnic cleansing targeting an oppressor class, their response was to jeer. I’m comfortable describing this as hatred.

          • Airgap says:

            SJW’s actually do hate white people.

            They seem pretty fond of other SJW-ish white people with whom they don’t have any actual rivalry. That’s my experience, anyhow.

            At least, that’s the least-objectionable interpretation I’ve found for the SJW community’s reaction to the ongoing genocide of ethnic Christian groups (Assyrians, etc) by ISIS.

            No. Those are the Other. And natural allies of the local enemy tribe. We don’t need to go full Stormfront to explain this one.

          • Airgap says:

            I just realized I was inadvertently highly racist in implicitly identifying “SJW” with “White person.” In my defense, I can only say: It’s probably basically right though.

          • pkinsky says:

            @Airgap:

            Disclaimer: as an Assyrian I’m not really capable of full objectivity here. It’s a weird feeling, realizing that the $BAD_STUFF you’re reading about halfway across the world is happening to relatively close relatives, second and third cousins, etc.

            That said, what I observe is the self-declared anti-racists completely dismissing ongoing ethnic cleansing, perhaps because they see the victims as other, perhaps because they’re afraid of criticizing Islam too harshly. If it’s the first case, then I think it’s fair to say they’re motivated by hate.

          • Airgap says:

            @pkinsky sure, hatred, just not self-hatred or hatred of whites qua whites. Just because they say they hate whites doesn’t mean you can trust them. If you’re gonna be a ruling class, you learn to tell political lies which maintain your power. I assume they all get a handbook or something.

            I feel you on the whole “Uncle Yusuf* back home is suddenly part of the amorphous, expendable Other the otherwise decent people I’m talking to are writing off as deserving of their impending genocide.” Not fun. Hang in there, homeboy.

            *I grabbed a random name from Wikipedia.

          • Julie K says:

            @pkinsky- I think it depends less on the identity of the victim than of the perpetrator- only crimes committed by designated Oppressors get denounced.

    • Charlie says:

      Hm, don’t know about military SF, but I bet you’d like Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman’s Road books, which I promise are science fiction. The latter part of The Lost Steersman is particularly good SF.

    • Richard says:

      There is a significant difference between “Read more books by X” and “Don’t read books by Y”. I am perfectly happy to do the former, but rather reluctant to do the latter.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        Unless you are planning to increase the rate at which you read books, reading more books by non-X necessarily means reading less books by X.

        • pthagnar says:

          The outcome may be similar, but the two plans are very different from the inside when you implement them.

          • Cauê says:

            Indeed. I would never consider the second one, but I did the first one years ago.

            I wanted to see if male characters written by women were weird when shown from the inside, and especially if I could learn something from female characters written by women.

            I don’t remember finding anything blatant, but then again I don’t think I was paying that much attention when it came time to actually read the books. There are things like “why don’t I know which girls Harry Potter finds hot”, but there are commercial decisions to consider there (besides, HJPEV was a lot weirder in that regard).

          • Irrelevant says:

            “why don’t I know which girls Harry Potter finds hot”

            Because giving him preferences would interfere with his blank slate main-characterization?

          • Cauê says:

            One of the things I had intended to look for was whether protagonists whose gender doesn’t match the author’s were more likely to be “blank slatish”.

          • Nicholas says:

            Good thing the publishing market can only react to your external behaviors, and not how that decision tree feels from the inside, right?

    • LHN says:

      Tanya Huff’s Valor series (Valor’s Choice, etc.) is sufficiently pure-quill milSF that it’s kind of shocking that the publisher isn’t Baen, and certainly worth checking out. (Even if the first book involves a reenactment of a certain battle that some might consider overdone in SF by now.)

      • Nornagest says:

        Which battle? Rorke’s Drift is the only one I can think of that I’ve seen multiple times, but I don’t read a lot of milSF.

        • keranih says:

          Got it in one.

          But seriously, Huff’s books are extremely good, *and* are exceptional example of the MILSF genre.

        • John Schilling says:

          Bellisarius’s suppression of the Nika revolts has I think also been done a few times too many in SF/Fantasy. Not as often as Rorke’s Drift, but it’s easier to overdo on account of the inherent political baggage.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          For me, it’s the battle where a small number of hi-tech/high-personal-firepower fighters take a fixed defense against ravening hordes of low-tech low-firepower warriors, who obligingly charge into the maxim guns and artillery and make it just far enough to have some dramatic hand-to-hand combat before they break into rout and annihilation.

          I would like to not read that story any more.

          • Nornagest says:

            That would be Rorke’s Drift, yes. Famous as the place where a British force of about 150 held off a Zulu army of 3000 and change.

            The Battle of Isandlwana the previous day, where a less dramatically outnumbered British column (without fortifications, but with artillery) was cut to pieces, is for some reason much less famous.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            I was thinking of the Battle of Omdurman, actually, but what’s the difference at the end of the day? The battle of Mogadishu isn’t that much different, for example.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Omdurman

            I think I’ve read close to a dozen John Ringo novels that boil down to that basic plot, and who knows how many by others.

    • I’m fond of C.J.Cherryh, and some of her books are in part military science fiction or fantasy. I’m also fond of _The Game Beyond_ by Melissa Scott, which is in part military, although not mainly.

      • Deiseach says:

        Well, I’ve had people whose opinions I trust and value raving about C.J. Cherryh’s work, and that still hasn’t made me inclined to read any.

        So I’m very much less inclined to pick out particular authors because of some finger-wagging about “You are reading too many white males!” Yes, but a lot of those white males write stuff I like to read, even when I disagree with their politics, world view, or opinions on how we should all be non-gendered pansexual polyamorist zoophile cyborgs.

        And there are right-on writers whose works I heartily loathe and regret ever reading; anybody else here who wanted to slap the stuffing out of Mercedes Lackey’s Vanyel? And not at the start, when he’s the brat prince, but when he’s in full-blown Gay Martyr Marty-Stu Only One Who Can Do Anything mode? My youngest brother absolutely adored her books and bought ’em by the bucketful; like an idiot, I dipped into a volume here and there from various different series* because hey, I like fantasy and I’ll always give an unfamiliar author a go – or I used to, at any rate. Argh. My blood pressure (and love of the English language). Sent me screaming back to my tried and trusted favouriteseverybody loves Lord Gro 🙂

        *Her S.E.R.R.A.ted Edge books? Only read one and no, please, don’t do it. If we’re going to complain about lack of authentic representation in SF/Fantasy, may I – as representative of the Gaelic Celts – submit on behalf of the Irish and Scots a very damn strong complaint about people swiping wholesale the idea of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, the Daoine Sidhe, the people of the Hollow Hills and the like, and turning them into American stock-car racers?

        • Unique Identifier says:

          Mercedes Lackey’s books were something I only read, begrudgingly, because they were available at the library back when I was twelve and couldn’t afford to buy books.

        • Randy M says:

          My wife has pretty much the whole Lackey collection, and that was the first one she gave me to try.
          I thought her Firebird was pretty good, but I didn’t return to Valdemar, or whatever it was called.

        • keranih says:

          Well, I’ve had people whose opinions I trust and value raving about C.J. Cherryh’s work, and that still hasn’t made me inclined to read any.

          How about this? In the books Rider at the Gate and Cloud’s Rider she writes a completely engaging old-style Western novel that pretty much deconstructs the whole magical horse-beast trope that so much of Lackey’s work depends on? And takes on ‘precious gifted children save the world’ as well? (And despite all this, I will not hold that you are a horrible person if you still decide to not read her books.)

        • Robert Liguori says:

          Oh dear.

          I’ve…kind of committed to doing a public WIR on the Vanyel books over on RPG.net. I’m about two-thirds of the way through Magic’s Pawn right now?

          And you’re telling me he gets worse?

          • Julie K says:

            Misplaced reply.

          • Julie K says:

            Sorry, the above comment should have been elsewhere!
            I meant to say that a tor.com blogger is currently rereading the Valdemar books- you might find her reviews interesting.

          • Robert Liguori says:

            Ah, I’ve found Ellen’s reread. I’ll check that out; thanks for suggesting it!

          • Deiseach says:

            And you’re telling me he gets worse?

            As they say, Your Mileage May Vary, and you might possibly find later Vanyel better than earlier. I just could not find him any bit likeable, even after she threw in [traumatic event].

            Wait till you hit (somewhere along the line, if your brain doesn’t melt first) the Everybody Is Gay Village Of Bird Mages or whatever the heck they were (okay, the Tayledras) in the Mage Winds trilogy (though if you can possibly avoid reading it, please do!)

            The obsession with fashion in that book reached such a pitch I was stopping every chapter and going “Is this a leg-pull?” I mean, take every gay male stereotype, fantasy them up a bit, and you’ve got her village people 🙂

          • Robert Liguori says:

            Well, my goal is to continue until I run out of books or my brain melts, so we’ll see what happens if and when I make it to Mage Winds. Thanks for the heads-up!

    • Pete says:

      I think allowing female authors makes the challenge far too easy and is unhelpful. Female authors are incredibly popular. Probably more than half the books I’ve read have been by female authors and I haven’t even tried. It makes it seem more anti-male than pro-diversity.

      • Andy says:

        Yeah, I do have a number of female authors on my shelf, I’d like to see more by POC and LGBT people

    • Tarrou says:

      All I have to say is that if you pick your reading material by the race and sexual orientation of the author, you are a bigot. This holds whether you are only reading white males or only not reading white males. Same thing, just different signalling tribes.

      Personally, some of my favorite authors I have no idea their sex, race or sexual orientation. I don’t know, I don’t care, and I certainly wouldn’t let that information color my enjoyment of their work. I happen to know that CS Freidman is female, but I didn’t know that until many years after I fell in love with her work. Coldfire is still the greatest all time. I don’t care if it was written by a white male or a thrice-gendered muslim triracial multi-ethnic hippie. The art stands alone, apart from its author. The drive to denigrate or exalt art based on who makes it is one of the basest and vilest tribal instincts.

      • Nicholas says:

        Or maybe just the game-theoretic realization that if in a zero sum game you choose to be neutral in a dispute where one side is clearly winning, the consequence of your behavior will be that the currently losing side loses.
        If you accept the priors that
        A: It is in some sense a Good Thing to have more non-white authors.
        B: There is a dependence between the number of [demographic] authors period and the number of [demographic] professional authors.
        C: The publishing world behaves as if it is in a zero-sum game, where more of one kind of media consumption means less of another.
        Then the only way to increase this particular good is to get fewer people reading white male authors, as an element of the strategic landscape.

        • Cauê says:

          See, now we’ve had people saying the point is to 1-broaden one’s horizon by looking for things outside one’s comfort zone; or maybe the seemingly opposite goal of 2- isolating oneself from things you don’t like to see, as Bradford says, and also 3- reducing the proportion of white males among published and/or bestselling authors.

          Now, when I look at 1 and 2, it seems suspicious that reading less straight white men would be a particularly productive way to go about it, rather than, say, exposing oneself to (or isolating oneself from) authors from opposing political, ideological, religious or epistemological backgrounds.

          And when I look at 1, 2 and 3 combined, I don’t see anything they have in common besides “boo straight white men!” (or, at best, “Yay anyone who’s not a straight white man!”, which isn’t much better).

        • Irrelevant says:

          Those premises are easily rejectable, so hearing them spelled out primarily emphasizes just how motivated the reasoning involved is.

        • Tarrou says:

          But I do not accept the prior that it is a “good thing” to have more non-anything authors.

          It is self-evidently a good thing to have more good authors, and by corollary, fewer shitty authors.

          Anyone who exalts shitty authors for any reason, including the sinuous racism evinced here, is doing the cause of literacy a disservice, and likewise those who denigrate great authors for their race or sex.

          Your attempt to come up with a scenario in which it is ok for you to be a racist is pretty thin. It’s basically the same as the racist anti-immigrant crowd. “We are losing in reality, so it is cool if we hate the people we are losing to”.

          • Nicholas says:

            … Well. Of all the places I thought I would see people shedding crocodile tears about racism in the face of a straightforward, game-theoretic explanation of how self-interested agents are attempting to form a coalition to their mutual benefit, I didn’t think this would be one of them.
            It isn’t a “pretty thin” justification, it’s a response to a pre-existing incentive structure. You can’t accurately describe the universe we live in and also reject the second and third prior, because that is in fact how publishing for money works, and that is in fact how amateur authors react to a dearth of published authors in their demographic. You can disagree with the first premise sure, you don’t have to share the terminal self-interest of the authors in question. But those authors do have an increased number of authors of their tribe as a terminal goal. You can call that incentive structure Molochian, you can suggest some outside view in which we restructure the strategic landscape, you can even just shrug, point out these people aren’t your ingroup and it doesn’t really advance your goals to help them.

          • Irrelevant says:

            The proposed game isn’t zero-sum, the proposed coalition sorts by an irrelevancy, our commenter community’s commitment to correctness is genuine, the “straightforward, game-theoretic” move you’ve described is both tactically and strategically idiotic. Did I miss anything?

      • Two authors I think very highly of were committed Catholics, another I’m moderately fond of was a Christian apologist, and one of my favorite essayists, up there with Scott, was a socialist.

        I suspect one or two of the fantasy authors I like are lesbian or bisexual; I know one of my favorite historical novelists was a lesbian.

        And I’m an SWM atheist propertarian anarchist.

        • Airgap says:

          And I’m an SWM atheist propertarian anarchist.

          For the benefit if the less well-educated SJWs, you can just abbreviate this as “Satan.”

    • Anthony says:

      Not sure if Steve Barnes does much milSF when he’s not collaborating with Niven and Pournelle, but he’s black. (Lion’s Blood does have some battles, but it’s not milSF. There’s a companion soundtrack album by Heather Alexander.)

  16. John Schilling says:

    Regarding polar ice: The ability of both sides to provide post-hoc explanations of why the data proves their theory correct, is no longer interesting. What would be interesting is finding out who predicted, in advance and for the record, the particular combination of declining Arctic sea ice, increasing Antarctic sea ice, and declining Antarctic land ice.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Michael Mann has proposed that warming could resume next decade while Judith Curry has proposed it might not resume until the 2030’s, and at a slower pace than before. Since Mann is a prominent proponent of “catastrophic global warming”(for lack of a better term) while Curry is more of a “lukewarmer” than this could be a good test.

      • James Picone says:

        Frankly I think anyone talking about warming ‘resuming’ has already lost the test – there’s no statistical evidence of a pause in warming. It’s just a perception caused by 1998 being such a massive spike.

        Tamino has a simple-but-effective test that shows this.

        • Tamino is demonstrating that the pause didn’t start in 1998, which doesn’t show that there is no pause. You are jumping from “there is a test of the existence of a pause that doesn’t find it” to “there is no pause.” That’s a risky policy. If I get to set up the test for a claim which I don’t believe, it isn’t that hard to set up one that the claim doesn’t pass.

          Eyeballing the data, 1998 is an outlier; the pause starts in 2002. I did a linear fit to the NASA data from 2002 through 2013, and it was very slightly negative.

          • James Picone says:

            Either you are incompetent at statistics, making your economic claims questionable, or you are competent at statistics and deliberately bullshitting.

            The 95% uncertainty range of trend estimates from 2002 (a mere /13 years ago/) includes the the trend starting in 1975 – that is, there is no statistical evidence of a change in trend starting in 2002. There’s no statistical evidence of a change in trend starting in any post-1975 year.

            And seriously, 2002? Why not just go all the way and say “Well it was warmer yesterday.”

          • Airgap says:

            Either you are incompetent at statistics

            That’d be one in the eye for the hereditarians, eh?

            or you are competent at statistics and deliberately bullshitting.

            I’m sensing a third option here…

            And seriously, 2002? Why not just go all the way and say “Well it was warmer yesterday.”

            Clearly, Dr. Friedman likes his trolling like his women: subtle and refined.

        • Wrong Species says:

          That is incredibly misleading. 1998 was way above the trend line and temperatures have stayed around those levels so it still is following the trend while paused. If the pause continues for the next 15 years then it will be more clearly below the trend line.

          • Wrong Species says:

            For example lets say that the trend in GDP growth is 2.5% every year. In 2015-2020 GDP grows at 5% every year and then flatlines for the next 5 years. It might still be moving along the trend in 2025 but it would wrong to say that GDP had never stopped increasing.

          • Randy M says:

            But how would such a curve fit the theories on its cause? A steady or even second order increase in CO2 leads to spike and then pause in temperatures?
            It seems the data should fit the prediction with a little more specificity than “somewhat up over a particular timescale”

          • thirqual says:

            Oh my there are so many ways for the global average temperature curve not to follow the CO2 curve steadily.

            1. Global weather patterns like the ENSO (El Ñino/La Niña) which change how much heat is distributed in the upper Pacific ocean vs in the atmosphere (among other things).

            2. Other climate oscillation cycles which are superimposed on the rest of the forcing, have difference periods, and are going to change energy distribution between the different sinks too.

            3. Changes in which carbon sinks are active. That’s one on which there is much hair-pulling: about half of the anthropogenic CO2 is not found in the atmosphere, but trapped by the oceans or on land. In the ocean it is quite straightforward (which means billions of measurements everywhere on the global oceans), on the lands it is not very clear what is the distribution between soils and additional plant matter. Change how and where that happens (there were years where the land sink did not take any carbon at all!), you’ll affect temperature.

            4. Changes in the oceanic circulation (not yet happening, did in the past , see Dansgaard–Oeschger events.

            5. The effects of big volcanic eruptions, see for example the Pinatubo recently.

            6. Okay, this one is the key one, and the one which is really key. The Earth is a dynamic system, with many feedback loops (more CO2 -> better plant productivity -> less CO2, or in the other direction more CO2-> more heat -> less ice -> more energy adsorbed by the surface -> more heat). For small perturbations of the parameters we can expect the system to have an almost linear response but what constitutes a small perturbation ? On top of that, changes in the amount of energy in the atmosphere should not be expected to be reflected by changes in temperatures at the same moment and with always the same amplitude: if you have a bigass glacier to melt you are going to have a lag in the temperatures compared to the change in the forcing. This is a simple one, there are lots of non-intuitive ones especially when one realizes the importance of biogenic cycling. After a given change in temperature of pCO2, you might have one oceanic basin becoming capable of having a much greater (or lesser) carbon pump for example.

            tl, dr: the Earth is a dynamical system with lots of random events sprinkled on top. Shit is complicated.

            (guess who I’m more angry at between a) the people denying that AGW is going to bite us hard and b) the people who say Earth is going to be just as Venus)

          • James Picone says:

            Global average surface temperature is an incredibly noisy dataset. Sometimes there will be very large spikes in the + or – direction.

