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

OT38: Brighter Than Threaday

This is the weekly open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. Also:

1. I will be at the New York Solstice tomorrow. I’ll see some of you there. There will probably be a big meetup Sunday at the Brookfield Place Mall at 1 (last minute change of time!), although details beyond that are sketchy. Head to the mall and look for the group of people who look the way you would expect rationalists to look. It’s not subtle.

2. Comment of the week is this poem, even though it’s from several months ago, because I only just found it.

3. In case you missed it in yesterday’s links, you may be interested in the MIRI fundraiser, the CFAR fundraiser, and the Giving What We Can Pledge Drive.

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

1,190 Responses to OT38: Brighter Than Threaday

  1. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    SSC SF Story of the Week #4
    This week we are discussing “The Gentle Seduction” by Marc Stiegler.
    Next week we will discuss “Allamagoosa” by Eric Frank Russell.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      I was incredibly disappointed with the way this story brought up the concept of reconstructive uploads and failed to do anything interesting with it. Seriously, all Stiegler says of the em is that “it was not Jack” and that “such simulations always failed” and leaves it at that? What a cop-out! I understand that discussing the themes involved would have taken over the story, or perhaps required a whole novel of its own, but I would have found it far easier to suspend my disbelief if he had just not brought it up.

      Also, I don’t think the use of teleprecense to visit Jupiter from Mars would work; speed-of-light delays should have ruined the immersion.

      • Max says:

        The story is masturbatory power fantasy about magical technology giving everything and the main character remaining the same thing (in many ways reflection of an author)

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        The fact that no mention was even made of the light-speed lag between Earth and Mars, or the even worse lag between Mars and Jupiter, was very difficult for me to get over. The telepresence is totally impracticable any further out than, say, one of the moons. Bah.

        • jeorgun says:

          Untrue— “The linkage between her mind on Mars and her robot body on Jupiter had delays; to have a completely satisfying experience, she would need a temporary residence that didn’t require such a commute.” Maybe it’s hand waved a little, but it is acknowledged.

    • Deiseach says:

      It’s cleverly done (though I tend not to believe that the main character has some indefinable wonderfulness of her character that makes her an inspiration and trailblazer for those still coming after her).

      It’s very accurate in how we can’t imagine changing, but as time goes on, we succumb to those changes. When you’re twenty and fit and healthy, you can’t ever imagine needing reading glasses or not being able to climb the stairs much less hike up the mountainside. Get older and creakier in the joints and you find yourself reconsidering all the things you said you’d never take up.

      That happens with ideals and politics, too.

      Where the story lets itself down is not taking a look at the shadow-side of the Wonderful World of Eternal Change and Progress. Every step along the path of technology and moving from the organic to the techno-transcendent is a positive, unshadowed by any loss or regret. Indeed, the changes make past experience richer, more vivid, detailed, and meaningful than when actually experienced initially.

      But is it really human not to have some regret, some longing? Some temptation to abuse of power or forgetfulness of the weaker? Everyone is better, nicer, smarter? Nobody tries cheating or stealing or exploiting other entities and/or the situation for their own benefit?

      The point of the story seems to be that we can be easily, gradually, gently seduced into the most momentous of changes one small step at a time – and that this will turn out great. I agree with the first part, but not necessarily the second: after all, it would be as easy to persuade the main character bit by gradual bit to use her abilities to become part of a conquering army seeking other civilisations to absorb and abuse, as her early objections to force and war were eroded away the same way her objections to becoming a cyborg and then an upload were eroded.

      • Eli says:

        But is it really human not to have some regret, some longing? Some temptation to abuse of power or forgetfulness of the weaker? Everyone is better, nicer, smarter? Nobody tries cheating or stealing or exploiting other entities and/or the situation for their own benefit?

        Sure, why not? Why would you want to abuse or forget others? Why would you want to cheat, steal, or exploit, especially more than others can actually take? There’s a point where cruelty might be fun because people can “take it”, but we’re really not at that point in most important matters.

        Are you really so utterly incapable of believing that some people’s impulse to good dominates their impulse to evil most of the time?

        Oh, right, theology of original sin and anti-empiricist epistemology.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          I agree completely with your point.

          Deiseach‘s post reminds me of Dostoevsky’s “Notes From Underground”. Which makes about the best case as can be made for that point of view:

          For man is stupid, phenomenally stupid. That is, although he’s not really stupid at all, he’s really so ungrateful that it’s hard to find another being quite like him. Why, I, for example, wouldn’t be surprised in the least, if, suddenly, for no reason at all, in the midst of this future, universal rationalism, some gentleman with an offensive, rather, a retrograde and derisive expression on his face were to stand up, put his hands on his hips, and declare to us all: “How about it, gentlemen, what if we knock over all this rationalism with one swift kick for the sole purpose of sending all these logarithms to hell, so that once again we can live according to our own stupid will!”

          And, the best part:

          What is to be done with the millions of facts that bear witness that men, consciously, that is fully understanding their real interests, have left them in the background and have rushed headlong on another path, to meet peril and danger, compelled to this course by nobody and by nothing, but, as it were, simply disliking the beaten track, and have obstinately, wilfully, struck out another difficult, absurd way, seeking it almost in the darkness. So, I suppose, this obstinacy and perversity were pleasanter to them than any advantage…

          The fact is, gentlemen, it seems there must really exist something that is dearer to almost every man than his greatest advantages, or (not to be illogical) there is a most advantageous advantage (the very one omitted of which we spoke just now) which is more important and more advantageous than all other advantages, for the sake of which a man if necessary is ready to act in opposition to all laws; that is, in opposition to reason, honour, peace, prosperity — in fact, in opposition to all those excellent and useful things if only he can attain that fundamental, most advantageous advantage which is dearer to him than all. “Yes, but it’s advantage all the same,” you will retort. But excuse me, I’ll make the point clear, and it is not a case of playing upon words. What matters is, that this advantage is remarkable from the very fact that it breaks down all our classifications, and continually shatters every system constructed by lovers of mankind for the benefit of mankind. In fact, it upsets everything…

          One’s own free unfettered choice, one’s own caprice, however wild it may be, one’s own fancy worked up at times to frenzy — is that very “most advantageous advantage” which we have overlooked, which comes under no classification and against which all systems and theories are continually being shattered to atoms. And how do these wiseacres know that man wants a normal, a virtuous choice? What has made them conceive that man must want a rationally advantageous choice? What man wants is simply independent choice, whatever that independence may cost and wherever it may lead. And choice, of course, the devil only knows what choice.

          Of course, this very stupid thing, this caprice of ours, may be in reality, gentlemen, more advantageous for us than anything else on earth, especially in certain cases… for in any circumstances it preserves for us what is most precious and most important — that is, our personality, our individuality. Some, you see, maintain that this really is the most precious thing for mankind; choice can, of course, if it chooses, be in agreement with reason… It is profitable and sometimes even praiseworthy. But very often, and even most often, choice is utterly and stubbornly opposed to reason … and … and … do you know that that, too, is profitable, sometimes even praiseworthy?

          I believe in it, I answer for it, for the whole work of man really seems to consist in nothing but proving to himself every minute that he is a man and not a piano-key! …And this being so, can one help being tempted to rejoice that it has not yet come off, and that desire still depends on something we don’t know?

          You will scream at me (that is, if you condescend to do so) that no one is touching my free will, that all they are concerned with is that my will should of itself, of its own free will, coincide with my own normal interests, with the laws of nature and arithmetic. Good heavens, gentlemen, what sort of free will is left when we come to tabulation and arithmetic, when it will all be a case of twice two make four? Twice two makes four without my will. As if free will meant that!

          Twice two makes four without my will, indeed. As if free will meant that. As if free will meant wanting what is true and right, independently of your opinion.

          • Eli says:

            Dostoevsky seems to me insufficiently imaginative.

            For instance, let’s go ahead and grant at least the moderate version of his point: sure, free choice, including free fucking stupid choice! Go ahead and get it out of your system! Or don’t! Destroy yourself utterly through deliberately, maliciously stupid choices!

            But the very principle of free choice means that you can’t be entitled to destroy others. The trade-off to which free will must conform is that between “freedom from rational interests” and the Hobbesian “war of all against all”.

            Now let me present a poeticized argument for my position:

            No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

            And in my own words, again: why should I want to hurt you? What interest of mine can malevolence serve? Why should I be moved to enact ugliness or cruelty?

            Why bother with evil when you can have good?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            But the very principle of free choice means that you can’t be entitled to destroy others. The trade-off to which free will must conform is that between “freedom from rational interests” and the Hobbesian “war of all against all”.

            No, it doesn’t imply at all that you can’t be able to destroy others.

            We’re not talking about political freedom here. We’re talking about metaphysical freedom. In the Gulag, you are still free to shout at the top of your lungs that you hate Stalin and everything he stands for. The consequence will be that they will kill you, but you’re still free to do it.

            You’re still free in America to kill people for no reason in this sense. (And even if the police were 100% effective, you’re still free to want to.)

            And in my own words, again: why should I want to hurt you? What interest of mine can malevolence serve? Why should I be moved to enact ugliness or cruelty?

            Why good heavens, gentlemen, what sort of free will is left when we come down to the rational determination of one’s interests? Benevolence is in my self-interest, without my will. As if free will meant that.

          • Eli says:

            What rational determination? Why isn’t it free will if I want to choose the good thing?

          • Deiseach says:

            Eli, as St Thomas Aquinas puts it, nobody thinks they’re bad. Nobody thinks they are choosing evil. Everyone thinks they are doing what they have to do, or what is good for them.

            The guy who kicks a man to death in a drunken row doesn’t think he’s evil or wicked; very often he’s not thinking at all! And if he does think anything about why he gets into fights and resorts to violence, it’s something along the lines of ‘might makes right’, ‘the rule of nature is the strong win and the weakest go to the wall’, ‘I’m only doing what I have to do’, ‘I can’t let anyone disrespect me’ and the like.

            What interest of mine can malevolence serve? Why should I be moved to enact ugliness or cruelty?

            EDIT: Eli, I don’t have to imagine that, I’ve seen it. About ten years back in a former job, I worked as clerical support in a national programme for early school leavers (one reason why I never, ever, again want a job having anything to do with children/teenagers).

            About a quarter of the kids were great, participated in the programme, would benefit and go on to make something of their lives. About a third were not interested/had problems that needed addressing and either would or wouldn’t get something out of it without further support from outside. Some of these kids were straight on the trajectory to jail because of various problems (again, another reason I’m not in favour of legalising drugs: way too many first dropped out because weed was nicer than school work, and they got sucked into petty criminality and then harder drugs, and at least one has gone on to do a jail sentence for stabbing another person in the stomach during an altercation).

            And there were a few who were nothing but troublemakers and had no intention of doing anything, and you could tell they’d end up doing jail time if they were lucky; if they weren’t lucky, eventually they’d hit up against the kind of hardened criminal that they couldn’t manipulate or weasel their way round and they’d get the shit kicked out of them, or be stabbed, or even shot.

            One eighteen year old was like that. Too sly and cunning to do anything that could be directly traced to him; he used another kid, who had anger-management problems and was troubled but basically decent as his cat’s paw. He’d make a few well-aimed remarks that would wind the angry kid up, get him to blow, and then the angry kid would start yelling and roaring and throwing chairs and tearing up the place and the whole morning was taken up with the staff calming him down, clearing the debris, and restoring order.

            Angry kid, of course, was the one who got into formal trouble while sly kid skated. What did the sly kid get out of it? Ostensibly, having the disruption meant no lessons, etc. But you could tell he enjoyed his exercise of power: being able to make angry kid his puppet, disrupting the place, ‘making fools out of the staff’. (Why wasn’t he dealt with? Because the programme was run on all the latest Social Work principles of no physical discipline, no authoritarianism, mutual respect and discuss your problems and use talk not a clip round the ear, participation, empowerment, buy-in and all the rest of it. Which meant sly kid could rules-lawyer his way out of trouble.)

            So this was the kind of guy who was going on to a criminal career because he was not one bit interested in living a ‘decent’ life. And just as surely you could tell he’d get too big for his boots, run into a guy who lived by ‘might is right’ and not ‘let’s all sit down and discuss this rationally’ and end up with his head kicked in or a stabbing.

            So your question is the very question I am posing, the very question the story ignores as everyone in the new future is naturally nice and wonderful.

            As you say, you can’t be entitled to destroy others. So at the very least that implies in the future someone or something (be it a government agency – the NSA ramped up to unimaginable levels of access and unfettered activity – or the AIs running the Terran Empire or whomever) is monitoring and suppressing such choices and such acts (and possibly either humanely brain-altering or humanely making sure retrograde entities are destroyed). It’s not, and it can’t be, all jaunting to Mars to enjoy the sights via telepresence!

            But the story never goes near that. It’s all Progress, Glorious Progress, and the heroine’s objections and qualms are gently overcome one by one, and nothing ever goes wrong. Each time a former limit comes up, and she passes it despite having previously made a firm resolution that this is the thing she would never do, and it always works out for the better.

            That’s unrealistic.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Eli:

            Well, I (Dostoevsky speaking) grant that choosing the good thing is wise and rational, You could never have a reason to do otherwise. But evil, inexplicable, and senseless things also have their own merits, and a man might just as well want to choose those.

            “And how do these wiseacres know that man wants a normal, a virtuous choice? What has made them conceive that man must want a rationally advantageous choice? What man wants is simply independent choice, whatever that independence may cost and wherever it may lead.”

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            Why, I, for example, wouldn’t be surprised in the least, if, suddenly, for no reason at all, in the midst of this future, universal rationalism, some gentleman with an offensive, rather, a retrograde and derisive expression on his face were to stand up, put his hands on his hips, and declare to us all: “How about it, gentlemen, what if we knock over all this rationalism with one swift kick for the sole purpose of sending all these logarithms to hell, so that once again we can live according to our own stupid will!”

            Donald Trump?

          • Mary says:

            And in my own words, again: why should I want to hurt you? What interest of mine can malevolence serve? Why should I be moved to enact ugliness or cruelty?

            Why bother with evil when you can have good?

            Because you do.

            Here’s a look at the people who could have good and bother with evil:
            http://www.city-journal.org/html/14_4_oh_to_be.html

          • Jiro says:

            Here’s a look at the people who could have good and bother with evil:

            UK homicides are at their lowest since 1977 and crime at its lowest since 1981.

            Not only is this article from over 10 years ago, he’s comparing crime rates from 1921 and 1941. Furthermore, Wikipedia points out that there was systematic underreporting.

            He also seems to think that depression isn’t a legitimate medical condition.

          • Mary says:

            snort

            When the claim was that there is no reason to commit crime, that crime is LOW is hardly an argument.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Given the repeated failure of political programmes which depended on everybody being nice to each other, I don’t think Deiseach is the one being anti-empiricist here.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Is the position merely:

            a) A society where everyone is rational all the time is unrealistic, given what we know about human behavior? If so, I agree. But I think we can have institutions that encourage people to behave in more rational ways, and perhaps even improve human intelligence and capacity for self-control so that they will be better able to do so.

            Or is the position:

            b) A society in which everyone is rational all the time would not be desirable because it would allegedly be “inhuman” and contrary to “free will”? That is the position I take Dostoevsky to be defending, and the one I am objecting to.

            If Eli is saying that we can merely take people as they are now and tell them to be good rational people (and maybe good communists, in his opinion), and expect it to solve all society’s problems—I agree this is a naive position.

          • Deiseach says:

            I haven’t read whatever story you’re all kvetching about

            So you haven’t read the story but you know my objections are based on nothing more than “theology of original sin and anti-empiricist epistemology”.

            Mmm-hmmm. I see you subscribe to the Sydney Smyth school of review 🙂

          • Deiseach says:

            Vox (if I may be so familiar), option A is the one I’m basing my objections on. Option B may or may not be a good idea, pace whatever definition of “rationality” is being used, but if that is what Dostoevsky is defending, then I disagree with him: reason as a basis for judgement is a good, not a defect.

          • Mary says:

            “A society in which everyone is rational all the time would not be desirable because it would allegedly be “inhuman” and contrary to “free will”? That is the position I take Dostoevsky to be defending, and the one I am objecting to.”

            Then what was the “anti-empiricist ” crack about?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Mary:

            That was not me.

        • Deiseach says:

          You have never seen acts of public vandalism, Eli? You’ve never, as I have, seen newly-planted trees snapped in half by somebody or group of somebodies, for no reason other than pleasure in destruction or whatever reason somebody likes breaking things?

          I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but there is a con where pensioners are cheated out of (and indeed intimidated into handing over) large sums of money, oftentimes their life savings, by people who persuade them into unnecessary works and repairs for their homes, then keep extorting money out of them. Old people are chosen because (a) they are more likely to have nest eggs built up over their lives (b) they are vulnerable (c) they are easy targets and can be threatened with violence. Or not even violence, simply manipulated psychologically.

          That’s happening all the time, everywhere. You don’t need “theology of original sin and anti-empiricist epistemology” to conjecture it, you can search online news for instances. The kind of mindset that does not have respect for the old and vulnerable and thinks of them as easy targets – that mind, that character, is not going to exist in the new future of the story? And yet our heroine is an original non-engineered human from the 20th century who simply takes the new technology for self-improvement as it comes along. All the criminals and warlords of her time have either been brain-conditioned out of it, or they conveniently never got the upgrades so they can become immortals like our main character?

          There aren’t even Internet mobs engaging in destroying their opponents or rivals online? Nobody leaking celeb sex tapes and blackmailing them? No future equivalent of RequiresHate?

          Medicine will finally have cracked it, we will know exactly what tangle of neurons means you like to kick over street planters and smash in windows and we can tweak them so you prefer to listen to the birdies singing in the park instead?

          Maybe the tech magically makes you a better person, simply by allowing you to develop empathy because your newly-expanded neural connections awaken a conscience in you. However, that aspect is not shown, nor any explanation given (apart from “That is how it is”) for how this future world has done away with crime, war, and the other less pleasant aspects of human nature.

          Well, that would be wonderful. But you get what I am saying backwards: I am not saying some people’s impulse to good dominates their impulse to evil, I am saying has every single person in the future become (or has been made) so good that nobody from the Bad Old Days of naturally-produced humans with less perfect friendly loving downhome values than our heroine remains active and unchanged? (Remember, the point of the story is that our heroine has valuable personal qualities that mean that she can lead and guide others even though she’s a relic from The Old Days; her descendants and the new humans born or otherwise coming into existence in later decades and centuries don’t share that special magical spark of whatever it is that makes her a trailblazer and leader. So if her basic character remains unaltered, what about the basic character of a serial rapist, or a murderer, or someone who needs to dominate and bully others in order to feel power and feel secure?)

          I’d love to think “In the happy days of brain and sensory augmentation, there are no people with the impulses to rape, murder, abuse, bully, steal and otherwise try and get one over on their fellows” but I wonder how that is going to happen.

          But as you say, that’s probably only my deficient epistemology talking. When AI comes along, all of us will turn into perfect flawless angels just because!

          • Eli says:

            There was a time when Genghis Khan was actually a fairly normal person for many societies, inclinations-wise, but more competent at raping and murdering his way through the landscape than most others. And now he’s deeply abnormal. Now you complain about how our ever-so-progressive societies are still afflicted with vandalism and swindling instead of the rape, murder, and slavery that were normal in actually-existing past societies.

            As moral progress has happened somewhat already, it can happen more.

            I haven’t read whatever story you’re all kvetching about, but I do find it really suspicious that you’re choosing to pick on the possibility of moral progress rather than the possibility of immortal cyborg dogs or whatever the hell the gimmick is.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            There was a time when Genghis Khan was actually a fairly normal person for many societies, inclinations-wise, but more competent at raping and murdering his way through the landscape than most others. And now he’s deeply abnormal.

            Really?

            I mean, I don’t doubt there have always been (and still are) warlords who like raping and murdering. But there have also always been large numbers of normal people who just go about their lives, working and raising families. The idea that they all fantasized about raping/murdering/pillaging, that this was considered a culturally normal desire, and that most of them just didn’t get the opportunity to do so seems kind of weird to me.

          • NN says:

            This idea is also hard to square with the historical fact that contemporary writers among groups that fell victim to the Mongols used stories of Mongol armies murdering, raping, and pillaging their people to demonstrate how bad the Mongols were.

          • Jiro says:

            The victims of the rape and murder always think it’s bad. What’s different is that people of the time didn’t think it was absolutely bad; they only thought it was bad when done to themselves, but thought it was fine when done to tribes who have something they want.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            Anecdotal, but there was briefly talk between the Pope and French king of an alliance with the mongols against the Muslim armies in the holy lands. This never transpired in any meaningful way, and in fact Christians in the Holy Land itself briefly allowed Muslims to pass unmolested to attack the mongols but it is an interesting view of how they were seen.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            I think that is more ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’; people the Mongol are poised to invade don’t like being invaded by said Mongols. That said the Mongols were exceptional… if you count ‘civilized’ society. In terms of nomadic raiders, not that unique in the whole brutal massacring business.

          • Mary says:

            “What’s different is that people of the time didn’t think it was absolutely bad; they only thought it was bad when done to themselves, but thought it was fine when done to tribes who have something they want.”

            All of them? What is the evidence for this?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The fact that breakdowns in law enforcement almost always result in large-scale looting and crime suggests that, if modern people are more law-abiding, that’s largely because it’s harder now to get away with committing crimes, rather than any greater innate morality.

          • Deiseach says:

            I congratulate you, Eli, for you have me doing something I never thought possible: I am now going to say something nice about Genghis Khan 🙂

            I was broadly aware that the empire he founded, and particularly his successors, adapted the civilisation of the conquered (especially the Chinese) and became a successful rule not of barbarians but of civilised people.

            According to this book, Khan did not rape and murder his way to victory, so much as engage in organised and crushing total war. We should regard him more in the light of Alexander the Great, who also created an empire by virtue of superior military power, but more successful as he managed to create a dynasty and lasting empire where Alexander could not:

            Weatherford resurrects the true history of Genghis Khan, from the story of his relentless rise through Mongol tribal culture to the waging of his devastatingly successful wars and the explosion of civilization that the Mongol Empire unleashed.

            Explosion of civilisation? say you. According to the reviews, Khan was pro-trade, lowered taxes, encouraged learning, and “He made it law that women are not to be kidnapped, sold or traded”, and the stories of rapine and massacre were propaganda both encouraged by the Mongols (after all, if you pitch up outside a city to besiege it, that’s a long-term commitment and very inconvenient, whereas if the citizens are terrified by the scare-stories of what happens if they resist, they will surrender pretty much immediately) and used by Muslim jihadists, and in later centuries exaggerated, misattributed, or turned to their own purposes by “Enlightenment” figures (just as Gibbon blamed the fall of Rome on Christianity, Voltaire used Khan as a bogey-figure for the French monarchy).

            Warning: (a) I haven’t read this myself so I don’t know how good, bad or indifferent it is (b) it’s revisionist history, so naturally it’s going to go overboard on the “No the traditional accounts are all completely wrong” (c) I don’t really think the Mongols created a vast empire by being traders and encouragers of the arts and sciences, so there probably was a good bit of rape and pillage going on. But the Empire and the Great Khans were not barbarians.

          • keranih says:

            The degree of damage done by Khan (and his successors) was modified by the technology in the conflict area and how badly the locals resisted. To use one example – agriculture in the arid Central Asian region depended on rather extensive water tunnels and canals, which were also used as hiding places for local fighters (and their stuff.) In rooting out the resistance in Afghanistan (which has never taken well to outsider rule) not only were the cities damaged, but also the rural waterways of the most prosperous (and easily reached) agriculture areas. This had the practical effect of forcing the population even further out of the cities and into the hills. Around 1500, the Mughals (Khan v 3.4 or some such) repeated this, which hampered Afghan development until the Brits came along and…failed to make anything better.

          • Jiro says:

            According to this book, Khan did not rape and murder his way to victory, so much as engage in organised and crushing total war.

            Engaging in organized and crushing total war, just because you would like some territory and tribute, is still at least murder.

          • John Schilling says:

            The fact that breakdowns in law enforcement almost always result in large-scale looting and crime suggests that…

            That nobody wants to see themselves as a chump, no more and no less. Almost no moral rule will long endure the sight of other people profiting by its violation without being punished for it.

            If you want to see how committed people are to “Thou shalt not steal”, you need to watch them in secret when they think they are alone with some unguarded valuables, not when they are in the company of looters. And there will always be a first looter to kick things off.

    • keranih says:

      Ah! I remember reading this when it was first published. And the end parts with the alien contact were as unappealing now as they were then.

      As Deiseach said, it’s a story of having ones perspective change and eventually embracing the temptations of novelty – only with all the upsides. Quite a progressive perspective.

      (I wonder if the author of this story read Appleseed, or was familiar with the Japanese shift towards mechanical assist machines. The most real part of the story, to me, was the old woman with the snow drift, the ugly loud machine, and the unknown and feared pill in her hand.)

      I am a bit put off by the man = tech /woman = nature characterization. (Did this 25 year old woman not have a job, or did I miss that?) The protagonist is fearful, hesitant, and a follower throughout the story, as well, and that was likewise unappealing. As the story went on, the protagonist became more and more bland, less and less interesting, even as the story would have made me think that she was transforming into some wise “elemental” being.

      None of her choices are wrong, in no place was her caution either excessive nor inadequate. Her specialness makes humanity unique and wonderful.

      (Oh, and we go from ‘three small children and two big dogs’ to twenty(?) years later, the kids have moved away and the dogs die? What, were they doing life extension treatments on canines first? And decades later she manages to reconstruct that dog’s genetic profile, clone it, and *still* she expects to get a carbon copy of the original dog?)

      (And just how much did those anti-snow-blower pills cost? No mention of the economics? (Yes, they talk about costs of other items later, but only skim over it.))

      To me, the disconnect between replicating the mountain, replicating the dog, and replicating Jack (or, even, saving the mamoset vs the mountain) bugs me the most. Granted, the text tells us that she’s not that introspective, but she gives rather little thought to any of this.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      A couple of meta-comments. First, I’ve updated the list of stories to be discussion in the near future. The first story I selected was the fairly recent “Crystal Nights”, but every story we have discussed after that has been a classic, and I’m starting to run low on classics. Going forward, I think I’ll take a leaf out of C.S. Lewis’s “On the Reading of Old Books” and select an alternating sequence of new stories and old stories, at least until I run out of one or the other.

      Second, I’m gonna need a Second for this thing who can post the discussion comment in the Open Thread if I’m not around. Technically, anybody can do this, but nobody did it in OT37 until I got around to it, so it looks like I’m gonna have to single someone out in order to avoid diffusion of responsibility. The Second will also be the obvious Schelling Point to continue selecting new stories if something happens to me long-term (I get hit by a truck, I enter a fugue state, I decide to quit the internet, etc…). I’m thinking Deiseach, who is a well-known regular, has participated admirably in the discussions so far, and seems fairly knowledgeable of skiffy. Yo, D, you up?

      • Deiseach says:

        Although appreciative of the honour of the nomination, I must decline. Nolo episcopari! 🙂

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        I would volunteer for the task, but I typically don’t get to these threads until some days after they are posted, at which point the commentariat has largely moved on.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        Welp, I guess I’ll keep looking. In the meantime, I’d like to remind everyone who enjoys these discussions that anyone can make the story of week post; just look at the list to see which story is up for discussion and which story is to be discussed the following week, as well as the relevant story links.

    • When I read the story a while ago, what struck me was the way the author dodged the hard question of what a society of considerably transhumanized people would be like by making the main character a solitary person.

  2. Jacobian says:

    Remember when we all learned how to use 23andMe irresponsibly? Well they’ve started giving out a few reports that we can use responsibly, and also if you know anyone who is already registered they can get you a kit for just $149+shipping in the next few days after which the price probably goes back up to $199.

    If anyone here got the new reports, what do you think of them? Are they trustworthy or am I better off just going back to browsing SNPedia links?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      The new reports are boring. They’re mainly about whether you’re a carrier for a homozygous disease, not relevant to your own health. Totally trustworthy, though. There’s also stuff like how fast you metabolize caffeine, that I haven’t looked into. It sounds like stuff that should be better discovered by self-experimentation — you already know what coffee does to yourself.

      The old reports were exciting, but they were not useful. I doubt that they were accurate, but even if they were, the effect sizes were too small to have any consequence. That’s what you’ll get by browsing SNPedia, except that there will be even less quality control.

      • I’m one of the lucky people to have signed up before the FDA imbroglio and did some research on my own into my ‘immune to noroviruses’ superpower. The description 23andme gave was actually very good and perfectly accurate. It didn’t mention a variety of small studies showing possible other effects of being a FUT2 non-secreter but those are very speculative and I think it would have been irresponsible to bring them up.

        Of course that’s a association they give four stars of confidence to. The one star associations are very speculative indeed up they did a good job of conveying that.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          A binary effect like immune/not immune is much more likely to have practical effects, unlike most of their reports with a relative risk of 1.2. And a binary effect is much more likely to be accurately measured. Being immune sounds useful. Knowing that you are immune, however, is unlikely to change your actions and thus unlikely do be useful. Did it change your actions? Do you nurse your friends when they get it?

  3. Jacobian says:

    Question for the people involved in effective altruism: I did a bit of research showing that providing people in developing countries with access to water is way cheap, and someone immediately commented that this will only lead to everyone having a ton of kids who will be worse off. While that comment was kinda obnoxious, I wonder if there’s any discussion in EA about the danger of 3rd world health interventions (like all the Givewell stuff) being harmful in the long term because Malthus. Any thoughts?

    • Vanzetti says:

      The same argument can be used against giving people in DEVELOPED countries access to water.

      • NN says:

        Developed countries tend to have replacement or below fertility rates for reasons that have nothing to do with access to clean drinking water.

        • name says:

          What about the argument that knowing your children will survive to adulthood leads to birthing less? That certainly has to do with access to water.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            That makes intuitive sense, so a lot of people claim that it is the cause of the demographic transition, but it doesn’t actually fit the data.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            That makes intuitive sense, so a lot of people claim that it is the cause of the demographic transition, but it doesn’t actually fit the data.

            Agreed. Groups like the Amish and the Haredi don’t have less children just because they have access to a level of medicine and sanitation that all but ensures those children will survive to adulthood; they just end up with lots and lots of adult children. This strongly suggests that something else which causes the demographic transition and that the lifestyle of these groups somehow manages to avoid it.

          • onyomi says:

            The biggest correlation to my mind is the entry of women to the workforce. Places where women work people have fewer children.

          • keranih says:

            @ onyomi

            How are you defining ‘work’ and ‘workforce’?

          • onyomi says:

            Do you really not know what I mean?

          • vV_Vv says:

            @onyomi:

            I think that keranih’s question is appropriate.

            In Malthusian societies living at the edge of subsistence women most certainly work, in the sense of spending their time performing laborious activities conductive to the subsistence of their household, although this may not be work in the usual modern sense of production of goods and services to be traded (directly by the worker or by an employer in exchange of a salary).

          • onyomi says:

            My point is, I’m pretty sure Keranih knows that’s not what I mean and knows that I know that women in third-world countries do a lot of labor, even though they don’t usually have careers which take them away from their families for 40+ hours per week, so what’s the point in asking the question? To make sure I know that third-world women aren’t just sitting on the sofa watching Lifetime?

          • keranih says:

            No, seriously, I was asking what you meant by “women who work” and how much they had to be “in the workforce” in order to have a reduction on birthrate.

            I am quite comfortable supposing that you know that third world women don’t sit about watching novellas all day – what I don’t know is how we explain the differences in birth rates between upper class women who sit around discussing art and concerts all day and lower class women who are unemployed and on the government dole.

          • NN says:

            The biggest correlation to my mind is the entry of women to the workforce. Places where women work people have fewer children.

            Iran has a slightly sub-replacement fertility rate (1.92 births per woman) despite the fact that only about 16% of Iranian women work outside the home. By comparison, 57% of Bangladesh women work outside the home, and Bangladesh has a fertility rate of 2.21 births per woman. So I don’t think that the entry of women into the workforce is the primary driver of fertility rate trends.

          • onyomi says:

            Okay, well like I said, I meant the kind of society in which it is common for women to have jobs which take them away from the home for 30-40+ hours a week. I do think there can be a society-wide trend: if you live in a society where most women don’t have time to raise a lot of kids, then you may follow suit even if you do have time, simply because that’s what most people in your society do.

            I also wonder if there isn’t a reverse signalling at play: in more developed countries, high birth rates are usually associated with the poor and the irresponsible. This may lead to wealthy people, who can afford to have lots and lots of kids–and afford the nannies to raise them if they want to work–nevertheless choosing not to because large family tends to signal “poor and/or irresponsible.”

            Interestingly, the double whammy seems to occur when you have a more patriarchal society in which it is nonetheless okay for unmarried women to have careers: namely Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea. All these places have well below replacement birth rates even though they are socially more patriarchal than the US or Europe–that is, there is a stronger expectation that when women do get married, they will stay home and take care of children.

            The result is that women simply put off marriage and children as long as possible because they don’t want to be forced into the traditional gender roles which, for some reason, don’t seem to apply nearly so strongly until you’re married.

            This may also explain Iran: though I don’t know much about Iranian society, my impression is that it is pretty liberal and economically advanced as Muslim theocracies go, which would lead me to expect it to follow the pattern of Japan and South Korea: women are free until they get married, but not after, so they put off marriage and children as long as possible.

            US women seem instead to try to “have it all,” which is preferable to the East Asian situation, if not ideal, and which seems to result in a slightly higher than replacement rate.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I thought it was both children surviving to adulthood and economic security together which were negatively correlated with birth rate/population growth?

            The theory is that kids are the old fashioned version of social security.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ onyami, keranih

            Maybe two terms would be useful: ‘career woman work’ vs ‘work you do in hut and field with a baby in arms, and a 5-yr-old is really helpful’ (for short, “One mouth two hands”).

          • onyomi says:

            “Maybe two terms would be useful…”

            Another term is not necessary, because I’m pretty sure everyone knew what I was talking about when I mentioned women “entering the workforce.”

            I did mistake Keranih’s initial comment for nitpicking, but he was just asking for more details about my theorized causation.

          • keranih says:

            OTOH, I’m pretty sure that the work patterns of women are sufficiently complex historically and globally, and sufficiently complicated by other cultural and technological effects, that yes, we really do need to carefully define what we mean by the phrase “enter into the workforce.”

            How much of the explanation, for example, is that the society has taken on Western capitalism and nuclear family formation?

          • Just a guess based on a few conversations with people from Iran/who’ve traveled there, but I bet Iranians overall–including Iranian women–have more years of education than Bangladeshi women, even if that education doesn’t translate into paid employment.

            More education=>later marriage=>fewer children.

    • Bryan Hann says:

      Obnoxious in what way, and why? (I assume the comment was written rather than spoken.)

      • Jacobian says:

        You can click to see it if you’re very curious, I’m afraid that my reply also isn’t a model of charity 🙂

        I thought it wasn’t very kind (to either Africans or EA), and it wasn’t totally necessary, but charity mostly compels me to wonder whether it’s true or not.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I don’t know about water, but people bring this up all the time about malaria.

      If people are in a malthusian situation, something has to keep the population in check. And that thing is somewhere on the continuum from abrupt to steady. Moving it on the continuum can be a big deal. It is better to die from occasional acute famine than to live in a population limited by chronic malnutrition. In a malthusian situation, you should worry less about mortality and more about morbidity. Malaria is definitely on the steady side, so eliminating it is definitely good, even in a malthusian situation. Also, malaria probably reduces intelligence, so prolongs the malthusian trap.

      But I don’t know how water keeps population in check. Probably acute droughts lead to acute famines. How improved water supply would affect the frequency and severity of droughts in equilibrium, I do not know. But if you’re only about quality, not quantity, you’re talking about disease and morbidity and I think it’s a pretty clear win.

    • Daniel Speyer says:

      If the 3rd world really is in a malthusean trap, the obvious solution is to distribute and evangelize contraceptives. Givewell has reviewed Population Services International, with mixed results, but Givewell has very high standards.

      • eponymous says:

        >distribute and evangelize contraceptives

        How much of high 3rd world birthrates are due to lack of access to or knowledge about contraceptives, rather than cultural and economic factors that make people want to have kids?

        My own suspicion is that it’s primarily the latter, and the best solution is just overall economic development, with particular emphasis on education and opportunities for women.

        • Deiseach says:

          You don’t think that there might be some suspicion on the part of local populations about a group of wealthy white people coming in saying “We don’t want you to have any more kids (because we think there are already too many of you), so here you go – free condoms!”

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Deiseach

            So some people use them and some people don’t. Some people are suspicious of vaccines from Western countries. Some are probably suspicious of malaria nets.

            I suspect there are some women who are tired of having a baby every year when they’ve got six already. If one of those women wants to skip a year, I doubt she will be too upset about the motives of the Westerners who offer the Pill, as long as it works.

            Edit: I think that’s not what Daniel meant by ‘evangelize’, you know.

          • Nicholas says:

            The long running meme is that the contraceptives are poision and the people distributing them are white supremists.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ eponymous
          “How much of high 3rd world birthrates are due to lack of access to or knowledge about contraceptives, rather than cultural and economic factors that make people want to have kids?”

          Doesn’t cost much to find out, ie offer some free contraceptives and let people know about them. Even with the US cultural and economic factors, there are still unwanted pregnancies because of problems getting contraceptives.

          • keranih says:

            Even with the US cultural and economic factors, there are still unwanted pregnancies because of problems getting contraceptives.

            You have a cite for this? Last I checked, the reasons given for not using birth control pretty much excluded “can’t get it/too expensive” as a cause of any significance.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ keranih
            Last I checked, the reasons given for not using birth control pretty much excluded “can’t get it/too expensive” as a cause of any significance.

            Where did you check?

            There might be an equivocation factor, if condoms and other non-prescription items are included under ‘birth control’.
            In that case, ‘My boyfriend didn’t want to use a condom (or didn’t give me time to use icky stuff)’ might be a cause to list.

          • keranih says:

            Link here. You’re looking for Table 5.

            As a self-reported survey, it of course has limitations. (Condoms were reported as being “too expensive” by a like fraction of the surveyed women as reported the contraceptive patch as being too expensive.) And more reported failures (ie, pregnancy) due to the pill than due to condoms.)

            In that case, ‘My boyfriend didn’t want to use a condom (or didn’t give me time to use icky stuff)’ might be a cause to list.

            Might be. But as previously discussed, the reasons people (in the USA) become pregnant aren’t because they can’t get or use contraception.

            It will be very interesting to redo the survey in another year or two, after the ACA has lowered those last “barriers” and see what shifts, if any, in contraception use, pregnancy, and abortion have occurred.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Keranih

            From Table 5 at your link (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr062.pdf)

            Women who discontinued using the method due to dissatisfaction

            $ – 3.4 .. Too expensive
            $ – 2.6..Insurance did not cover it
            10.0..Too difficult to use
            0.4..Too messy
            1.2..Your partner did not like it
            M – 62.9..You had side effects
            M – 11.8..You were worried you might have side effects
            2.6..You worried the method would not work
            M – 11.3..The method failed, you became pregnant
            1.8..The method did not protect against disease
            M – 5.7..Doctor told you not to use the method again
            M – 5.1..Decreased your sexual pleasure
            2.4..Too difficult to obtain
            M – 11.5..Did not like changes to menstrual cycle
            10.9..Other

            I added two flags:
            $ – expense
            M – medical reasons

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Decreased sexual pleasure is a medical reason?

          • DrBeat says:

            Why wouldn’t it be? It’s a biological thing that the treatment messes up.

            If it made your toes shake uncontrollably, that would be a medical reason. If it made you unable to taste foods, that would be a medical reason. How is this so categorically different?

          • keranih says:

            @ houseboatonstyx

            I have lost the point you were trying to make. You seem to be highlighting basic problems with the nature of contracetives, not “problems obtaining contraceptives which can be fixed by handing them out for free”.

            What are you trying to say?

          • TrivialGravitas says:

            I don’t think first world data is particularly relevant to third world birthrates.

        • At only a slight tangent …

          Back when people were arguing for (and against) legalized abortion, one of the main arguments for was that it would eliminate unwanted children. The assumption, explicit or implicit, was that most births to unmarried mothers were unwanted, due to contraceptive failure or non-use.

          Abortion was legalized, contraception improved and made more available–and the percentage of births to unmarried mothers went sharply up, not down. One obvious conclusion is that most of those children were not unwanted–that unmarried women mostly got pregnant because they wanted to be.

          At a further tangent … . The rhythm method is pretty good if your objective is to have four children instead of six.

          For a longer discussion of both points, see:

          http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2015/04/the-rhythm-method-and-population-growth.html

          • My experience talking to unmarried mothers in moms’ forums is that they didn’t want children, they just didn’t not want children enough to bother using contraception. Once a woman gets pregnant, various hormones tend to kick in that make her feel warm fuzzy feelings toward the fetus even if it was an “oopsie”.

            I say “tend to,” because I’ve also talked to moms who really didn’t care that much about their oops babies and thought it was probably for the best when CPS took them away.

        • stubydoo says:

          Of course the issue has been studied plenty, and there’s hardly a consensus, but there’s some pretty promising evidence that the key to decreasing third world fertility is more female education (not education specifically about how to avoid pregnancy – education in general).

          I’m inclined the hold out more hope on that front than on contraceptives availability, so accordingly that might be a more promising charity idea for those who’re looking for the escape from Malthus (if possibly a bit harder to pinpoint).

          • Anthony says:

            “the prospect of owning a motorcar is a sufficient bribe to sterilize most people” – C. G. Darwin

            (I first read it in a book by Bertrand Russell, but googling the quote leads to Darwin petit-fils instead of Lord Russell.)

        • Sometimes people just really like kids and enjoy having them regardless of female education levels. This is a partial explanation for increased female education not corresponding with a rapid crash in birth rates in (a few) parts of the Third World.

          • onyomi says:

            Maybe people in the first world aren’t bored enough to want a bunch of kids?

          • Cadie says:

            In the first world, having children is a huge burden, financially and materially, which doesn’t apply as much in places where there’s a more robust extended family structure and having two adults working away from home is less necessary for survival. It’s also a bit more difficult in the first world to become a two-adult home in the first place, though plenty of people manage so this is probably a minor factor.

            The groups who do have large families – the Amish, the Quiverfulls, some Catholics, some Jews – have cultural values that mitigate or eliminate the problem of being unable to afford child care and unable to have one partner quit working outside the home. Everyone else is going to have difficulty unless they’re particularly wealthy, and this is most marked in places where child care is the most expensive with little assistance for it available (like the USA). Day care for one child can easily run over $1000 a month. More than one and often it’s actually cheaper to hire a live-in nanny, and having a full-time personal domestic worker is not something most families can afford either (especially since this requires a larger house, the nanny will use the same kitchen/etc and possibly the bathrooms but will need their own bedroom, increasing the minimum bedroom count by 1; there’s a big gap in price between 3br and 4br houses, and 4br and 5br, all else being close to equal.) Then consider the extremely high expectations in the first world – to live in the area with the best education that you can possibly afford, cell phones and other gadgets, lavish holiday celebrations, kids enrolled in sports or other programs…

            So having children, or having more children, imposes a giant extra burden on first world families that doesn’t apply the same way in much of the third world. A lot of women want more children than they have, or want to have some when they don’t, but it’s just not affordable without a severe downgrade in lifestyle. Some aren’t willing to do that, some are but their partners aren’t, some can’t because the downgrade would require living in cramped, unsafe housing or going without some necessities even after dropping the extras.

    • keranih says:

      this will only lead to everyone having a ton of kids who will be worse off.

      “All” and “everyone” arguments tend to be weak, if not immediately refutable. But the point made is a valid one – and has been shown to hold in various other populations. Reduce the disease and mortality of a population (such as: by feeding and vaccinating a colony of outdoor cats) and the population will rise.

      Where I think the breakdown in reasoning occurs is at the definition of “worse off” – the children who do not die from childhood diarrhea will grow up, yes, and perhaps be hungrier at some points along the way. Is a life of intermittent hunger worse than being dead? Is it worse (for the parents) for their children to be occasionally hungry or for their children to be dead?

      As the comments about the Amish suggest, there is more to the having of children than just cold calculations about wealth and replacement rates.

      • Relativist says:

        I agree – “worse off” is very relative. Evolutionarily, people’s natural objective is much more about having surviving AND reproducing offspring than high (unnaturally, irrationally, narcissistically, excessively, decadently high?) standard of life for themselves or said offspring.
        WEIRD societies seem to be the sufferers of this pathology and the outliers in our obsessive pursuit of a PARTICULAR brand of high standard of life. Who’s to say that the much more vivid but also brutish and risky life is not the exalted ideal for a fair bit of the third world population? There is an evolutionarily maladaptive high price for “modern” life that is often not appreciated ….
        If there is a Malthusian Trap, there also must be a High Standard Blind Alley …..

        • keranih says:

          WEIRD societies seem to be the sufferers of this pathology and the outliers in our obsessive pursuit of a PARTICULAR brand of high standard of life. Who’s to say that the much more vivid but also brutish and risky life is not the exalted ideal for a fair bit of the third world population?

          I agree nearly 100% – with the caveat that I really really prefer that individual adults be able to choose their own version of happiness to pursue. I am uncomfortable telling people that they have to have my preferences for comfort vs deprivation.

          (Which hasn’t stopped me from giving my opinion, but I hope to draw the line at dictating the actions of others.)

    • Deiseach says:

      That’s part of what I’m banging on about re: the EA craze for malaria nets. One single huge intervention on its own may not do as much good as hoped. Once you’ve saved the lives of those thirty-seven children, then what? Leave them to a future of poverty, other diseases (there’s a lot of things you can get from bad water) and lack of opportunity?

      Once again, I am not saying “Malaria nets are a bad idea”. I am saying “You need some joined-up thinking about intervention” which, I submit, traditional charities are engaging in because they have a history; they’ve already made their mistakes and – it is to be hoped – are learning from them. Where EA falls down as a movement is that it’s a little too confident it has re-invented the wheel and is so much smarter than the other bears, it doesn’t need to learn anything from them (those old dinosaurs that operate on appeals to emotion and evoking warm fuzzies in donors, not reason-based evaluation of biggest bang for buck).

      One quick, simple, technological solution is very tempting to fall for, and indeed in the instance of malaria there may well be one quick, simple, technological solution (or not, depending on insecticide resistance in mosquitoes and replacement of one species by another due to several factors). But once you’ve cracked malaria, if you are basing your ethical and effective altruism on “saving the lives of thirty-seven children”, then you have to think about what comes next.

      Which is why I’m saying not to fall into the trap of (a) giving to malaria nets because everyone says they’re the most life-saving thing (b) using GiveWell recommendations as a substitution for investigating what is needed (c) combining (a) and (b) and only giving to malaria net charities until GiveWell changes its mind about what is now its #1 recommendation.

      Malaria nets may be sexy re: QALYs but it’s not much good being malaria-free if you then contract amoebic dysentery from contaminated water sources*. Education, employment training, sustainable farming practices – all these are good, too. And indeed, since malaria is a water-related disease, eliminating it is going to be a combination of techniques and interventions, not one simple “give everyone a treated net!” solution.

      *I didn’t drink “town” water – that is, treated water supplied through a pipe network – until I was fifteen and my family moved into town. I was damn lucky because Ireland doesn’t have the same range of water-borne diseases as tropical countries, so I didn’t end up with any horrible disease (or at least I don’t think I did) but we drank untreated, unboiled water from pumps, cisterns and springs – there’s a pecking order in where you get your water, and the lowest rung on the ladder is getting drinking water straight from the river. In my twenties I was amused by the council stoppering pumps and standpipes on the grounds that the water was unsafe to drink, as this was precisely the water everyone had been drinking for years.

      • Ariel Ben-Yehuda says:

        We would *like* to get to a stage where we have other things to think about other than malaria, but as currently malaria is not yet a solved problem, solving it in more places will lead to more good to a greater number than other courses of action.

        As, despite of their poverty, African families seem to be quite happy in their part, making their life less crappy in some way will just make them better.

        If EA had a few billion dollars to play around with, it may be worth it to try and develop infrastructure in some places (I don’t know – I hadn’t run the numbers), but currently we barely have enough to make a small dent in the malaria problem, so dreaming that we have billions of dollars will not help.

        • Notusuallysoanonymous says:

          My father has made maybe $200 million in his career and has given something like $160 million in charity and taxes, and won’t consider EA. Vexing. Great for his alma maters endowment, though

      • Tracy W says:

        Leave them to a future of poverty, other diseases (there’s a lot of things you can get from bad water) and lack of opportunity?

        What are we left with in the West? A future of growing old, other diseases (there’s a lot of things clean drinking water can’t fix) and lack of opportunity?

        People in Africa seem to enjoy their lives, on the whole. Utility may rise with income but that doesn’t mean that utility is negative at median African levels. And we are all going to die one day, maybe painfully, maybe a long dragged out process. Doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy life before then.

      • Nathan says:

        This is part of why I tend to prefer just giving people money and letting them figure out for themselves how to translate that into life improvement.

        • Cadie says:

          This is a good thing, though part of the appeal of things like malaria nets is that when they’re given out in bulk, it’s cheaper per unit than if people had some money and bought them individually. If (I’m just pulling these numbers out of thin air for illustration) it cost $10 USD for a family to buy a net, but $5 USD each if they were purchased in large amounts by a charity and distributed, then twice as many people can be helped in this way for the same cost. So it’s a matter of balancing “people allocating their money in the way that is best for them” and “maximizing the value of limited funds.” I don’t know what the right answer is or if there even is a right answer. It’s that there are two important considerations here that conflict and optimizing for one means less of the other.

    • ThrustVectoring says:

      So we deal with the problem of giving them clean water as well as the knock-on effect of population growth that that causes. Basically, it turns a cheap problem into a slightly more expensive problem.