            1998 was something like a 3-sigma event – incredibly unlikely for its time. Now it’s slightly below ‘normal’ temperatures.

            I’ve seen some work where people have used multivariate regression to try and remove ENSO/volcanoes/aerosols from the temperature record. Tamino has a blog post on it, as well as writing a paper about it. The trend is much more visible with some of the other factors removed.

            p.s. a trend over periods like ‘since 2002’ has gigantic 95% uncertainty bars on it, uncertainty bars that include the trend prior to whenever you want to start the ‘pause’. That’s why there’s no statistical evidence of a pause. Remember, temperature data is extremely noisy. Tamino has a blog post where he tried generating random data by taking a linear trend and adding red noise roughly similar to the noise in global surface temperature on top, and he got apparent 15-year pauses in it, in data that was known to have constant trend.

          • In response to Randy, let me offer my guess at what is happening, based on looking at the data and no particular expertise in climate science.

            Eyeballing the data from 1900 on, it looks like the sum of a rising trend, presumably due to AGW, and an oscillating term with a period of about sixty years. The flat to declining temperature from about 1940 to 1970 was special cased after the fact as due to aerosols, but so far as I can tell it wasn’t predicted, and early on people were unsure of the sign of the effect to expect from that cause.

            Once one sees a similar pattern starting around 2002, that explanation looks less plausible—with enough parameters, as someone put it, you can fit the skyline of New York—and mine more.

            I’m not offering a mechanism, just observing a pattern, although I’ve seen one paper which argued for an oscillating effect involving air-sea interactions with the right period.

          • James Picone says:

            Try doing running a FFT on temperature data – no evidence of a 60-year cycle. Which isn’t surprising, as we would only have seen two cycles by now (and to be honest, the early data in the temperature record – particularly the data prior to 1900 – is mostly awful. It’s basically just CET).

            Cycles are much, much harder to demonstrate statistically than trend. Don’t eyeball trends. Really, really don’t eyeball cycles.

        • Toggle says:

          http://www.nature.com/ngeo/focus/slowdown-global-warm/index.html

          Here is an index of articles in which climate scientists at the top of their field have an extended conversation about the pause, with the general consensus that it is real. (And temporary, of course.)

    • James Picone says:

      Manabe, 1991 predicts sea ice increase around Antarctica under increasing CO2 from a climate model. See page 11 of the PDF I just linked:

      It is surprising, however, that the sea ice thickness in the G integration [runs of the climate model with increasing CO2] increases significantly in the immediate vicinity of the Antarctic Continent.

      it also provides some mechanisms. It does talk about Arctic melting, I’m not sure if it touches on Antarctic land ice, but we can at least assume that those melting is pretty well predicted by global average temperature increasing.

      EDIT: That said, I’d already read that article on Antarctic sea ice and wasn’t terribly impressed – it’s a pretty terrible presentation of stuff that’s more complicated then they let on. And they don’t really point out that Antarctic sea ice is almost entirely seasonal, unlike Arctic sea ice – here in winter, gone in summer, which is kind of relevant here.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      EDIT: Beaten on the Manabe ref. That’s what I get for not reading to the end.

  17. I’m surprised by the TPP links, the Trans-Pacific Partnership has provisions which extend copyright terms, limit fair use, and introduce criminal penalties for non-commercial copyright infringement. Treaties like these have been precisely how copyright terms have crept up and up historically, and their effects are extremely difficult to undo.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Yes; almost everything I’ve seen against it has been about the intellectual property angle (of course, that’s what you expect from Reddit 😛 ). I’m surprised not to see that mentioned.

      • CaptainBooshi says:

        I agree with this, the overwhelming amount of talk I’ve seen about TPP has been about the intellectual property angle, and I don’t frequent Reddit much, so it’s not just them! It seems like a pretty blaring oversight not to even mention that in an article or blog post when talking about whether or not people should support it.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        You didn’t see intellectual property mentioned because you didn’t follow the link.

        • Sniffnoy says:

          …huh. I did follow the link, I just completely failed to notice. Odd. Thank you. Not sure how I made *that* mistake!

          But, rereading and paying more attention this time, Michael is entirely correct: It does discuss patents, but it doesn’t discuss copyright at all.

        • Fnord says:

          It discusses intellectual property as a comparative advantage for the US, and hence something that makes the treaty a “good deal” for the US. It doesn’t address the issue of loss to consumers (regardless of country of origin) for expanding IP, nor address the humanitarian concerns relating to patents on pharmaceuticals.

          In other words, it doesn’t address the actual arguments of people who criticize the deal on the grounds of its IP provisions (which is most people who criticize it, including Krugman, whose arguments about the limited benefits of further lowering trade barriers aren’t an attempt to claim that those provisions are a net negative, but rather that they’d have a small effect, the benefit of which would be dwarfed by the provisions on IP).

  18. William O. B'Livion says:

    It did exactly that and disrupted approximately nothing. So how do we adapt online education to a credentialist world?

    How long have MOOCs been around?

    Patience. Patience. Rome wasn’t looted in a day.

    When I lived in Ireland I never really got the impression that the government was very good at what it did.

    I’ve lived in Australia, the US and Iraq[1] and I’m pretty sure that none of those three were very good at what they did, except for squeezing the taxpayer.

    One day our children are going to be astounded that we survived the 2010s.

    Many won’t. Survive that is.

    [1] That was during the war, and that opinion was formed by looking at how stuff was built (government buildings, roads, etc.). Roads were *horribly* built (corners were improperly radiused leading to insufficient room etc.). Storm drains/ditches were haphazard and often relied on (badly maintained) pumps to move water. The Palaces and the walls around them were of such quality that they’d fail inspection in the worst ghettos in the US.

  19. Daniel C says:

    I took the synaesthesia test linked in the Discover Magazine article, and this is what I got

  20. Bleeding Heart Libertarians argues against compulsory voting – not only won’t it help, but if it’s a sneaky plot to get the Democrats to win elections, it won’t do that either.

    (1) Compulsory voting is not going to happen in the US. There is no remotely plausible path to that outcome.

    (2) Compulsory voting is plausible under parliamentary systems where national elections generally consist of simply choosing a party to support.

    (3) Unlike any other country, the US has about 500,000 elected positions [including my own job, of course], primaries for almost everything, special elections, nonpartisan elections, standalone elections, tax votes, etc., etc., etc. To participate in every election and cast considered votes in every race would require a lot of time and attention.

    Given (3), a thorough-going compulsory voting system would be massively intrusive in the lives of most people who rarely think about politics.

    The BHL essay seems to assume this kind of regime, including compulsory voting in primaries, apparently without noticing how onerous that would be.

    On the other hand, if compulsory voting were thought to be good for presidential elections, wouldn’t it be hypocrisy to deny that same benefit to school board and village elections?

    (4) It has been political science conventional wisdom for decades that nonvoters as a group are not very different from voters, so compulsory voting would not change political outcomes. That’s not news, and it’s not just “a few empirical political scientists” who understand this.

    But in recent years, perhaps the last 20 or so, general-election-voters-as-a-group and general-election-nonvoters-as-a-group have diverged significantly, mainly along class lines. I’d really like to see more data on this, but new circumstances may have undermined the old conventional wisdom.

    So maybe a hypothetical compulsory voting system would help Democrats after all.

    But, like I said, compulsory voting is not going to happen in the US.

    • Airgap says:

      (2) Compulsory voting is plausible under parliamentary systems where national elections generally consist of simply choosing a party to support.

      If compulsory voting was being pushed in the UK, I’d suspect the Monster Raving Loony Party of being behind it. Cui Bono?

      • Peter says:

        I remember reading somewhere that just about every political party had ideological subfactions, including the Monster Raving Loony Party; some of them saw it as a pure exercise in gratuitous silliness, whereas others saw it more as a form of satire, something that could occasionally get people to thing.

    • Mary says:

      “primaries for almost everything”

      Not a problem. Register as independent.

      • “primaries for almost everything”

        Not a problem. Register as independent.

        Every state is different, and many of them don’t have party registration for primaries. In Michigan primaries, you are given both parties’ ballots, and you get to choose secretly which primary to participate in.

    • William O. B'Livion says:

      I knew this young lass in Oz who straight up admitted that she simply voted for the most attractive candidate. Didn’t give a f*k about politics, but she had to vote, so vote for the pretty one.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “The BHL essay seems to assume this kind of regime, including compulsory voting in primaries, apparently without noticing how onerous that would be.”

      I mean, they’re assuming it because Obama suggested it. I think it’s fair to take a comment by a sitting president as something within the space of discussion.

      • I get that Obama’s mention of the topic makes it fair game for discussion.

        What I meant was that, out of a range of possible compulsory voting schemes, BHL assumed the most extreme version, and didn’t stop to think about how much dislocation that would entail.

        But even the mildest form (say, a $5 fine for any registered voter who misses a November presidential election) would be politically untenable in the US.

      • Deiseach says:

        How are they going to enforce compulsory voting, though? If they leave any loopholes for people to cry off (“I can’t get the time off work”/”Here’s a note from my doctor”/etc.) then it will be like people dodging jury service. And are they really going to send the police round to every house where the registered voter didn’t vote and – what? drag them off to jail?

        Good luck with presenting yourself as a representative democracy and not a police state after that!

        I’m either old-fashioned or stupid enough to regard voting as a civic duty, so I do try to turn up and cast my votes in all the elections, but were I made to vote under compulsion, I’d do my damnedest to spoil the ballot. I imagine a lot of people forced to vote on pain of penalties would do the same.

        • thirqual says:

          In Australia, it is compulsory to vote and you would receive a small fine if you do not. Same in Belgium and a bunch of small states in the EU. I think quite a lot of South American countries too.

          • Mary says:

            That’s stupid. If you don’t trust their judgment, you shouldn’t want them to vote. If you do, you must trust their judgment on whether to vote.

          • James Picone says:

            There are several reasons why that’s how it works.

            1) As I mentioned below, we see ‘get out the vote’ campaigns as kind of terrible. This way parties theoretically have to present themselves as better than the alternatives, even if they do that by blatantly lying (which they do).

            2) We have a proportional house and preferential voting (STV specifically), so individual votes are much more relevant. If someone can get ~4% of first-preference votes for the Senate, they will get a seat.

            3) Government isn’t really considered to have a mandate here unless people actually voted.

            4) We have much stronger laws on actually allowing people to vote, so it’s less of an imposition. Electoral booths are guaranteed to be available, no matter when someone works.

            5) You don’t actually have to vote, just go to a polling place and get your name ticked off and handed a voting slip. You can just put it in the box blank. For obvious reasons there’s no way of tying an individual to a voting slip.

            Despite 5, AFAIK the donkey-vote rate is something like 10% at worst. It’s harder to estimate the rate of “I voted for the one with the best hair”, but even with that I suspect we get more than the ~30% electoral engagement in the US (or is it 25%? Somewhere around there).

        • How are they going to enforce compulsory voting, though?

          In the US, they don’t, and won’t ever, have compulsory voting.

          then it will be like people dodging jury service.

          People dodge jury service, yes, but we still somehow have enough jurors.

          Some people don’t respond to the questionnaire. Some people move away before a jury summons arrives. Some people don’t show up when summoned. Some show up, but do their best to get kicked out. And so on. The pool of jurors is made large enough to allow for those things.

          All that said, though, the number of people actually obligated to serve is small compared to the total population, and it doesn’t take much staff to handle the issues that arise.

          This process wouldn’t scale very well to nationwide compulsory voting. How many clerks would you need just to read ten thousand doctor’s notes in just one sizeable county?

          That’s just another way of saying the whole thing would be grossly unworkable in the US.

  21. onyomi says:

    Given this http://www.people-press.org/files/legacy/559-1.gif, which seems roughly accurate, couldn’t it simply be that half of the country has a lot of options to go to for their bias, while the other half has only one option?

  22. Sniffnoy says:

    Compulsory voting link is broken due to a stray <br/> tag on the end of the URL.

  23. Conspirator says:

    Instead of divestment, perhaps people concerned with the ethical practices of a company should acquire additional shares so they can vote to change its policies to be more ethical (e.g. oust the CEO and replace them with a CEO who is marginally more ethical) or, in the extreme case, liquidate the entire company. One problem with this idea is that in the long run it might incentivize the founding of publicly traded companies doing unethical stuff, because their founders could expect to get above market returns for their shares in the stock market. Or a company might enter an unethical industry in order to pump up its stock price when ethical investors chose to buy it up.

    The low hanging fruit for bringing people in to the bay area LW community is posting events to the bay area LW mailing list, but event holders are not doing that. Not sure why; maybe because events are getting plenty of attendees already. In any case I suspect as long as the bay area metro has such an excess of single men relative to single women you won’t see a large, meaningful, and growing LW community form. It’s interesting to note that the NY LW group had the experience of seeing its gender ratio start to normalize, and NY is a city with excess single women rather than excess single men.

    • zz says:

      Forgive my ignorance: why does being in a region where #single_males > #single_females imply that a healthy LW community won’t form?

      • My answer would be that lots of movements, political or otherwise, are largely motivated by the side benefit of getting people with something in common together, in particular but not exclusively couples. A movement with something not too far from an even gender ratio has a real advantage from that standpoint. That’s why I was impressed to observe that Students for Liberty appears to be at least a third female—unlike all other libertarian organizations I have been associated with.

        I’m hosting a LW party on the fourth Saturday of this month. Part of the reason is to expand my and my family’s social network, to get to know more interesting people—a tactic encouraged by discovering that the host of the third Saturday South Bay party is a fellow Kipling admirer. That version doesn’t depend on the gender ratio—but the mate search version does, for most people, and mate search is a pretty high priority human activity.

        • zz says:

          How to reconcile “regions with lopsided gender ratios tend to be socially and politically stagnant/bad for forming stable communities” with “Bay Area has a lopsided gender ratio, but is socially and politically vibrant/conducive to forming stable communities?”

          And, given that explanation, why shouldn’t it apply to LW community?

          (I accept that individual movements with lopsided gender ratios would probably do better with better gender parity because of mate-search, but the more general claim that “Bay Area metro has many more single men, thus no healthy LW community” seems to prove too much.)

          • Dude Man says:

            Maybe the gender ratio doesn’t need to be 50/50, but it does need to be above a certain minimum threshold (i.e. not 90/10). If we assume that men are much more likely to join a LW community than women, a city with more women than men is more likely to have a LW community above this threshold than a city with more men than women. This might not be an issue in other SF-bay communities if those communities don’t have as much of a one-sided appeal.

            Of course, as Anthony points out, this all rests on the assumption that men are more likely to be interested in LW-type groups than women.

      • Anthony says:

        It doesn’t, unless there’s a reason to believe the unspokn assumption that women are less likely to be interested in LW-type groups.

        Maybe the author of this article should join the LW community?

    • Jacob says:

      Regarding divestment/investment; that might work for something the company can change like labor practices. ExxonMobil is never going to divest from fossil fuels, it can’t. A smaller energy company might be able to switch from dirty to clean energy though. It would also require the shareholders by highly active, most shareholders aren’t.

      • You could shut them down, though, in principle.

        But let’s see – ExxonMobil was worth 422 US billion last year, according to Wikipedia. Western Europe and the US, total population about 600 million, so if you could get one in three people to donate $2000 you could buy them out and shut them down.

        OK, no, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. 🙂

  24. I used to think I was synesthetic; as a child I thought letters and numbers (even multidigit numbers) had distinctive colors and personalities. However, for a true synesthete, those connections are very stable, and mine are not.

    That being said, I understand that certain specific synesthetic links (such as A with red) are particularly common. Perhaps the colors of the Fisher-Price magnet set were chosen by a synesthete. After all, wouldn’t such a person be really interested in that kind of task?

    Consider, too, that this particular magnet set would be most attractive to parents and children who were already synesthetic to those color combinations. Did Fisher-Price try marketing other letter-color combinations which maybe didn’t sell as well?

    • Sonny DE says:

      The colors for the Fisher-Price letter set were simply a rainbow of six colors, repeated through the alphabet, starting with A: red, B: orange, C: yellow, D: green, E: blue, F: purple, G: red, etc. So that pattern can’t be from anything originally synaesthetic about the shapes or sounds of the letters. There’s a slight possibility that the pattern matches someone’s synaesthesia for counting.

      I don’t hear in color, but I once tried to figure out what color scheme best matched my imagination about what the colors of pitches should be if I could. That turned out to be about the same colors as dividing the frequency of the light by a trillion to get the frequency of the pitch. That also matched the colors of letters in the Fisher-Price set, except G: red, should be a violet or magenta instead.

      • komponisto says:

        The colors for the Fisher-Price letter set were simply a rainbow of six colors, repeated through the alphabet, starting with A: red, B: orange, C: yellow, D: green, E: blue, F: purple

        Yes! Thank you! I knew I had been exposed to this letter set, and long assumed that it had been responsible for my letter-color associations, but frustratingly didn’t find any pictures or the list of colors in the link. This confirms that I had in fact remembered the colors correctly, at least through F. (For some reason the match stops there, with G being not red but whitish or beige in my mind. H, however, is orange, as it “should” be.)

  25. Wrong Species says:

    The idea of a “voting lottery” is genius. I know it’s not politically feasible in most democracies but I wish some country would try it out. It manages to both make democracy representative of the general population while restricting the amount of people involved(which could make people care more about their decision).

    • In the criminal justice system, juries work (more or less) like that: conscript a bunch of random people, drop the ones who have obvious bias, and let them vote on what the outcome should be.

      • Harald K says:

        “drop the ones who have obvious bias” – that’s the cheating step.

        Sortition is a great idea, but it also would allow you to get a lot of influence through only innocent-looking filtering of the candidate pool. Instead of disenfranchising thousands of thousands of people, you can now gain the same effect by disqualifying a single “obviously biased” candidate.

        There must be no disqualifications: your political influence is justified solely by you having a legitimate stake in the outcome, not by your intelligence, purity of character, or whatever.

        • “drop the ones who have obvious bias” – that’s the cheating step.

          Yes, but it’s necessary when you’re using only 12 people (or 6 in some lower courts) to represent the entire community.

          • Harald K says:

            It’s never necessary, except to rig the results. The right thing to do if you were worried about variance would be to increase the size of the jury.

            But there’s also the unanimity requirement in many jury systems, which reduces the effective jury size greatly, and makes the whole affair frustrating for everyone involved unless jurists get to cherry-pick.