      I’m not sure what the big deal is. It’s an argument that solving “access to clean water” is more expensive than you thought it’d be. Without numbers attached it’s basically really shitty fearmongering.

    • Adam Casey says:

      Malthus is basically universally wrong. Others have discussed this far better than I but tldr:

      1) We’re really good at growing economies faster than population. Even in Africa that happens (though it often takes external intervention), as the rule rather than the exception.

      2) Better healthcare tends to result in the demographic transition rather than a simple growth in population.

      3) The limiting factor in developing countries isn’t resources, it’s crappy government. So an increased population doesn’t actually make the problems much worse.

    • Wait, wait, aren’t birth rates falling pretty much globally across the board? For example, see http://www.valuewalk.com/2013/09/fertility-rate-africa/

      The rapidly slowing rate of childbearing will have global population peak in the early 2030s at a level in the lower 8 billions, unless there is some further change to attitudes on children that makes people have more or even fewer kids.

      I’m guessing the long-term fall in childbearing would be countered only weakly, if at all, by specific policy-driven improvements to health. And indeed, overall health is also improving worldwide, while birth rates are declining.

      • Linch says:

        Yeah…I never really understood the Malthusian appeal when reality so clearly disagrees.

        • Malthus himself had a clever and persuasive argument, although it’s implication turned out to be false. It wasn’t that the world was going to hell because of overpopulation, although that’s what a lot of people imagine it to be.

          His argument was that the standard of living of the mass of the population could never become and remain high enough so that bringing up children was not a substantial sacrifice. He was responding to Godwin and Condorcet, who had offered a utopian vision of the future. Malthus argued that people like sex, that if they engage in as much sex as they would like the population will expand geometrically at something close to the biological maximum, and although technological and economic progress might keep up with that for a while, eventually the exponential growth of population will exceed the arithmetic growth of output, driving real incomes back down to a level at which people have a strong incentive to refrain from sex in order not to have to bear the costs of bringing up more children.

          He had the bad fortune to make this elegant argument just before the beginning of (I think) the first period in history when real incomes rose substantially over a very long period.

          • Linch says:

            Yes, I should have clarified. Before the Industrial Revolution, it makes sense ex ante why people might believe in Malthus’ arguments, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense ex post.

            This reminds me, Gary Becker came to my college once and he mentioned that there was a famous economist who decried the end of a wage premium of higher education (this was right before the returns to higher education started to boom in the 1980s). I can’t remember the name of said economist. :/ Do you by any chance know?

          • I’m afraid I don’t. Stigler perhaps?

          • John Schilling says:

            He had the bad fortune to make this elegant argument just before the beginning of (I think) the first period in history when real incomes rose substantially over a very long period.

            Assuming continued population growth, there will eventually come a time when all resources within the human sphere of influence are converted to food/clothing/shelter at perfect efficiency, or asymptotically close to it. At that point, the human sphere of influence will grow linearly or perhaps geometrically, whereas population growth is exponential. Malthus was right in the past, and barring extinction or perfect stasis will be right in the end. As you say, bad timing.

            As for when this will be, at the current growth rate the human population will be roughly one hundred billion as far in the future as Malthus’s writings are in the past. Thirty quintillion (3E19) as far into the future as our nominal “year zero” is in the past, and better than an undecillion (1E36) as far in the future as the dawn of recorded history is in the past.

            We could accommodate the latter, barely, with a Dyson Shell around every star in the Virgo Supercluster. Which would buy us another 1500 years, maybe, before the universe is filled with humanity.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The easiest disproof of Malthus is to run it backwards.

            If population goes geometric and food production linearly, and they are perfectly aligned right now, why in the world were people overproducing food 50 years ago, and even more so 100 years ago?

          • John Schilling says:

            If population goes geometric and food production linearly, and they are perfectly aligned right now

            Wait, who said they are “perfectly aligned right now”? We are now, and were fifty and a hundred years ago, in one of the historically narrow windows when Malthus does not immediately apply. I don’t think anyone seriously disagrees with this, only with when that window can be expected to end.

          • @Edward Scissorhands:

            Malthus didn’t say that population goes geometric. He said it would go geometric in a world where most people were well enough off so that having children was not a significant cost to them. That doesn’t describe the world of the past fifty or a hundred years. It does describe the world that Godwin and Condorcet, who he was arguing with, projected.

            One problem with his argument, corrected in Ricardo’s version, was that he didn’t allow for the possibility that the mass of the population would substantially increase what they regarded as an acceptable standard of living, with the result that even if real incomes doubled, having children would still be a sacrifice. Another problem—I haven’t read enough Malthus to be sure of the reason for it—is that he didn’t allow for non-reproductive sex. Even the rhythm method is probably good enough to hold population growth to close to zero if people want to, at least prior to modern medicine. Add in interruptus, oral sex, etc. and his elegant argument becomes considerably less convincing, even without modern birth control technology.

        • Notusuallysoanonymous says:

          Except, you know, all the places that are already in the Malthusian trap and are just being bailed out by other places that arent

  4. Jiro says:

    What is a good dedicated MP3 player to get, now that phones have made them rare? It should have good battery life, be small (but have some sort of display that shows album art), and have at least 32G storage. It should also not be a high priced scam.

    Note: One common answer is “get a cheap phone and only use it as a MP3 player”. This tends to fail because
    — cheap phones tend to have horrible battery life
    — cheap phones tend to be too large
    — cheap phones often have odd limitations (I ran into one which would not do *anything*, not even non-phone functions, unless activated as a phone)
    — It is generally impossible to find enough information about a particular model of cheap phone to make an informed decision about whether I want to buy it for use as a MP3 player
    — lots of phones have no SD slot and little onboard storage

  5. Douglas Knight says:

    Why is February so short?

    I think it’s because winter is shorter than summer.

    Of course, the reason February is so short is that Julius chose it to be so, probably because it was a Roman month of penance. It was easy for him to move days between January and February. But people often say that he stole a day from February to give to his month July. Such a move is not really on the table. If he wanted the winter solstice to be on 21 December and the spring equinox to be 21 March, then he had to make December+January+February be 90 days, less than 1/4 of the year. Similarly September+October+November had to be 91 days, because that’s the length of Autumn, while Spring is March+April+May=92 days and Summer is June+July+August=92 days.

    (I ignore the fact that the solstices and equinoxes are not always on the 21st. The imbalance between the seasons is even bigger.)

    Julius couldn’t get the solstices and equinoxes to fall on the same days of the month just by luck. It must be intentional. And the ancient Greeks did know the lengths of the seasons.

    Specifically, Callippus measured them and I learned about this by reading about him, but I could have figured it out several other ways. I had always heard that the Earth was closer to the Sun in the winter than the summer, from which it follows that winter is shorter than summer, but it never occurred to me that it was an appreciable amount. I probably heard that the Earth was 1% closer, which didn’t sound like much, but 1% of 365 is several days. I could have learned about the lengths of the seasons just from looking at a calendar, from thinking about the brevity of February, but I never did.

    • marc says:

      By summer I assume you mean northern hemisphere summer

    • Evan Þ says:

      Nitpick: The 25th, not the 21st. The equinoxes and solstices are on the 21st now because the Julian calendar has three too many leap days every four hundred years, and Pope Gregory only corrected the discrepancy back to the time of the Council of Nicaea.

      • Right! And in England, until 1752 when the Gregorian calendar was adopted, the year started on March 25.

        Yes, strange as it may seem, a day like March 24, 1731 would be immediately followed by March 25, 1732. The start of the year was moved to January in 1752.

        Of course, in Catholic countries, and in Scotland, the New Year’s move to the beginning of January had already been done more than a century earlier, so there was some awareness that the English system was a little screwy. Hence, dates from January 1 to March 24 would sometimes be written to express both years, in the form: February 11, 1731/2.

        When George Washington was born in Virginia (a colony of England), the English date was February 11, 1731 (or 1731/2). For biographical purposes, his birth date was later retroactively “changed” to the Gregorian date, February 22, 1732.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Thanks! I was wondering about that.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Actually, I think Julius was incorrect about the dates of the solstices and equinoxes. But if we want to know what he was trying to do, we need to know whether he thought he put them on the same date of the months. According to this he put them at 25 December, 25 March, 24 June, and 24 September. Except that Romans didn’t use dates like 25 December. They used negative dates. They were all on the same date of each month, -8. Why -8? That doesn’t sound like a round number (nor does +21 nor +25). Maybe because it was a week before the first of the month? Back on the lunar calendar he was replacing, the first of the month was a new moon, so -8 was a half moon, so maybe an important day, like the ides and nones. But that seems like a lousy reason in his solar calendar.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Forgetting Julius and going back to Callippus, one point I find interesting is that it demonstrates that the earth-sun orbit (or something) is not uniform circular motion. Another observation is that size of the sun or moon changes. It is hard to measure their sizes, let alone their changes, but it is very easy to observe that sometimes one is larger, sometimes the other. Specifically, there exist both total eclipses, demonstrating that the moon is larger than the sun, and annular eclipses, demonstrating the opposite.

    • Mary says:

      February was the ghosts’ months. You don’t want to offend the ghosts, do you? They’re trouble enough as is.

    • hawkice says:

      My understanding was that the year ended in mid-March back then, so February was sized smaller because the year didn’t have quite enough days. So perhaps it’s not why-is-February-small so much as why are the other months slightly bigger?

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Even if February were the last month and had to take whatever days were leftover, there is still the mystery of all the other decisions that left 28 days.

        One story says that the original calendar had the 10 months starting with March ending with December (hence the numeric name) and the days of winter didn’t have moons. There’s a second legendary calendar that made January and February both special in having 28 days. But by the immediately pre-Julian period January was an ordinary month with 29 days.

        The pre-Julian calendar was only 355 days, so February wasn’t everything left over. Julius chose to lengthen most of the months, even special January. If the calendar were simple, say, alternating 30 and 31, then the answer would be that February is what’s left over. But the choices of which months are 30 and 31 is complicated.

        I suppose you could say that he (1) chose not to touch February; (2) promoted all 29s to 30s; and (3) had a few extra days to promote 30s to 31s, so all his freedom was choosing August, December, and January. In fact, subject to those rules, promoting December and January was the way to maximize the length of winter, opposite to my claim that he was trying to minimize the length of winter.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I’ve changed my mind. Julius couldn’t get the solstices and equinoxes to all fall on the same day by luck. But he got them wrong, so there’s nothing to explain. He probably just didn’t care. He put the true winter solstice on -8 January and probably just defined the other observed solstices and equinoxes to be on the -8th for symmetry. It’s probably just a coincidence that he made winter a little short (not even short enough). Maybe it’s short because he ran out of days, as Hawkice says. Probably he didn’t want to touch it because it was special. Maybe he even made December and January long to try to lengthen winter, exactly opposite to my original theory.

  6. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    In “Sexual Principles”, Free Northerner makes a great point; careerism and late marriage is fundamentally incompatible with sexual abstinence. The bottom line is that young adults are going to have sex, period. The traditional solution to this problem is early marriage, while progressives don’t consider fornication to be a problem in the first place. Mainstream conservatives, however, buy into the progressive frame that careers are of paramount importance and that young adults are not ready for marriage, so they try to have their cake and eat it too by pushing abstinence and purity. But this usually doesn’t work, and to the extent that it does work it is a cruel and unnatural solution.

    • Anonymous says:

      One theoretical alternative would be for women to marry young, have children in their 20s, then start a high flying career in their early 30s.

      • Jacobian says:

        And then once the kids grow up and the career is secure they should switch to a wild, swinging, orgiastic open marriage in their 40s to make up for lost sex!

      • Calvin says:

        This is what we did. Now we are poor because one income, and the wife is having to fight both ageism AND sexism at work.

        A lot of the ageism is institutional too. Think things like “30 innovators under 30.” No room there for moms who took time off.

      • Calico Eyes says:

        One of course, can very easily start a high flying career after showing off ones capabilities with a 10 YO, an 8 YO, and a 5 YO after less comparative work experience in a job setting where corporations shy away from relevent standardized testing and view previous work experience as a marshmellow/authority-deference test (with some validity, annoyingly), with undue praise of 60 HR work weeks…..that one can’t do due to the three young ones at home….and one would likely end up too worried about to want to consistently work long hours even in dream job settings.

      • I have often thought the same thing. It does seem like the best of both worlds, since you get the period of the woman’s highest fertility and kids with their mother at home, but you still have a few decades to do something else afterwards.

        Unfortunately, there’s a lot of institutional and cultural inertia against it, as others have pointed out.

        That said, a surprising number of the traditionalist families that I know in America have done something kind of similar, in which the mother transitions to a home business as the kids get older. This isn’t a “high flying career”, but it’s interesting and rewarding for the women, and the income involved can be substantial.

    • A says:

      “Elite young men would usually marry in their mid-twenties, after a year or more of military service and some initial experience attending cases and even pleading in the criminal or civil courts.”

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Men delaying marriage until age X and then marrying women 18 or younger has been really common historically, and seems incompatible with any education system fair to girls.
        Of course it’s not the only traditional pattern. Late pre-modern Hindus tended to marry children to each other when they were barely old enough to not Westermarck on each other and let them grow up to make babies in the groom’s parents’s house.

    • onyomi says:

      I do wonder sometimes what it would be like to live in a society with institutions which made sense, but I suppose it is a tradeoff for modernity: my guess is that the longer a society has experienced little technological and/or demographic change the more adaptive will its institutions grow to their specific circumstances; but who wants to stymie technological progress and/or freedom of movement long enough to allow that?

      Like, maybe the best society for our current demography/level of technological/economic development is one in which young people take 10 years off during their late-teens-early-twenties to pair off and raise young children with the help of their parents before returning to their careers. But by the time that institution develops technology and society may well have changed dramatically once again.

      Maybe the best alternative really is to–like the Amish–live in a reactionary enclave within a technologically advanced society.

      Or maybe I underestimate the degree to which more static premodern societies were also wracked with internal contradictions?

      • Which problem are you trying to solve?

        • onyomi says:

          I’m talking primarily about the mismatch between biology and society/economy. Mismatches like: teenagers want to pair off and start having sex, but the society/economy wants them to be responsible adults in training getting ready for a job rather than raising children and suffering VD.

          Different societies have had different ways of dealing with this and similar problems, and I’m not saying our society has no such coping mechanisms (the response to the letter in the post would be the typical one–teach them to wrap it up), just that they’re not as well developed or congruent with the other demands of society as they probably have been in previous, more static historical societies.

          • keranih says:

            That we’ve denigrated the social role of “raising kids” as only something uneducated (ie, lazy and/or stupid) women do probably doesn’t help.

            I recall (late 1970’s) my father and grandfather speaking of the son of a friend of the family, that he had “finally gotten serious, married, and was acting like an adult” in his midtwenties. That he had a job and graduated college was not an indicator of his adulthood, but his taking on the responsibility of a family was.

            We seem to hold that it is not possible to value both families and advanced education. I am not sure that we have to make this either/or, although I agree that advancing one is easier than trying to optimize both.

          • Anonymous says:

            Maybe this whole bespoke, artisanal movement will help there. From a sort-of whigish point of view, a highly educated, highly intelligent, hard working woman spending decades raising 1-3 kids looks awfully in efficient and un-modern. Why not leverage technology and specialization to have a top talent be responsible for many more children?

            But in the last ten to twenty years society has started pushing back against mass produced goods, finding the hand made ones superior even when they are objectively inferior in some ways (e.g. ugly vegetables that taste better). Of course these things cost more money but apparently that’s a luxury we can afford.

            I guess the status trick is to separate out what the upper middle class and wealthy women are doing from what illiterate poor women are doing and have done for centuries. A rebranding is needed — instead of stay at home mom, what about devopment facilitator?

          • Tom says:

            Isn’t this problem basically solved by contraception? I’m not sure I get it.

          • Its’ likely that everything since prehistoric forager bands has required people to make uncomfortable trade-offs…and that late capitalist societies are closer to the comfortable forager ideal, than earlier historical socieities. (These are standard assumptions in the Hanson sphere).

            Some specifics would be helpful. Society isn’t a great illustration of how the progressive approach works, in particular, because it implement it half heartedly compare to , say, the Scandinavian counties.

      • Adam says:

        It’s funny you identify this as an ideal society when that fairly well describes my family. Two of my sisters took their twenties off to have kids and basically stayed with my parents. I did not, and (so far) my youngest sister has not. Presumably, she and I will end up with more excess income in our 40s and 50s and can easily help out the sisters who had kids, and we all go about, happily doing what each individually prefers, reproducing on average at replacement level as a family.

        It seems to me like the biggest hurdle to doing this society-wide is that people are extremely loathe to help out women who take off their 20s to have kids when they aren’t immediate family.

        • onyomi says:

          Ideal, at least for our current society and level/kind of technological development. I think the ideal is going to be a moving target because society and technology are always changing but biology mostly doesn’t.

          As for there not being enough people around to help the young women with their children, I think this is part of the maladaption of our current society: currently most people don’t have very big families as they did in the past, and, maybe more importantly, are often spread all over the place for jobs. Hence, the likelihood of having a mother or sister or aunt (or uncle) living near you and willing to shoulder some of such burden is less.

          It is interesting, however, that your family intentionally or unintentionally hit upon this solution. If we stayed were we are for a while this might become more and more common, but if there is another huge social/technological/economic shift of some kind we may find ourselves one or more steps behind again.

          • Anonymous says:

            because society and technology are always changing but biology mostly doesn’t.

            Maybe that’s the solution.

    • Tracy W says:

      Latish-marriage is a long-standing Western European thing amongst the middle and lower classes, which were the bulk of the population.

      And of course, the combination of vicioius STDs and lack of antibiotics meant massive social pressures for chastity within marriage.

      • anon says:

        Fidelity within marriage, maybe? Chastity within marriage seems to defeat the purpose of marriage

        • The original Mr. X says:

          No, you’re thinking of abstinence within marriage. Chastity means having the right attitude towards sex, not having no sex. People tend to get confused on that point because it’s usually mentioned in the context of pre-marital sex, when chastity requires abstinence, and not in the context of marriage, when it doesn’t.

        • Deiseach says:

          “Fidelity within marriage” is getting rewritten, anon, as in the case of “Steve and Adam”; now it means “you are my main partner/the person I am committed to” and the sexual encounters outside of marriage are only for fun, immediate sexual attraction to that particular person, or to do the kinky sex my main partner doesn’t enjoy.

          So yes, chastity within marriage has a definite meaning.

      • JDG1980 says:

        Latish-marriage is a long-standing Western European thing amongst the middle and lower classes, which were the bulk of the population.

        I wonder if lack of proper nutrition meant that people in the middle and lower classes in pre-industrial Europe entered puberty later and/or had weaker sex drives than most people today.

        The elites in Europe tended to marry early. In general, the Wikipedia article you cite indicates that marriage was later among people in dire economic straits (e.g. the post-famine Irish), which indicates that people married as soon as they reasonably could. Another possibility is that lower and middle class individuals were having sex outside of wedlock on a fairly regular basis, but engaging in coitus interruptus or other primitive methods of birth control, and backing this up with infanticide when it failed. William L. Langer says that, in the Middle Ages, infanticide by exposure “was practiced on gigantic scale with absolute impunity, noticed by writers with most frigid indifference.” And, of course, unmarriageable young men always had the option of availing themselves of the world’s oldest profession.

        • No, they just worked very hard compared to moderns. If you go to bed super exhausted most of the time, it’s hard to partake even if you really really want to. Puberty was a bit later though, but that’s not such a big factor when you’re marrying at 27 fairly often and first marriages with the bride in her mid30s were not at all uncommon or that rare.

          Anyway, I missed the other comment pointing out that Free Northerner was wrong, but yeah, late marriage has been a thing with Western/Northern Europeans 4eva, even during pagan times and stuff (as far as we can guesstimate).

        • witchwestphalia says:

          I don’t have information for males, but the average age at menarche is now around 12 years old. That’s down from around 14 years around 1900. I have seen a paper saying that an average of 14 years old was true going back to the European medieval period.

          • onyomi says:

            I think eating a meat-heavy diet makes you hit puberty younger and grow bigger in general. For this reason, both hunter-gatherers and moderns are much bigger than subsistence farmers.

            Everybody wants to be tall, it seems, but it does decrease your longevity, and there are some pretty obvious advantages to not being able to get pregnant at 10. Ironically, we may be overnourished for our activity level and society–not just for the obvious reason that obesity-related problems are rampant, but maybe for more subtle reasons like this as well.

          • keranih says:

            Total calories has a bigger impact than protein (and it’s possible, although much more difficult at any economic level, to replace animal protein with plant sources) – but it’s possible to overstate the significance of this. While domestic animals have been bred for early puberty (most notably for cattle, who have a reproductive cycle that matches humans in several interesting but not pertinent ways) the genetic variation among humans doesn’t allow for the close comparisons that would allow us to easily observe the influence of different factors.

            A number of studies support the finding that average age at puberty (*) has consistently varied by geographic location (hence either genetic or lifestyle) and by wealth of the family. There is a 4 to 5 year “normal” variation between related people in the same region and lifestyle. In particular, in the Middle Ages, the average age in Scandinavia was around 16-17, while in France it was 15 years of age.

            (*) menarche is the easiest measured, but it comes fairly late in puberty. Breast development occurs about one year earlier. Development of pubic hair appears to come independently. Male puberty is harder to put specific markers on.

    • anon says:

      Walden II, B.F. Skinner’s book about his ideal society, had a throwaway line or two about how all the women would do most of their childbearing before they were 18, to take advantage of their youthful libidos and to get it out of the way so they could spend their 20s and 30s doing things they found fulfilling. The children would then be raised in communal nurseries (I think Scott mentioned Chesterton having a few words about this) by people who actually found childrearing enjoyable (which implicitly the biological mothers wouldn’t).

      I’m pretty sure there’s at least one Dark Enlightenment guy who unironically advocates that women have children at like 14, although I doubt it’s for the same reasons as Skinner

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        Hm. Speaking of the best bloodlines having the babies, which are immediately raised by lower bloodlines, see Victorian society: ladies and nannies. Even in Kipling, the baby sees his mother once a day to admire her dinner dress, the nanny preventing him from touching it.

    • Free Northerner clearly knows nothing about the entire history of Northern Europeans. Late marriage and female employment (due to being single for long periods of time in adulthood) has been a staple in places like Germany, Scandinavia, Ireland for hundreds and hundreds of years.

      The actual traditional solutions are not early marriage, but female economic power and discrete spheres for males and females.

    • Anonymous says:

      careerism and late marriage is fundamentally incompatible with sexual abstinence. The bottom line is that young adults are going to have sex, period.

      TIL that I don’t exist. Save me Descartes; you’re my only hope!

      • pneumatik says:

        Statistically, you’re unlikely. Certainly over a large population people have never found a way to keep young adults from having sex, but that doesn’t mean every young adult has sex, or even has a noticeable drive to have sex.

      • Anonymous says:

        I now have empirical evidence that there’s two of us.

  7. I really need some sort of centralized note taking/planning system. Any suggestions?

    How does one deal with reason as memetic immunity and keeping one’s identity small making it difficult to relate to others?

    Anyone know a good template for Facebook post for EA?

    What is a reasonable morality that doesn’t involve consciousness?

    • Anonymous says:

      Regarding point two: perhaps form an identity around being reasonable and open minded, relating to others over your shared enjoyment of debate and valuing of intellectual honesty. Or perhaps just get some hobbies where the different teams correspond to opinions, not claims about reality.

      • Hmm, I maybe I should ask more metaquestions or general questions. I’d fine with starting every conversation with “What have you found interesting recently?” or “What do you want to talk about?”.

        • Tracy W says:

          One of my favourite general questions is “did anything really surprise you?” Or “what surprised you the most?” Useful for people who’ve been travelling or the like.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Myself, I tend to go for “What’ve you been reading recently?” It tends to spark interesting discussion, since I’ve found I can talk about books I’d hate to read myself. It’s only failed once, with someone who hardly ever reads anything.

    • Max says:

      Personal diary is a great thing. you can keep it on google drive as spreadsheet, and access it from computer or smartphone

    • nonymous says:

      if seeking a formidably tentacular notetaking contraption, look no further::

      http://brettterpstra.com/projects/nvalt/

    • “I really need some sort of centralized note taking/planning system. Any suggestions?

      Evernote?

      “How does one deal with reason as memetic immunity and keeping one’s identity small making it difficult to relate to others?”

      By dishonesty, presumably. It’s the solution to every other social problem

    • Re: relating to others: Broaden your social circle. ‘Diversity’ has been co-opted as a word, but it’s an amazingly useful concept. If you can set up multiple touching-but-not-overlapping social mini-circles, you can make it really easy to just drop sub-circles which demand that being an X-ist is the One True Path.

      You’re still cut out from “You’re an X-ist? I’m an X-ist too! Let’s commiserate about how terrible the anti-X-ists are!” with this and a small identity, but I don’t view that as a bad thing.

  8. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    What rule do rationalist utilitarians use to decide whether to bite a bullet (as in torture vs. dust specks) or to claim that a new model is needed which can better capture human intuitions (as in the lifespan dilemma)? It seems to me like half the time they are treating utilitarianism as the map, and the other half of the time they are treating it as the territory.