          • haishan says:

            But they’re not worried about variance. They’re worried about bias.

            (Sorry.)

      • Nornagest says:

        In my experience (on the jury side; IANAL or otherwise directly involved in criminal justice), it’s less “drop the ones who have obvious biases” and more “drop everyone who looks like they have leadership or critical thinking skills or more opinions than your average abalone”.

        • Anthony says:

          Some judges try to work against that, provided the juror doesn’t actually have a strong potential or actual bias. However, people who want to get off juries generally can – telling the judge that you won’t vote the facts of the case, but for whichever attorney was least annoying, *will* get you kicked out (I’ve seen it. The potential juror was a fairly sharp business owner.) Wearing this t-shirt to jury selection probably will, too.

          • However, people who want to get off juries generally can – telling the judge that you won’t vote the facts of the case, but for whichever attorney was least annoying, *will* get you kicked out (I’ve seen it. The potential juror was a fairly sharp business owner.) Wearing this t-shirt to jury selection probably will, too.

            It works that way with any kind of conscription. Even the military can’t turn you into a soldier without your consent. If you wet your bed every night, sooner or later they will expel you from basic training.

        • In my experience (on the jury side; IANAL or otherwise directly involved in criminal justice), it’s less “drop the ones who have obvious biases” and more “drop everyone who looks like they have leadership or critical thinking skills or more opinions than your average abalone”.

          There is some truth to this, and most often, given peremptory challenges, the people who wind up on a jury are the ones who are closest to the demographic mean of the jurisdiction on every measurable dimension.

          That being said, I think, perhaps immodestly, that my own skills and opinions are far above mollusc levels, and I have served on two juries in felony criminal cases.

        • William O. B'Livion says:

          Funny, the only time I ever sat for jury selection the one lawyer in the bunch, and I, were both empaneled. This was in San Francisco.

    • The pro-compulsory-voting side is thinking of these things:
      (1) There are many people who don’t vote and do care, but know their individual votes can’t make a difference. Possibly* they would effect a great change in government makeup if they did not suffer such a severe coordination failure.
      (2) Even low-information voters usually have a party preference.
      (3) There’s something dishonest about claiming moral legitimacy because of being a government by the people, for the people, of the people, when in fact only a small minority of the people are involved.
      (4) It might benefit the Democratic party.*
      (5) Conservative states (and hard-nosed employers everywhere) would no longer have reasonable excuses to make it difficult for their minorities (or employees) to vote.

      [* Probably not, though. Some studies suggest non-voters have very nearly the same preferences as voters.]

      • James Picone says:

        Also non-compulsory voting encourages parties to campaign on the basis of “If you are a republican/democrat get out to vote so we win!” whereas compulsory voting makes get-out-the-vote campaigns mostly meaningless and is supposed to encourage parties to actually campaign on issues, or at the very least meaningfully compare themselves to the other party.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Usually, the accusations of suppressing the minority vote revolve around requiring them to show an ID.

        Are we really expecting a regime of forced registration and voting that doesn’t involve some form of identification?

        • It would require them being provided an ID. At least here in Texas, due to racist policies of yore, a substantial number of elderly blacks can’t get ID. As the politicians behind the bill openly stated they wanted it to reduce the voting rate of minorities (this is the South, after all, and that’s still a mainstream political position here), I’m inclined to take their words for it. (Personally, I have no objection to a requirement for voter ID that all citizens can meet without hardship.)

      • Jim says:

        I’m on the fence about whether compulsory voting would be a good thing or not, but something about the original article rubs me the wrong way, and I’m trying to put my finger on exactly what. Part of it is the notion that anyone advocating for a more broadly representative vote is only doing so because they think their party will gain a competitive advantage—which is particularly irksome because it’s probably true most of the time, but it makes it harder to discuss without everyone assuming you’re just trying to nab more votes.

        Then there’s the idea that less informed voters not participating is a feature, not a bug, because they won’t reliably be able to distinguish good candidates or policies from bad ones. And again, that’s probably true, but I’m not sure why it’s relevant. As your point (3) above alludes to, if any government purports to be chosen by the people, then it has a certain obligation to make sure the populace’s preferences are accurately captured during voting, even if those preferences are stupid. (Which doesn’t necessarily mean everyone votes… I’d be okay with a random sampling, for example, as long as the sampling mechanism was statistically valid and publicly verifiable as unbiased.)

    • Shenpen says:

      Why not just simply lottery people into an Upper House with veto power? It is called sortitition.

      If elected politicians are the vendors of politics, we need customers who accepts or reject what they cook. The general public is too big to act as customers, but a randomly selected representative sample could act so.

      The whole electionary democracy is based on the idea that whatever makes politicians more appealing to voters is more or less an objective virtue. What if it is the other way around and the biggest assholes are the most attractive candidates and thus voting is an adverse selection?

      If it was so, then random selection would be better. But since politicians also need knowledge, better to make the veto power into a separate random house.

  26. Aren’t non-compete agreements what labor unions do?

    I was about to read the article on sea ice until I saw the author’s name.

    • Airgap says:

      I was about to read the article on sea ice until I saw the author’s name.

      Quite right; never trust the Irish.

  27. Anonymous says:

    From the OKCupid Bullshit-to-English filter:

    “nice (guy|girl)”: “mumbling milquetoast”,

    This seems like a point Scott misses in his nice guy rants.

    • Airgap says:

      I don’t think that’s what “Nice Girl” means in Bullshit.

      • Irrelevant says:

        “Insufficiently attractive to be worth the effort” unless it’s shifted meaning.

        • Airgap says:

          I think it actually means “not a tramp.” Being open-minded opponents of slut-shaming, we may have varying opinions on whether this is a positive or a negative.

          • Shenpen says:

            Slut-shaming is not a clear concept to me, because slut is not a clear concept. Is it simply high partner-count, even when she behaves like a modest lady? Or Miley Cyrus type trashy behavior even when her count is largely low?

            I have not been following this, but in my youth about 20 years ago behavior mattered more than count. A ladylike girl could get away with a high count far easier than a virgin wearing clothes that look like prostitute uniform.

          • Irrelevant says:

            Airgap: It does mean that, but it’s damning with faint praise the same as “nice guy” is. If they had notable traits beyond a bland unobjectionability those would be listed.

            Shenpen: That would depend on whether your objection is to social power plays or intrinsically to sex, and on the pro side, whether you’re in support of appreciating sex as an end in itself or as a status tool.

          • Cauê says:

            It’s probably a System 1 thing (she signals promiscuity/non-promiscuity by behavior, and he reacts to the signal, not “partner-count”).

          • Partner count is not directly observable in most cases, while dress and behavior are. This works out pretty well: since the signal is assumed to correlate with the behavior and the behavior is (hopefully) stigmatized, the only people who adopt the signal are those whose behavior matches and who use the signal to advertise this fact. (The reverse can occur, in which people act slutty but don’t dress slutty, but this isn’t terrible since at least the public facade is maintained, which helps keep anti-social behavior from getting out of control.)

            The Miley Cyrus case would only arise in a horrible dystopia in which slutty dress were actually encouraged, meaning that people who weren’t actually sluts would adopt it. Good thing we don’t live in that world.

          • Airgap says:

            It does mean that, but it’s damning with faint praise the same as “nice guy” is.

            I really don’t think this is true outside of (weird) circles which assign no penalty to female promiscuity.

          • Cauê says:

            Cyrus and Bieber are more likely to be signalling “I’m not a child anymore”, and/or “I’m not producing for children anymore”. Their incentives are unusual.

        • Jaskologist says:

          “Great personality” is the more classic synonym for “homely.”

          Relatedly, when a girl describes a friend of hers as “amazing,” this is entirely empty of actual meaning.

    • Peter says:

      The trouble with the filter is that some of it is in the grand tradition of cynical translation, and some of it is just using people’s cliched responses as an excuse to put foul words in people’s mouths.

  28. Douglas Knight says:

    The non-compete paper is here.

    Workers routinely take actions to avoid the potential consequences of non-compete infringement, as was illustrated by an engineer in the internet-search industry we happened to come in contact with. Previously based in New York, he had worked at another internet-search firm when an attractive offer arrived from a competitor with a nearby office. When his former employer verbally threatened him with legal action (though no suit was formally brought) the new employer changed his job offer from its New York office to its California office. “That non-compete,” said the engineer in a thick Brooklyn accent, “is the only reason I’m working in California today.”

    But taking the job in a new state doesn’t protect you from violating your previous contract in the old state. CA does have an extradition treaty with NY. Every non-compete lawsuit I’ve heard about (other than the ones that are enforceable in CA, or ones that specify locality) involved a move to another state.

    PS – As far as I can tell, the restrictions written into the CA law on non-competes is identical to those in other states.

    • RCF says:

      “CA does have an extradition treaty with NY.”

      Uh .. what? States don’t sign treaties. States are required by the Constitution to allow extradition, but that’s not really relevant, since non-compete agreements are generally civil matters rather than criminal. If California courts have ruled that non-compete clauses are unconstitutional, rather than just against California law, then they probably wouldn’t allow a non-compete suit to go forward. I’m not sure whether you can sue in NY for someone doing competing work in California.

      Also, I’m not sure this is an argument against libertarianism, as California is benefitting at the expense of other states.

      • Airgap says:

        States may not sign treaties, but the claim was close enough to true. The real problem is that extradition applies to criminal law, not a civil suit for breach of contract.

        Whether you can sue someone in NY is probably one of those tricky legal things that you really need an actual legal education to know about. If you read opinion briefs, you often see little cryptic bits near the beginning about why the “Venue is proper.” I don’t know how standards for venue propriety work though.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          I don’t need to be a lawyer to read the papers. I’ve heard about lots of non-compete lawsuits filed in the original state after the employee left. Indeed, as I said above, every one I’ve ever heard of takes this form.

    • RCF says:

      I wonder whether anyone has tried to fight a non-compete clause based on minimum wage laws. Suppose I sign a non-compete clause, work for a month, get paid $10,000, then decide to jump ship and work at another company. If I worked 200 hours, and minimum wage is $8/hour, then the company is required to pay me at least $1600. So say the company sues me for breach of contract. What happens if I respond “The fair market value of me signing the non-compete agreement is $12,000. I’ve provided you with labor that, according to minimum wage law, you must pay me $1600 for. I’ve also provided you with consideration worth $12,000. In return, you’ve provided me with $10,000. Since the net compensated that you have provided is -$2,000, and you are required to pay me $1600, you owe me $3600.”? Assuming that the fair market value of the agreement is $12000, is this a valid legal argument?

  29. Airgap says:

    I recently wrote about the Bay Area rationality community being difficult to get into. Well, not anymore! http://www.bayrationality.com is a central listing of all their events and directory of people to contact. Thanks, Oliver!

    That’s just a decoy to keep people from getting into the real Bay Area rationalist community. Also, “Oliver” is just one of my many cover legends.

  30. Harald K says:

    That divestment has no effect, has one assumption: that the only thing you buy a stock for, is a future income stream. But is that true?

    I don’t think so. One obvious thing you get besides income, is control. You’re not supposed to use your share’s voting power for anything besides making the firm as profitable as possible, and if you’re too brazen about it you may even get sued. But there may be some wiggle room here.

    Even if you don’t exercise control, I think ownership matters. Who bites the hand that feeds you? I’m sure Apple draws advantage from there being a lot of people having a quiet interest in seeing Apple doing well. People who don’t publicly identify themselves as an interested party may speak well of your company, conspicuously use your products, or even step up to vocally defend your company from potentially limiting regulation. Warren Buffet is an investor famous for investing in “boring” industries and outperforming the market. I’ve heard many say that his secret isn’t picking the right stocks, but using his “soft” influence to make his picks succeed.

    By divesting, you’re saying “I don’t have a stake in that company any more, I don’t care what happens to them”. That scares the company and other investors, especially if you’re someone influential. Those “sin funds” that invest in unethical companies may get a higher return, but they pay the price in terms of catastrophic risk. Not having some Warren Buffet quietly smoothing the road for your company may be sad enough, but with fewer influential people on board, who knows whether the shady companies you invest in will get legislated out of existence tomorrow.

    • RCF says:

      But if you sell your stock, someone is buying it. And that someone presumably has fewer scruples than you.

      • Harald K says:

        If that’s someone with less influence than you, or someone who’s already inclined to be sympathetic to the corporation’s interests (possibly because they already hold stock in it), it’s still a loss to the corporation.

        What’s best for the corporation is when (self-)interest in the company’s well being is distributed among as many as possible, as different as possible people.

        To take an example, say there’s an investor who’s a rather radical environmentalist by investor standards. Your polluting company is happy to have him as shareholder, since that makes you have a shared economic interest in the company going well. He’s probably slightly less likely to suggest harsh environmental legislation when he meets with his politician pals, or so you figure.

        But then that guy takes the consequence of his convictions, and sells his stock. It’s bought by David H. Koch. Now Koch will certainly fight tooth and nail against environmental legislation, but he was going to do that anyway.

        Giving you a share in the profits is a tested way to influence you.

  31. BD Sixsmith says:

    Anyone want to lay bets on the most decade-specific words in Billboard songs of the 2020s? I’ll go for “space”, “poor”, “guh” and “machine”.

    (Also, it’s amazing how many options T has for television series’. The educational programme “I Pity the School”, the antiques show “I Pity the Jewel” and the religious documentary “I Pity the Schul”.)

  32. Corwin says:

    >People predicted online education would give everyone access to free courses on every subject taught by the world’s top experts. It did exactly that and disrupted approximately nothing. So how do we adapt online education to a credentialist world?

    Of course it’s not disrupting anything yet! How long have we had to wait for the GSM to seriously change our lives? 20 years, 30? How long since there even *are* MOOCs? And how do they actually compare to full-degree programs? Like, in exhaustivity? Last time I checked, there was NONE that was fully-recorded and published and accessible; one could take a few classes, but NOT the full list of what a student at the meatspace college would take to diploma completion.

    It’s not *just* the credentialism. It’s that the announcements of the MOOCs began when there were three courses in each of a pair of sites, that they haven’t finished uploading any zero-to-diploma list of classes, and that it will take a LOT of years anyway to penetrate enough to make a measurable difference. It’s been since what, 2010 or something? That there were three courses on two sites? Even if thousands of people would have followed a full program since then, that would make for very few people actually working, and that’d be in the first field to have had enough material published. Of which there isn’t even one in 2015.

    Use patience, it’s super effective.

    • Harald K says:

      Coursera has a pretty big “data science track” of related courses now, and there is some sort of certification track associated with it.

      I also believe that one of the first big MOOCs, Andrew Ng’s Machine Learning, has had a noticeable impact, although it hasn’t quite disrupted higher education all on its own.

      I would say that if I went into that particular specialization, data science/big data/machine learning, I’d think seriously about relying on online courses rather than racking up a huge student loan. It seems to me it’s by far the most mature specialization in MOOCs so far.

    • Deiseach says:

      The Open University in the U.K. was established in 1969 and seems to be fairly successful, reputable and well-regarded. Instructional material was broadcast on their behalf by the BBC (part of the 80s and 90s TV experience was watching very late at night/early hours of the morning TV broadcasts of lectures recorded in the 70s, generally featuring maths and science lecturers, in full groovy 70s get-up).

      You had/have nothing similiar in America?

      • Murphy says:

        I don’t think they do. Most of the distance learning courses in the US aren’t worth anything and are often quite expensive. Funnily enough the UK Open University actually is properly accredited in the US unlike their local distance learning outfits and is cheaper than most of them.

      • Geirr says:

        There isn’t really anything similar in the US. AFAIK the only federally established universities are the military academies. There are loads of universities with distance learning programmes and even a few that are distance learning only, like the O.U. None of the distance learning only ones have a reputation good enough to get the O.U.’s lack of open contempt.

    • Adam says:

      Georgia Tech started offering its MS in Computer Science through Udacity, at a drastically reduced price (about $6,000 for the whole degree). It’s not truly a “MOOC” as it limits enrollment currently to 200 students per course, due to TA requirements, proctored exams, and the need to grade some pretty involved projects, and it’s significantly aided right now by a massive seed grant from AT&T, so we’ll see how it scales in the long run, but I’m in the program’s second cohort, and it’s pretty terrific so far.

      For what it’s worth, I also completed the JHU/Coursera Data Science Specialization and they’re not remotely comparable. Those JHU courses took me on average maybe two days to complete each course. The Georgia Tech courses are far more involved, detailed, and difficult.

  33. Shenpen says:

    This is really predictable. Since white men in the last 100 years were writing ridiculous shit like Joyce’s Ulysses, it is fairly obvious that writing should be more inclusive because anyone can write ridiculous shit.

    Demands of inclusiveness are usually a sign you are letting down your quality standards: your work does not come accross as elite work, and thus people don’t think you should be behaving like an elitist anymore.

    Demands of inclusivity in the Silicon Valley increased because the Valley is less and less high-quality. Even Google is not as interesting as before. Ruby on Rails (Denmark) revolutionized web development etc. We are not approaching a second dot-com bust, but we are having a dot-com spread: the interesting things are more often done outside the Valley now. Since the Valley is not so elite anymore yet behaves like one, people call them on their shit and demand more inclusivity for e.g. women. Most startups today are so obviously just shiny-cool and not useful business ideas at, why not let anyone participate in that?

    I think it is a good predictor. As long as you are surfing the bleeding edge people don’t demand inclusion because they are scared about not being able to live up to your standards.

    • Sarah says:

      Ulysses is not ridiculous.

      • James says:

        It may be ridiculous, but not the kind of ridiculous that “anyone can write”. I don’t even really like Joyce, but it’s pretty clear that no-one else could have written that book.

        • Anthony says:

          I don’t remember if it was “Ulysses” or “Finnegan’s Wake”, but at least one of Joyce’s books struck me as something which could have, and may have, been written by a committee of monkeys in front of typewriters.

          (Now, thanks to the internet, we know this isn’t true.)

          • Peter says:

            Indeed: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/3013959.stm shows what really happens when you let monkeys at typewriters.

          • Cauê says:

            “http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/3013959.stm shows what really happens when you let monkeys at typewriters.”

            People forget what infinity means?

          • James says:

            I don’t want to get stuck with the position of “Joyce defender”, because, like I said, I’m no great fan. But it’s wrong to say that either Ulysses or Finnegans Wake (and, by the way, it’s probably Finnegans Wake you had in mind) is of low enough complexity to be a candidate for monkey-typewritten. On the contrary, it’s a ridiculous (that word again) tour de force of complexity, allusion, multilingual punning, etc. If anything, it errs on the side of too much, not too little, complexity. He spent seventeen years on it, for god’s sake!