    • eponymous says:

      I don’t think there’s a simple algorithm, beyond thinking about why the output of your rule conflicts with your intuitions. You just have to think hard about exactly why they conflict, and try to figure out if this is because there’s a problem with your rule, or a bug in how your brain works (like scope insensitivity, in the torture vs. dust speck case) that throws off your intuition.

      I’m also not a big fan of bullet biting in general, assuming you don’t understand *why* your calculations are giving you something that contradicts your intuitions. Intuitions usually exist for good reasons.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Why do people insist on trying to fit ethics in to one single model instead of accepting that we have diverse, sometimes conflicting moral intuitions?

      • Creutzer says:

        Because they (mistakenly) believe that there are moral truths.

        • Simon says:

          There might be moral truths, but they can be contradictory.

          My grandfather escaped the train to Auschwitz with his brother, and they made it to the border of Switzerland. They were stopped, almost arrested, but managed to escape again and finally crossed the border a few kilometers away.

          I really doubt if anyone on SSC would say this illegal action by my grandfather is morally bad. But, on the other hand, if Switzerland would have opened its borders to all Jewish refugees, that would have had some seriously negative consequences. There’s a ton of stuff to blame Switzerland for around WW2, but not loudly welcoming Jewish refugees isn’t one of them.

          So there’s now a law (Jewish refugees not welcome) and people trespassing that law, and they’re both probably morally good from a consequentionalist perspective.

          I think Merkel’s “wir schaffen das” was probably bad, I think reducing the number of refugees coming to Europe is probably good, I think every individual trying to escape Syria and lying about their circumstances to get a better shot at refugee-status isn’t morally bad.

          Unless you want to get Kant involved in this.

          • Jiro says:

            If Switzerland took in as many refugees as it could reasonably accommodate, that means that the marginal refugee in addition to this number has an overall negative effect. It’s a real-life case of torture versus dust specks–taking in an additional refugee saves the refugee but has distributed negative effects over the whole population, affecting each person by a tiny amount but adding up to more disutility than saving the refugee brings utility. And since you admit that taking in ever single refugee would be bad, you admit there is a point where the dust specks from an additional refugee outweigh the torture suffered by the refugee being put in a concentration camp.

            So from a utilitarian point of view, the illegal action by your grandfather *is* morally bad–he avoids torture, but creates a lot of dust specks that are worse. I don’t think many utilitarians will admit this, but it seems to me like a logical consequence of utilitarianism.

            (I would personally allow it on the grounds that I am not utilitarian. Harm to yourself is more important than harm to strangers, so you are not obligated to balance utility in such situations except in extreme cases.)

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Yes, there is no “contradiction in moral truths” here.

            It is in your grandfather’s interest to enter Switzerland, but it is (allegedly) in the interest of the people of Switzerland to keep him out. Since (we suppose) the negative consequences to the people of Switzerland are more severe than the negative consequences of your grandfather of being killed, it is for the greater good that he be kept out and killed.

            Therefore, if utilitarianism is true, your grandfather acted immorally, preferring his selfish interest to the good of the whole. That is, if we make the highly dubious assumption that Switzerland was taking in as many refugees as it could get away with, without Germany invading and killing everybody.

            It’s the same with Syrian refugees. If you believe (and I don’t) that each refugee causes, on net, a greater harm to Europe than the value of his own life, under utilitarianism it is moral for the border guards to stop them and immoral for them to refuse to be stopped. They ought to accept the sacrifice of their own lives to the greater good of Europe.

            I should make clear: I am not a utilitarian.

          • Simon says:

            @ Jiro & Vox

            I think there is a contradiction, and it’s a matter of scale.

            There is absolutely no reason for Switzerland to deny my grandfather and his brother entry. They’re just two guys, they were pretty moral people, the Germans won’t invade to catch these two jews. The problem is only that it’s not just these two, but they’re part of a way larger group.

            I’m a Dutch leftie (though not an open borders person) and I think my small country can easily handle hundreds of thousands of refugees. But that could never happen in a vacuum. There are already (small) riots and anti-immigrant violence by the right. Geert Wilders’ far-right PVV is polling as by far the biggest party, etc.

            Compare it to a (fictional) mother from Burundi who finds out she has breast cancer. She saves money to get to Europe, tells a made-up story about patriarchal oppression, gets asylum, and can get a life-saving operation. To me this is a morally just, feel-good story. But that completely changes when it becomes a common narrative.

            Just like Switzerland could easily deal with my grandfather, the Dutch medical system can easily deal with a couple of immigrants with health problems. It can not handle groups as easily.

            (Dutch media tries to make a distinction between refugees and ‘fortune seekers’ and I think that’s very dumb and just based on emotion)

            Ethics is really an emergent property. The media might select for emotional stories, and I haven’t read a single account from a refugee where I thought ‘we should send that person back’. But if I take all of them together, maybe we should. There was a NYT story last week about people trying to start again in Raqqa. One guy still there was a father of three sons. Two were killed by ISIS, and even though Raqqa is now supposedly freed, he sent his last son to Europe, because he didn’t want to risk losing him.

            I would never characterize that son as a ‘fortune seeker’, and think he should get refugee status until the situation in Raqqa is absolutely safe. But when I look at it in the context of the millions of others who are also trying to get refugee status, maybe my sympathy drops.

            I personally struggle with this, not in the least because of my own family’s history. But I do think that ethics on a personal level and ethics on a national level are just completely different things.

            Scale changes a lot in the maybe-not-really-existing ontology of ethics.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Simon:

            There is still no contradiction.

            Switzerland should have let in as many Jews as they could up to the tipping point where one more Jew would have caused a Nazi invasion. Since they don’t know exactly what that is, you can also say: with a margin of safety.

            Now in fact, I think that number is “all the Jews they wanted”, since Sweden let in all the Jews from Denmark and Germany didn’t do shit. Germany didn’t invade anywhere just to get the Jews. They invaded places to win the war, and rounded up Jews as a secondary priority.

            Similarly, the Netherlands should let in as many refugees as they can up until the point where one more refugee would mean society (allegedly) collapses, Geert Wilders becomes dictator, and things become worse on net for everyone. Since they don’t know exactly how many that is, you can also say: with a margin of safety.

            Now if you believe in utilitarianism, and if you believe the Netherlands has already crossed the margin of safety where they shouldn’t be letting immigrants in, then you would have to say that these refugees are immoral because they are putting their private interest above the common good.

            To deny this conclusion, you can either deny that the Netherlands has crossed the margin of safety—and therefore it’s perfectly moral for more refugees to come in—and/or deny utilitarianism: that the refugees have any obligation to put the common good over their private good.

            In fact, I do deny both. I don’t think it harms the people of the Netherlands on net to let in more refugees, and even if it did harm them more than it helped the refugees, there is no reason the refugees should care.

            The only contradiction comes in when you apply two different standards, one to the personal level and another to the national level. And this is what a lot of people do: they are soft-hearted and soft-brained on the personal level, and amoral Machiavellian bastards on the national level. They act totally inconsistently and when people call them on this, they don’t know what to do. The solution is: don’t do that.

          • “Dutch media tries to make a distinction between refugees and ‘fortune seekers’”

            I think there is a legitimate distinction between refugees, who come because they are in great risk elsewhere and would come almost whatever tolerable terms they were offered, and people who come—probably to Germany rather than Holland—because the host government offers free benefits that would be an improvement over their previous condition even if there was no conflict at home.

            But there is an intermediate case–people who are happy to come, get a job, support themselves, not because things are horrible where they came from but because Holland is a much more attractive place to live and work than Syria—and was long before the present conflict.

            My view is that you should let those people in—I’m a supporter of free immigration. But you should not offer welfare benefits or the equivalent that make immigration attractive to people who plan to freeload on the system.

            I gather the Czech Republic has more or less that policy—relatively free immigration, but no welfare benefits for immigrants for an extended period of time. It was the de facto policy of the U.S. for most of its history—until the 1920’s, with some exceptions for East Asian immigrants.

          • Jiro says:

            There is absolutely no reason for Switzerland to deny my grandfather and his brother entry. They’re just two guys, they were pretty moral people, the Germans won’t invade to catch these two jews. The problem is only that it’s not just these two, but they’re part of a way larger group.

            If they’re part of a larger group, adding one individual Jew incrementally increases the probability that the Germans will invade. The utility of Switzerland from adding that one extra Jew decreases by (extra probability of the Germans invading) * (damage caused if the Germans invade). If this utility is greater than one life worth of utility, Switzerland should keep your grandfather out.

            The decrease in utility from adding one more person is not zero just because the Germans “won’t invade” to catch the extra person–the Germans are incrementally more likely to invade. You can’t round this incremental likelihood to zero just because it’s not very large.

            @Vox:

            Switzerland should have let in as many Jews as they could up to the tipping point where one more Jew would have caused a Nazi invasion.

            No, that’s wrong. Although in hindsight the Nazis either invade or not, when you’re not using hindsight there’s a probability that the Nazis will invade. The tipping point is not the point where you go from no invasion to invasion, since that’s only knowable in hindsight. The tipping point is where the slightly greater chance of invasion (multiplied by the loss of many lives in the invasion) balances out against a life.

            Germany didn’t invade anywhere just to get the Jews. They invaded places to win the war, and rounded up Jews as a secondary priority.

            People do things for multiple reasons, and each reason affects the probability of them doing the thing. Perhaps if a place has lots of Jews it only increases their chance of invading from 50% to 55%. You still have to calculate the incremental loss of life caused by the extra 5% chance of invasion.

          • Simon says:

            @ Jiro & Vox

            I agree, that’s the correct way to view everything from an outsider perspective. But I think we all agree that it’s logical to put a little more worth on our own lives than on that of others. Unless you’re Peter Singer. It would be absurd to expect my grandfather to think of the consequences of all fleeing Jews entering Switzerland at once. He’s weighing his own life against a .0001 extra chance of a nazi invasion, and it’s an obvious choice.

            @ David Friedman

            I agree there are theoretical cases where there’s an obvious difference. But I don’t think there’s a real dividing line. Which ones would you think of as refugees, and which ones as fortune seekers?

            A. The son from the NYT article. Even though his city is now ‘safe’, his two brothers were killed and his father doesn’t want to take the risk. His city has been freed, but there is no guarantee it will stay that way.
            B. A seventeen-year-old Christian who fled Syria at the beginning of the war and ended up in a Turkish refugee camp. He’s pretty smart and was about to enter university, but after a year in the camp it’s clear there is no option for further education. He can either stay here, and waste the most valuable years of his life, or go to Europe and try to get an education there.
            C. A mother in Afghanistan sees some ISIS preacher move into her community. She’s heard that there are now more and cheaper refugee routes to Europe, and knowing that her village is poor and vulnerable to religious extremism, she takes her kids with her to Turkey in the hopes of taking a boat to Greece leading to Germany.

            These three people are not in mortal danger, and right-wing blogs would characterize them as ‘fortune seekers’. I wouldn’t say they are pure refugees, but I hope it explains why I think the binary divide between opportunists and ‘real’ refugees is way too simplistic.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Simon:

            That’s called “rejecting utilitarianism”, and if we reject it at the personal level, I don’t see why we should accept it at the national level, either. So I don’t see where the contradiction comes from.

          • Simon asks:

            “Which ones would you think of as refugees, and which ones as fortune seekers?”

            The fortune seekers are the ones who wouldn’t come if no financial support, free housing, or similar benefits were being offered. The ones who would still come under those circumstances are one of the other two categories, both of which I am in favor of letting in.

          • Simon says:

            @ Vox

            I know. I’m one of those weird people who still defend virtue ethics.

            @ David

            But that seems really weird. It creates situations where someone is a ‘real’ refugee, escaping war, but if they then move to another country that offers a better future, suddenly they’re a fortune seeker. If someone whose family has been murdered by ISIS flees to Turkey they’re a refugee, but if they then move from Turkey to The Netherlands in the hope of asylum and (nearly) free college and housing they suddenly transform into a fortune seeker.

            It seems obvious to me the two overlap.

          • Anon says:

            @Simon,

            In the situation you have described, I would say that that person was indeed a real refugee when he fled to Turkey, and that he became a fortune seeker when he decided safety in Turkey was not good enough for him.

            I don’t see any contradiction here. Sure, there’s some overlap between the categories, but just because someone starts out as a real refugee doesn’t mean he can use the excuse of “fleeing violence” to head to the Netherlands when he has already made it to a safe nation like Turkey. It becomes obvious that though fleeing violence may have been his reason for going to Turkey, it is not his reason for going to the Netherlands.

            I think this person’s choice to flee from ISIS and head to Turkey was morally acceptable because his life was in mortal danger. His choice to leave a safe nation for another safe nation with a higher standard of living, on the other hand, is not morally acceptable. He has no inalienable right to live in the Netherlands, and he is not in any danger that could justify his choice to enter illegally. The fact that the Netherlands is a nicer place to live does not justify illegal entrance.

            Wanting free college doesn’t give you the right to go to the Netherlands. I’d like free college too (I’m American), but that does not give me the right to go there and expect the Dutch taxpayer to pay for it for me. And even if the United States became embroiled in a dangerous war that imperiled my life, if I were to flee to a safe nation with a below-first-world standard of living (such as, say, Mexico), I would not have the right to then enter the Netherlands illegally from there because I like its standard of living more. And if I tried to do so anyway, I would be acting immorally and it would be absolutely correct for the Dutch government to deport me back to Mexico.

      • Stefan Drinic says:

        Because a huge part of this blog and intellectual debate stems from hard sciences, and when you’re used to things being relatively easily proven true, such views carry over to fuzzier matters like ethics.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        Because if you have “diverse, sometimes conflicting moral intuitions”, i.e. conflicting terminal values, you cannot rationally decide what to do, ever. That is bad because reason is the means by which human beings decide what to do and guide their lives on a level higher than that of brute animals.

        Suppose you have a terminal preference for getting the maximum amount of lemons and also getting the maximum amount of pears. Not a preference for the combined economic value of lemons and pears, not a preference for the happiness they produce, not anything else: just maximum lemons and maximum pears. Well, it’s just obvious that you can’t maximize two conflicting quantities. There is no way to rationally guide your actions, not even to do the simplest thing.

        The entire system of acting by reason implies that some of our moral intuitions are more fundamental than others, that we have some ultimate value. Every action you engage in requires that you at least act as if you do; but clearly you’re in a bad way if you act in the pursuit of one ultimate value at one moment and another at the next, with absolutely no consistency.

        • Adam Casey says:

          So I notice that in … every single field of human endeavour … we see exactly this phenomenon.

          Should the Society To Promote Music spend money on rap or classical? Obviously both, and obviously in a ratio that cannot be deduced from any rational principle, but must be determined by politics, markets, or whim.

          I don’t think that the various pro-art charities in the world are therefore incapable of using reason and must be no better than the beasts.

          We use reason to work out the best way to achieve our goals. We use reason to work out the consequences of goals on other things in the universe we care about. These things are perfectly compatible with not using reason to work out what goal to follow.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            So I notice that in … every single field of human endeavour … we see exactly this phenomenon.

            I am hardly arguing that people are incapable of being irrational.

            Should the Society To Promote Music spend money on rap or classical? Obviously both, and obviously in a ratio that cannot be deduced from any rational principle, but must be determined by politics, markets, or whim.

            “Obviously both”? Come on.

            It depends on what, specifically, they value in music. Certainly it has been argued in the past that the equivalent of the Society to Promote Music should not promote rap at all.

            If they say it should be determined by democracy, then their ultimate value is to follow the will of the majority.

            If they say it should be determined by markets, then their ultimate value is to satisfy the whims of the consumers.

            If they say it should be determined by objective aesthetic quality, then their ultimate value is whatever the philosophers determine that to be.

            If they don’t know whether it should be democracy, markets, or objective aesthetic quality (as determined by some standard), then they can’t decide whether to promote rap or classical or either or how much.

            Now, in fact, whatever they do reflects some implicit ultimate value, which they may not consciously know. And it is possible that this implicit ultimate value changes moment-to-moment. In which case their behavior is irrational and unpredictable.

            I don’t think that the various pro-art charities in the world are therefore incapable of using reason and must be no better than the beasts.

            To the extent they consciously identify a single ultimate value and act on it, their behavior is rational. To the extent that they don’t, their behavior is incoherent and irrational. It’s not all-or-nothing.

            We use reason to work out the best way to achieve our goals. We use reason to work out the consequences of goals on other things in the universe we care about. These things are perfectly compatible with not using reason to work out what goal to follow.

            It’s not about using reason to determine the ultimate value. You can’t ask “Why should I have this value?” about the ultimate value. If you could, your actual ultimate value would be the reason you gave.

            It is, as you say, about using reason to achieve your goals. But an essential part of that is to determine the hierarchical relationship between your goals.

            One goal I have is to acquire gasoline. Another goal is to get to work. They are not on an equal level. One is a means to the other. And neither is getting to work an end in itself. If I didn’t know which one was a means to the other, or didn’t know if either of them were ultimate, then I couldn’t decide what to do.

            But two conflicting ultimate values are going to imply conflicting behaviors. If it’s lemons vs. pears, at some point you’re going to have to choose lemons or pears. It’s not that you can somehow use reason to determine which ultimate value to go with; it’s that using reason assumes they can’t both be ultimate. And if you use something other than reason, such as flipping a coin, you value having consistent values more than the one you choose against.

        • “The entire system of acting by reason implies that some of our moral intuitions are more fundamental than others,”

          A particular conception of rationality, where you can come to determinate decisions, requires a clean break between terminal and instrumental values. But..

          “Suppose you have a terminal preference for getting the maximum amount of lemons and also getting the maximum amount of pears. Not a preference for the combined economic value of lemons and pears, not a preference for the happiness they produce, not anything else: just maximum lemons and maximum pears. Well, it’s just obvious that you can’t maximize two conflicting quantities. There is no way to rationally guide your actions, not even to do the simplest thing.”

          ..if you don’t have a clear terminal/instrumental distinction. you can still fulfil your values, just not determinstically. If you like lemons and pears, then you can just aim to get some lemons ad some pears on some quasi random basis. Its’ good-enough rationality.

          “The entire system of acting by reason implies that some of our moral intuitions are more fundamental than others,”

          A particular conception of rationality, where you can come to determinate decisions, requires a clean break between terminal and instrumental values. But..

          “Suppose you have a terminal preference for getting the maximum amount of lemons and also getting the maximum amount of pears. Not a preference for the combined economic value of lemons and pears, not a preference for the happiness they produce, not anything else: just maximum lemons and maximum pears. Well, it’s just obvious that you can’t maximize two conflicting quantities. There is no way to rationally guide your actions, not even to do the simplest thing.”

          ..if you don’t have a clear terminal/instrumental distinction. you can still fulfil your values, just no determinstically. If you like lemons and pears, then you can just aim to get some lemons ad some pears on some quasi random basis. Its’ good-enough rationality.

          When people hear the term “rational” they often start thinking in terms of universality and determinism, but neither of those is part of rationality defined as fulfilling ones values efficiently.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            ..if you don’t have a clear terminal/instrumental distinction. you can still fulfil your values, just not determinstically. If you like lemons and pears, then you can just aim to get some lemons ad some pears on some quasi random basis. Its’ good-enough rationality.

            That, in itself, implies that you value having some consistent way to pursue your values over either maximum lemons or maximum pears simpliciter.

            For instance, say you flip a coin for which kind of orchard you are going to plant next: heads for lemons, tails for pears, and it comes up heads. You say: “Yes, I value pears, but I value having some consistent way of pursuing my values more than simply maximizing pears.”

          • I don’t see your point. One may have meta values, but that doesn’t mean one has a clear terminal/instrumental distinction.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        1. Ethics as a guide to action: one of the things we want from an ethical theory is some sort of advice on how to conduct our lives. This will be impossible if the best we can do is rely on unsystematic judgments about particular cases. When I am unsure how to act, it is no help to tell me to trust my intuitions, because if my intuitions were decisive I would never have needed to solicit advice in the first place.

        2. As a check against bias: our moral intuitions have a suspicious tendency to ratify our own actions and reflect the prejudices of our time and culture. Abiding by abstract principles rather than running on pure intuition helps to counteract those biases.

        3. Explanatory power: in the natural sciences, a key goal of explanation is to unify as many brute facts as possible under as few principles as possible. You might think that the same holds true when it comes to ethics– it is not enough to say that it is better to act one way than another, we want some explanation of why, and the explanation that covers the widest territory with the fewest epicycles should be preferred.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          1. Ethics as a guide to action: one of the things we want from an ethical theory is some sort of advice on how to conduct our lives. This will be impossible if the best we can do is rely on unsystematic judgments about particular cases. When I am unsure how to act, it is no help to tell me to trust my intuitions, because if my intuitions were decisive I would never have needed to solicit advice in the first place.

          Yes, this is the crucial one.

          You can’t just tell me to “do what I feel”. If what I feel implied a definite course of action—if human beings had some kind of automatic instincts we couldn’t help but follow—there would be no problem. There is a problem: namely that we don’t. (Of course, this “problem” allows us to do lots of things we couldn’t if we were guided solely by instinct.)

          So I have to sit down and think about it real hard, in order to come up with the best course of action. Because I’ve got to do something. The necessity of choosing what to do cannot be escaped. Even if that choice is to do nothing, it’s still a choice.

      • eponymous says:

        > Why do people insist on trying to fit ethics in to one single model instead of accepting that we have diverse, sometimes conflicting moral intuitions?

        Because they have a strong intuition that morality should be consistent!

        More seriously, I can think of two reasons:

        (1) When confronted with mutually inconsistent choices, we must pick one. When our moral intuitions conflict, we aren’t thereby excused from picking which one to follow. Thus we can’t say “I use moral system A for thinking about decision set X, and moral system B for thinking about set Y” as long as it is possible that we may find a question in XvY about which they contradict. Because then we will have to pick one to follow.

        (2) Empirically, many things that people recognize as “moral progress” have amounted to noticing that certain principles derived from some moral intuitions were in contradiction with other moral intuitions, and then figuring out that some of our intuitions were “wrong”.

      • Jeffrey Soreff says:

        It isn’t completely crazy:

        It is somewhat analogous to trying to reconcile one’s preferences to act as if one
        had a self-consistent utility function. If one doesn’t do that, one is vulnerable
        to things like attacks that use non-transitive preferences to bleed resources away…
        Something like this can be done to someone who has inconsistent ethics and
        puts weight on their ethics when choosing their actions.

    • When the definitions of values starts to break down is when I’d be hesitant to bit the bullet. This is most prevalent when consciousness breaks down.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I don’t think there is any bullet to bite on torture vs. dust specks. Our eyes/minds are built to deal with dust specks. 1 day later each affected individual will be indistinguishable from an alternate self who was not affected. We are prohibited from consideration of follow on harms (like how many people would be expected to go blind).

      I don’t even think painfully stubbed toes with no after effects would accrue in a manner to offset the torture.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        I don’t think there is any bullet to bite on torture vs. dust specks. Our eyes/minds are built to deal with dust specks. 1 day later each affected individual will be indistinguishable from an alternate self who was not affected.

        No, they won’t be indistinguishable. They will be practically indistinguishable. But one practical indistinguishability times 10^3^3^3^3^3 (or whatever it was) is a lot of distinguishability.

        This is like Zeno arguing that if you drop one speck of grain, it won’t make a sound at all. Therefore, if you drop a whole bushel of grain, it won’t make a sound either because zeroes can’t add up to something. (And therefore, he thought, helping to refute change and multiplicity.)

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Vox Imperatoris:
          Well, if the specks are all dropping on different floors at different times then none of them do make an audible sound. There is no bushel.

          Remember, we are specifically told that these dust specks do no lasting harm. We aren’t allowed to consider the idea that some very small percentage of real people would scratch their cornea when wiping away the dust and some of those would end up blind.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I really don’t see what “lasting harm” has to do with it.

            Does torture do “lasting harm”? I mean, you torture someone for 70 years, he dies, and then he’s much the same as he would have been if you hadn’t tortured him. The torture is a pain, it has more or less of an effect, which lasts for more or less of a long time, and then it’s over.

            Now, the dust speck is explicitly proposed not to be unnoticeable (as you were trying to say with the speck of grain). So there is some pain, which has more or less of an effect, which lasts for more or less of a long time, and then it’s over.

            If you can compare interpersonal utility at all, you ought to be able to add up some number of really short, small pains and have them sum to something greater than a long, severe pain.

            Now, I’m not a utilitarian. All I’d say about the situation is that the one guy has an interest in not being tortured, and the 10^3^3^3^3^3 people have an interest in torturing him.

          • Adam says:

            Of course, if the number of people suffering minor inconvenience required to make the sum of inconvenience worse than torturing one person is more than the number of atoms in the universe, that isn’t a result with any practical relevance.

            I think we all recognize the more practical tradeoffs we have to make. For instance, we could save a whole bunch of people by simply banning motor vehicles, but we don’t because it would materially harm many, many more, a lot more than a dust speck would. We accept a certain level of air pollution, battery acid and motor oil in the ocean and rivers, and fiery violent deaths and maimings as worth it. Plus, if you care about the utility of horses, I suppose we made things a lot better for them.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Of course, if the number of people suffering minor inconvenience required to make the sum of inconvenience worse than torturing one person is more than the number of atoms in the universe, that isn’t a result with any practical relevance.

            I agree. Which is why I find it amazing that people pick this of all things to object to utilitarianism on. Or to say Yudkowsky is some kind of loon because this is an obviously immoral conclusion that would have disastrous effects in real life.

            I think we all recognize the more practical tradeoffs we have to make. For instance, we could save a whole bunch of people by simply banning motor vehicles, but we don’t because it would materially harm many, many more, a lot more than a dust speck would. We accept a certain level of air pollution, battery acid and motor oil in the ocean and rivers, and fiery violent deaths and maimings as worth it. Plus, if you care about the utility of horses, I suppose we made things a lot better for them.

            Exactly. Scott’s post on health insurance is relevant here.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Vox:

            You really think torture has no lasting effect? I would suggest reading up on torture.

            As to my point about dust specks, imagine that mamy boats, each on separate smoth lake. Now subject each boat to a head on wave that is an inch larger than the 1 inch wave it would have encountered anyway. The wave is so perfectly centered that it does not alter the boats course in any way. It has no structural effect on the boat.

            Does the impact of all of those waves on all of those boats sum?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            You really think torture has no lasting effect? I would suggest reading up on torture.

            You completely misunderstand me.

            Of course the effects of torture on a person last longer than getting a dust speck in your eye! That’s obvious.

            The effects of torture no doubt last a person’s whole life. But his life only lasts so long. The effects of torture are not infinite. They are in principle comparable to dust specks. Both the effects of torture and the effects of dust specks last a certain amount of time, and then they end. The difference in their “lasting effects” is merely quantitative.

            As to my point about dust specks, imagine that mamy boats, each on separate smoth lake. Now subject each boat to a head on wave that is an inch larger than the 1 inch wave it would have encountered anyway. The wave is so perfectly centered that it does not alter the boats course in any way. It has no structural effect on the boat.

            Does the impact of all of those waves on all of those boats sum?

            Of course they sum! Why would they not sum?

            The only difference is that the sum is irrelevant because the higher wave is not bad in itself. The dust specks cause pain, which is bad in itself.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Vox:

            Pain is information. It warns of potential injury.

            Pain without injury (including psychological injury) is not necessarily bad. People do things that hurt all the time.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            Pain is information. It wanna of potential injury.

            Pain without injury (including psychological injury) is not necessarily bad. People do things that hurt all the time.

            Jesus Christ.

            Now we’re just moving the goalposts.

            What, exactly, do you take to be the definition of injury? It’s not bad in itself to get your arm ripped off or something. It’s bad because it causes pain, and because it makes it more difficult for you to acquire values in the future. But the pain itself is an injury: that’s why we give people anaesthetic.

            Pain is not just “information”. That’s simply false. It has an inherently negative quality.

            Even masochists who cause pain to themselves do so because they gain a greater pleasure out of it.

            The people who get dust specks in their eyes are injured: something is done to them that would have been better not to happen. It is not a large or significant injury, and they recover almost immediately. But it’s an injury nonetheless.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Vox:
            No. That isn’t moving the goalposts.

            Ripping your arm off is not “bad because it causes pain.” It’s the loss of the arm that sucks. Even if your arm was instantly restored, the psychological damage would probably also be lasting.

            There are many many non-masochists who seek pain. People who work out. People who engage in contact sport. People who touch their fingers to hot wax.

            You understand how twilight sedation works, right? You are in pain (less pain, but still pain) but you have no memory of it. Did this pain cause you harm (assuming no lasting psychological effect.)

            As to the boats, I assume you admit that they were effected (a very small, non lasting effect). Given that, I don’t see where the effect being “bad” comes into the question of whether the effects sum.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Ripping your arm off is not “bad because it causes pain.” It’s the loss of the arm that sucks. Even if your arm was instantly restored, the psychological damage would probably also be lasting.

            What is the “psychological damage” but continuing pain and reduction in the ability to acquire happiness-producing values?

            There are many many non-masochists who seek pain. People who work out. People who engage in contact sport. People who touch their fingers to hot wax.

            They do so just for the hell of it? No, because they get some kind of greater pleasure. Take the bodybuilder: he endures a little pain now, but he also gets the pleasurable endorphin rush. And then he goes out and “picks up chicks” with his body, and he gets pleasure from that.

            You understand how twilight sedation works, right? You are in pain (less pain, but still pain) but you have no memory of it. Did this pain cause you harm (assuming no lasting psychological effect.)

            Sure, it does! If knew I were going to feel some kind of torturous pain, I wouldn’t feel any better about the prospect just from knowing I’d forget about it later. Any pain that I ever feel I’m eventually going to forget about because I’m going to die. That doesn’t mean I’m indifferent to the prospect.

            As to the boats, I assume you admit that they were effected (a very small, non lasting effect). Given that, I don’t see where the effect being “bad” comes into the question of whether the effects sum.

            What are you even trying to say here?

            Yes, the boats are affected. As I said. As are the people with the dust specks in their eyes.

            The motions of all the boats can, in principle, be added together. But this sum is not a quantity anyone is concerned with. It is irrelevant.

            The pains of all the people with dust specks in their eyes can be added together (well, this is an assumption of utilitarianism). This sum is precisely what utilitarianism says is the basis for morality: adding together the totality of all pleasure and pain, trying to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. (And yes, there are different forms, like preference utilitarianism. But this example is concerned with pain.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Vox:
            “But this sum is not a quantity anyone is concerned with. It is irrelevant.”

            The sum of moments of small pain, endemic to the human condition, which everyone will suffer in some non-trivial amount, which have no ongoing effect is ALSO irrelevant.

            How many specks have you gotten in your eye in your life time where the pain was minor and lasted less than a second? Do you remember the last one? The one before that? Do actually have a clear memory of ANY of them?

            Roughly speaking, I am attacking the utility function in question. I don’t think there is anything to bite because I don’t think you have changed the net utility of the persons life. I also think that the fact that you didn’t change the net utility is actually defined within the problem.

            The thing about a number that big, if you just applied to random people at random times, it would ended in great harms caused to many people and some loss of utility to a great deal more. But we are specifically required not to consider that.

            Again, the contention is that humans are built to encounter dust specks in much the same way as boats are built to encounter waves.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            The sum of moments of small pain, endemic to the human condition, which everyone will suffer in some non-trivial amount, which have no ongoing effect is ALSO irrelevant.

            How many specks have you gotten in your eye in your life time where the pain was minor and lasted less than a second? Do you remember the last one? The one before that? Do actually have a clear memory of ANY of them?

            Why is it relevant whether you remember them?

            If I would pay money never again to experience tiny pains on the order of having dust specks in my eye (and I would), it’s relevant to my utility. Are you saying you wouldn’t mind receiving only a nickel in return for having 100,000 more dust specks go into your eye and irritate it for brief moments (which you will not clearly remember individually)?

            Roughly speaking, I am attacking the utility function in question. I don’t think there is anything to bite because I don’t think you have changed the net utility of the persons life. I also think that the fact that you didn’t change the net utility is actually defined within the problem.

            So dust specks have absolutely no negative utility. No, the setup of the problem assumes they do.

            Anyway, why didn’t you just say that from the start? Dust specks have no negative utility whatsoever, so you should not even pay a penny to get rid of a million of them, so obviously an infinite number of zeroes can never add up to torture.

            Again, I would say: a) not true, they do have negative utility, and b) regardless, the problem assumes they have negative utility, or it’s not even interesting.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Vox:
            I did say it at the beginning, but you did not accept it. That was the purpose of stating that the person would be unaltered days later.

            As to whether I would like a nickel for each of 100,000 dust specks, this is essentially the same question as the original. Getting 300 dust specks in your eye, every day, for your whole life, is much like torture.

            A large enough wave will swamp a boat. Small waves have no effect.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            The negative effect of a dust speck cannot be zero if having 300 in your eye every day would be “like torture”. We’re not talking about them accumulating, in the way a one-ounce weight on your head is painless but a thousand pounds on your head will kill you.

            We’re talking about 300 separate instances of a dust speck getting in your eye. That means each one has to be a little bit bad. On the other hand, having a one-ounce weight on your head at 300 different times wouldn’t be bad either.

            Nor is it the same kind of thing as how one piece of chocolate cake is pleasant but twenty is horrible and will make you sick. The dust specks all individually have the same effect. The chocolate cake’s effect changes depending on how much you’ve already had.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Vox:
            If you are willing to accept that Chinese Water Torture was actually a real torture, although not Chinese, then I think you can see how the mere sum of the experience is not correct, drops of water on the head can be quite pleasant.

            We have minds. The mind reacts to stimuli, but not all reactions are equal or proportionate. We discard a great deal of the input we can detect, we note and forget a great deal more.

            Maybe a different analogy will make my position more clear.

            If a train is on a track and encounters a penny on the track, it will make no difference to the train. With a sensitive enough gauge, we might detect that we ran over the penny, but the train won’t be affected. Over the course of a 100 mile journey, the train will encounter all manner of small detritus on the rail.

            But if you put a piece of metal on the rail that is large enough, the train may come close to derailment or even derail.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            If you are willing to accept that Chinese Water Torture was actually a real torture, although not Chinese, then I think you can see how the mere sum of the experience is not correct, drops of water on the head can be quite pleasant.

            The Chinese water torture works because each drop does not have the same effect. When they hit the same spot, the sensation with each one intensifies so that the while the first drop was pleasant, the thousandth drop is torture. (It’s like the chocolate cake example I gave.)

            But the dust specks are all individually the same.

            The train analogy is just bad. The difference between a penny and a piece of metal large enough to cause a derailment is the difference between a dust speck and getting stabbed in the eye with a knife.

            Anyway, I’ll prove that each dust speck has negative utility. Would I pay some amount of money to cause one dust speck not to hit my eye? Yes, I would. Some very small amount of money, maybe a ten-thousandth of a cent.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Vox:
            “The difference between a penny and a piece of metal large enough to cause a derailment is the difference between a dust speck and getting stabbed in the eye with a knife.”

            But do the pennies accumulate? And do they accumulate across different trains traveling on different tracks? And if not, why not?

            I have a guess at your response, but I will wait and see what you say.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            But do the pennies accumulate? And do they accumulate across different trains traveling on different tracks? And if not, why not?

            What do you even mean by this?

            There is a quantity which one can calculate: “number of pennies encountered by all trains on all tracks”, yes. In that sense, they “accumulate”. But no one is concerned with the total number of pennies.

            There is another quantity one can calculate (well, not really, but this is assumed by utilitarianism): “amount of negative utility experienced by everyone”. This is relevant to utilitarians because they want to minimize the amount of negative utility experienced by everyone (or, given that negative utilitarianism calls for killing everyone, at least to create the most positive utility from it).

            Each dust speck causes some negative utility. You can prove this because it is painful and I would pay not to have it happen. I don’t want it to happen. Therefore, if the negative utility from each dust speck is not zero, a large enough number of dust specks will eventually equal the negative utility from torture. (And frankly, I would go so far as to say I don’t think the number is the mind-bogglingly huge number Yudkowsky gives. I’d say it’s a quintillion at most. But that’s beside the point.)

            Now, I personally think the number of dust specks is irrelevant because I think the “amount of negative utility experienced by everyone” is irrelevant. That’s because I’m not a utilitarian. But if I were, it would be relevant. However, the number of pennies hit by all trains is irrelevant to every ethical theory.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Vox:
            Imagine a train without tracks. It encounters all of these little disruptions, pennies, grit, etc. but now instead of making it to its destination, it crashes. What makes this train and that train different? Their design parameters, how fault tolerant they are. The wheels and tracks work together to ensure that the train performs its function.

            Humans are like the train with appropriate wheels and tracks (and a complex track system with lots of switches and switching stations). There is a level of perturbation that we are designed for (less and more for each individual).

            You seem to think that the net utility of a life can simply be summed. I am saying that pain is part of our design parameters and 1 extra dust speck in your life is like one extra penny on the track, it doesn’t change the net utility of the life unless it is big enough to cause that life to change course.

            Imagine, instead of the dust speck, that you momentarily catch a glimpse, a mere 1/10 of a second, through an open door, of a color you find slightly unpleasant. This also is a moment of negative utility and therefore should, theoretically, sum. But I don’t think it affects the net utility of your life. It is inside the fault tolerance that is inherent to us.

            You are free to reject this interpretation. I simply said that I, personally, don’t think there is a bullet to bite here. This is because I reject the idea that one, and only one, extra dust speck effects the net utility of your life.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            Imagine, instead of the dust speck, that you momentarily catch a glimpse, a mere 1/10 of a second, through an open door, of a color you find slightly unpleasant. This also is a moment of negative utility and therefore should, theoretically, sum. But I don’t think it affects the net utility of your life. It is inside the fault tolerance that is inherent to us.

            Sure, I think it sums. Anyway, I would rather not have that experience. We can compare a life where I have it to one where I do, and I would choose the former. So it affects the net utility.

            You’re entitled to your opinion. It’s no more arbitrary than utilitarianism in general. But it just adds more epicycles and makes the theory less able to be applied to any real problem. Like Mill saying that one experience of poetry is of a different kind and therefore higher and better than an infinite number of experiences of pushpin (bowling).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “makes the theory less able to be applied to any real problem”.

            Well, there we most certainly disagree. But I doubt I will sway you as you seem determined not to attempt to see my point of view (even if you disagree that it is correct.)

            One other avenue I thought of: You keep saying that you would pay money to avoid dust specks.

            Would you pay money to have a single dust speck removed from your past? Knowing that you will not be able to repeat the transaction?

            Given that you will experience X dust specks in your life, a number which is unknown to you, will you pay money to make it X-1? Not knowing, and never knowing, what particular dust speck will be removed, and knowing that it could be one in your past?

          • Jiro says:

            1 extra dust speck in your life is like one extra penny on the track, it doesn’t change the net utility of the life unless it is big enough to cause that life to change course.

            This produces the odd result that there is some threshhold amount where you would prefer having a billion people harmed by an amount slightly under the threshhold to one person harmed by an amount slightly over the threshhold.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jiro:
            You aren’t making a different argument than vox. I am attacking the assumption about the dust speck being harm. I’m attacking the assumed utility function.

            For me, the dust speck is no harm to the net utility of the life.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            Given that you will experience X dust specks in your life, a number which is unknown to you, will you pay money to make it X-1? Not knowing, and never knowing, what particular dust speck will be removed, and knowing that it could be one in your past?

            Yes. A very small amount of money, but yeah that sounds like a good trade. I would definitely do it if I could keep paying that amount until all dust specks were removed.

            Are you saying that at some point it changes over so that after removing (say) 100 specks, which were all bad deals you shouldn’t pay to remove, the remaining ones are good deals that you would pay for?

          • Jaskologist says:

            There are 1000 people each in individual room-temperature compartments. You have a choice: raise the temperature 1 degree on each of them, or raise the temperature 500 degrees on one of them.

            (Obviously, the second choice is the correct one. Shut up and add.)

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jacksologist:

            First of all, under normal circumstances a one-degree rise in temperature does not produce any negative utility. So it doesn’t matter if it happens to 500 people or 20 trillion.

            Even if the people were all at the perfectly comfortable temperature, such that a one-degree increase slightly decreased their utility, a 500-degree rise in temperature produces a lot more than 500 times the negative utility of a one-degree rise in temperature. So the argument is fallacious and a misrepresentation of Yudkowsky’s position.

            On the other hand, it is certainly implied by utilitarianism that at some point, it becomes better to roast one person alive than to make a very large number of people slightly uncomfortable. But that’s obvious just from the statement of what utilitarianism means.

          • Murphy says:

            @HeelBearCub

            You really hold that things you don’t remember don’t count?

            Lets imagine that a sadist offered you [some small amount of money, barely more than what you’d accept to do some mundane boring task for the same period of time like licking envelopes] to be put under twilight sedation, aware and able to experience pain but unable to form memories of it and while you’re under the sadist will induce hours of blinding, mind chilling agony which you are guaranteed to not remember and which is guaranteed to cause no lasting physical harm.

            Do you accept the money?

            After all, while you’re signing up for experiencing hours of blinding agony you won’t remember it, it won’t do you any physical harm, you won’t lose any body parts.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Vox:

            “I would definitely do it if I could keep paying that amount until all dust specks were removed.”

            But, you specifically can’t do that. We aren’t talking about removing all dust specks from humanity or even one human’s existence.

            How much would pay to have a dust speck removed from your past that you have no memory of and that would not alter your current makeup one iota? Something that happened at least 1 year ago, but could be all the way back to birth.

            And more importantly, why?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Murphy:
            I’m tempted to fight the hypothetical, as surely their would be knock on effects after the twilight sedation (just as there is with Wisdom Tooth extraction.)

            But, also, this misses the point I am trying to make. It’s about the human condition, our actual design parameters. Being tortured under twilight sedation is not something that happens naturally. But dust specks are part of the normal human condition. It’s why we make tears and have eyelashes and they cause pain if they get in our eye. Having a foreign body in your eye can cause lasting damage, but almost all of the time what we have is stimulus -> reaction -> go on without change. We remember the dust speck long enough to let us make a correlation if needed (Hey! When I walk past the factory, I get dust specks in my eye!), but otherwise they are not much different than getting goose bumps for a second or any other stimulus reaction.

            I don’t view the minor event as additive to the major event in some linear fashion. It’s like saying “this river deposits 2 trillion gallons of water in the ocean over a year” and concluding you can safely add 1 trillion gallons on January 1st all at once, as long as you reduce the flow by 1/2 the rest of the year.

            Under normal parameters we forget dust specks, without the aid of twilight sedation. The only reason I brought in twilight sedation was to show that not remembering pain was a way of eliminating the negative utility that came from the pain. In the case of dust specks, and a million other minor events, like seeing a color you don’t prefer for a brief second, they don’t have a net effect on the utility of the entire life.

          • Jiro says:

            @Jiro:
            You aren’t making a different argument than vox. I am attacking the assumption about the dust speck being harm. I’m attacking the assumed utility function.

            And I’m pointing out that attacking that utility function leads to bizarre results. If you really think that dust specks don’t cause any harm at all, but that more severe things do cause harm, there’s a threshold where two things are very similar, but you would rather have billions of one than one of the other. It logically follows from your attack on the utility function.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            But, you specifically can’t do that. We aren’t talking about removing all dust specks from humanity or even one human’s existence.

            Well, you didn’t answer my question, which is: why does it change? Why is it worth zero to remove one dust speck but worth a positive amount to remove all of them?

            Let’s say I would pay a dollar to remove all dust specks from my existence. So take one dollar divided by all the dust specks I will experience, and that’s the amount I would pay to remove each one.

            How much would pay to have a dust speck removed from your past that you have no memory of and that would not alter your current makeup one iota? Something that happened at least 1 year ago, but could be all the way back to birth.

            And more importantly, why?

            For one thing, it’s an absurd hypothetical. Some medieval thinkers argued that not even God could retroactively abolish the past: i.e. make something in the past not have happened, given that it already did happen. You can remove the effects in the present, but how can you just get rid of the past?

            Anyway, if I don’t remember it and it has no lasting effects now, I suppose I have no reason to pay to remove it. (I don’t know that it does have no lasting effects. Maybe having experienced slightly more pain makes me slightly more unhappy now.) But this isn’t how you phrased the question the first time. You said I don’t know whether it will be in the past or the future. Even if all the ones in the past count for nothing, I’ll still pay to remove the ones in the future.

            Why? Because I will experience them, and they will be unpleasant when they occur. I am able to apprehend and anticipate this unpleasantness, so I will pay now to avoid it. On the other hand, the dust specks in the past (as you frame the issue, at least) have no present or future effect on me, so they are not now unpleasant, so I should not pay to remove them.

            So the equation for the price I’d pay now looks like: $1 / (all dust specks – past dust specks). That’s still positive.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            I can’t see how the “normal human condition” under our “actual design parameters” could possibly be relevant.

            It’s not in the normal human condition to live longer than 120 years (and that’s pretty damn abnormal, to be honest). Does that mean each year after 120 is worthless and has no utility? I don’t think so.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Vox:
            If you are not willing to pay to remove those dust specks from your past now, then how much affect did they have on the net utility calculation of your life so far?

            “(I don’t know that it does have no lasting effects. Maybe having experienced slightly more pain makes me slightly more unhappy now.)”

            This is explicitly ruled out by the parameters of the thought experiment. If I was allowed to take into account the likelihood of knock-on effects, than it would be a super easy call the other way.

            “For one thing, it’s an absurd hypothetical.”

            The whole thought experiment is absurd.

            “Well, you didn’t answer my question, which is: why does it change? ”

            I’ve been doing nothing but trying to answer why I think this way through the whole thread. It’s the difference between an object on the track that does no damage to the train, and one that does.

            If you could wave a magic wand, would you remove all pain from your life? All striving? All feelings of something being difficult? Every observation of a color you did not prefer?

            All of those are, in isolation, moments of diminished utility. But I don’t think you can consider each one in isolation.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            If you are not willing to pay to remove those dust specks from your past now, then how much affect did they have on the net utility calculation of your life so far?

            They decreased my utility in the past, but there’s nothing I can do about it now.

            My net utility is not defined by what I would pay to change on my deathbed. My net utility is just the sum of all the moment-to-moment utilitities I experience in my life.

            If you could somehow ask me before I was born whether I’d prefer a life with one less dust speck, I would.

            On the other hand, if it were possible somehow to sell the positive utility I had in the past (without affecting my current utility) and exchange it for money now, that would be a great deal.

            The whole thought experiment is absurd.

            The scale is absurd, but we’re not imagining anything inherently impossible like abolishing the past.

            I’ve been doing nothing but trying to answer why I think this way through the whole thread. It’s the difference between an object on the track that does no damage to the train, and one that does.

            Aah!

            I don’t know how to get this through to you. If you would pay to remove all dust specks, then it follows that each dust speck is a little bit bad. Unless there is some point at which the sign flips over, but you have not specified where this might be.

            The difference with the pennies is that the total sum of all pennies is not bad, so I would not pay to remove a single penny, or all the pennies. Please stop using this metaphor.

            If you could wave a magic wand, would you remove all pain from your life? All striving? All feelings of something being difficult? Every observation of a color you did not prefer?

            If I could keep the same amount of positive utility which normally comes from moments of difficulty and pleasantness, yes.

            It’s a fact that, in life, you have to work hard to be happy. But if I could get the same amount of happiness with no hard work, that would be great.

            Are you saying the dust specks produce some positive utility which is greater than the negative utility? If so, I find that ridiculously implausible.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Vox:
            “Please stop using this metaphor.”

            Hah. That is funny. You don’t seem too intent on understanding my point of view then.

            “If I could keep the same amount of positive utility which normally comes from moments of difficulty and pleasantness, yes.”

            But that is impossible for humans as we are constructed.

            “The scale is absurd, but we’re not imagining anything inherently impossible like abolishing the past.”

            You think adding a guaranteed one and only one dust speck experience, with a guarantee of no knock on effects, to 3^^^3 is possible? Do tell.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ HeelBearCub:

            Hah. That is funny. You don’t seem too intent on understanding my point of view then.

            I don’t know what you think I don’t understand about your position. I think I understand it. I just think it is wrong. Those aren’t the same thing.

            I have thoroughly shown as best I can how the penny-train metaphor is completely inapplicable.

            But that is impossible for humans as we are constructed.

            Okay, fine. Is it impossible for us not to experience dust specks? It seems to me like it is possible. I don’t think experiencing dust specks is an essential part of what makes us human.

            You asked me, if I could get rid of those negative things, would I? And I said: yes, if I could keep the positive utility I have now. Otherwise, no.

            But the dust specks do not produce any positive utility. So I absolutely would get rid of them. Unless you’re trying to say something stupid like: “Ah, but then you’d have to get rid of the atmosphere, and that would be worse!”

            You think adding a guaranteed one and only one dust speck experience, with a guarantee of no knock on effects, to 3^^^3 is possible? Do tell.

            Look, it’s not physically possible.

            But it’s a perfectly coherent thing to imagine. There’s nothing contradictory about it.

            If asked you what you’d do with a million dollars, it is appropriate for you to respond: “What? How do expect me to just magically get a million dollars? That isn’t how the economy works, dumbass.”

    • Theo Jones says:

      I consider most of the thought experiments used against utilitarianism fairly useless. Utilitarianism reproduces most moral intuitions because of the constraints that apply in the real world. Of course, when you come up with a thought experiment that presupposes conditions that are impossible in the real world (ie. the dust speck thought experiment) this correspondence goes away. But that isn’t an argument against utilitarianism. Its an argument that the moral intuitions are formed under particular real-world conditions. And when those conditions go away, so does, the validity of the intuitions. But the synthetic nature of these thought experiments makes them pretty irrelevant to the real word. You won’t actually see the conditions presupposed by these thought experiments ever in the real world. I guess this puts me into the bullet biting category.