            Granted, that complexity is so densely garbled as to look like random monkey-noise to the uninitiated (viz. those who aren’t prepared to spend seventeen years reading the damn thing). You can argue that’s not a good way to write, but that’s different from claiming that there isn’t enough complexity there. Nor does it accord with the “low-quality” criticism in the ancestor comment. (Which is a shame, in a way, because in other respects I quite like Shenpen’s thesis, there. They just picked the wrong book as their example for literature, is all.)

  34. Thomas says:

    On the subject of myopia, I think the popularity of sunglasses also comes into play (the amount of people who wear them while inside…)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think the myopia they’re talking about almost always develops in early childhood. I don’t think children wear sunglasses much.

    • RCF says:

      Also, the way Scott worded his sentence makes it sound like “myopia” is the general term for vision problems. Myopia is specifically near-sightedness. Far-sightedness is hyperopia.

  35. amazing_MuhKuh says:

    Is there a way to buy stuff at amazon (i.e. the ratonality book) through the affiliate link for people from europe/germany?

  36. Deiseach says:

    When I lived in Ireland I never really got the impression that the government was very good at what it did.

    But Scott, we’re on track to legalise same-sex marriage! Aren’t you impressed by how sophisticated and progressive we are? Seriously, part of the “Vote yes” campaign is more or less an appeal to “Don’t embarrass us in front of the neighbours”.

    Besides, in a country where Enda Kenny can become Taoiseach, anything is possible! 🙂

    And we’re Germany’s favourite lapdogs, that has to count for something? Besides, how can you say the government is not very good at what it does? You appear to be labouring under the misapprehension that its job is to govern the nation for the good of the people and act in a statesmanlike manner. Not at all! As you can see, its job is to propagate cute hoorism, engage in parish pump politics, and give jobs to gombeens, sleeveens and county councillors who will get you planning permission and medical cards, and it is extremely successful at that.

    I lament the demise of the Natural Law Party in Ireland, as it leaves me with no possible recipient of my vote for the next general election. I’m third-generation Fianna Fáil, I was reared to venerate Dev, but the shower that are in it – it’ll be a cold day in hell before they get my vote again. Labour would have been my fall-back, but again, given how supine they’ve been in coalition, no way. It’ll be Sinn Féin or nothing, looks like.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      My vocabulary is now larger by three phrases, and thank you kindly for them.

      • Seconded. I’m now trying to figure out where I can get away with using ‘sleeveen language’ in actual conversation (other than in Ireland, of course), as I’m especially fond of that one.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I hear the Gombeen Party are on track to win the next election, but I’m sure the Sleeveens will put up a strong fight.

  37. Quite Likely says:

    That basic income link is a bit nuts. Admittedly it may be a better system than we have now, but that mainly speaks to how awful the current system is.

    The issue is that it’s deliberately inducing a massive and harmful market distortion for no reason. The idea is that everyone gets a basic income of $240 a week, conditional on them agreeing to work for someone paying at least $40 a week. The idea is that the author (who from his implied political beliefs plus presence on this site seems like a neoreactionary) is worried that a) people are lazy and won’t work if they get an unconditional basic income, and b) low-skilled people’s labor is insufficiently valuable, so to make sure they’re employed, the government needs to essentially subsidize companies to employ them.

    My issue with this scenario is that people are forbidden from hiring themselves. What if your time is worth more than $1 an hour to you? Why set up this system to force people into doing super low-wage labor for others in order to get the basic income, instead of just letting people pursue their own goals? I suppose the answer is that the author is, as I mentioned, something of a neoreactionary, and thinks that the social order would break down if people were given too much control over their own lives.

    So very interesting speculation, but if you’re not on that particular fringe of the political spectrum, you’d probably prefer the classic universal basic income to this conditional variant.

    • Anthony says:

      The author is more crankish than neoreactionary – I’ve tried reading his other stuff, and it’s a chore.

      What if your time is worth more than $1 an hour to you? Why set up this system to force people into doing super low-wage labor for others in order to get the basic income, instead of just letting people pursue their own goals?

      If your time is worth more to you, then you don’t participate. If you are writing the Great American Novel, or are in school or a training program, and don’t want to give your time at such low rates (even though it’s really $7/hour, not $1/hour), you don’t have to. But then society doesn’t owe you a “basic income”, either.

      People suffer a *lot* of psychological damage from being unemployed, and volunteering doesn’t seem to help for many, probably because it’s too easy to slack off and not form the habit.

  38. Jeff Kaufman says:

    > almost accidentally ban non-homosexual marriage

    Texas actually did pass a poorly worded ban, and has never dealt with it.

  39. Stezinech says:

    On the Norway shared environment experiment: many studies have found effects of the shared environment on income and educational attainment. This article has a good summary in the introduction:

    http://www.rieti.go.jp/jp/publications/dp/13e097.pdf

    It’s not too surprising to see shared environment effects here. At the same time, such effects are very small/nonexistant for trait-like characteristics like personality and intelligence.

    It seems fairly obvious (to me anyway) that many more environmental things go into determining a person’s educational or occupational opportunities.

  40. JayMan says:

    Black men aren’t missing:

    Missing Black Men | West Hunter

    Missing Black Men, continued | West Hunter

    Maybe something wonky in Ferguson itself, but I doubt it.

    About the Norway maternity leave thing, come on now, the effect is tiny. It’s probably just noise/bias. Even if it’s not, again, the effect is tinee tiny.

    About the myopia thing (yes, I wear glasses) – come on man, they’ve got nothing but correlational studies. No one knows what is causing the rise, that will probably remain so for a little while.

    • gwern says:

      About the myopia thing (yes, I wear glasses) – come on man, they’ve got nothing but correlational studies.

      That’s not true. They have both animal and human experiments. That’s why the article is worth reading.

  41. Quixote says:

    The 10% EA standard has problems. Someone can grab a 20K per year job and pamper themselves with huge amounts of free time each week, work only 30 hours and then get much of the summer off and still get EA credit for donating $2K. Meanwhile someone working 60 hours a week making 100K and donating $6K (three times as much in terms of actual good done in the world) wouldn’t get EA credit. Spending money on yourself is a form of luxury instead of charity, but spending time on yourself when you could be working is also a form of luxury instead of charity. The EA movement mildly rewards people who luxuriate with time instead of money, even though this is less socially productive and less helpful to the people in need of charity.

    • Rauwyn says:

      Is this actually a common problem? Somehow I don’t associate taking a very low-paying job with pampering yourself…and if all that matters is the total amount of money donated it seems like time off shouldn’t be an additional problem beyond that they’re only making 20k/year.

      Also, as I understand it part of the value of the 10% standard is that it means filling a job opening with an EA instead of a non-EA will increase the total amount being donated – in your example above, the 100K person is donating more than the 20k person, but if they switched jobs and kept the same percentage of donations, charities would be getting 10k+1.2k=11k per year instead of 8k per year. But my main point is still that I don’t think it’s a common problem for people to make much less money in order to look better.

      • Quixote says:

        Looking at the income data in the attached survey it seems that people’s incomes look a lot lower than I would expect the kinds of people interested in EA (ie smart people capable of abstract reasoning) to be able to generate. Which to me looks like people are picking jobs that are fun or that have good hours or have attractive coworkers etc. rather than picking jobs to get paid. Than after that, they can get their choice blessed with the EA sticker. Now, in practice the EA sticker is probably a small factor in people’s life choices but it still looks like its pushing at least partially the wrong way…

        • Rauwyn says:

          Okay, I think I see where you’re coming from, but I don’t think I agree. I was donating 10% of my money from my stipend as a grad student, and plan to donate at least 10% as soon as I get a real job (hopefully soon!). From my perspective, it should be easier for me to give 10% at a higher salary because that still leaves me with more money for other things, such as rent and paying off student loans. When I was deciding to go to grad school rather than look for a job right away, I never thought “Oh, now I can count as an effective altruist while donating only a small amount of money” as a positive factor – to the extent that it came up at all I was wishing that I made more both to donate more and do enjoyable things for myself. In any case if the EA sticker goes only to people who are rich, regardless of what they give, that seems rather unhelpful for the movement as a whole. It seems to me that having people take whatever jobs they would have chosen already and then donate 10% of their money is still a very good thing.

        • bartlebyshop says:

          Or the subset of smart people capable of abstract reasoning (SPCAR) who are interested in EA tend to have distinct personalities/values/other factors that cause them to “underachieve” in income that also push them towards being more interested in EA than other SPCAR.

    • Jeff Kaufman says:

      Percentage-of-income guidelines aren’t perfect, but one way to fix them is to treat it as 10% of what you could reasonably be earning if you tried. For most people this doesn’t change anything: people usually don’t have job options that are substantially more lucrative than the one they’re working at.

      (It’s still not perfect though. Perhaps I’m earning about as much as I could, but if I became a doctor I could be earning much more several years from now.)

      We don’t need perfect, though. A standard of 10% is practical for a wide slice of society, historically grounded in tithing, a nice round number, and an amount with which we could do a tremendous amount of good if it became widely adopted.

      (Part of what’s helpful here is simplicity, and pretty much any way to patch problems makes it more confusing, and so less adoptable.)

      • Anthony says:

        Another way, if you are not working “full-time” is to assume your current hourly pay rate over 40 hours, or to donate 10% of your time under 40 hours worked – so if you work 30 hours, donate 10% of your income and one hour a week.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Given that there is no incentive to stick to the 10% standard except your own desire to help people, I think it’s premature to start figuring out ways people could exploit it.

    • RCF says:

      Any attempt to give a simple rule is going to have flaws. Suppose you have two job offers. Job A is $140,000 and Job B is $80,000, but Job A involves moving to a place where the cost of living is $50,000 more. So if you take Job A, do you give $14,000? Or $9,000? I think it’s a bit inaccurate to say that the rule is “punishing” people who pay more.

  42. grendelkhan says:

    On ethical investing–this is one of the depressing things about personal-virtue attempts to solve climate change. If you use less gasoline, for example, you slightly lower demand, which will slightly lower prices, so someone else will just use more, and it all adds up to zero. (At least, I think that’s how the economics work; someone feel free to correct me.) Apart from tying it to every bit of politics they can, the stupidest thing the environmental movement ever did was to make itself about personal virtue. So now we get to hear about how people driving Hummers are evil, and how Al Gore is a hypocrite for flying on airplanes. Aaargh.

    Also, on Alzheimer’s–I thought you were going to point to aducanumab, which is recruiting for Phase 3 trials now. Is this the same sort of “no, these things look this promising all the time; don’t get excited” thing as usual?

    • Murphy says:

      There are things happening and there is a lot of money coming into the area of Alzheimer’s but I wouldn’t get worked up about this particular one.

      • “At least, I think that’s how the economics work; someone feel free to correct me.”

        If you consume less, price falls. Quantity supplied is brought back to quantity consumed by a combination of other people buying more and producers producing less.

        To see why your answer can’t be right, note that if price came all the way back up to the old level, producers would produce the same amount as before, consumers less by your reduced production, since at the old price there is no reason why other people should consume more.

        How much total consumption is reduced when you consume a gallon less depends on the relative elasticity of supply and demand.

        • Tom Womack says:

          Why is it obvious that there isn’t a hysteresis loop in this sort of economic system, where there are hysteresis loops in systems as simple as lumps of iron alloy in magnetic fields?

    • Alex Godofsky says:

      The oil thing doesn’t quite work that way. Reducing your oil consumption by a gallon does reduce total oil consumption, but probably by slightly less than a gallon.

      However, ethical investment has a high likelihood of having almost exactly zero effect, because the assets purchased in place of the “unethical” stocks are near-perfect substitutes.

      The mechanism by which this comes out to zero is that non-ethical investors will form “sin funds” that are specifically short “ethical” stocks and long “unethical”.

    • Nicholas says:

      At least part of the intent in forgoing fossil fuels is to contribute enough demand that alternatives may develop economies of scale.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t think that’s true about gasoline. LIke, if 50% of investors refused to buy BP stock, that wouldn’t affect BP stock because people would notice it was underpriced and buy it.

      But if 50% of gas users stopped using gasoline, that would affect the price of gas a lot. Yeah, gas would be underpriced, but there’s only so much you can do with lots of underpriced gasoline.

      Consider how, for example, the price of crude oil drops every time there’s a recession in some country that makes it use less gas, and goes up when it’s cold and people need more energy for heating.

      • grendelkhan says:

        A mass boycott would have an effect, but is it just as effective at the margins? I’m reminded of those “let’s show the oil companies who’s boss!” Facebook forwards, the ones that said that if nobody buys gas on a particular day, it will horribly disrupt things. (Despite that people will simply fill up their cars the day before or after, so the money is shuffled around by a day either way. Awful, awful economics.)

      • Nicholas says:

        It seems to me that the number of people unwilling to purchase a stock should affect the price of the stock, on account of you needing to have someone to sell it to. This should be a decreased demand that hampers price growth, because no one jumps on board to inflate and there are no sellers when you want to cash out. However I’m not sure how disinvestment should work in light of this intuition, because you have to sell it to someone else to disinvest in the first place.

    • Harald K says:

      “the stupidest thing the environmental movement ever did was to make itself about personal virtue”

      Well, it wasn’t exactly them that did it. The history of greenwashing begins with the Keep America Beautiful campaign, formed by an industry coalition to combat littering via personal virtue rather than things like bottle bills (which they oppose).

      I won’t rule out that a genuine, non-astroturf environmental organization at some time got obsessed over personal virtue, but a lot of times “personal responsibility campaigns” are just corporate suppression fire against actual regulation.

    • The environmental movement tying itself to personal virtue may have been stupid, but it is completely understandable because the movement has all the rest of the emotional structure of an Abrahamic religion, including (a) an obession with sin, (b) an eschatology (AGW), (c) irrational taboos (GM foods), (d) weekly observances of no weight other than as symbolic virtue signaling (residential recycling), and (d) fideistic refusal to consider evidence contrary to its doctrines.

      The rise of environmentalism perfectly tracks the fall in religious observance among elite whites in the U.S., because it’s binding to the same receptors.

      • Airgap says:

        Not that this isn’t intuitively plausible, but is there a chart for this?

      • I’ve wondered whether recycling is worth the trouble in any sense. Information on the subject?

        As for purely symbolic value, taking one day off per week may well be good for people.

        • Industrial recycling is worthwhile. Residential isn’t. You can’t recover enough of value from it to cover the costs of collecting and sorting the feedstock. Accordingly, most of what you think you are “recycling” eventually ends up in the same garbage tips it would have landed in if you hadn’t.

          Everybody who studies the subject learns this pretty quickly, but it’s almost never admitted. The usual reason for not admitting it is almost hilariously religious – residential recycling may be economically useless, but it helps keep environmental concerns at the forefront of householders’ minds.

          • Do you have a source for the claim that recycling tends to end up at the same place as the rest of the garbage?

            A fast search has failed to turn up any evidence.

          • grendelkhan says:

            What exactly do you mean by “recycling” ending up in “the same garbage tips”, there? Because about about a third of the national aluminum supply is from “old scrap”, which is post-consumer, about half of which is beverage cans. For glass, about a quarter of the glass in the national municipal solid waste stream was diverted for recycling, mostly consisting of consumer containers. For paper, we recycle about two-thirds the mass of paper that we manufacture.

            Do people separate out more recycling than that, and it’s not included in those figures, or what?

            I’m fuzzier on the economics involved; are the industries just being subsidized by recycling mandates–getting cheaper raw materials when it would be cheaper for everyone-put-together if end users didn’t pay for recycling and manufacturers paid more for raw materials? Or is the argument simply that if conservation really mattered, it would make economic sense?

            At least for aluminum, it seems to make sense; it takes one twenty-fifth of the energy to make cans from old cans as from bauxite. So it doesn’t seem quite as one-sided as all that.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Aluminum is worth recycling, but it’s an outlier. A simple heuristic is that people pay individuals to separate it. The deposit on glass bottles indicated that reusing glass bottles is or was a good deal, but that’s not the same as recycling glass.

          • Jim says:

            That being said, if the materials are being recovered and reused, recycling things like glass still might be a good idea even if it’s not directly profitable.

          • Replying to my own comment because Nancy’s reply is nested too deeply:

            Not at my fingertips. It’s one of those cases where I read it in what seemed like a credible scource on the Web but didn’t know I’d need the URL later.

            My initial source was a news story, and the lede was about a bunch of earnest citizens who were outraged to discover that their “recycled” trash was going into a garbage tip.

            It then segued into a discussion of te economics of recycling (why industrial is cost-effective but residential is not) with a bit of a social-justice angle asserting that rich white peoples’ plastic bottles generally end up getting hand-sorted (when they’re sorted at all) by poor black people for minimum wage. Much emphasis on how miserable this job is – IIRC this was ornamented by a picture of a poor, black, female bottle-sorter.

            The wrap was that a lot of municipalities have quietly given up on residential recycling, without telling their resisents, because it costs too much – more than they can offset from the recovered materials, a problem exacerbated by… recycling.

            It seems we use plastic bottled faster than we can generate demand for recycled plastic. This isn’t surprising. My reaction was more or less: “Duh! I should never have assumed that recycling centers contain magic utility fairies!”

            I tried to check on this via search engine and it turns out descriptiona of the economics confirming “residential recycling doesn’t work” are both easy to find and a bit difficult to recognize beneath the jargon unless you know what you’re looking for.

            The claim “recycling tends to end up at the same place as the rest of the garbage” comes from the information that a lot of munis have abandoned the sort/dispatch/recycle part of the process. Where else but their usual dumps can it be going?

            However, to be fair, this conclusion was not stated in my primary source.

          • Anthony says:

            I’d read, years ago, that newspaper collection drives were basically BS, and that all the newspapers ended up at the local dump. *Maybe* segregated, but probably not.

            I think there are some incentives/subsidies for recycling various sorts of plastic and paper, but there is a market for at least some grades of paper. The southeast-asian immigrants in their $100 pickup trucks piled 10 feet high with cardboard wouldn’t exist if someone weren’t paying them for the cardboard.

          • Airgap says:

            I moved into an apartment in LA, and having been raised in a well known communist homosexual utopia to the north, was surprised to find no recycling bins. I asked my landlord, who told me that the local government had found that people screwed up the sorting so much that it was simpler to just sort it themselves. Perhaps further research showed it was even simpler to just tell people they were sorting it because basically nobody gives a shit.

          • Anthony says:

            Airgap – Sam Yorty successfully ran for Mayor of Los Angeles in the 60s on a platform to end separating trash.