      And in the closest real world versions of these thought experiments utilitarianism outperforms deontology. The trolley problem suggests that an utilitarian should sacrifice one to save three. You will never see a trolley on the verge of hitting three next to a well-placed switch.

      But you will see cases where you have the option of tolerating harm to some to avoid even worse harm somewhere else.

      Take the case on environmental policy (ok… I have a feeling I will regret throwing this grenade.. but lets go). You can imagine a strict NAP that forbids any environmental regulations, even in the case of substantial net harm to the public (ie. from climate change or other environmental risks) . You can imagine a strict technophobic environmentalism that foregoes beneficial technologies such as nuclear energy or GMOs. Utilitarianism takes an intermediate path of weighing the harms and benefits of different policy paths based on the consequences of those paths. And in real world tradeoffs, I think consquenitlaist ethical systems will preform better than the alternatives.

      • blacktrance says:

        You can imagine a strict NAP that forbids any environmental regulations, even in the case of substantial net harm to the public (ie. from climate change or other environmental risks) .

        Or a strict NAP that defines e.g. pollution as aggression, and we end up with something like the extreme environmentalist outcome. (Unless Coasian bargaining or large-scale internalization of externalities by private property owners solves that.)

      • Orphan Wilde says:

        >And in the closest real world versions of these thought experiments utilitarianism outperforms deontology. The trolley problem suggests that an utilitarian should sacrifice one to save three. You will never see a trolley on the verge of hitting three next to a well-placed switch.

        Utilitarianism outperforms deontology only by utilitarian measures.

  9. Book recommendation / discussion request: the 1980s science-fiction trilogy The Phoenix Legacy by M. K. Wren, comprised of Sword of the Lamb, Shadow of the Swan, and House of the Wolf.

    For those that have not already read it, the story is set in a technologically advanced feudal society, which spans two solar systems; the protagonist, Alexand DeKoven Wolfe, is the heir to the First Lordship of one of the great Houses of the Concord, but that position may not be enough to avert the threat of a third Dark Age.

    I’d also be interested to hear from anyone who has already read it; it is one of my personal favorites, but seems to have largely disappeared into obscurity, and I’m not sure whether it’s an overlooked jewel or whether I’m just too easily impressed.

    For what it’s worth, my two working theories: firstly, it was perhaps in some ways too intellectual (if that’s the right word) to be broadly popular – think Lord of the Rings if it had been written by a sociologist or historian instead of a linguist, so that instead of excerpts of Elvish poetry and extensive appendices there are personal notes and transcripts of history lectures by the protagonist’s brother. I found them fascinating, but perhaps too dry for most readers? Or just unconvincing for anyone more familiar with real-life history than I am?

    Secondly, the protagonist’s romance is integral to the plot, which I think was unusual for science fiction at the time and may have been ill-received. Arguably it’s a romance trilogy with a science-fiction setting rather than a science-fiction trilogy with a romantic sub-theme. 🙂

    (Compare to the love interest in Dune, for example, which could IIRC have been edited out without changing anything of significance to the rest of the story. There are probably counter-examples, but none that spring immediately to mind!)

    • anon says:

      But then where would Leto II and Ghanima have come from?

    • pneumatik says:

      Dune is too full even without the love interest. Cutting it wouldn’t hurt the book much. It’s been a while since I’ve read the book, but it’s possible the love interest is there to tie Paul to the Fremen more. There may be some particular version of the “outsider from the colonizers helps improve the lives and culture of the natives” that Herbert was telling in Dune that required that relationship.

  10. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    Is the whole point of playing Truth or Dare that revealing humiliating secrets to each other and performing humiliating acts in front of each other signals trust that they won’t betray you and gives you ammunition in case they do betray you, thus enabling cooperation in future endeavors secure in the knowledge that breaches of loyalty can be retaliated against? Is this how the game bonds people?

    • Acedia says:

      Where I came from truth or dare was mostly just a thinly veiled excuse for young people to engage in sexual experimentation.

      • Adam says:

        Yes, this. I only ever played Truth and Dare with women roughly the same age as me that I found attractive, and the basic idea seemed to be an easy way of feeling out exactly how far the other was willing to go.

    • ddreytes says:

      It is a structure for allowing (a) openness / vulnerability / confessions and (b) actions that might not otherwise be socially acceptable, or that people might be reticent about.

      There’s a lot of ways you can talk about that kind of structure being beneficial. The sort of game-theoretic signaling explanation you’re using is definitely one of those. You could also talk about it in terms of emotional bonding – vulnerability and openness and mutual risk-taking brings people closer together, makes them feel closer, makes them feel they know each other better. I think you could also talk about it as part of a process of maturing – as a way to try out different ways of representing yourself, of trying to transcend the social position that you are in, etc.

      But if you want to talk about its purpose, I think it’s that people find it enjoyable (and also that it’s a means for sexual experimentation as Acedia says).

  11. A says:

    About illiberal societies. On one hand, there are obviously many countries where property rights are poorly maintained, corruption is high, institutions are opaque, the press is ineffective, etc. On the other hand, at least hypothetically, there could be countries where institutional quality is high (for the majority) but there exists a significant class of people who have hereditary second-class status-something like blacks in the American south before the 1950s. Do any such countries exist now?

    • marc says:

      The untouchables in India/Nepal?

    • Jiro says:

      The burakumin and the Koreans in Japan might count, although I don’t know how severe discrimination against them is currently, and there may not be a high enough percentage of them to count.

    • Max says:

      Malays in Singapore – although there is no discrimination. They are just slightly inferior as group to han chinese

    • anonymous says:

      Israel, though I’d probably say the institutional quality is on the low end of high even for Jewish, Hebrew speakers.

    • JE says:

      Israel I guess. The Palestinians in the West Bank are under de facto Israeli rule and live intermingled among settlers with full Israeli citizenship while not having citizenship themselves.

      • Jacobian says:

        Stop confusing Palestinians with Israeli Arabs! West Bank Palestinians have their own institutions: government, police, banks, schools, press, public sector etc. They even have their own paramilitary security forces. Their lives are affected strongly by the Israeli military, but other than using the New Israeli Shekel they don’t share many institutions.

        • smn says:

          There are a few hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in Area C of the West Bank who are under Israeli sovereignty and yet aren’t allowed to become citizens and don’t have equal access to Israeli institutions.

    • Tracy W says:

      Australia, informally?

      • Nathan says:

        I’m not sure to what extent aboriginal disadvantage in Australia is due to racism and to what extent it’s driven by aborigines living in remote communities with no jobs.

        • Adam says:

          The question didn’t specify it had to be due to racism, just that people exist with hereditary second-class status. Being born into a sub-community with far fewer opportunities seems to qualify. It seems just as much the case for remote native populations in Canada, people still living on reservations in the US, and Siberian natives in Russia (though you might argue about the institutional quality of Russia).

          I’d also say the U.S. with respect to people born with severe congenital disabilities. Anyone that is actually unable to work their entire lives is going to have a rough go of it without a wealthy and generous family.

          • keranih says:

            It seems just as much the case for remote native populations in Canada, people still living on reservations in the US, and Siberian natives in Russia

            How is this materially different from being born in Ankle Scratch, FlyOver, or to an illegal immigrant family anywhere, rather than to a family in NYC?

          • Adam says:

            It’s not, and those are other good examples of structurally disadvantaged people in otherwise wealthy nations.

          • Jiro says:

            The question was about hereditary status. Being an illegal immigrant is not hereditary.

    • Relativist says:

      Almost any European country with Gypsies. Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Czech Republic, Greece etc …. They are technically full citizens and in many countries have political representation and de jure property rights. In reality, most of them invariably live in ghettos that could be mistaken for third world slums.

      The genetic link and heredity is obvious and undeniable ….

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Excuse me, it sounds like you’re tossing out racism to sound rational and edgy.
        The linguistic and genetic evidence is overwhelming that the Roma are descended from North Indian Hindus who migrated west in the first millennium AD. The oldest surviving folk etiology, in the Shahnama, identifies them as expert musicians.
        Is there a specific genetically inferior North Indian population you have in mind, or…?

        • Relativist says:

          Not tossing out racism at all. Many Eastern Europeans are proudly and unapologetically racist (whether Gypsies are objectively inferior is an unrelated and unanswerable question in my opinion). The larger point is that one can have “structural and hereditary” second-class citizenship while technically having no legal obstacles to full citizenship. That’s what the initial thread called for in its search for examples. Many of the mentioned countries have free public education and healthcare as well as minority party representation in government and decent civil and property rights. Yet, outcomes for the Roma are nothing like those for equally poor “native” citizens.

          By the way – you are correct. The Roma are as overrepresented in the musician class as the Blacks in the US are overrepresented in the NFL. “Traditional” Eastern European weddings and celebrations often feature Roma performers. It is also a common sight to have 5-12 year old self-taught Gypsy kids play instruments quite impressively while panhandling in public.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            “Not tossing out racism at all” seems to contradict “The genetic link and heredity is obvious and undeniable” somewhat. Also, it doesn’t make sense to say “whether Gypsies are objectively inferior is an unanswerable question”. An objective question is one that does have a definitive answer.

          • Relativist says:

            @sweeneyrod: “Not tossing out racism at all” does NOT contradict “The genetic link and heredity is obvious and undeniable.”

            It’s perfectly possible for racism AND alleged genetic justification for racism to exist at the same time. Just because I’m racist does not mean you’re not inferior.

            “Whether Gypsies are objectively inferior is an unanswerable question” precisely because inferiority judgments (genetic or otherwise) are not objective unless very narrowly defined. Inferior to what? Inferior with respect to what goal/purpose?

            Racists may believe Gypsies are inferior, I settle for “they’re genetically different” in socially and economically consequential ways.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Relativist: If their different economic outcomes have an “obvious and undeniable” genetic cause, why do they have such different outcomes from recent Indian immigrants? Do you think their ancestors were a genetically distinct endogamous group when they left North India?

          • Relativist says:

            @Le Maistre Chat: Not sure how much their outcomes are different from recent Indian immigrants (not too many of those in Eastern Europe for a good sample). Not sure how distinct they are genetically. I do suppose that recent Indian immigrants are more self-selected than the ancestors of Gypsies who were expelled from their original homeland en masse.

            To your question “If their different economic outcomes have an “obvious and undeniable” genetic cause, why do they have such different outcomes from recent Indian immigrants?” – to the extent they do, I would guess mostly because of overt racism. Maybe a good deal of predisposition and preference for the typical Gypsy lifestyle also. But preference for lifestyle is a function of societal racism and objectively available options so it may be a bit endogenous …

          • Anthony says:

            Do you think their ancestors were a genetically distinct endogamous group when they left North India?

            Does that matter? They’ve been endogamous since they left North India. Being endogamous outside India gives them a much smaller effective population than the groups who remained in India.

  12. DiscoveredJoys says:

    Abstract

    A core hypothesis in developmental theory predicts that genetic influences on intelligence and academic achievement are suppressed under conditions of socioeconomic privation and more fully realized under conditions of socioeconomic advantage: a Gene × Childhood Socioeconomic Status (SES) interaction. Tests of this hypothesis have produced apparently inconsistent results. We performed a meta-analysis of tests of Gene × SES interaction on intelligence and academic-achievement test scores, allowing for stratification by nation (United States vs. non–United States), and we conducted rigorous tests for publication bias and between-studies heterogeneity. In U.S. studies, we found clear support for moderately sized Gene × SES effects. In studies from Western Europe and Australia, where social policies ensure more uniform access to high-quality education and health care, Gene × SES effects were zero or reversed.

    http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/12/14/0956797615612727

  13. Seth says:

    Has anyone ever tried to apply some of the thinking of “evidence-based medicine” to the dilemma of how to react when subjected to a social-media hatestorm?
    There’s two schools of thought on the topic: 1) Apologize, be accommodating, try to stay above the fray and not descend to the level of the attackers 2) Blast back, never apologize, try to give as good as you get via mocking and deriding the attackers.
    It strikes me that these are parallel in some fashion to medical approaches on how to treat an injury: 1) Apply supportive measures, but fundamentally wait it out for internal healing 2) Treat aggressively, strong drugs or extensive surgery, intervene as much as possible.
    Obviously no single approach is best for every medical situation. But there’s an effort to figure out which works best in what cases. It seems to me that the same sort of analysis might be fruitful for other contexts.

    • Partisan says:

      I think organizations should at least apply a “wait 2 business days” rule before taking actions based on a social media barrage. I think we often need to re-learn some things we already know in new circumstances, and “don’t make big decisions under stress if you don’t have to” (like firing an administrator or censuring a professor) is one we should re-learn when it comes to social media.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      A possible third way – 3) Never apologize, but do explain.

      There might be a sweet spot for that — after 2 business days, or whenever the initial storm has lost interest and some backlash is starting.

    • Adam says:

      I think it helps a lot to not actually check your accounts every day. I’m sure you have other things to do, so do them. At this point, I mostly just never post anything to social media and completely avoid controversial topics, but in my younger days, I’d outrage people every now and again, but sometimes I didn’t even realize it until a week later, and a sufficient number of defenders already said anything I would have said in response anyway.

      Of course, if you are actually an organization, as Partisan seems to be thinking, I suppose you have more at stake.

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      There are many more schools of thought than that, and both of those approaches are terrible. Never apologize (for the thing you were accused of). Never blast back. Both of these things extend the controversy by encouraging your attackers.

      • Of course, if you’re in a mutual-toxoplasma situation in which you have a band of followers who champion you as their symbol of defiance against the evil X-ists, and the X-ists are sending their symbol of defiance against the evil you, then you do want to blast back, and encourage your opposite number to blast back back, and so on.

        One strategy factor people often neglect here is that people are in different situations. I’m here posting my real name with plenty of identifiable details, for example, because I’m not in a situation in which I think it even remotely possible my employer will care, now or ever, what I’m saying, and take action against me. I therefore have very non-standard options for dealing with social media hatestorms.

        There is actually a book on this: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, by Ron Johnson. It does cover how different controversies can affect different people in different situations differently.

    • TheNybbler says:

      I think currently the evidence weighs VERY strongly against #1. The analogy to war is better than to medicine here, and #1 is the appeasement approach. If you and your detractors are basically on the same side, if you’ve actually done something you’d both consider wrong, if your detractors are actually offended by that and that is what is causing them to be riled up, and they’d accept an apology… then perhaps #1 would be a good strategy. IMO, none of those conditions are typically true in social media hatestorms.

      The usual problem with appeasement applies: if the strategy works, your detractors will be back for more.

      Most organizations seem to take a third option — either say nothing, or issue non-committal statements that can be taken any way you like. This is probably a local optimum, but I can’t help thinking that more blasting back might be better overall, to discourage further attempts.

      • Seth says:

        Well, this is why I’m wondering if anyone has ever done a systematic assessment. Of course cases and specifics vary, but that’s true in medicine too. There’s all sorts of medical issues that everyone doesn’t react the same way to very aggressive treatment with high doses of some drug, there’s possible confounding variables that people with certain diseases tend to be sicker in general, not everyone is good at complying with a difficult treatment regime, etc. But still, there’s an effort to assess what works and what doesn’t.

        It’s easy to say appeasement just encourages aggressors. But blasting back also gives grounds for further aggression. It can be argued either way, in the abstract. One would need to do an empirical assessment, “strategy”, “outcome”, and so on.

        I’m not sure the book “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” is trying to be analytically rigorous. Maybe this is a potential topic for someone with the researcher mindset.

  14. peccavi says:

    I am intermittently wracked with guilt about not donating blood. The trouble is that I have in the past found having blood taken for tests very uncomfortable (swooning, etc), so it is more unpleasant for me than for the average person. Of course, if the benefit was large enough (probably in the hundreds of £s) I would do it anyway.

    My assumption is that since they are prepared to reject donations from people with risk factors for HIV etc even though the absolute risk of undetected transmission is still very low, the utility of the marginal unit of blood must be quite small. Does anyone know if this is correct?

    • Berna says:

      I don’t know how it is where you live, but here in the Netherlands, they don’t want my blood, just because I have high blood pressure. I’d think donating might do some good for me, but they say no, they just don’t really know what happens if you donate blood when you have high blood pressure, and they don’t want to take any risks. So I think that the marginal utility can’t be that high, or they’d have bothered finding out.

      • onyomi says:

        I don’t understand why high blood pressure, alone, would make one’s blood unsuitable for donation. And since people with high blood pressure have, in some sense, too much blood, it does seem like it might be good for you. Leeches?

      • Svalbardcaretaker says:

        And here in Germany they dont want my too low pressure blood. Admittedly I collapsed once, but still.

        • Daniel says:

          Every now and then I get rejected because my hemoglobin level is too low.

          • Svalbardcaretaker says:

            A veterinarian once told me of a trick involving parsley. You eat a whole bunch a few hours before the test/donation, it makes your HB spike dramatically and you are allowed to donate.

    • In most cases hospitals have enough blood and there’s some evidence that the marginal (as opposed to average) blood transfusion does more harm than good due to immune factors so I really wouldn’t worry about it. I’m good with getting needles stuck in me but I donate platelets instead which seem to be in more demand, partially because it’s easy for me to do it right at a hospital that treats a lot of cancer patients.

    • keranih says:

      The US FDA forbids donations from anyone who lived in the UK from 1980 to 1996, or visited there for more than 3 months. (WP link) Additionally, people who lived in other parts of Europe or visited there are also limited in their ability to donate. This is (thus far) a permanent ban.

      If the marginal risk from donations from this group (huge portions of the US military and their families, plus the whole population of the UK, a number around 60 million) is greater than the marginal benefit of donations, I can’t see your failure to donate being of great concern.

      It is probably of greater value to sign up for a bone marrow donor group, or to volunteer to do outreach/advocacy for such a group. The first, at least, takes relatively little time.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Yes, let us take a moment to plug for joining a marrow registry. It is easy (mail in a few cheek swabs), and if you actually get called up you’re giving somebody major utils.

        My understanding is that your donation may be especially needed if you’re a racial minority, (or mixed race), because those are harder to find matches for.

        • keranih says:

          because those are harder to find matches for

          Yes. For reasons both malignant and otherwise – including the greater genetic diversity among sub-Saharan Africans, which greatly dwarfs that of European-descent humans.

          If one were in a social position to advocate for increased enrollment among those populations (HBCs, African-American churches, etc) the multiplied effect might be even greater.

          Note: the aforementioned donation restrictions still apply, so that people at high risk for communicable blood-born disease would likely not be able to donate themselves. (It is my understanding that this sort of transplant is more subject to physician discretion, marrow not being the commodity that whole blood is. I could easily be wrong.)

        • peccavi says:

          So the thing that has always put me off that is the element of pre-commitment (e.g. “You need to be fully committed to donating your blood stem cells or bone marrow if you come up as a match.” from http://www.anthonynolan.org, although presumably they can’t actually make you consent). Suppose I came up a match at a time when I had a deadline or a pre-booked trip, for which I would recieve no compensation, even though society (via the NHS) could easily do so? Am I just pre-committing to being emotionally blackmailed? And is the fact that society is not prepared to put its money where its mouth is and (offer to) pay for something which involves substantial inconvenience and discomfort but low risk (so avoiding the “poor having their organs harvested by the rich” concerns) and is supposedly life-saving a signal that maybe the benefits at least at the margin aren’t so great after all?

          I also find it a bit strange that the Anthony Nolan Trust says that “If you’re on the register, you must be happy to donate stem cells in either way. [PBSC or bone marrow]” Isn’t someone only prepared to agree to PBSC still a net positive? Or is this an attempt to strong-arm people into agreeing to bone marrow if the need arises?

          Having said which, I’ll probably sign up despite these qualms since the cost-benefit seems so skewed.

          • Jiro says:

            nd is the fact that society is not prepared to put its money where its mouth is and (offer to) pay for something which involves substantial inconvenience and discomfort but low risk (so avoiding the “poor having their organs harvested by the rich” concerns) and is supposedly life-saving a signal that maybe the benefits at least at the margin aren’t so great after all?

            It’s unarguable that giving someone an organ has benefits that *are* that great, and yet we don’t let them be sold, so it would be incorrect to assume that not letting something be sold is a signal that the benefits are not that great.

            If anything, not letting it be sold is a signal that the market rate is typically less than the utility lost by giving it up.

          • witchwestphalia says:

            “Suppose I came up a match at a time when I had a deadline or a pre-booked trip, for which I would recieve no compensation, even though society (via the NHS) could easily do so?”

            Generally BMT & PBSC is not a same-day emergency. So if you are on deadline or have a trip planned that isn’t months in duration, your donation may still be in time for the planned recipient.

            “…pay for something which involves substantial inconvenience and discomfort but low risk (so avoiding the “poor having their organs harvested by the rich” concerns) and is supposedly life-saving a signal that maybe the benefits at least at the margin aren’t so great after all?”

            PBSC harvest doesn’t involve *substantial* inconvenience and discomfort from what I can tell. Being a marrow donor is a day procedure so I can see that an extremely busy person might find that substantially inconvenient. It absolutely *does* involve substantial discomfort. Here in the USA I think the reason for requiring volunteers is partly a legacy from blood banking — volunteer donors are thought to be lower risk for transmitting infections through blood, and partly to prevent low income PBSC & bone marrow *recipients* from being unable to afford life saving therapy due to the cost of paying the donor.

            I work close to 80 hours a week. I’m in the registry, and if they ever contact me, I’ll take the time needed to be a donor. Yes, it will involve inconvenience. but I’m OK with that. YMMV

      • Helldalgo says:

        Also anyone who was on pig insulin; my mom can’t donate blood because of this.

    • The Anonymouse says:

      If the Red Cross wants my blood, they can do what every other group does when they want something I own: pay for it. Especially if they’re going to turn around and sell it to the next entity in the chain.

      In the absence of recompense, I wouldn’t feel guilty about not giving them blood.

  15. onyomi says:

    “the way you would expect rationalists to look?”

    Nerdy?

  16. Liskantope says:

    A question for the doctors/nurses in the room: A few years ago, I tested positively for a (mild) cat allergy. I don’t notice it at all when visiting people who have cats in the house, not even when playing with their cats (although I usually keep their cats away from my face). I’m prone to allergies in general, and some other people in my family have pretty serious cat allergies. If I were to adopt my own cat, does it seem likely that I would develop a much worse allergy to them?

    • keranih says:

      Likely/not likely have limited value for individual choices (much better for population-based choices). You either will develop a much worse allergy or you will not.

      Consider volunteering to foster (temporarily) with a local shelter or rescue group. You’ll do some good, will learn if you actually like having cats around, and will not have to deal with the burden of returning an animal you pledged to care for long term.

      • PSJ says:

        This seems like an odd response. If there’s a 50% chance of developing an allergy the decision to get a cat has a significantly lower expected return than a 1% chance.

    • ThrustVectoring says:

      Allergy tests are usually done in parallel – expose someone to a bunch of possible allergens and see which ones get a reaction. A problem with this kind of testing is that a severely allergic immune system will basically go “HOLY SHIT THERE ARE THINGS IT’S TIME TO KILL FUCKING EVERYTHING” and react to things that normally do not cause a reaction.

      So if your allergy test found at least one severe reaction and a bunch of mild ones, it may be the case that the severe reactions *caused* the mild ones. This explains why the test and life experiences disagree.

      Note that I’m not any kind of doctor or nurse, I just read a *lot*.

    • When I adopted my cat, they rubbed a cloth on her for me and let me take it home to sleep on overnight. This gave me an idea of how allergic I would be to her, since I do sometimes get cat allergies. Happily, I found a cat who generally doesn’t give me allergies at all.

    • Liskantope says:

      To be clear, my fear is not only becoming really allergic to a cat I adopt, but developing a more severe allergy to cats in general because of having gotten one. Right now I may wish I could have my own cat, but I can at least hang out in cat-inhabited houses without getting sick, and I wouldn’t want for that to change.

      • Adam says:

        The opposite is true for my wife at least. She’s allergic to cats, but being persistently exposed to cats make the allergy less severe than if she is only intermittently exposed to cats.

    • Anthony says:

      One way that allergies are treated is to expose the patient to small subcutaneous doses of the allergen over time. Kittens will do this for you.

      IANAD, and this is not medical advice.

  17. theboredprof says:

    On the mundane and the mystical Apocalypse (an oblique criticism of certain recent posts):

    Western culture reacts to existential threats via eschatological narratives in paired mundane and mystical forms. The mundane Apocalypse is the body of theory that emerges from direct observation of threats in the present world. The mystical Apocalypse is a parallel story about the very near future, grounded in theory and extrapolation, that engages our highest theological and intellectual aspirations. The mundane Apocalypse is the simple and familiar story of disease, warfare, pollution. The mystical Apocalypse is an ever-changing book of revelations, a science fiction novel about the demons who will come out of the sky and thwart us for our (rational, ritual) overreach or imprudence.

    Thus, to take an example from my field, around the year 1300 cities in Europe faced widening problems with sanitation and food supply. Aspects of these problems were known and understood to contemporaries in terms appropriate for the era. Yet various learned circles preferred to speculate about the Antichrist and foresee an imminent end of days. When the collapse came, of course, it was a plague rather than demons, supported precisely by poor urban sanitation and an overextended agricultural system. Somehow the mystical Apocalypse is never realized and the mundane apocalypse is never interesting.