          • Ian Osmond says:

            This changes rapidly, though. A couple years ago, I was at a county fair that had an area set up with exhibits about recycling and environmentalism and stuff, and I got to chatting to one of the guys there who runs a recycling company.

            And he was talking about how, yeah, some of the stuff is dumped, but every year, everybody is looking for a way to make money out of it, and every year, someone comes up with something new. That the first couple years of recycling something, it’s basically a waste — but the very fact of recycling it turns it into a resource that people want to exploit.

            There are limits, of course. When I talked to the guy a couple years ago, there was ONE plant that could make a marginal profit on glass, but because glass is heavy, transport costs outweighed profits, UNLESS you were RIGHT on a train line. Shipping glass to recycling by rail was, barely, profitable, but it really depended on how much fuel you needed to get the glass TO the train. And he didn’t see that changing any time soon.

            Aluminum is the gold mine; paper was a much lower profit margin, but because it was the majority of what is recycled, it tended to pay for a lot of the rest of what you did.

            And he was in the business partially because it was marginally profitable at that time, but mainly because he saw the trends of increasing profitability over time, as people found ways to monetize more and more of the recycling stream.

            What I took from that is that the state of the art in recycling moves FAST, and the statement “X in recycling isn’t profitable, and it’s actually just thrown out” might be true when you learned it, but might be false by the time you say it.

            You want a long-term moneymaking venture? Risky, but if it works out, you’ll make out like a BANDIT? This is what the guy suggested: buy the mineral rights to mining a landfill.

          • Eric, my situation is that my housemate cares a lot about recycling, and I don’t hate it that much, so I accommodate her.

            She’s a rational person, and if there’s solid evidence that recycling isn’t worth it, she’ll take it seriously. I checked with her. However, “Eric Raymond remembers seeing something online about recycling not being worth it” doesn’t count as evidence.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Nancy, what would it mean for recycling to be or not to be “worth it”? Does your roommate really have an effectiveness bar to clear that would not be swayed by the evidence of how effective it actually is?

            Here is my guess: other than aluminum, most of what the city collects does not get sent directly to the landfill, but is sold to actual recyclers, but for virtually nothing. Philadelphia does it not because plastic and glass are valuable resources, nor as a ritual to please your roommate, but to save $100/ton cost of landfill. Malvern has somewhat cheaper options (perhaps the same landfill, but cheaper trucking) and the calculation may be different.

            And how much of that $100/ton does the city actually save? Some of it is spent sorting and cleaning the items. And then it conscripts the people at home. The big problem is that people do not consider the value of their time. But even if the whole process is a net wash, your roommate may think it is worthwhile because of the recycling process. Perhaps there are pollution externalities that are not priced in. This part is the hardest to analyze.

            The city has straight-forward costs for landfill and it should pass those costs on to me and let me decide if my time is worth it. Indeed, they try, but they pass on a garbled signal because it is difficult to price correctly. In particular, they charge residents by volume, when the ultimate cost is weight. Plastic containers compact very well, so my garbage is about 1/4 recyclable by weight, but 3/4 recyclable by volume. By sorting, I save the city 1/4 of its cost, but 3/4 of what it charges me. At least, that would be true if a dropped from 4 cans to 1, but the discrete nature of the cans is another way the signal is garbled.

            Moreover, many cities simply force people to recycle. One city I lived in refused to pick up trash if a recycling bin (perhaps empty) was not put beside it on the curb. I have known people in several cities who have been fined for landfilling recyclables.

          • not_all_environmentalsts says:

            @ nancy
            She’s a rational person, and if there’s solid evidence that recycling isn’t worth it, she’ll take it seriously.

            Considering Ian’s comment just before yours, I think that any generalization as wide as ESR’s would be wrong-headed. It would be a matter of which of your materials was wanted at a processor within reasonable transport, which can vary from month to month. Some materials might be worth sorting in your bins, some not. What do the local recycling workers say about it?

        • Again, posting at an upper level to avoid the nesting limit.

          grendelkhan, I think you are almost certainly right about aluminum recycling being cost-effective – smelting aluminum is tremendously energy intensive, to the point where smelting operations generally need dedicated power plants.

          It’s questionable, though, whether a significant percentage of post-consumer aluminum comes from residences. I’d mine restaurant garbage for it myself, if I had to.

          And it could be that a lot of municipal authorities have retreated to only sorting out aluminum, leaving lower-value stuff like plastic bottles and paper to go in the tips. In fact, given the underlying economics, I’d expect that.

          • Garrett says:

            Ferrous metals are probably the cheapest to sort out simply because you can do it with a magnet.

            Also, it looks like the vegetable matter can be converted into something (if only hog feed):

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1apX-8wLhUU

          • syllogism says:

            I have some friends who are recycling engineers, when I was in Sydney.

            Recycling plants bid for contracts from the councils, to collect and dispose of consumer recycling. At first the councils had to pay the plants, but now most areas’ recycling is valuable enough that the plants competitively bid to *pay the councils* for the contracts.

            The value of the contract depends on how well sorted the recycling is, though. So if you don’t recycle at all, you keep a small revenue source from your local council, and add a small cost in landfill. And if you contaminate your recycling, you deprive the council of revenue, and potentially cause a lot of material to be wasted.

            Maybe in the US the local governments haven’t set up the economics right, or maybe people don’t recycle well enough. But at least in Sydney, it wasn’t true that household recycling was an empty ritual.

          • Unique Identifier says:

            I understand that sorted garbage is more valuable than unsorted garbage. The interesting questions are:
            – Does the added value justify the hassle?
            – Is residential sorting the most efficient way of obtaining this value?
            My intuition lean strongly ‘no’ and ‘no’.

          • not_all_environmentalsts says:

            @ Garrett
            Ferrous metals are probably the cheapest to sort out simply because you can do it with a magnet.

            Hm. Dump it all in a big tank, magnets near the bottom. Plastic floats to the top; aluminum cans too? Glass sinks to the bottom. Paper better go somewhere else; or use the tank like a rural septic tank?

      • Nornagest says:

        I got the sense that environmentalism as a unified political movement — at least in my own little cultural bubble — peaked in the early-to-mid-1990s and has been slowly declining since. Climate change has gotten more prominent, but when’s the last time you saw an article about deforestation, or about ELF burning a ski resort down, or about some charismatic animal that needs saving? That stuff used to be huge.

        I don’t think that tracks changes in religious observance particularly well.

        • Peter says:

          Bees. They need saving, and people aren’t afraid to say so – but I take your point.

          It might be interesting to look at pro-nuclear greens vs anti-nuclear greens, I suspect that the antis might look a lot more quasi-religious, but maybe that’s just me flattering myself.

          • grendelkhan says:

            Perhaps David Roberts over at Grist isn’t at the center of the “anti-nuclear greens” cluster, but I thought this was a good rundown of opposition to the Breakthrough Institute et al., who I think are the center of the “pro-nuclear greens” cluster. It doesn’t feel quasi-religious in the least to me.

            There’s also this sort of thing, but you can nutpick from any political position if you look hard enough.

        • Tom Womack says:

          I come across save-the-African-elephant material all the time at the moment (it seems rich Chinese people have created a large and increasing demand for ivory); deforestation I saw something about last week, but I have a vague feeling (driven by the Economist article http://www.economist.com/node/16886442) that the development by EMBRAPA of kinds of soybeans that grow well on the Brazilian savannah had meant the incentives for cutting down the Amazon had changed.

          • Anthony says:

            I think the lefties who mostly run environmentalism figured out that lots of deforestation improves the lives of non-white people, so now worries about deforestation are more likely to become prominent when it’s being done by rapacious corporations (or “right-wing” governments) than when it’s a bunch of poor people trying to feed themselves.

            And even though I’m a right-winger, that’s mostly ok with me. Though I wish that environmentalists would give left-wing governments the same crap over bad environmental practices they give right-wing governments.

          • Tom Womack says:

            Deforestation doesn’t particularly improve the lives of non-white people; being a subsistence farmer sucks regardless of race, living in the middle of nowhere in a shack having to spend your days chopping down trees with inadequate equipment is strongly inferior to living in a crappy apartment in a suburb and working in a reasonably well-run factory.

            There are quite strong arguments against deforestation in Indonesia (that is, the removal of multi-species forest to replace it with oil palms); managing to produce enough smoke by burning bits of Sumatra to make the air hard to breathe in Singapore was pretty visible. Though that mostly appears as rants against the use of palm oil, featuring orphaned baby orang-utans because cutting down the Bornean forest definitely does produce orphaned baby orang-utans, and baby orang-utans are among the cutest things that exist upon this Earth.

          • thirqual says:

            @Tom : don’t forget soil erosion, which should be argument #1 against deforestation.

          • Anthony says:

            Deforestation doesn’t particularly improve the lives of non-white people; being a subsistence farmer sucks regardless of race, living in the middle of nowhere in a shack having to spend your days chopping down trees with inadequate equipment is strongly inferior to living in a crappy apartment in a suburb and working in a reasonably well-run factory.

            Being a subsistence farmer in freshly cleared land a little further from the nearest tax-collector sucks less than being a subsistence farmer in exhausted farmland that you’re renting from someone else, and it’s a much easier transition to make than the transition to living in a rickety shed in an unhealthy slum hoping that some crappy factory needs a little more labor. Because that’s what the *actual* options are for lots of people.

        • Dain says:

          Ha yes, that time period. I’ve been on a Different World binge on Netflix and it’s a huge recurring theme.

      • James Picone says:

        There is, it’s worth noting, a distinction between ‘environmentalist’ and ‘person who cares about some environmental problems’.

        I care about global warming, because there’s excellent evidence that it’s happening and will be somewhere between slightly unpleasant and catastrophic, and risk management is a thing.

        I care about environmental water flows in the Murray-Darling basin, because I like having fresh drinking water and also because farms around Adelaide are going to have salinity problems if the Murray stops flowing.

        I don’t really care that much about nuclear power – I think the people pushing thorium or pebble-bed reactors are probably underestimating the risks, but it’s not a big deal.

        I don’t really care about GM food, except inasmuch as Monsanto can extend IP rights to screw with people growing crops.

        I agree there are ‘environmentalists’ that are essentially just new-agey hippies, and that might be a religious impulse, but I have the feeling that you’re just dismissing all environmental concerns with this (probably partially because my pattern for ‘libertarian’ includes ‘willfully disregards evidence of environmental issues because commons problems are difficult’).

        • “I care about global warming, because there’s excellent evidence that it’s happening and will be somewhere between slightly unpleasant and catastrophic”

          I would have said “between slightly pleasant and slightly unpleasant,” with a low probability tail for catastrophic and a lower probability tail for “prevents catastrophe.”

          I have yet to see any good reason to be confident that the net effect will be negative, although it surely could be.

          • James Picone says:

            Well yes, of course you believe that.

            Meanwhile the IPCC has climate sensitivity 90% certain between 1.5 and 4.5, with mean at 3, and a long fat right tail (which must be the case, because it’s bounded on the left). CS between 1.5 and 2 is pretty unlikely, because it’s hard to make paleoclimate work with values that small (as in, it’s hard to see how ice ages can end).

            With ECS 3, over the next century a doubling of CO2 probably makes the country I live in (Australia) essentially uninhabitable, raises global sea levels roughly a metre, displacing rather a lot of humanity (or at the very least making living in a lot of very populous first-world cities – like, say, London, or New York – extremely expensive. Have to import a lot of Dutch, you see). The Arctic ceases to exist and the thermohaline circulation weakens, doing who-knows-what to global climate. There’s less arable land worldwide (because it shifts polewards, and Earth is an oblate spheroid).

            That’s the most likely outcome according to actual scientists doing actual science. If we’re unlucky and ECS is towards the high end of the range, it’s actually possible to make some parts of the world uninhabitable without air conditioning in summer, because wet-bulb temperature is >35c. IIRC, global temperature rise of 6c puts a few places in the world at that point essentially year-round. ECS almost certainly isn’t 6c (that’s nearly as likely as it being <1.5c!), but we may well do more than double CO2 levels.

            If we're lucky and ECS is more like 2c, we mostly just get a fair amount of sea level rise. Probably pretty non-noticeable for first-world countries, but a lot of pacific islands and third world countries are going to lose a lot of land.

            Basically I don't see any of the benefits plausibly being better than a 50cm sea-level rise is bad. And if you don't think the upper end is catastrophic, you've got a serious lack of imagination.

          • Tom Scharf says:

            “With ECS 3, over the next century a doubling of CO2 probably makes the country I live in (Australia) essentially uninhabitable, raises global sea levels roughly a metre”

            Thank you for confirming exactly what is wrong with the climate change movement.

            Is this what you think the “science says”?

            Please point to where the IPCC states that 3C makes your entire country literally “uninhabitable”. Possibly this is your own unsupported personal rhetoric?

            Since we already have ~1C in the book, this is 2C over the next century. We will leave the fact that temperatures are tracking much closer to 2C than 3C for now.

            Here in the US you can get in your car and drive ~200 miles south and find a world where the average temperature is 2C higher. Are these areas “uninhabitable”? NYC and Miami are 10C apart.

            1M of sea level rise? I think you need to check IPCC Ch 13. Yes, the worst case projection of the worst case emissions scenario RCP 8.5 gets to about a meter. But the median for RCP 8.5 is ~2 feet. RCP 8.5 is rather unlikely, it has the world burning coal at 10x today’s rate in 2100. The two much more likely medium emissions scenarios come in around 18 inches. Seas rose 8 inches over the last century and the world barely noticed.

            So….stating worst case numbers and inferring they are expected numbers is part and parcel of AGW propaganda (as in not telling the entire story).

            Moral of the story: Be very cautious of what others “say the science says”.

          • James Picone says:

            The US isn’t Australia. I hear you have this thing called ‘rain’ there sometimes!

            More seriously, regional impacts are hard to project, but Australia looks to be hit rather hard, mostly because it’s already a shitty climate with several systems balanced on a knife edge.

            Temperature impacts at 3c aren’t country-changing, just unpleasant – 40c days become somewhere between 50% to 100% more likely in some places, according to http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/joc.3370150602/abstract (which the IPCC references in their 1997 regional impacts report). For the record, the state they were considering (Victoria) is one of the very populous Eastern seaboard states, and is a bit cooler than the average Australian state. Parts of Queensland, and the entirety of the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia are warmer in general – a few 40c days during summer is expected in SA for example. Fortunately, SA isn’t particularly humid – 45c weather with 50% relative humidity, and wet-bulb temperature becomes dangerously close to “you will die of hyperthermia if you don’t have air conditioning”. 50% RH isn’t too unusual for SA, but usually during heatwaves the RH drops substantially (because there isn’t enough water to evaporate).

            Hydrological impacts are one of the ones where uncertainties really bite. They range from ‘more water, but joke is on you you now get huge floods regularly’ to ‘no major change’ to ‘there is now no water in the Murray-Darling Basin’, which is catastrophic. As in, the capital city of South Australia, Adelaide, needs to either be abandoned or build a lot of desalinisation plants really damn fast, and there’s no more agriculture in SA or parts of Vic/NSW. Parts of WA are also under pretty significant water stress, and could quite easily end up waterless under 3c situations. This is all in AR5, WGII, 25.2. For example:

            Examples of the magnitude of projected
            annual change from 1990 to 2090 (percent model mean change +/– intermodel standard deviation) under
            Representative Concentration
            Pathway (RCP)8.5 from CMIP5 are –20 ± 13% in southwestern
            Australia, –2 ± 21% in the Murray-Darling Basin, and –5 ± 22% in
            southeast Queensland (Irving et al., 2012). Projected changes during
            winter and spring are more pronounced and/or consistent across models
            than the annual changes, for example, drying in southwestern Australia
            (–32 ± 11%, June to August), the Murray-Darling Basin (–16 ± 22%,
            June to August), and southeast Queensland (–15 ± 26%, September to
            November), whereas there are increases of 15% or more in the west
            and south of the South Island of New Zealand (Irving et al., 2012).

            If something happens to ENSO in a warmer world, that is a huge wildcard. More extreme ENSO would be awful for Australia. Less extreme ENSO would probably reduce the number and extent of extreme impacts.

            Sea level rise: Every major Australian city is on the coast. Every single one of them. With a metre sea level rise, even before considering erosion, there are largeish areas in capital cities that are underwater (or, more realistically, reliant on a dyke and constant maintenance).

            This is as good a place as any to point out that the IPCC’s SLR estimates are probably the single most conservative part of a generally quite conservative report. The report practically spells it out. AR5WG1, 13.5.3 has a discussion of confidence where they end up giving ‘medium’ confidence in the process-based SLR estimates that also happen to be the class of estimate that gives the lowest SLR, mostly because the other estimates are a bit all over the shop and because it’s not clear what processes the semi-empirical methods (i.e., ‘extrapolating what’s going on now’ methods) are capturing that the process-based models aren’t. There’s a nice table there, too. The semi-empirical models for RCP4.5 (which most closely matches ECS3 + doubled CO2) give median SLR by 2100 as somewhere between 0.56 and 0.97, depending on your preferred study. 0.8 m is probably a more defensible prediction than 1 m under that scenario.

            SLR is unambiguously tracking right on the high line of IPCC projections from 1990ish. Models tend to drastically underestimate SLR during the observational period. Basically, the IPCC’s estimates are low, everybody knows they’re low (including the IPCC), but they use them because they’re justifiable from first-principles and the scientific community hasn’t yet figured out what they’re missing (although the hot bet is that ice sheets melt faster than they think).

            In summary, I probably shouldn’t have said that it ‘probably makes Australia unihabitable’. I should have said that it ‘probably makes Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory uninhabitable, and Queensland expensive to live in’.

          • Airgap says:

            @James: Do you think you could manage to disagree with David without implying that he’s unable to reason due to his congenital libertarianism? I’m sure he doesn’t mind much, but it lets down the standard.

            There’s no reason ancaps intrinsically can’t deal with AGW. Judicial Arbitration ltd. declares that you are emitting too much carbon, and so threatening other people’s property right to continue to live. You refuse to comply with JA’s decision voluntarily, and the Prudential Protection Agency’s Red Cell blows up your factory (PPA’s lawyer sends you a sardonic letter inviting you to bring an action against them via JA). The SF Bay Area forms a voluntary “Carbon Credit Union” to negotiate emissions treaties with other credit unions. Or something. If people genuinely expect to die unless something is done, they’ll figure out how to work together to live.

          • Tom Scharf says:

            You will find buried in Ch. 13 in AR5 that the SLR models are currently running 15% higher than observations. They expected SLR to be 3.7mm at this time. So no, SLR is not higher than expected. We shall see what the future holds. As for now SLR has been steady at around 1 inch per decade according to the JASON satellite altimeter for 20 years. No acceleration so far.

            Sorry to quote such disreputable sources such as the IPCC.

            Humanity may have more resilience than you give them credit for. I’d be happy to take you up on a bet on all these areas becoming “uninhabitable” by 2100. 18 inches of SLR may be inconvenient for some areas but an immenent threat to civilization it is not.

          • James Picone says:

            @Airgap: Sorry. I’ll try to be less of a jerk on this issue in future.

            @Tom Scharf

            You will find buried in Ch. 13 in AR5 that the SLR models are currently running 15% higher than observations. They expected SLR to be 3.7mm at this time. So no, SLR is not higher than expected.

            Looking for it. 13.2.2.1 says SLR is 1.7+-0.2mm/year over 1901-2010. It also, incidentally, notes acceleration in some datasets:

            Because of the presence of low-frequency variations (e.g., multi-decadal variations seen in some tide gauge records; Chambers et al.
            (2012)), sea level acceleration results are sensitive to the choice of
            the analysis time span. When a 60-year oscillation is modelled along
            with an acceleration term, the estimated acceleration in GMSL (twice
            the quadratic term) computed over 1900–2010 ranges from 0.000
            [–0.002 to 0.002] mm yr
            –2
            in the Ray and Douglas (2011)record, to
            0.013 [0.007 to 0.019] mm yr
            –2
            in the Jevrejeva et al. (2008)record,
            and 0.012 [0.009 to 0.015] mm yr
            –2
            in the Church and White(2011)
            record. For comparison, Church and White (2011)estimated the acceleration term to be 0.009 [0.004 to 0.014] mm yr
            –2
            over the 1880–2009
            time span when the 60-year cycle is not considered.

            Satellite datasets, 13.2.2.2:

            Although there
            are slight differences at interannual time scales in the altimetry-based
            GMSL time series produced by different groups (Masters et al., 2012),
            there is very good agreement on the 20-year long GMSL trend (Figure
            13.3d). After accounting for the ~ –0.3 mm yr
            –1
            correction related
            to the increasing size of the global ocean basins due to GIA (Peltier,
            2009), a GMSL rate of 3.2 [2.8 to 3.6] mm yr
            –1
            over 1993–2012 is found
            by the different altimetry data processing groups.

            That time period is too small to compare the rate against tide gauge rates, unfortunately, which AR5 also points out.

            Are you talking about 13.3.1.2, this bit?

            Church et al. (2013)proposed a correction
            of 0.1 mm yr
            –1
            to the model mean rate, which we apply in the sea level
            budget in Table 13.1 and Figure 13.7. The corrected CMIP5 model mean
            rate for 1971–2010 is close to the central observational estimate; the
            model mean rate for 1993–2010 exceeds the central observational
            estimate but they are not statistically different given the uncertainties
            (Table 13.1 and Figure 13.4a).

            Because that’s only modelling of the thermal expansion increase, over a 17-year period, and the /total/ sea level increase is still underestimated by models over that period.

            Are you taking about figure 13.7? Because that pretty clearly shows that observed SLR is larger than modelled SLR (I believe the ‘adjustment’ they mention there is the C&W2013 correction in the quote above, ‘Antarctic PGs’ are peripheral Antarctic glaciers, they’re excluded to try and avoid double-counting them both as glacier contribution and Antarctic ice sheet contribution). 13.3.6 continues to basically say “If we use observed glacier/ice sheet losses instead of modelled, we actually get the right SLR instead of an underestimate!” which is a strong indication that the ice-sheet and glacier models underestimate their contribution…

            Ah I’ve found it. 13.5.1:

            In all scenarios, the rate of rise at the start of the RCP projections
            (2007–2013) is about 3.7 mm yr
            –1
            , slightly above the observational
            range of 3.2 [2.8 to 3.6] mm yr
            –1
            for 1993–2010, because the modelled
            contributions for recent years, although consistent with observations
            for 1993–2010 (Section 13.3), are all in the upper part of the observational ranges, perhaps related to the simulated rate of climatic warming being greater than has been observed (Box 9.2).

            Okay, so the earlier parts I was quoting was trying to model modern SLR by modelling glaciers/ice sheets/thermal expansion/water storage changes and add them all up. Those models undershoot.

            The later part (And frankly I’m not sure ‘buried’ is the right term to use here, this is right at the start of the discussion of projections) is about SLR as modelled solely by AOGCMs. Starting in 2007.

            I’m not sure comparing the SLR at the very start of these projections (2007-2013) with SLR over the range 1993-2010 is a very good way to compare the IPCC’s projections with reality. For starters, that’s not even remotely the same time period. Secondly, the projections are not weather forecasts, they’re not expected or intended to match internal variability at all times, and Ch13 is rather clear that there are multidecadal variations in SLR, variations that probably aren’t in phase at the start of the projection. Hell, ENSO alone can probably account for that difference.

            For those playing at home, the JASON data is here. 0.013 is the maximal rate of acceleration the IPCC found earlier in much longer tide-gauge datasets. Assuming it ran over the entire TOPEX+JASON dataset, it would be a difference of 0.28 mm/year in rate between the start and the end. There’s 0.4 mm/year error in estimating the trend over the same period. That’s a hint that maybe there isn’t enough data to resolve any acceleration that would be present in the altimeter record.

            In future, when quoting the disreputable IPCC, could you please give me a section number?

            I never said it was an imminent threat to civilisation. Maybe if we burn literally all the coal, but I don’t think we’re that stupid. Just that it was a threat to human habitation in western/central Australia, and then only from water security concerns combined with rising sea levels (and they won’t stop rising in 2100, keep in mind) threatening the major cities in those states.

            Any such bet would have to be very carefully constructed to account for if we actually reach the CO2 emissions that should put us in those temperature thresholds, and probably needs a tighter definition of ‘uninhabitable’. I obviously don’t mean that SA becomes a deathzone, and anyone who walks into it dies instantly (that takes two to three times as much warming), just that there will be no major cities in any of those states any more.

        • AnonymousBot says:

          James Picone said, “That’s the most likely outcome according to actual scientists doing actual science.”

          What is an “actual scientist” and “actual science”?

          • James Picone says:

            In this context ‘person who publishes peer-reviewed research’ and ‘peer-reviewed research’ is sufficiently selective. Climate ‘skeptics’ almost universally don’t publish, or publish research which is less out-there than there public statements. There are obviously some exceptions – Curry, McIntyre, Soon, Spencer, Lewis are the ones I can think of off-hand. But they’re rather outweighed by the entire rest of the climate scientist community.

            This is the kind of thing the IPCC is for – summarising a lot of research pointing in a variety of directions.

    • RCF says:

      With using less gasoline, it clearly doesn’t add up to zero. Lowering the price will induce more people to buy it, but it will also lower production.

      A more questionable issue is buying “green” power. If everyone were to demand that their power come from “green” sources, clearly that would put non-“green” sources out of business, but does one person doing so change anything?

      • Nornagest says:

        Well, it means there’s more demand for green power and more money for R&D and infrastructure going into it. With solar prices moving like they have been, that’s not nothing.

        I’m a little more skeptical about the likes of biodiesel, and extremely skeptical about ethanol and hydrogen, though cheap nuclear would make the latter a lot more viable.

        • RCF says:

          Does it increase demand? Suppose power is selling for $100/MWh. Then green power production will be increased until all production methods that cost $100/MWh or less are employed. At this point, everyone is indifferent between green power and regular power. Now suppose one person decides they want green power. The power company says “Okay, your electrons are the ones from the green power plant.” Does anything change? The amount of green power sold at $100/MWh doesn’t change.

          • grendelkhan says:

            (As I understand it) these programs involve contracting with a supplier which sells electricity for more than the rest of the market will pay for it; you pay the difference, and they get to sell their (more expensive) green power.

            On a larger scale, RECs–purchased by large organizations–are supposed to have ‘additionality’, so the scenario you outline doesn’t happen.

          • Held In Escrow says:

            You’re not actually buying green power. You’re generally paying to subsidize renewable generation. Utilities know how much variable generation they have on the grid (stuff like wind or solar where you can’t control the output) and they know how much controllable output they need to use in order to always meet demand after factoring in that variable generation.

            Now, variable generation has a pretty big reduction of its marginal returns as more gets put on the grid, as solar all tends to be producing or not producing at the same time (wind less so, but still has issues). Which means that every new solar panel both reduces the value of every other solar panel AND increases the importance of flexible generation that can start or stop very quickly to make up for sudden changes in production. This generally takes the form of natural gas turbines.

            Now, the fact that you’ve put more renewables on the grid lowers the value of your bog standard coal and nuclear plants; they aren’t flexible, and though cheap, can now only make money at night when the sun isn’t shining.

            So when you say “I want more green power and am willing to pay for it” you’re really saying “I’m willing to pay to get natural gas generators to run at night because coal plants just can’t hack it when they can only run half the time.”

            Which is honestly where power is heading in America at least; natural gas is really cheap and it synchs beautifully with renewables. The most exciting thing going on is probably technological advancements in wind production and us finally getting concrete wind turbines that can be built on site (which Europe has had for a while).

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        With using less gasoline, it clearly doesn’t add up to zero. Lowering the price will induce more people to buy it, but it will also lower production.

        This environmentalist has been sputtering for a long time that bicycling or bussing or whatever is counter productive. The less gas We buy, the cheaper gas gets, so They buy bargain gas for their bulldozers and chainsaws. Gas price and production go up and down … but the trees go down and stay down.

      • grendelkhan says:

        but does one person doing so change anything?

        As I understand things, green power programs involve providing a larger market which will pay for renewable generation even at a moderate premium (it looks to be between 0.5 and 2.5 cents per kWh in most places); this should work at the margins. Other types of projects (PG&E in California’s, for example) involve contracting to build new generation capacity, which also looks like it would be effective at the margins.

  43. Alexp says:

    I have to nitpick about the first link and defend my alma mater. Nobody I know who went to Dartmouth is coy about it like all those people who went to that small college in Cambridge, MA. If anyone asks, we just say “Dartmouth”. Part of it is that outside of the coasts, many people have never heard of Dartmouth, so you end up looking like an asshole if you try to be coy about it.

    • DARTMOUTH_PRIDE_XX_SNIPER_REAL_IVY says:

      As a current Dartmouth student, I have to defend my alma mater as well. “I go to a small college in New England/New Hampshire” is exactly how I phrase it whenever someone asks me about my college. Part of it is that I don’t want to be associated with people who rabidly defend Dartmouth against the tiniest perceived slight whenever it is mentioned online.

      • Alexp says:

        So your one of those assholes the guy was talking about. Confirms that current Dartmouth students are really stupid and annoying. That you went to Dartmouth (or any good school) is neither something to be overly proud or ashamed of. To say “small school in New Hampshire” is to become a Harvard wannabe douchebag.

  44. Sigivald says:

    So how do we adapt online education to a credentialist world?

    The obvious libertarian answer is “independent, competing credential services”, who offer testing, and whose results are trusted or distrusted on the experience of employers seeing how well they map to outcomes in the tested.

    So, er, a lot like existing colleges, except a whole lot cheaper and more competitive.

  45. Mr. Eldritch says:

    Personally, while the White Male Reading Challenge makes my personal filters go “ALERT! ALERT! PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO POLICE WHAT I READ! DEFEND FREE SPEECH! AAAAUGH!”…

    …upon looking it over, it might not actually be a bad idea. I don’t *think* I choose my books based on “whiteness” or “womanness” or whatever else – I barely notice the author names – but I can’t help but notice that I read essentially 100% Straight White Males. Maybe there really is some subconscious discrimination going on here?

    Even if there isn’t, I think it might be a good idea for me to do it *anyway* – vowing to read entirely new authors for the next year actually seems like it might be a reasonable challenge likely to find me a bunch of cool new stuff, and if my choices really are be influenced somehow either by internalized discrimination and/or discriminatory filtering beforehand, I might even be more likely to find books that are abnormally good.

    I agree that the very concept triggers the hell out of me, but after taking a few deep breaths and trying to re-read the article charitably I think I might not really have a problem with it.

    • Error says:

      What does your collection look like in terms of content?

      Datapoint: I had a look at my collection re: author gender. Nearly all of my science/tech nonfiction is written by men, as is my sci-fi. My epic fantasy, on the other hand, is roughly even. Other categories are too small to be useful.

      I’m not sure what the author-gender breakdown is for books published in each of those categories, but taking certain stereotypes at face value it looks to me like variation in genre authorship has much more impact than subconscious discrimination.

      • This. While there are some non-white non-males in every subgenre, the SJW-favored authors cluster very heavily in certain genres and subgenres. A demand to read more women and POCs in practice turns out to be a demand to read less military SF and more fantasy.

        (Not that there’s anything wrong with fantasy. I myself write almost entirely fantasy, and usually have nonwhite protags… but that’s just because I’m avoiding the done-to-death European medieval fantasy, which means colored protags.)

        • Dain says:

          SJW are at least a little less interested in economics tomes than are libertarian types, I’m guessing, and Econ is pretty male heavy. Gay too, possibly, but maybe they don’t advertise it.

        • Nita says:

          a demand to read less military SF and more fantasy

          Or, possibly, other genres?

          • Andy says:

            My biggest current project is a military science fiction series blending neoreactionary and progressive ideas, so yeah, MilSF is gonna be kinda important so I know the tropes a little better.

          • Airgap says:

            How is Idaho Township Troopers coming?

            To the everlasting glory of the Phalanx…remember, service does not guarantee suffrage.

    • Peter says:

      I suppose you could take a “split the difference” approach. Note that the problematic stuff really is there, despite some of the article’s defenders denying it, then recite the mantra “it’s OK to like stuff even if it’s problematic”, raid the article for the good bits, and don’t try to take the bad bits on board.

      You may also want to concoct some variant of the procedure – there’s a suggestion upthread to do with interspersing books, another approach if you’ve got the cash is to go on a diversity shopping spree, put a load of books on your to-read pile, and see if they get read.

    • Bugmaster says:

      Out of curiosity: when black female authors write about topics other than the black female life experience, does their writing differ in an appreciable way from the writing of straight white men ?

      So, imagine that the average black female author wrote a science fiction story about (just to throw out some random tropes) a detective whose search for the grand conspiracy takes him across the border of many virtual worlds. Would her writing be any different from that of an average white male author who wrote the same story ? If we asked 100 people, “was this written by a white man or a black woman”, would they be able to guess better than chance ?

      • Deiseach says:

        I’m guessing the argument there would be that a black female author would be less likely to default to having the detective be straight white male, and that we’d get a more diverse selection of characters (and more representative for non-white, non-male and/or non-straight readers of “people like us”).

        Now, if Black Female Author and White Male Author were both writing a character who’s a methane-breathing, tentacle, three-headed alien of a species with nine genders all of which have distinct reproductive roles, could you tell the difference? That would be the test (I mean, I could see the black female author writing milSF in a hard science universe, and the white male author writing Bradbury-type science fantasy, and the methane-breather character being different that way, but could you tell – without what we’d pick up as, say, Jar-Jar Binks style mannerisms – who was writing which?)

        • Bugmaster says:

          > I’m guessing the argument there would be that a black female author would be less likely to default to having the detective be straight white male

          That’s a fair point, but again, would the black female protagonist behave any differently from the white male protagonist ? Does it matter ?

          To put it another way: let’s say we picked a book by some straight white male author, and re-skinned its straight white male protagonist to be a black lesbian female. We don’t change anything but the visual description of the character and the pronouns. Would this be enough to satisfy the requirement of “more diverse characters” ? Why or why not ?

          • Error says:

            Not sure if it has any bearing on your point, but there are some video games where you can actually do this. Exhibit A is probably Mass Effect.

          • Cauê says:

            “would the black female protagonist behave any differently from the white male protagonist ? Does it matter ?”

            A significant majority of all the race/gender online fights I’ve seen have been implicitly or explicitly about this question.

          • Bugmaster says:

            > A significant majority of all the race/gender online fights I’ve seen have been implicitly or explicitly about this question.

            Isn’t this an empirical question, though ? It seems like it should be pretty easy to answer, given a large enough corpus of text — which surely must exist by now…

          • RCF says:

            “there are some video games where you can actually do this. Exhibit A is probably Mass Effect.”

            Mass Effect has a lesbian skin?

          • Cauê says:

            “Mass Effect has a lesbian skin?”

            The protagonist can be a woman, and she can have a romantic relationship with a [technically sexless alien but actually identical to a blue] woman, so yes? It got a few headlines for it in 2007.

            (come to think of it, my Shepard actually was a black female bissexual. I wasn’t trying to make any kind of point)

          • Daniel Speyer says:

            The best investigation of gender-flipping I know is Kate Harrad’s. I read the Hobbit one in full. As Kate says, the protagonist’s “having whole rooms devoted to clothes” and being “very fond of flowers” stand out a lot more when she’s Bilba. The only other thing I really noticed is how weird the phrase “women, elves and dwarves” sounds. Even if that’s the correct idiom in genderflipped Westron, it still seems like it should have been rendered as “humans” in English. Other than that, it reads quite smoothly.

          • Peter says:

            “Isn’t this an empirical question, though ? It seems like it should be pretty easy to answer, given a large enough corpus of text — which surely must exist by now…”

            If fictional characters are anything like actual people, then what I think you’d end up with is some overlapping bell curves (or equivalent), and one side of the argument saying things that imply that the bell curves are identical and the other side saying things that the curves don’t overlap. Then someone will produce the curves, and both sides will say unto the other: “see, you were totally wrong!”

        • Error says:

          a black female author would be less likely to default to having the detective be straight white male

          It just occurred to me that there’s an awful lot of sci fi/fantasy that I’ve read where the skin color of the viewpoint character is completely unspecified, and often most other characters as well.

          • Tarrou says:

            But since we can assume that all white writers only write about white people, all the white authors are actually writing about whites, and so are racist!

            Everyone knows those sneaky whites will only write about their own race, that’s what justifies our opposition to their ubiquity in publishing.

          • Cauê says:

            This (Tarrou’s) is a bad strawman.

            But I have seen authors complaining that they feel trapped between being accused of only writing white characters or being accused of arrogantly presuming to know enough about the experiences of non-whites to write a non-white character (same for gender).