    Because we are just animals, the threats that we face are blunt and stupid. At base they do not mean anything, or at least they do not mean enough. If we are going to die, we do not want to die at the hands of entropy or a minuscule viral automaton that, for all its simplicity, can confound the biological processes that sustain our thought. The mystical Apocalypse displaces the events portending our demise to the near future rather than the present, and it reconstructs them to proceed from our intellect and ambition rather than the physical and biological parameters of our existence. It is a fantasy of learned culture. Read enough and you think you deserve the alien invasion. At base you are little different than the dinosaurs, and the most you can hope for is a meteor strike.

    On SSC one periodically reads about the near-future risk of a hyperintelligent general AI responding in unpredictable ways to perverse incentive structures and reducing the world to paperclips. We already have hyperintelligent entities that respond to perverse incentive structures, and they are already turning the world to ash and sand. Human bureaucracies, in their governmental or corporate forms, exceed by orders of magnitude the capabilities (intellectual or otherwise) of any individual. They have rearranged nearly all human social behavior to alter the composition of the earth’s atmosphere in ways that benefit nobody, and they will persist in this until the spiraling disorder disrupts their operation or changes the incentive structures that drive them.

    • eponymous says:

      It’s ironic that, in the context of this community, the mundane threat you speak of is named after a demon.

      “What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?”

      (Now that I look back at that post to find a line to quote, I find that the poem is much less awesome than I remembered.)

      • theboredprof says:

        Moloch the mundane sky demon–that post also cites Bostrom.

        • eponymous says:

          But the post is mainly about various sorts of market failures that make groups of humans (very much including bureaucracies and corporations) do things that are individually rational but bad for humanity in general. Moloch is basically a personification of the “hyperintelligent entities that respond to perverse incentive structures…turning the world to ash and sand” you are concerned about.

          Many SSC readers are (like you) much more concerned about these issues than about AI. For example, Scott Aaronson (see the first paragraph of his post, “The Singularity is Far”.)

          • theboredprof says:

            No of course I understood your point. I just found the citation of Bostrom as inspiration for the Meditations post intriguing, I guess.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      This kind of reads like saying “People think there’s going to be this big ‘global warming’, but the real warming is the heat of the arguments we produce by being hostile to each other in society”

      Yes, your metaphor is creative, but the real world is still allowed to include actual literal unusual problems, even though they may sounds weird or dramatic.

      • theboredprof says:

        There are “problems” that we perceive in the present, and there are “problems” that we construct by telling stories about how things will be in the future. The latter are not actually included in the real world.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          “Would you stop pointing that loaded gun at me?”

          “The loaded gun isn’t causing you a problem now. You’re just telling yourself a story where it causes one in the future.”

          • theboredprof says:

            A loaded gun is perceived outside of narrative as a present fact; we fear what it might do on the basis of what it has done. AI risk, by contrast, has no reality outside our stories about the future. In this case nobody even has a gun. Rather, my crazy neighbor has a laser pointer and miscellaneous optical equipment, and I’m worried he’ll vaporize me as soon as he perfects his deathray.

          • Murphy says:

            Before Trinity, Hiroshima and Nagasaki should other states have been worried about the possibility of nuclear weapons being developed?

            Until they built a working bomb, nuclear weapons had no reality outside theoretical physics papers and stories about the future.

            Nobody even had a nuke, rather, their crazy neighbor had some magnets, some warm metal and miscellaneous physics equipment.

          • theboredprof says:

            In the context of my reply to SA: We must all decide for ourselves whether AI risk has been defined and demonstrated in as rigorous a manner as nuclear fission in 1938. In the context of my broader whatever: The stories we tell about the near future need not be automatically invalid, but when they accord with mythological patterns that have not proven successful or predictive in past iterations, we could be on guard.

          • TrivialGravitas says:

            @Murphy
            Atomic weapons didn’t have apocalyptic potential after Hiroshima and Nagasaki either. That had to wait for 1952, not in the creation of a weapon, but in the discovery that poor grade uranium deposits indicate high grade uranium deposits deep beneath them. Before that there simply wasn’t enough uranium to pose existential threats, even with Teller’s predictions for superbombs.

            But that may be non central, a better argument is that as of 1938 we knew almost exactly how to make a bomb, the question was primarily in the industrial capacity to produce massive amounts of U235 and/or Pu239, show that AI is dependent only on managing to get enough comptronium together and it would obviously be inevitable that AI will exist.

        • eponymous says:

          > There are “problems” that we perceive in the present, and there are “problems” that we construct by telling stories about how things will be in the future. The latter are not actually included in the real world.

          They are both generated by running models of reality forward.

          There is wisdom in saying, “Extrapolating models to regions of the domain that haven’t been observed yet is a risky business”. And this should lead us to reduce our confidence in predictions from such extrapolations. But it doesn’t follow that we should never act on extrapolations far removed from what we have observed.

          For example, we extrapolated our model of physical laws well enough to successfully send a man to the moon and bring him safely home again.

          • theboredprof says:

            >But it doesn’t follow that we should never act on extrapolations far >removed from what we have observed.

            We may extrapolate nonexistent yet future threats from present circumstance. That bare fact does not mean the present world “includes” these future threats, or that this purported “inclusion” can be cited to excuse the bizarre nature of the threats we have extrapolated. That was my only point.

    • Jeffrey Soreff says:

      Because we are just animals, the threats that we face are blunt and stupid. At base they do not mean anything, or at least they do not mean enough.

      What counts as blunt and stupid? The fission/fusion/fission warheads that are still poised to fry most of our cities are based on the Teller-Ulam invention, which was at least subtle.

      • theboredprof says:

        Munitions are an expression of the human urge to warfare, a present and longstanding threat to our existence that strikes me as very blunt indeed, technological elegance aside.

        • Fibs says:

          But don’t you see the issue here? Framed like that, you get to feel smugly superior in every instance.

          Atomic warfare is “Just warfare, which is blunt and stupid”

          Co-ordination problems on a massive scale is “just greed by the selfish!”

          viral issues is just “the tragedy of the commons, how plebian”

          global climate change? Pfh, mere capitalist by-product of exploitation. How blasé.

          Changing politlcal atmosphere that leads to marginailization of important issues? “monkey politics!”

          Inter-stellar space rays or meteors? “Physics is the most mundane science”.

          Your critique doesn’t do much but allow you to feel superior that you’ve managed to come to the light and see how blunt and stupid the rest of the planet is, the blinded fools. It’s a little… useless, I guess?

          • theboredprof says:

            I don’t think you are responding to any point that I have made. The existential threats posed by disease, pollution and warfare are “blunt and stupid” primarily from the (hypothetical) perspective of a learned culture that prefers to see intelligence, learning and academic/technological progress as the highest expression of our humanity.

            I aim only to explain why some futuristic narratives of our demise have arisen, and how they might be read as an intellectualized and humanized correction of the very real problems we face.

  18. Stefan Drinic says:

    Since I’m actually fairly early to the party this thread around, I’m going to ask something I’ve been meaning to ask for a while..

    How long does our dear commentariat think it would take for the mainstream left to altogether decide trade and commerce is a good thing?

    Anti-market attitudes and such don’t add up that well to leftist attitudes in general, whatever else some might say. As far as I can tell, said attitudes are a leftover from when Marx still wrote, and it had a thought process like so: those darn capitalists and their factories exploit people, these people operate on the markets, an ideal world would have no markets but would have people share everything because sunshine, QED markets are bad. It’s a very culturally specific trope that makes much less sense in today’s economy. Certainly there are some issues with work conditions, but it’s hardly enough for most people to give up on the idea of commerce entirely.

    What I just happen to be curious about is how long people here think this sort of attitude is even going to last. Anticapitalist attitudes aren’t especially ‘necessary’ to appeal to large voter bases, and I wager the amount of people who genuinely hold such views is very small, below 20% for sure. I could envision a political party in favour of free trade and open economies whilst holding on to leftist social issues as well as things like social security, student aid, and what have you.

    I’m also not very interested in rants about how closing off economies and whatnot is something that’s always been what those darn leftists have been doing since ever oh it is so horrible. History spans much further than any of our lifetimes, and it proves such views to be wrong.

    • walpolo says:

      I think that sort of change in the left will require a lasting perception that “capitalists” (which most people today identify as bankers and other finance workers) are not trying to fleece the common people or play dangerous games with their savings. So we will have to go a long time without a significant failure of the financial system like the one that happened in 2008.

      • ddreytes says:

        How accurate would such a perception actually be, in reference to actually-existing bankers and finance workers?

        On the broader topic: I think that this is one of those things that is probably very different between America and Europe, and where it also depends very heavily on what you have in mind when you say “mainstream left”. That said, my feeling is that, in America, if we’re thinking basically about the progressive movement and the left fringe of the Democratic Party – I don’t think those people are opposed to markets and trade as such. In favor of much more strongly regulated markets, yes. Convinced that markets are an imperfect mechanism, yes – but pretty OK with the existence of the private sphere and markets in themselves.

        There are certainly people who do still think that capitalism is doomed to fail because of its internal contradictions in America. But those people are so far removed from any position where they would worry about electoral appeal that it’s almost not worth talking about.

      • stargirl says:

        The issue with this is the financial system does have alot of very bad practices. The biggest issue is that most forms of “investment services” are bad deals for most people. Probably almost everyone should invest in various forms of index funds.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        > So we will have to go a long time without a significant failure of the financial system like the one that happened in 2008.

        The left still had the same anti-capitalist attitudes before 2008 — for example, the spectacularly destructive WTO protests were in 1999, near the end of a famously lengthy period of capitalism-associated peace, prosperity, and happiness — so I don’t think there’s any relation.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          Joseph Schumpeter:

          Capitalism stands its trial before judges who have the sentence of death in their pockets. They are going to pass it, whatever the defense they may hear; the only success victorious defense can possibly produce is a change in the indictment.

        • Brian Donohue says:

          Furthermore, the most cogent explanation of the severity of the 2008 crisis lays a lot of responsibility at the feet of the Fed.

          Same with the Great Depression.

      • > “capitalists” (which most people today identify as bankers and other finance workers)

        That’s a labelling thing. It’s not that organic farmers and mom-and-pop stores aren’t engaging in “trade and commerce”. The left are much more suspicious of high finance. Not without reason.

    • PSJ says:

      I think the left is more supportive of markets in general than is assumed, but they:

      1. Tend to think of more things as distortions in markets that require government intervention to make efficient, and

      2. Have a social welfare function that is more weighted towards equity than rightists writ large

      So they are more supportive of interventionism.

      The first point leads to pro-market solutions that rely on government involvement. For example most people on the left are strongly supportive of a tax on carbon as a way to correct a negative externality that has not been internalized by the market. Of course, because of low levels of awareness of economics, this often takes the form of “Global warming is bad for other people and the government should intervene when people do bad things for other people and don’t pay a price for it.” but that is adjacent to sound economic principles. Ditto for sin taxes and pollution controls which should lead to a more efficient allocation of resources. These things take away from individual liberties, but aren’t really anti-market. They are supportive of strong antitrust laws because they see companies having huge control over prices and are “taking advantage” of people and that is a bad thing. But again, this intuition is just an uneducated statement of sound, pro-market, pro-competition solutions to a problem. They are supportive of large amounts of government-funded, so-called “independent” research on things like climate change and health outcomes and oversight of business practices in order to create information and correct asymmetries which should improve market outcomes, (although again in less precise terms). So on the first point, it really comes down to whether you classify all government action as anti-market or you think of efficiency oriented policy as pro-market.

      Now this is not at all to say that the left is particularly capitalist and the second point is a large driver of this. I don’t think I need to provide examples of this. But I think a similar portion of leftists are principled anti-capitalists as rightists are principled protectionists or make blanket bans against any tax, none of which are really promoting efficient markets. The average voter of both sides have no real conception of what good economic policy is, and among actual policy-makers, I would argue that the left is only marginally more anti-capitalist if at all (but again, this relies on my belief that something like a carbon tax is actually good pro-market policy and weak anti-trust laws is anti-market which no libertarian/Austrian would accept).

      Anyway, this is just my conception as a leftist surrounded by leftists. I think views about the left from the right (and vice-versa) tend to be from the internet outrage machine which is obviously going to highlight bad and the most controversial ideas. We don’t hear about how the (some of the) right sensibly wants to rein in future social security spending by slowly raising eligibility ages or how the “death panels” were actually an effective way to reduce wasteful spending on healthcare.

      The fact that most academic economists are leftist at least indicates that classification of right=markets, left=anti-markets may be far over-simplified (and yes, there is the counter-point that the academy is a leftist shell in which no rightist views may even be spoken 🙂 ).

      • walpolo says:

        “But I think a similar portion of leftists are principled anti-capitalists as rightists are principled protectionists or make blanket bans against any tax, none of which are really promoting efficient markets.”

        I agree with this.

      • “The fact that most academic economists are leftist”

        Compared to other academics, I think the opposite is true.

        One point you don’t discuss is how willing people on the left are to recognize problems with government along public choice lines. The same arguments that imply market failure on private markets imply market failure on the political market–the voter who spends time and effort figuring out who is the best candidate for the country is producing a public good for a very large public.

        The underlying cause of market failure is that individuals take actions most of whose net cost is born by other people. That sometimes happens on private markets, but it is almost always the case on the political market, whether you are considering voters, lobbyists, politicians, or judges.

        Or in other words, is the difference in policy views between leftists and pro-market conservatives and libertarians due not to the leftists underestimating the attractiveness of markets but to their overestimating the political alternative?

        • PSJ says:

          Putting in terms of underestimating and overestimating seems like encouraging partisan contest. I would just say that different sides have different balances of these two values.

          • A key difference between the left and pro-market right is that the weight the left puts on equality the right puts on helping the poor. So having the rich get 20% richer while the poor got only 10% richer would be looked at as bad by the much of the left but good by the right.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ James D. Miller

            Your 20%/10% may work for a while; but somewhere around, shall we say, 99%/1%, you hit gentrification. The rich bid up the price of a limited commodity, till the poor can’t afford any.

            Plus, the more politicians and lawyers the rich can afford, makes a snowball effect in power.

          • houseboatonstyx

            I don’t think the economy is zero sum. The (relative) poor can move out of cities. In the U.S. at least there is lots and lots of cheap land. Plus, the price of housing is high in cities because of government restrictions on building.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ James D. Miller
            I don’t think the economy is zero sum.

            Land area, is. And so, at any particular time, is food.

            The (relative) poor can move out of cities.

            Till the rich have bid up the price of the current flyover acres, too. ‘Gentrification’ is a principle.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ houseboatonstyx:

            That ain’t how it works.

            One commodity in limited supply is human labor. And these rich people who own all the wealth presumably own all the businesses, and they have to compete against each other for the limited supply of workers, bidding up wages.

            The more the rich bid up land rents or whatever, the more attractive human labor looks in comparison, so this phenomenon limits itself.

            Now, if we’re talking about a society where human labor is absolutely unneeded, we’re talking about a post-scarcity utopia, and the idea of the rich owning everything is hardly a threat there. Even if the rich ended up with literally all the capital, the real price of goods would be so low that a single philanthropist could pay a nickel to keep the entire population of the poor in luxury for all their days.

          • PSJ says:

            @James D Miller

            Your 20/10 example is a straw man liberal as far as I can tell. A more accurate characterization of a normalish liberal (since I’m sure you can find a socialistish writer who would say yours) might be that a liberal would prefer a world where the rich get 10% richer while the poor get 40% richer to the 20/10 world even if that world has less total capital. Again, it’s different social utility functions with liberals weighted towards equity, not that one side is purposefully aiming to leave the utility possibilities curve towards everyone’s detriment.

            Although this was not the point your response was originally nested under which was that liberals tend to see more opportunities for the government to productively intervene in the market to correct failures than conservatives, with no claim about which is broadly correct (since it seems fantastically unlikely that government intervention in every market should optimally move the same direction, let alone policy-to-policy comparison)

        • PSJ says:

          Re: academic economists, I was simply trying to say that the fact leftist (as in American Democratic Party sort of left) economists outnumber conservative economists significantly means that the characterization of the left as widely and explicitly anti market beggars belief, not that the leftist position is “correct”. And so even if relative to other academics, economists are more conservative, the point stands. As such, some sort of more nuanced explanation of the difference between the two re: markets such as your comment seems necessary.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’ve been going the opposite direction of this and finally admitted that developing countries should institute some tariffs. I don’t know how unpopular a position this is around here but I can defend it if needed.

      I think it’s a mistake to use broad categories like anti-trade instead of thinking that some people have other goals that have to be traded off against trade.

      • PSJ says:

        I would love to hear a defense of this! Or links to other defenses. I don’t think I’ve heard convincing arguments that tariffs are ever better than targeted subsidy or redistribution. Although I guess they may solve some problems with inefficiency or corruption in government? But this sounds really interesting!

        Edit: Ok, whoops. One potential argument is that a developing country without government revenue or credit with which to implement subsidies can only encourage production through limiting trade? I think that makes sense?

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Yeah, that’s what the sources I’ve been reading say. In a free-trade situation where everyone else is developed but you, there’s no good way to develop a local industry like car manufacturing because everyone else has huge highly-advanced economy-of-scale Tesla factories while you’re still trying to build the Model T. If you try to compete with them you’ll be blown away. Have tariffs for a couple of decades and you can get your own car factories up to speed, assuming that’s something you want to do.

          I think the main reason you would want this is that otherwise you’ll default to either being a resource supplier (with associated shock once the resources run out) or cheap labor for other people’s industries with a lot of the money going back to them.

          I’d like to see an analysis of to what degree this can explain the first world/third world distinction. Right now there’s this big question of how come the First World was able to industrialize pretty quickly after the Industrial Revolution, but then after that the Third World has had a really hard time developing even though people keep throwing aid and technology at them. Right now the best theory I’ve heard is Garett Jones’ hive mind theory, but it seems possible that one big First World advantage is that they didn’t have to compete against the First World while they were trying to escape Third World status. I think this may be what a lot of leftists are getting at although they use such nonstandard and loaded language that I’ve missed it until recently.

          Although I don’t think this would explain some cases like China.

          Disclaimer: I’m not an economist and this could be totally laughably wrong.

          • Tracy W says:

            From memory, the rate of industrialisation has been increasing over time. I’m on my tablet and a brief google hasn’t helped my memory but something like Britain was probably at around 2% annual average GDP growth during the Industrial Revolution while Japan was high single digits post-WWII and China has been 10%+. (I’m excluding the USA and the other Anglo-Saxon colonies because there was a large element of opening up natural resources.)

            Which is logical enough, Britain and the Netherlands had to work it all out as they went along, while Japan could do things like copy railways and China now can copy from countries ranging from Canada to Singapore.

            [Edit: added: you also are assuming that countries compete. They don’t. Individual firms or industries may compete, but this competition, be it domestic or international, is beneficial for other producers and consumers. Rich Westerners can buy more products from developing nations than poor ones. Massive Western steel mills can produce steel far more cheaply for steel-using firms in both rich and poor countries than backyard furnaces, allowing final consumer goods to be produced more cheaply, etc. ]

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            This is the nittiest pick to ever pick, but the Netherlands never was industrialised all that much, owing in part due to its tertiary economic sector already being fairly well-developed.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            Aren’t a large proportion of third world poor people who are in dire poverty subsistence farmers and domestic workers, while working in a factory is a relative step up? Especially since a large number of imports are things like machinery and medicine.

            I would guess that a lot of poor countries those that are heavily isolated from the world economy or so wracked by warfare that it is impossible to build infrastructure.

          • Tracy W says:

            @Stefan: I was reading Scott Alexander as talking about industrialisation in the sense of economic prosperity generally, because he doesn’t seem that guilt-torn over choosing to be a doctor rather than a steelworker.

          • Anon. says:

            A big unstated assumption here is that (corrupt and incompetent third-world) politicians are good at picking the correct industries to support.

            >or cheap labor for other people’s industries with a lot of the money going back to them.

            Unless tariffs encourage saving/investment, I don’t see the connection. What do you think happens to local capital?

            Perhaps there is some effect like the one you describe, but surely it is tiny compared to institutional quality and human capital.

            A recent related paper: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2695719

          • Adam Casey says:

            >Have tariffs for a couple of decades and you can get your own car factories up to speed,

            This seems not be true.

            1) It seems unlikely that in a world where the US, Japan, and Germany have car industries that Nigeria could even with the best will in the world compete with that. (It seems like Italy can’t, and Italy is very much developed). Specialisation between countries is important.

            2) It’s not clear to me that tariffs actually help industries in developing countries. They are unlikely to promote investment of capital from outside the country. And that’s a key source of growth.

            3) It seems like the main thing holding back economic development in poor countries is the poor market institutions within those countries themselves. And that won’t be fixed after a decade of tariffs. If anything having the country flooded with coke and mcdonadls might promote those market institutions.

            4) This seems to imply that the countries that have had high tariffs imposed on them from outside in the form of embargos would benefit from this. Which isn’t true. Unless of course the important point is for tariffs to be asymmetrical.

            I second your disclaimer.

          • Jason K. says:

            My first question would be: what is the rebuttal to comparative advantage?

            Snipped from here: http://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/040615/what-are-specialization-and-comparative-advantage-international-trade.asp

            “Consider a hypothetical situation where the U.S. can either produce 100 televisions or 50 cars. China can produce 50 televisions or 10 cars. The U.S. is better at producing both in an absolute sense, but China is better at producing televisions because it only has to give up one-fifth of a car to make one television; the U.S. has to give up one-half of a car to make a television. Conversely, the U.S. only has to trade two televisions to make a car, while China has to forgo five televisions to make a car.

            This example highlights why there is almost always an economic incentive for two entities, including whole countries, to engage in trade. This is especially important for less-developed countries, who are not shut out of international markets because they lack the superior technology and capital infrastructure of wealthy nations.”

            Trade does not require that one produces goods that are superior. Look at all the cultch that is imported from China. If the party got its nose out of things, I bet China would be rapidly catching up to developed status. What keeps most of the third world undeveloped isn’t the competition of developed countries, but unrest/corruption and/or not very compatible legal/cultural structures.

          • If you impose a tariff on good X, you make it harder for your domestic industries to produce anything made with good X. If X is cars then you harm any industry that makes use of auto-transport. Successful multinational firms get each component of their products made in the country that can make them the cheapest. A poor nation that uses tariffs loses much of the ability to do this and will be placing itself at a horrible disadvantage. A poor country is going to choose to protect the most politically powerful industries, not those industries that have the most potential for long-term growth. Once a domestic industry is protected by a tariff its success depends on pleasing politicians not customers and so it’s unlikely to ever become world-class. Tariffs also distort comparative advantages in a way that probably reduces economic growth.

            Horrible political systems and lack of rule of law is a big reason many poor countries stay poor.

          • Drew says:

            Disclaimer: I’m not an economist and this could be totally laughably wrong.

            This is very much a position in mainstream econ. The term is Import Substitution Industrialization

          • Jiro says:

            How did Taiwan and South Korea manage to transition to first world at a time when first world countries already existed?

          • Glen Raphael says:

            If you impose a tariff on good X, you make it harder for your domestic industries to produce anything made with good X.

            Right. Consider actual US experience: Our steel mills weren’t competitive with the newer mini-mills popping up elsewhere so we instituted import taxes and/or quotas that made imported steel more expensive. Which might’ve been great (at least in the short term) for US steel producers, but made US cars less competitive both in the US and internationally. Because Japanese firms could use cheap/fast turnaround/high-quality steel from the good new foreign producers sold at the cheap price, but US automakers were stuck either using crappier US steel or paying the huge import tariffs we had inflicted on ourselves.

            Which meant we had to put a tax/quota on cars too, which in turn disadvantaged still other local industries.

            Or consider computer memory. Dynamic RAM (“DRAM”) chips made in Asia were being sold SO cheaply that the US wouldn’t be competitive, so we instituted huge “dumping” duties on imported DRAM…and nearly killed Apple Computer. See, Apple’s products were at the time being assembled in the US and the tariff was charged on DRAM chips imported for sale or use but NOT on products CONTAINING these chips. So a Korean generic PC maker could buy cheap DRAM chips, solder them onto their boards and import the boards or resulting PCs to the US, but Apple had to pay the duty. Apple didn’t even have the OPTION of buying from a US supplier since no such yet existed – they had to pay the tax. Ultimately Apple solved the problem by getting rid of their US manufacturing and doing assembly in Cork, Ireland. Thus an attempt to protect the possibility of a nonexistent US DRAM industry harmed an already-existing US computer-assembly industry to the point of sending all those jobs and that expertise abroad.

          • Brian Donohue says:

            FWIW, Alexander Hamilton had a similar vision for building the American economy in the face of comparatively mature, extant European economies.

            He wasn’t an economist either, but he was a smart guy like you.

            I can’t say I’ve ever made my mind up on the subject.

          • I believe Ricardo only published the theory of comparative advantage in 1817, by which time Alexander Hamilton had been dead for over a decade. So not only did Hamilton not know economics, the economics relevant to making sense of the effect of tariffs did not exist for him to know.