          • RCF says:

            And even if references are made to skin color, if the character’s non-whiteness doesn’t actually affect the story, fleeting references may not be enough to override the reader’s default-to-whiteness. For instance, there were people who expressed consternation as Rue in Hunger Games being black. I don’t think there was anything in the novella that The Shawshank Redemption was based on that said that Red was black, but there wasn’t anything that said he wasn’t. Maybe King had a black character in mind all along, and didn’t mention it? Or maybe it was mentioned in the novella, and I just didn’t notice it?

            I guess if authors do mention a character’s race, they run the risk of it seeming like an unnecessary descriptor, and if they don’t they run the risk of people saying that they’re ignoring the importance of race in a person’s life experience. Should Rue’s race have been emphasized more strongly so that readers would more clearly understand her? Or should it be de-emphasized, on the theory that people should be judged on the content of their character, and not the color of their skin?

            In SF, there’s more of a justification for thinking that race isn’t important; a thousand years from now, will the black experience be the same as it is now? Will there even be black people? If we all upload ourselves, will we still have race?

          • Sniffnoy says:

            In the case of “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”, pretty sure Red is supposed to be Irish. Been a long time since I read it, but Wikipedia says of the role in the movie, “Although written as a middle-aged Irishman with greying red hair (as in the novella)…”

          • RCF says:

            Black Irish?

      • cbhacking says:

        It’s entirely possible you aren’t speaking about Otherland, but while the series does in fact feature a black woman protagonist (along with a host of other minorities and disadvantaged people), Tad Williams is (so far as I can tell from his Wikipedia page) a cis-het white guy from Silicon Valley.

    • Franz_Panzer says:

      I also have no problem if someone says, “Hey, try reading books by women, or by non-white people.” I am, however, wary of what the same people would say when I report my results. Because I genuinely think a lot of them would give me a hard time if I tell them that as a result of trying to deliberately read female authors I have now developed a pronounced bias against reading female authors.

      I like (among other things) urban fantasy. I love the Dresden Files, Alex Verus, Iron Druid, Nochnoi Dozor. Add to that every Iain Banks book, all Discworld novels, Neil Gaiman stuff, Douglas Adams and so on and so forth, and I realized that, apart from Harry Potter, I don’t own any books written by women. So I deliberately sought out urban fantasy series written by female authors. There are quite a few successful ones around.
      I tried e.g. Anita Blake, the Sookie Stackhouse books, Vampire Academy, Mortal Instruments, October Daye and even §&#$ Twilight.

      What I found was that I did not enjoy reading them. What I didn’t like was that in all of these books the most important thing always was some romance or forbidden love. It was always “I can’t decide between the sexy vampire and the hunk of a werewolf”, or “Our love is a forbidden one” or something in that vein. The characters main motivation is way to often of romantic nature.
      Now, I don’t mind if there’s a love interest in a story, or even some heartache. But I don’t want it to be the main focus of the story. If I did, I would read romance novels.

      So, yeah. I tried reading women authors. What I experienced was that I don’t like reading women authors.
      Who here thinks that that would go down well with all the people who started promoting that idea?

      • Nornagest says:

        Except for Mortal Instruments, which is not everyone’s cup of tea for other reasons, you seem to have reached for urban fantasy and grasped paranormal romance. That’s a slightly different genre from urban fantasy in the Dresden Files vein, and it’s, yes, almost exclusively female-written.

        Unfortunately I don’t know either subgenre well enough to point you to anything better. I’ve heard good things about War for the Oaks (Emma Bull) and the Young Wizards series (Diane Duane), but I haven’t read either one myself.

        • Franz_Panzer says:

          Well, TV Tropes thinks that everything I’ve listed falls under urban fantasy.

          And Mortal Instruments was one I found at least somewhat interesting because although it was an “our love is forbidden” story, the reason why the love was forbidden was a bit more innovative than usual. I was disappointed that the author pussied out and resolved in such a boring way.

          • Nornagest says:

            Different people slice genres up in different ways, and TV Tropes by its format is prone to interpret things broadly; have a look at its page for paranormal romance sometime and see how much overlap there is. Me, I prefer a narrower approach.

            Point I’m trying to make is that the books you’ve described fall into distinct clusters of themes, and that it ought to be possible to find female-penned books that are more like the Dresden Files theme-wise than they are like Twilight.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            Might I recommend Kage Baker’s Dr Zeus series? I think it might rub up a bit against romance, but it’s mainly a fascinating series about time travel and whether or not you can change history. I found it fantastic and completely fascinating.

            http://www.amazon.com/In-Garden-Iden-The-Company/dp/0765314576

            [EDIT] – Also, apparently a lot of commentators think manga should count for this exercise. This is hilarious for a bunch of reasons, but hey, it’s a good opportunity to recommend BLAME! and Biomega, probably the best two sci-fi manga in recent years.

            http://www.amazon.com/Blame-Vol-1-Tsutomu-Nihei/dp/1595328343

            http://www.amazon.com/Biomega-Vol-1-Tsutomu-Nihei/dp/1421531844/ref=pd_sim_b_3?ie=UTF8&refRID=060WKH0FZ3MAFF32A3PT

          • Nornagest says:

            BLAME! is very good, but it’s less “urban fantasy” and more “batshit insane post-cyberpunk”; I also liked Knights of Sidonia (which is roughly four parts bloody, cynical mecha series and one part harem comedy), at least until chapter 50 or so. Haven’t read Biomega.

          • Bugmaster says:

            Out of curiosity:

            I’ve watched the Knights of Sidonia anime, and found it… meh. Is the manga any better ?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Bugmaster – “I’ve watched the Knights of Sidonia anime, and found it… meh. Is the manga any better ?”

            Much, in my opinion. I don’t think the author’s style lends itself to animation. Way too much detail, and way too much playing with time in panel transitions. Iconic panels become trite when you have to actually show how they happened sequentially. It’s also in color, and his mastery of black and white composition is a huge part of why his books are so visually striking.

            Sidonia is his most manga-ish work to date, in the sense that it leans on manga tropes in pacing and format much more than any of his previous work. The anime exacerbates the issue quite a bit, I think, and combined with it necessarily cutting out a lot of what makes his work interesting. I would definitely recommend the manga.

          • Irrelevant says:

            I’m gonna second the Blame/Biomega recommendations. If you’re into the grungy post-cyberpunk that Nihei does best I’d suggest the original Battle Angel Alita well before Knights of Sidonia though, and add the (incidentally female-authored) Dorohedoro as a work in the same vein.

        • Rauwyn says:

          I’m surprised about October Daye, I really enjoy the Dresden Files and to me that series seems to be very much in the same genre, as opposed to, say, the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. The second book admittedly isn’t great but the Dresden Files also take a long time to get going. I’d never heard of Alex Verus or Nochnoi Dozor though, I’ll have to check those out.

          • Franz_Panzer says:

            October Daye was the least bad. And it was the last one of these that I’ve tried so I was already more critical and wary about potential romance plots in there.
            And at the time I actually did ask myself whether I’m too critical of it. But then I gave one of her other books a chance, Indexing. Which I actually did like (and is now besides the Harry Potter books the only book by a woman that I have a copy of). But that made October Daye look worse in comparison so I dropped it.

        • Harald K says:

          Emma Bull I haven’t read anything by, but I note that she’s married to the notable SJW-critic and SJW-hate object Will Shetterly, so if the goal is increasing your standing in those circles, it may be counterproductive 🙂

          • Mary says:

            Heck one could read Larry Correia because he’s Hispanic.

            Or Sarah A. Hoyt! A woman! And Portuguese by birth. Surely that’s close enough to Hispanic. (You want her Shifter novels for unusual urban fantasy.)

        • Andy says:

          Second this. I suggest Lilith Saintcrow and Kate Griffin, starting with A Madness of Angels. There is a significant genre divide between paranormal romance and urban fantasy that TVTropes doesn’t quite grasp.

      • Dain says:

        Seems by making the non- cis white guy thing so salient, it risks making intellectual or artistic merits less important. For instance I love movies Near Dark and Strange Days, but not because they’re directed by a woman. But lo and behold, I’m now a big Kathryn Bigelow fan!

      • Deiseach says:

        The Anita Blake books started out with a great concept and a very interesting character and some meaty moral dilemmas. There were also problematic elements, but I didn’t think they were too bad, and that as the series went on the author would get over them.

        Silly me. Instead, all the humans got relegated to bit parts or were dropped altogether, I still think Richard (though definitely a bit of an idiot) got unfairly short shrift, and worst of all Anita turned into a massively over-powered Mary Sue and the whole thing devolved into her fucking her way through The Big Book Of the Undead and Other Preternatural Creatures A-Z.

        I was really disappointed.

        Sookie Stackhouse I haven’t tried, since even the blurbs brought me out in hives (maybe unfair, but the idea sounded a bit too cutesie-wootsie for me).

        I don’t like paranormal romance (having been badly burned when a book I thought was going to be a ghost story investigation actually turned out to be about the romance, which was not what I was expecting or wanted). There’s so much overlap and confusion between “urban fantasy” and “paranormal romance” that I tend to avoid the genre altogether. Frankly, if I wanted a romance story, I’d go looking for one, but I don’t want romance stories. I don’t care if one of the problems of being a young modern witch is that you can’t decide between your sexy werewolf boyfriend and that broody yet hot vampire next door neighbour. I. DON’T. CARE. I want the traditional stake through the heart, not ‘his vengeful five hundred year old ex is stalking me’.

      • RCF says:

        You might want to try The Time Traveler’s Wife. As the title suggests, the relationship between the main character and his love interest is a major part of the book, but then, isn’t the relationship with one’s spouse a major part of most people’s life?

      • It’s not urban fantasy, which I haven’t read much of, but do you like historical novels? Mary Renault is, in my view, one of the great historical novel writers of the 20th century, and she was a lesbian. Off hand I don’t remember any lesbian relationships in her novels, but there are male homosexual relationships, treated positively, and I gather she had a lot of gay friends.

        Several other good historical novelists are also women—Gillian Bradshaw and Cecelia Holland would be examples.

      • Daniel Speyer says:

        I’ll endorse Mercedes Lackey’s urban fantasies. The early ones (Diana Tregarde, pre-timeskip Eric Banyon) have a pretty similar feel to Dresden Files. The later ones are lighter-hearted, but still good. Bedlam Boyz is sort of the first and is available free and legal online.

  46. Bill Murdock says:

    “One reason California has become such an important tech center despite having some pretty terrible laws is that it got the important law right, says a group who track inventor movements and find the most important factor is banning non-compete agreements. This kind of thing could form the core of an interesting argument against libertarianism.”

    I’m sorry, but huh? It forms the core of an interesting argument against pineapples, then, too? I’m not a smart man, so could someone explain this to me? Is this one of those, “Hey look! A type of contract with potentially negative externalities! Suck it, Libertarians!” along the same lines as, “Hey look at the Ukraine! Their government collapsed and now it sucks! How’s your Libertarian utopia now, suckers?!”
    I’m really having trouble with this one, and I consider the author and commenters here to be very intelligent and thoughtful. Someone care to help me out?

    • I’m sure that is one of many reasons why California has become an epicenter of technology. I doubt there is just a single reason.

    • gattsuru says:

      Many libertarians, myself included, favour contractualism and support that favour from a pragmatic viewpoint that emphasizes innovation and creative destruction. This is particularly common among the Chicago and Austrian schools of economics, and some redder parts of the Grey Tribe. If laws against this form of contract greatly increase innovation, and those laws lack serious downside, it’s at least a good counterexample to hard pragmatic contractualism, and chances are good it’s not the only one.

      That’s a pretty big ‘if’, though. This is a single study, and the just-so story it’s promoting could have a lot of other plausible causes. While they did look a little at other states with similar laws, they found that they attracted inventors, not that they produced as Silicon Valley in West Virginia.

      At a deeper level than that, the study seems to have asked where inventors moved, not what rate people invented things. That’s not nearly as interesting as the lede, and seems just a fancy version of the tariff problem..

      • RCF says:

        Also the study didn’t find that California’s laws produces more inventors, it just found that California laws make it easier for that state to poach inventors from other states.

  47. Pingback: Start of the end of school | The Shamblog

  48. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    to fight the “inherent bias” of the literary world. But if you know how these things work, you shouldn’t be surprised that a rudimentary investigation finds that books written by women are just as likely to get reviewed in prestigious publications as those by men, and there are simply fewer of the former.

    This does not rule out a possible inherent bias of the literary world. It could be that women are simply discouraged from even trying, which is why fewer women try. Of course it could also be that women are intrinsically worse at writing books or just have less desire to or a combination of factors. But in reality, the data is inconclusive. You can’t even rule out explicit prejudice, maybe the only women who try are exceptional writers (because the average female writer is too discouraged to try) but they are discriminated against. But as I said it is all speculation at this point.

  49. protector says:

    Why did Alzheimer’s need to be cured last week? I don’t understand.

  50. Jacob Schmidt says:

    RE: “Why don’t the SJWs say ‘read more non cishet male authors’ instead?”

    Because depriving yourself of a resource you use is a good way to familiarize yourself with alternative resources; you don’t have any other choice. Pledging to to use more of an alternative resource is vague, and vague goals tend to not be realized.

    There are plenty of challenges like this: quitting social media for a month; quitting television for a period of time; quitting driving for a while; quitting carbs; quitting gluten; my personal favourite, that I have to try out but keep telling myself I will one day (vague goals, etc), was a suggestion that we should disable our computer mice for a time, instead relying on keyboard commands to navigate our computers.

    Each of the above is useful for forcing yourself to learn about alternatives: lots of us have better uses for our time than social media; most people could cut down on their driving without much impact on their lives (plus biking is good exercise); etc. But notice how you don’t need to posit that the thing being given up for a time is bad, evil, or necessarily worse than alternatives?

    In school, I’ve been taught various techniques for all kinds of problems. In math, we’re told to use a particular technique for a problem set, not because it’s necessarily the best technique, but to force us to learn and use that technique, so that we aren’t hampered by habit when our preferred technique is suboptimal. In comp-sci, we’re taught a variety of methods, and then told to use certain methods to solve certain problems, even if there might be a better way, because it forces us to learn and understand those techniques.

    These kinds of challenges, and the principles behind them, aren’t new. It’s a fairly common way of forcing us to break our habits for a limited extent, to make sure we know how to use what’s available to us in a more optimized way.

    • Rauwyn says:

      This is by far the best defense I’ve seen of phrasing the challenge as a negative. Thanks for that.
      Personally I think it could be a good way to find new authors to read, but there’s no way I’m keeping it up for an entire year. A month could be interesting though.

      • Airgap says:

        A month would be a totally reasonable suggestion, and thus not have provoked outrage and thereby publicity. Bradford isn’t as dumb as she looks.

        • Jacob Schmidt says:

          If NPR is right, the typical person reads less than 10 books per year (9 for women; 5 for men).

          Even at 5 times the typical rate, that would amount to 2 books for men. If you want to take full advantage of a potentially underutilized resource, you’re gonna need more than that. A bit of bad luck, and your 1 or 2 books happen to suck. And it isn’t nearly habit breaking.

          A month is near useless for a challenge like this.

          • Rauwyn says:

            I read at least one book a week, though, and right now I’m averaging a book every two or three days (but they’re mostly rereads). I guess it depends a lot on how much you read.

          • Jacob Schmidt says:

            Yeah, it’ll depend on the person.

            Now that I think of it, it could be that there’s a bimodal distribution, with a peak for readers and another peak for non-readers, with NPR’s “typical” person being an average of people from both groups. If so, a smaller time frame might well be useful for the typical “reader.”

            I do strongly suspect, though, that a month isn’t long enough for most people. I usually consider myself a reader, but a month wouldn’t be enough time for me to delve into a bunch of authors I don’t already know.

          • Airgap says:

            Bradford referred to the challenge being something you should do if you’re someone who likes to read. Which probably means you read more than the typical person.

      • Gbdub says:

        I think posing the challenge as a negative would be okay, if it was presented as a life hack “get out of a rut” type thing.

        Unfortunately the author of the linked article seems to believe that “not reading cishet white males” is a positive end in and of itself (note how she talks about how much more comfortable she is, and that this is a Good Thing). That’s the part I find objectionable.

        So while Jacob Schmidt’s defense is a good one, it’s a defense for an argument not made by Bradford.

    • stillnotking says:

      “Quit reading white male authors” is not a value-neutral suggestion in the same way that “quit watching television” or “quit eating gluten” are. Race- and gender-related bigotry should be morally unacceptable, regardless of which race or gender it targets.

      Double standards are not merely wrong, they are untenable. The price of being able to demand fair treatment is being obligated to extend it to others.

      • What if the article had been directed at a community of well-read devout Christians, and had issued the challenge ‘Don’t read any Christian authors this year’?

        1. Would you consider that religious bigotry?

        2. Would you consider that perfectly morally analogous to asking the Christians to steer clear of books by Hindus for a year?

        3. Would you consider either of those scenarios perfectly morally analogous to asking a community of moderate American Hindus to steer clear of books by Hindus for a year?

        4. Can you think of any possible good reasons to encourage Christians who read lots of books by Christians to branch out?

        I’m not giving an object-level argument here that it is a good idea to ditch straight white male authors for a year. I’m noting that there are non-crazy, non-evil reasons someone might have to give such advice, and that those reasons don’t automatically generalize to symmetric advice for arbitrary groups. Telling the median American not to read any books by white people for a year isn’t equivalent, from a consequentialist standpoint, to telling the median American not to read any books by Chinese people for a year.

        One might encourage a Christian to branch out in order to deconvert them, and one might likewise encourage a straight white male reader to branch out in order to disabuse them of some ideology that’s less widely accepted by other groups. But one might also encourage the Christian to branch out just to enrich their lives, help them better understand and contextualize their own background, better humanize and communicate with non-Christians, etc. Those are likewise reasons one might try to add diversity to the typical American reader’s book list (which might conceivably be achievable by telling them to read fewer books by straight white men, but certainly isn’t achievable by telling them to read fewer books by Chinese people).

        • Irrelevant says:

          [Questions]

          Yes, that’s religious bigotry. Yes, it’s still religious bigotry to tell everyone to avoid Hindus. Yes, it’s still religious bigotry to tell Hindus to avoid Hindus, though in that situation the bigotry starts to be overshadowed by the holy-shit level of paternalism. No, I cannot.*

          I’m noting that there are non-crazy, non-evil reasons someone might have to give such advice

          Then please, tell me some of them. At the moment all you’ve done is obliquely suggest that some people might exist who are hypocrites who oppose “Thou Shalt Avoid White Male Writers” but not “Thou Shalt Avoid Christian Writers.” You are likely correct that those people exist, and they are barbarians. Both suggestions are disgusting, brutish, and only conceivable by someone with absolutely no understanding of or appreciation for art.

          And to reiterate, Bradford’s reasoning is not only wrong, it is explicitly hate-based. It is not in support of diversity or broadened horizons, it cannot possibly be spun as such, and barring repentance, should result in her outright exile from progressivism. Anyone who puts ideology before quality in art is not a liberal, and not merely an enemy to liberalism, they are an enemy to civilization.

          *I can think of reasons to encourage Christians to branch out from engaging purely with faith-based media, but that’s not what you asked. And if it needs to be made clear, that situation is differentiated in that they’re practicing their own version of Bradford’s barbaric “Only Read Ideology X” advice.

        • stillnotking says:

          You’re equivocating between book and author. I’d have no problem telling this hypothetical Christian community to read fewer Christian books, but I would never tell them to read fewer books by Christians. The latter would indeed be religious bigotry.

          The presumption seems to be that there is some kind of ineffable “white-male-ness” that infects a book’s contents, whether its author is Dickens or Frank Herbert or Hunter S. Thompson. That strikes me as unprovable and almost certainly false; it’s also exactly the kind of argument bigots always make about their disfavored groups.

          If we’re making consequentialist arguments, we might want to consider the potential consequences of normalizing bigotry, i.e. the end of the Enlightenment project and the descent of humanity into a rat’s nest of squabbling ethnic coalitions.

          • I’d have no problem telling this hypothetical Christian community to read fewer Christian books, but I would never tell them to read fewer books by Christians. The latter would indeed be religious bigotry.

            … Because it’s always easy to tell when a book has implicit Christian assumptions baked into it, and it’s never useful to use ‘was this book written by a Christian?’ as a quick, fallible heuristic for assigning a prior probability to ‘is this book importing assumptions from Christianity’?

            I’m pretty thoroughly unconvinced that suggesting that idea to a friend of yours as something to experiment with for a few months would (independent of context, motivation, etc.) mean “the end of the Enlightenment project,” for you or your friend. I don’t think that e.g. wondering about whether you should be reading more books by people from outside the Anglophone world is purely significant as a species of bigotry. It can instead be an important part of a project Eliezer Yudkowsky once described:

            To write a culture that isn’t just like your own culture, you have to be able to see your own culture as a special case – not as a norm which all other cultures must take as their point of departure. Studying history may help – but then it is only little black letters on little white pages, not a living experience. I suspect that it would help more to live for a year in China or Dubai or among the !Kung… this I have never done, being busy. Occasionally I wonder what things I might not be seeing (not there, but here).

          • stillnotking says:

            The question is not whether it’s a useful heuristic, but whether it’s a heuristic we should morally approve. There are all kinds of useful heuristics that we have declared off-limits because they are bigoted and unfair. For instance, black Americans have lower average IQ than white Americans. (The reasons are irrelevant.) An American employer could quite reasonably defend “Don’t hire black people” as a useful heuristic, but we, as a liberal society, have concluded that the negative consequences of allowing bigoted heuristics — unfairness to smart black people, lack of diversity, class segregation etc. — are serious enough to make the usefulness moot. It is a very, very bad idea to hop over that Schelling fence, even in mild ways. (Social-justice-oriented people tend, oddly, to be exquisitely sensitive to such mild violations against their preferred groups, while ignoring much more obvious ones directed against approved targets.)

            I think you might be surprised at how quickly things could come apart after that. If white Americans become convinced that the no-bigotry thing only goes one way — that they’re being asked, in effect, to unilaterally disarm — overt racism could make a big comeback. How do you think the average Republican would react to Bradford’s post? Do you really want to hand them the moral high ground by ceding the ideals of liberalism? How do you think that’ll turn out?

            My language may be overheated, but this shit seriously worries me. For the first time in my adult life, I am becoming less optimistic about the future of human progress.

          • I agree that heuristics can be bad, can lead to slippery slopes, etc. The thing I’m not buying is specifically that saying ‘hey evangelical Christian best friend, what if the next book you read were by a non-Christian?’ or ‘hey English-speaking sister, what if the next book you read were by someone outside the Anglophone world?’ means shattering one’s bonds to human civilization and the Enlightenment in a deep way. (You haven’t even convinced me that those are slightly immoral ideas, any more than encouraging a freshwater economist to read only saltwater economists for a few weeks. And until I’m convinced they’re at least a little not-OK, it will be hard to convince me that they’re crucial violations of a bedrock humanistic tradition.)

            You had a chance of convincing me that the original article was wrong-headed in various ways, but if in the process you’re biting those bullets — what next? must we banish advertisements of college book clubs designed to focus exclusively on early-20th-century black American authors? — I think the cure is less Enlightenment-compatible than the disease.

            Encouraging people to read authors who come from different backgrounds than they do may not always be the most effective way to expand people’s horizons or get readers excited. But to call it “bigoted” in the same fashion as ‘refusing to hire black people’ is, to be frank, silly.

          • Cauê says:

            Rob, OK, the article contains both X and Y.

            But if someone is upset about X, there’s no point telling them they shouldn’t be upset about Y.

            I happen to think X doesn’t deserve all the reaction it got, but it’s not Y that’s bothering people.

          • Nornagest says:

            The thing I’m not buying is specifically that saying ‘[…] what if the next book you read were by a non-Christian?’ […] means shattering one’s bonds to human civilization […] in a deep way.

            I don’t necessarily endorse “shattering the bonds of civilization”, but the degree of commitment being called for here does matter. If Bradford had said “what if the next book you read was by someone other than a SWM”, there wouldn’t have been a controversy; it’d still be a totally unwarranted conflation of literary and authorial qualities, but it’s so minor in scale that it wouldn’t be worth kicking up a fuss over.

            As to bigotry: that’s a fortunate example you used, because this bothers me in exactly the same way that race-based hiring practices bother me. Namely, both insist we use (e.g.) race as a proxy for some desired quality (productivity etc. for the latter, broadened literary horizons for the former) when race should be totally screened off in context by the other information we have available: the candidate’s CV, for example, or the book’s body of reviews, sales data, and TV Tropes page. If a candidate’s or an author’s skin color or collection of reproductive equipment were the only thing we knew about them, that’d be one thing; but that isn’t the world we live in, and so insisting we use it — indeed rely on it, for a time — looks, at the least, very suspicious.

            In fact, it’s often harder to uncover that information than information on the work itself: for example, I didn’t know until today that Caitlin R. Kiernan, the author of some horror/fantasy books I’ve enjoyed, is transsexual.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Rob
            … Because it’s always easy to tell when a book has implicit Christian assumptions baked into it, and it’s never useful to use ‘was this book written by a Christian?’ as a quick, fallible heuristic for assigning a prior probability to ‘is this book importing assumptions from Christianity’?

            It might depend on how easily you learn the author is a Christian. If it’s on the front cover, woops! If the back cover bio has clues, probably.

          • Nornagest: I find your way of expressing these concerns more persuasive than stillnotking’s and Irrelevant’s so far. My aim here isn’t to argue that there’s absolutely no cause for concern, or no reasonable argument to be had, re rhetoric like ‘stop reading stuff by straight white men.’ I’m more attempting to push back against the temptation to vilify or straw-man everyone on the other side of this disagreement. Civil, intelligent people can disagree about whether affirmative action is compatible with Enlightenment or liberal ideals (in cases where it has act-consequentialist value), and a lot of the same issues are cropping up here in miniature.

            I think the case for “race should be totally screened off in context by the other information we have available” is weaker in this debate than it is for affirmative action (where poverty largely or entirely screens off race), though. Many people probably see this challenge as an exploratory experiment — ‘hey, let’s try changing variable A and see what happens’ — rather than presupposing a fleshed-out goal. Or the goal may be extremely complicated and multidimensional, or otherwise hard to verify without having a bunch of long conversations with people who have read the book.

            In fact, it’s often harder to uncover that information than information on the work itself: for example, I didn’t know until today that Caitlin R. Kiernan, the author of some horror/fantasy books I’ve enjoyed, is transsexual.

            If we’re having a conversation about a specific book’s virtues and vices, I agree it’s usually better to hug the query by discussing the book’s contents and not its author’s background.

            If we’re trying to come up with a list of 100 books to read over the next year, then I think using a simple proxy (e.g., ‘authors who all belong / don’t belong to religion X’) to put an interesting new twist on your list makes more sense, because a heuristic like that is a lot easier for group members to communicate and apply. If your goal is to use a filter that leads to a lot of lengthy fractious conversations, then trying to come up with a fine-grained assessment of each book is a great idea; and if you don’t care about spreading your basic idea to others, then pretty much anything goes; but not everyone who wants to improve the quality and/or diversity of their reading list falls into those two categories. Nor should they feel the need to.

          • Nornagest says:

            Many people probably see this challenge as an exploratory experiment — ‘hey, let’s try changing variable A and see what happens’ — rather than presupposing a fleshed-out goal.

            There are lots of possible goals here, yeah. In light of Bradford’s phrasing I’m not inclined to be too charitable about her intent, however benignly it’s being painted by her various defenders on this forum; but I’m willing to grant that others might find benign or exploratory purposes in it, some of which race might be directly relevant to. Improving representation, for example, or making direct reports of experience more accessible insofar as its scope includes memoir and journalism. (Though I’ll note that this is coming mostly out of the SF/F scene.)

            But that leaves us with an equivocation problem. What those benign purposes generally (there are some exceptions, which I’ll come to in a moment) have in common is that they aren’t literary. Increasing the representation of women and minorities in the SF scene, for example, might be a worthwhile goal, however skeptical I am about demand-side interventions when the gap seems to be coming from the supply side; but that has a specific political purpose behind it. It’s a goal for activists, or at least for their allies, and it’s impossible for me to say with a straight face that that’s something for everyone who loves to read or to write. Yet that’s precisely how it’s being spun.

            The exceptions would be along the lines of “if you want to write better in the voice of minority characters, try reading some books written by those groups for a while”. That’s a perfectly reasonable suggestion, indeed a fairly obvious one if you plan to be doing anything like that; I don’t think there’s some kind of essence of womanhood or minority that inevitably leaks through in writing, but that’s one thing and filling cultural/sociological blind spots is another. This is also a lot more targeted, though, and so once again it doesn’t work here.

            TL;DR: there are legitimate, non-bigoted reasons to want to read books by women and/or minorities, even exclusively for a time, but few that apply to all readers or to all those categories at once. I’m mainly critical of the challenge insofar as it claims to.

          • Irrelevant says:

            (You haven’t even convinced me that those are even slightly immoral ideas

            But he did convince you, Rob. You shifted position in a fashion that utterly concedes your original argument. stillnotking won, discussion’s over, you’re on a different topic now.

            This:

            ‘hey evangelical Christian best friend, what if the next book you read were by a non-Christian?’ or ‘hey English-speaking sister, what if the next book you read were by someone outside the Anglophone world?’

            is not this:

            the challenge ‘Don’t read any Christian authors this year’?

            and you’ve proven by your reaction that you damn well know it.

          • Irrelevant: I don’t feel you’ve been accurately characterizing the positions of people you disagree with in this discussion.

            In my own case, I consider all three examples (‘hey community of devout Christian literati, try reading only non-Christians this year’; ‘hey evangelical Christian best friend, what if the next book you read were by a non-Christian?’; ‘hey English-speaking sister, what if the next book you read were by someone outside the Anglophone world?’) to be transparently reasonable. When multiple people bit the bullet on my first example (which I’d previously been considering a reductio), I went with two even milder examples in the interest of seeing how many people would bite those bullets too. (I should have been more explicit about that.)

            I’m getting the impression Nornagest (and maybe you as well?) might be OK with the second two examples and not with the first one; if so, I succeeded at my goal of finding some common ground we could use to draw out where the core disagreements lie and achieve a bit more consensus. I’d be curious to hear more about why the second two are OK while the first isn’t, if that is in fact your view; ‘what if the next book you read were by a non-Christian?’ is equivalent to ‘what if you avoided all books by Christians until you read at least one new book by a non-Christian?’.

          • stillnotking says:

            I’m not biting any bullets here — that would mean trading one moral value for another. Avoiding bigotry is a moral value. Calibrating one’s reading material to ensure a particular racial distribution of authors is not a moral value. At best — and this is assuming “race of author” is a reliable proxy for content, which I doubt, but have gone along with for the sake of argument — it’s personal preference. (Same goes for “gender of author” and “religion of author”.)

            Since you’ve gotten very far afield of Bradford’s original proposal already, let me give you one. How would you feel about a “challenge” to hip-hop lovers not to listen to music by black artists for the next year? Surely the racial disparity in that genre is even greater than in fiction writers. Would your same arguments apply? If not, are you biting a bullet, and what is it?

          • Irrelevant says:

            Rob:

            Apparently I was, somehow, insufficiently clear previously. I am not biting any bullets here. I cannot reject that first suggestion quickly or enthusiastically enough. I called it barbaric earlier, and have realized that was incorrect, and I need a stronger word, as the Mongols, for all their rape and slaughter, were still above this particular mindset. If you think condemning art for the identity of its creator is in any situation “reasonable”, you are anathema.

            And I increasingly suspect our apparent agreement on cases two and three is simply the result of misinterpretation: I was reading those as badly phrased versions of “you should read [specific book], which is good [and incidentally/because it is] written by a person with foreign views to yours.” If you in fact meant them to be equivalent, and were saying “You should read a book that isn’t affected by the blood-corruption of [demographic].” then that is of course just as revolting as your first suggestion.

          • Cauê says:

            “I called it barbaric earlier, and have realized that was incorrect, and I need a stronger word, as the Mongols, for all their rape and slaughter, were still above this particular mindset.”

            [“I was pretty Green earlier, but not Green enough. We need more Green! We need fifty Greens! Greeeeeennnn!!”]

          • Peter says:

            Rob – partly, there might be order effects here. With trolley problems, if you present people with a push-the-fat-guy dilemma then a switch-the-switch dilemma, they’re more likely to choose “don’t switch” than if they’re presented with the dilemmas in the opposite order. But even then…

            Rejecting all of the suggestions doesn’t feel like bullet-biting to me, although some of the milder ones are more in the “I wouldn’t do that personally, but I wouldn’t complain too hard if other people did them” than the “I wouldn’t do that, and shame on you for suggesting I would” category, which the first one definitely is in. But the problem with even the milder suggestions is that better alternatives are available – ones that don’t tell people what not to read.

            Exclusive book clubs don’t seem relevant, unless they attempt to control what people read outside the book club, in which case I think there’s a problem.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m getting the impression Nornagest (and maybe you as well?) might be OK with the second two examples and not with the first one

            The second two examples are a little rude and possibly evidence of bias if you don’t have (and give) a specific good reason, but they’re reasonable in scope and you don’t have to look too far to find good reasons. The first one is very, very condescending as written, and although I could probably stretch to find a context where good reasons would be implicit, it’s far more likely to be some version of “please do me a favor and indoctrinate yourselves for me, kthxby”. Which violates all sorts of norms for me.

            So, in other words, you’ve mostly got me right.

        • Peter says:

          > What if the article had been directed at a community of well-read devout Christians, and had issued the challenge ‘Don’t read any Christian authors this year’?

          Quoth the article: “After a year of that, the next challenge would be to seek out books about or with characters that represent a marginalized identity or experience by any author. In addition to the identities listed above, I suggest: non-Christian religions or faiths, working class or poor, and asexual (as a start).”

          OK, This is a lot milder than the main challenge, so I can’t really say that the article _does_ make that suggestion, but like others I’d call that suggestion EBW too. This milder suggestion is one that I have far less trouble with. Indeed the fact that she makes it indicates that she doesn’t think it _necessary_ to have one-year bans in order to diversify, just that she wants to single out SWM for the ban.

  51. J says:

    Here’s another link. Woman committed to psych ward for claiming that Barack Obama follows her on twitter, when in fact @BarackObama is indeed one of her followers. Twilight Zone twist: @BarackObama is not actually Barack Obama.

    • Airgap says:

      I recall reading somewhere that in, I think, Japan, it was the law that if a politician had a blog or twitter account or whatever, he had to actually write the tweets himself. He could hire a consultant to tell him what tweets were good for votes, but he had to ultimately write them himself.

    • Here’s another link. Woman committed to psych ward for claiming that Barack Obama follows her on twitter, when in fact @BarackObama is indeed one of her followers.

      Back in 1980, in the Detroit area, a paranoid schizophrenic man named Alfred Lawrence Patterson was a patient at the Northville Regional Psychiatric Hospital, to which he had been committed by his father.

      Patterson claimed that Sen. Edward Kennedy and the Secret Service had conspired to put him there, to prevent him from getting elected to Congress.

      But the ACLU obtained a habeas corpus order for his release, pointing out that not only was he on the ballot as a candidate for Congress in the 17th District of Michigan, but he had won the Republican primary.

      (He won, probably because voters had confused him with a much better known politician named Patterson, and the Republican nomination in an overwhelmingly Democratic district was not highly contested.)

      He promised he would go to Washington and find the guy who had served him a pitcher of water filled with poisonous clear worms.

      He got 25% in the general election.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Here’s how I would think about that story.

      The media likes to play up a single interesting angle to every story, and the Obama Twitter comment is the interesting angle to this one.

      But note that she was in the hospital, being evaluated for psych admission before she even made that comment, and that was just one of many factors that made them say yes. Arguably the comment does show poor judgment; she tried to use it as proof that she was sane (ie would Obama follow me if I were crazy?) which is…kind of a weird thing to do if his account follows 630,000 people. Like, she seems to have believed Obama personally likes her because he’s following her on Twitter, which is not true or reasonable.

      None of this matters, because commitment decisions are supposed to be based on danger to self and others, not on weird beliefs about Twitter followers. I could say that Jesus Mary and Joseph all follow me on Twitter, and if I’m not dangerous to anyone I shouldn’t be committed. If the doctors there were doing their jobs, they committed her because they saw some sign of danger (possibly related to whatever happened at the police station, which the article doesn’t get into) and the Twitter statement just helped them build their case.

      I am embarrassed to say I encountered a similar problem. I had a patient once, admitted for totally different reasons, who mentioned in an interview that he was one of Christ’s Apostles. I upgraded his diagnosis to include psychosis with religious elements, but he told me to check his Facebook page. I did, and he was part of some weird church that says all of its members are Christ’s Apostles. It took me a few days to get that cleared up, but that wasn’t the main reason he was in the hospital anyway, which had to do with….him being a danger to himself and others.