          • Brian Donohue says:

            @David Friedman,

            Fair enough. But my understanding of the British Empire of the time was that colonies exported raw materials to the Mother Country and imported finished goods.

            I’m sure that arrangement was consistent with the comparative advantage of England and America at the time, whether anybody knew it or not.

            And I think Hamilton probably understood that trade among nations was mutually advantageous. He wasn’t after autarky so much as a period of protection for infant industries that could never get off the ground otherwise.

            Isn’t that kind of what happened in America? I may have my facts wrong and am willing to learn.

            Anyway, yeah, I understand that these arguments are often a pretext for old-fashioned protectionism, but aren’t countries always trying to move their way up the value chain? Japan and Korea spring to mind as more recent examples. Is there an argument that they have benefited from providing protections to the home market and allowing value-add industries to grow?

          • Tracy W says:

            Here’s a graph in The Economist showing some of the data I was thinking of. It’s only a few countries, but clearly the time taken for GDP per capita to double has been shrinking since the Industrial Revolution started in Britain, which is consistent with the hypothesis that it’s getting easier to get rich.

          • vV_Vv says:

            First world countries didn’t industrialize all at the same time, in Europe, for instance, some countries had more than one century lag with respect to Britain, and countries like Japan and Korea industrialized even later. As @Tracy W pointed out, countries that industrialized later industrialized faster until they caught up.

            Also, manufacturing companies in the first world love to relocate in less industrialized countries in order to profit from cheaper labor and laxer regulations. So why do they relocate to China rather than, say, Zimbabwe, even though wages in Zimbabwe are lower than in China? Probably it’s largely a matter of political stability, rule of the law (or at least rule of predictable corruption), education of the workforce, and so on.

          • Ksdale says:

            From what I remember of political economy in college, South Korea and Japan pretty successfully used protectionism to grow their own industries. In the case of Korea, I believe it went pretty far beyond tariffs though, and included a lot of state directed investment. It worked, companies like Hyundai are household names around the world, and most people don’t even know that they make ginormous cargo ships.

            On the other hand, I recall that Brazil tried to do the same thing in the computer industry (sorry I don’t have cites) but failed miserably, spending lots of tax dollars to flood the market with barely functioning computers and preventing citizens from buying better computers from abroad.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            The problem is that the most successful industries for Japan and South Korea are the ones that don’t really work well with protectionism- after all, there is only so many cargo ships 50 million people need.

            As for Brazil, that happened in a lot of cases in Latin America. They pursued a policy of import substitution which tended to go poorly- I don’t remember if it is due to worse institutions, or because attempting to over turn gains from trade is inherently a bad plan.

          • John Schilling says:

            Subsidies or targeted investment are more flexible than protectionist tariffs. If you allocate a billion dollars in government funding to build a shipyard, you get a shipyard. Probably a crappy one at first, but you get a shipyard and you can learn from that. If you allocate a billion dollars to subsidize shipbuilding, it is highly likely someone will set up a shipyard to claim the subsidy, and they’ll at least be motivated to try and make it a good one to get another billion from commercial sales somewhere. If you set up a billion dollars in protectionist tariffs on shipbuilding, you only get a shipyard if you’ve got on the order of a billion dollars’ worth of serious customers for new ships right there in your own country.

            Also, when you set up your protectionist tariffs on shipbuilding, everybody with a shipbuilding industry will set up retaliatory tariffs on whatever it is you’re actually good at producing for export.

            Tariffs are rarely the winning move in this game.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @John Schilling

            I think it’s generally even better to subside industries with income tax breaks rather than direct government investment. This way, if somebody builds a crappy shipyard and then folds shop, they will not waste or embezzle any taxpayer money.

          • John Schilling says:

            Income tax rebates are only valuable/effective when there is income which would otherwise be taxed, which is to say when the industry is capable of generating net profits in the open market. If that’s the case, you’re well past the point of needing to protect, assist, or bootstrap industrial development and are just talking about tweaking the distribution of profitable industries in your economy.

          • multiheaded says:

            I think the main reason you would want this is that otherwise you’ll default to either being a resource supplier (with associated shock once the resources run out) or cheap labor for other people’s industries with a lot of the money going back to them.

            Dare you shun the sacred logic of Comparative Advantage! Being cheap labor builds character and helps people bond and learn rational life choices, you know. /s

          • “‘Dare you shun the sacred logic of Comparative Advantage! Being cheap labor builds character and helps people bond and learn rational life choices, you know. ”

            The logic of comparative advantage is that selling your labor to foreign capitalists results in your having a higher income, hence more food on the table, than being compelled by trade restrictions to sell your labor to domestic capitalists, who don’t pay as well. Which is why you will choose to sell your labor to foreign capitalists if the domestic capitalists don’t persuade your government not to let you.

            I don’t know whether you know that you are attacking a straw man of your own invention or are entirely ignorant of the position you are attacking.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            @David: You are talking to a literal Marxist.

      • Stefan Drinic says:

        I know the arguments in favor of such policies, but I think such arguments work the wrong way around. While I can’t speak for the US, the EU’s protectionist policies on agriculture especially are retardedly huge – there have been years that no less than 60% of the EU’s budget went to subsidising agriculture, and this happened even before countries like Romania and Poland joined the union. There quite literally are millions of Frenchmen making their living off of such subsidies and subsequently destroying large parts of their harvest because of overproduction, and it is well known that such products end up being shipped the world around at awfully low prices.

        Maybe Third World countries would do well at raising tariffs, but I doubt it’d be anywhere near necessary if others took down theirs first.

        • Adam Casey says:

          I’m going to vote for Brexit in no small part because of how godawful the CAP is.

        • vV_Vv says:

          There quite literally are millions of Frenchmen making their living off of such subsidies and subsequently destroying large parts of their harvest because of overproduction, and it is well known that such products end up being shipped the world around at awfully low prices.

          Indeed there are millions of farmers all over Europe who are being paid to keep their land uncultivated or to “destroy” their harvest.

          This is a huge transfer of wealth, both as taxpayer money and as artificially raised food prices, from the general population to farmers, who as a class are highly organized and have plenty of political clout.

          Since, if I understand correctly, something similar happens in the US (e.g. water subsides in California, corn ethanol subsides), this seems to be a general problem in developed countries.

          • keranih says:

            The best term for labeling the water market issues in CA is “water rights”, which is not quite the same as subsidies.

          • brad says:

            Only surface waters are subject to prior appropriation. Subsurface waters are currently a free for all and will be until 2040 under current laws. By which time it is likely that many of the main aquifers will be collapsed or subject to salt water intrusion and so unusable for the next geological epoch or three.

            Even surface “water rights” aren’t property rights in the same way as a deed to land. In particular, transferability is quite limited by several associated doctrines. That prevents the Coarse Theorem from working its magic.

            Finally, in terms of subsidy, while the water rights might be considered a form of property and not subsidies the water works are pretty clearly subsidized, and the farmers are pushing for additional capital spending on those works to the tune of $2.7B.

            Of all the terrible things that have been done with California’s initiative system, why hasn’t anything been done to reform the water mess? Isn’t initiative supposed to be about overcoming concentrated interests by bypassing the legislature? Farming interests are less than 5% of both the state economy and workforce, and a good part of that workforce can’t even vote.

          • My memory of Gary Becker’s account is that the countries of the world are divided into two groups as judged by agriculture policy.

            There are the countries where farmers are a small fraction of the population, such as the U.S. and Europe, and where the purpose of farm policy is to hold up the price of agricultural products in order to buy the political support of the concentrated agricultural interest group.

            Then there are the countries where the farmers are a large part of the population, and the purpose of agricultural policy is to hold down the price of agricultural products so as to buy the support of the urban mob at the expense of the dispersed peasantry.

            I think that, on this account, New Zealand is experimental error–it didn’t seem, when I looked into the question some years back, to fit either pattern.

          • Tracy W says:

            NZ’s unusual in that farmers and farmworkers are a small fraction of the population in terms of employment but their production is a large share of exports. Thus New Zealand has tended to tax farmers’ output and use that money to subsidise other activities, eg subsidising industry. There just isn’t the money there to subsidise farming.

            On the other hand, the small numbers of farmers mean that, as per public choice theory, they can’t be taxed *that* much because they’d notice and organise loudly against it.

            About the only time NZ farming was subsidised was in the later years of Robert Muldoon’s prime ministership, this being the man who thought The Road to Serfdom was a guidebook.

          • multiheaded says:

            Hear, hear. Unironically fuck farmers, ugh. Farming subsidies are a horrible thing that western nations do at everyone else’s expense.

          • One aspect of farming subsidies that seems to be being overlooked is the need for countries to ensure they have adequate internal food supplies in the event that imports are cut off. Britain in particular won’t easily forget World War II.

      • Do you think the tariffs they should institute will be the ones they will institute, assuming they regard tariffs as an acceptable policy? On past evidence elsewhere, a senile industry is considerably more likely to get protection than an infant industry.

        Also, what tariffs do you think they should have and why?

        • stubydoo says:

          People might be sick of motte/bailey stuff after the last thread, but oh well…

          Infant industry tariffs is the motte.

          Tariffs for politically connected non-infant industries is the bailey.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I think it’s more a case of a “baptists and bootleggers” coalition.

            There are some sincere advocates of “import-substitution industrialization” (which is what Scott describes here). These are the baptists: the ones who support this policy as a moral imperative.

            There are also the bootleggers: the owners of the industries that are going to get subsidized, whether they are infant or not.

            The actual baptists are not making a motte-and-bailey argument. They are arguing for the motte, perhaps without realizing that it will lead to the bailey.

            The bootleggers are arguing for the bailey, and when they get called on it they point to the baptists for support, who loyally defend the motte.

            Also, I do think (as he admits he might be) that Scott is “totally laughably wrong” about import-substitution industrialization. But obviously he is not arguing for subsidizing corrupt third-world industries. As for what he should read, I think George Reisman’s Capitalism has a good discussion of it.

            This is also a general instance of the point that, when people argue for a policy, they can only be considered to “support” the consequences they think will actually occur. It’s not fair to accuse them of supporting the consequences they don’t think will occur. I’ve never heard of a socialist who supports destroying the economy and lowering quality of life for no reason (as the pro-capitalists think), and I’ve never heard of a capitalist who supports reducing everyone but a rich elite to poverty and slavery (as the pro-socialists think).

      • Ariel Ben-Yehuda says:

        Theoretically, a correctly-placed direct industry subsidy should always be superior to a tariff (same gains to producers, no deadweight loss) – from what I managed to understand from Ha-Joon Chang’s book, this even worked in practice for Korea.

        A direct subsidy may suffer from implementation problems, but I am not sure whether they are worse than these faced by a tariff.

        And, of course, corruption is to red giant industries as bears are to honey, but that is a different issue.

        Incidentally, is there any serious discussion of the “civics class monopoly” – the one that hides behind a high barrier to entry and threatens to destroy any competitor that tries to start, e.g. by cutting prices? Can it really happen (it seems to me that a State’s monopoly on violence is achieved through this mechanism, but this is a quite exotic case – how correct is this?)

        • Trevor says:

          Direct industry subsidies only have no deadweight loss if the taxes used to raise the revenue to fund them have no deadweight loss. Which in practice means if you aren’t using a poll tax, which you aren’t because no one uses them, there will be a deadweight loss, probably a fairly large one.

          Also the “civics class monopoly” strategy wouldn’t work because you would have to lower prices way lower than the profit maximizing amount. At this lower price demand would be much higher and you would have to produce enough goods to satisfy this entire demand even though you are losing money on each good you produce because the price is so low. If you did not produce enough to satisfy all demand at that price then your competitor(s) could sell to the people who can’t buy your cheap product because you started rationing it. So the cost to the monopolist would be much higher than to the new entrants and the entrants could just take out loans and wait until the monopolist bankrupts themselves and is forced to raise prices again.

          • When people say that direct industry subsidies have no deadweight loss, what form are they imagining the subsidies to take? A per unit subsidy to the producers pushes price below MC, assuming the producers compete with each other. A per firm subsidy gives you an inefficiently large number of firms.

          • Trevor says:

            In new trade theory a country can make itself better off through tariffs at the expense of other countries, due to economies of scale and network effects. This is especially true if labor is not mobile.

          • “In new trade theory a country can make itself better off through tariffs at the expense of other countries, due to economies of scale and network effects.”

            In old trade theory, a country can make itself better off through tariffs at the expense of its trading partners, provided the country is a monopsony and the individual firms or consumers are not.

            One problem with both arguments, along with the old infant industry argument, is that they assume that if tariffs are a political option, the special cases where they benefit the imposing country will be the ones that are imposed, instead of the more common case where they injure both countries.

      • This, in fact, is both the orthodox Austrian and Moldbug’s position; economics is value-free, and it’s perfectly rational to impose restrictions if the predicted results are what you actually want.

        To quote Moldbug (note that I don’t actually agree with large parts – perhaps even the majority – of the post linked to above, but do think that the following point is a good one/at least worth considering):

        First, the King has no compunction whatsoever in creating economic distortions that produce employment for low-skilled humans. A good example of such a distortion in the modern world are laws prohibiting self-service gas stations, as in New Jersey or Oregon. These distortions have gotten a bad name among today’s thinkers, because makework is typically the symptom of some corrupt political combination. As the King’s will, it will have a different flavor.

        As both a good Carlylean and a good Misesian, the King condemns economism – the theory that any economic indicator can measure human happiness. His goal is a fulfilled and dignified society, not maximum production of widgets. Is it better that teenagers get work experience during the summer, or that gas costs five cents a gallon less? The question is not a function of any mathematical formula. It is a question of judgment and taste. All that free-market economics will tell you is that, if you prohibit self service, there will be more jobs for gas-station attendants, and gas will cost more. It cannot tell you whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.

        Economics is, as such, a value-free science; it cannot tell you what you should do, merely what the results of doing something shall be under a given analytical model. (The applicability of that model depends on how closely the historical categories used to make such decisions actually match the reality they attempt to describe.) Depending on what you wish to accomplish, you take different actions; the model merely describes different outcomes, but does not choose between them.

        On the specific issue of tariffs, I don’t have any data yet, but I suspect that things don’t actually work that way. I suspect that import tariffs may, in the very best case, when applied impartially to actually infant (as opposed to politically connected) industries, produce the desired results after a long time; but it’ll be at the cost of every customer of that good inside the country that institutes the tariff from the beginning of the policy till its end. You’re basically forcing everyone in the country buying the ‘protected’ good to subsidise the industry. It’s a concentrated benefit with a diffuse cost. You may make a value judgement about this; I don’t know right now which is better, and whether it is for me to make this tradeoff.

    • TD says:

      I thought the “mainstream left” (left-liberals) were in favor of markets already? Sure, they want them to be highly regulated by centralized government, but the “mixed economy” is a left-liberal idea.

      It’s really the far-left that explicitly reject private property, and usually markets (but not always; mutualists and left individualist anarchists reject private property in favor of occupancy and use, but they support free markets). Marxists, Ancoms, and Anarcho-Collectivists reject private property and markets (arguably, anarchist “free associaton” implies a de facto market between different communes, but I’ve never seen any anarchist address this idea).

      I think the mainstream left is more hostile to big business than markets per se. They are hostile to lassez faire markets or “free” markets, but it’s easy to forget that everything short of outright communist beliefs involves support for markets. Most leftists tolerate markets because they recognize that the market is the goose laying the golden social welfare egg.

      When will the mainstream left support actual free market ideology? I don’t know. The one barrier is that the left philosophically is defined by favoring equality in of itself (go far enough to the right, and inequality is “beneficial”), and I think it’s pretty clear that free markets increase inequality, even if they don’t have to increase absolute poverty. Just having people out of a situation of starving or having ill health isn’t enough. Abstract equality is what matters fundamentally to people on the left, much as abstract purity matters to social conservatives, and abstract autonomy to libertarians.

      Personally, I already hold to a position that is very much like free markets + social welfare, and I consider myself to be a moderate libertarian of a centrist orientation, not a leftist (I don’t give a crap about equality coz equality; I’m an autonomy is better than everything else guy). Follow the conservatives to lower regulations on small to medium sized business, but the progressives on welfare. I would like a basic income to be put in place to facilitate getting rid of the minimum wage, as well.

      Actually, I think the automation issue could make mainstream leftists less supporting of markets and property and push them towards a far-left explicitly socialist position. It all depends on how conservatives and libertarians respond. It is the “right” (market liberals) that needs to become more accepting of social welfare, if anything, because a basic income guarantee absolutely will be needed when automation makes the vast majority of the populace redundant. The only other options are genocide, or socialism/state capitalism.

      Universal welfare Vs Socialism Vs Genocide. I pick universal welfare, though socialism is better than a RioKneeactionary genocide of everyone with an IQ lower than 140/everyone without a CompSci degree, of course.

      This is why I try to convince more orthodox market liberals to accept the basic income guarantee. You can have a basic income guarantee and a free market (taxes are not regulations), but with automation looming, there’s going to be a big slump period where the economy will go into a downwards slide without it (no workers needed = no wages = no disposable income = no consumption = no revenue). Marx will finally be right about the decreasing rate of profit destroying capitalism, even if he was wrong about the reasons (He almost got there with the “Fragment on Machines”, but he thought it would be because mechanization would empower the proletariat by lowering labor time, not make them redundant/lumpen by rebutting the labor theory of value).

      Want to not have socialism/gommie time? Then accept welfare capitalism. It’s the Swedish model, after all, isn’t it? Both the conservative Heritage Foundation and American liberals who think Sweden is “socialist” like it, so what’s the problem?

      I think there will be resistance though. It seems to me that the right/market liberals are far more hostile to welfare than the left/social liberals are to markets.

      My counter-question then is: how long will it take the mainstream right to altogether decide that social welfare programs are a good thing, no, an absolutely necessary thing to allow property rights to ride over the automation gap?

      • Stefan Drinic says:

        My intuition about your final question is somewhere near or about ‘the exact same moment our modern populist rightists become the new mainstream’. It seemed to have worked in Rome, it might happen again.

        • Techno-Decentralism says:

          The problem with populist rightists is that while they tend to have more support for welfare compared to regular liberal conservatives/right-liberals, they correspondingly have less support for liberal rights like free speech/assembly/expression and so on. Even very soft para-fascism isn’t a terribly great outcome. They also tend to kick the military-industrial complex into overdrive.

          Well, as long as I get to privately own additive manufacturing machines (will they still be called 3D printers in 2 decades?), and own robot “slaves”3D waifus lel, I’m good, I guess.

          To segue into a related issue as to why a level of decentralization (or politically speaking; distributism, that forgotten philosophy) is important…

          I don’t believe in FOOOM like the rest of you do, and I think we are going to have really powerful specialized optimization engines converging together long before AGI (We are already on this trend; Watson was no soft AGI, but a series of programs brought together that made it out perform humans in a surprisingly human domain). Paper clip maximizers aren’t a danger because they optimize for maximizing paper clips; they are a danger because they are able to optimize for all the other kabrillions of tasks in the world it needs to accomplish in order to increase its paper clip creation efficiency.

          When we do get AGI, it will likely not be a random blot in the mindspace though, but be based off the human brain. Maybe the Human Brain Project is a dud, but something like it is far more likely to achieve generality in all domains than the scattershot of module production driven by corporations requiring narrow domain optimization, and sporadic shot in the dark government research.

          That changes the calculus immensely, flips it over even. My real worry isn’t that a stock market hobbyist will create Cthulhu.Ltd, or that AI will destroy us, but that humans can use narrow-domain AI to outperform other humans in relatively narrow-domain tasks like war, and that when AGI does come, it will be friendly – but friendly to whom? Even with today’s technology, drones with narrow-domain object recognition, trajectory calculation that has been around since forever, and reaction times of 1ms or less to stimuli (check out the rock, paper, scissors bot with similar reaction times) could decimate regular soldiers. Direct holding of territory by infantry by soldiers is useful still, but quadcopter drones forgo the need to have Terminator style robots, since they can easily have rotor shields, and open doors, and navigate tight spaces, and move in rotation back to a self-driving vehicle for charging.

          It’s that automated military tech that is the real threat. If AGI comes from human brain emulation, and not FOOOM because we optimized for a dangerous random mind, then the real danger is centralization of authority through the gradual elimination of the human military.

          Consider that much of what constrains arbitrary leadership is the military. Every politician cannot act beyond the point at which the soldiers that protect the state will go rogue. Every human army has family within the population.

          Consider instead what happens under conditions where you have artificial soldiers, modeled after the human brain, but with a full understanding of the mechanisms behind it, made absolutely loyal to a smaller and smaller group of people, whose whims can be enacted in ever arbitrary ways, because the balance of power between the concerns of the soldiers as citizens and the orders of politicians is eroded away as humans fall out of the loop.

          I think that would be the dawn of a new type of regime in history. Even in North Korea, Kim Jong Un must appease the military, and cannot treat his populace completely as puppets without any interests aberrant to his own.

          In an increasingly automated military this is not so. At first it may seem that we get more ethics advisers and men in the middle, but ultimately that possibility is only backed up by the human element in military authority to begin with. As humans recede due to automation, the humans that are left – the higher ups – gain more and more absolute power, without check or balance. Eventually, under the right conditions a single person could have power and express his purified will upon the populace in the first true dictatorship in history.

          That’s a new type of regime, maybe you could call it “Personalist”, I don’t know, but there wouldn’t be much to limit his desires. He could potentially dispense with political ideology altogether and pursue only his aesthetic interests. Wipe us all out, or make us serve his own morality without any regard to anyone else’s. Though let’s not forget that even a few hundred elites would be dangerous with a mechanism for translating their will into automated power in this way.

          That’s the potential outcome if AGI comes from the principles of a human base model, while tweaking what needs to be tweaked for perfect loyalty and concern to only the elites or even single leader. That can only be tackled with decentralization, where at least there’s a potential for balance of power within the state (between states only creates competing individual aestheticist regimes).

          If, on the other hand, AGI comes from a completely guideless exploration of the mindspace, then the risk is perhaps the classic paperclip maximizer, which can only be tackled with centralization (or so the argument goes).

          How do you avoid personalist/singleton regimes, or merely highly elitist ones, centered around the military while still avoiding unfriendly random mindspace AIs gone rogue?

          It seems to me like understanding the brain and copying its traits to then discover variants through modification seems like the more likely path to AGI, and we already have comprehensive attempts at understanding the connectome and experimentally determining synapse triggering properties and then replicating synapses and human brain structure in new hardware (like IBMs new chip).

          The strategies needed to oppose them seem opposite.

          Uh… Sorry for the incredibly long blog-post, but I thought this divergence of risk should be mentioned at some point, and it is an open thread.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            I never said it’d be a preferable outcome, I said I think it to be a likely outcome. The rest of your comment is thoughtful, but it’s also a derail, and you may try making it its separate comment rather than posting it as a reply to one of my things.

            Also, why are you worried? If everything goes the way you fear the ruinous powers will have free reign. Live up to your avatar, man

      • “and I think it’s pretty clear that free markets increase inequality, even if they don’t have to increase absolute poverty.”

        Increase it relative to what? Certainly free markets increase inequality relative to a system run by an egalitarian dictator, but that isn’t a real world option. If you look at the effect of actual government interventions, they sometimes reduce inequality, quite often increase it. If you look at the respects in which the poor in the U.S. are worst off, they are services provided by government—schooling and law enforcement.

        The extremely unequal societies in the developing world are not the relatively market ones, such as South Korea or Taiwan or Singapore (now more developed than developing). They are the kleptocracies—strong government used to enrich the rulers.

        Is your claim that having a government with the power to intervene in the market, including intervening to benefit some at the expense of others, can be expected to reduce inequality? If so, why would you expect it to be used that way?

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          I agree, of course, with your point of view. Especially the point that socialist societies are the most unequal.

          But the charitable interpretation of his point is that what von Mises called a “hampered market economy”, i.e. welfare-state capitalism, decreases efficiency but increases equality. As in, he meant the emphasis on to be on “free markets”, not “free markets“.

          What do you think of that?

          Edit: I suppose you do suggest in general that intervention can increase inequality even if it is not total. But the usual retort will be “What about Norway vs. Singapore?” or something like that. You might as well pre-emptively respond.

          Anyway, I definitely agree that interventionism often harms equality as well as prosperity. But I don’t find it inconceivable that the freest society might be prosperous but more unequal than a welfare state with highly progressive taxation. In fact, I find it likely.

          • Nathan says:

            Given that waving a magic wand and doubling everybody’s wealth instantly would increase inequality, I’m fairly comfortable saying that inequality is not an actual problem.

    • Dahlen says:

      From here it sounds like you’re asking how long it will take until all that’s, er, left of the Old Left becomes widely perceived as fringe discourse. To which I’d say, 1) anti-market, revolutionary, pro-systemic-change socialism already is pretty damn fringe, to the extent that Bernie goddamn Sanders is what maps to “far left” in the mind of the average American, and 2) if it becomes any more fringe than it actually is, we might assist in this case to the disappearance of what used to be known as “left”, i.e. a quite big rightward shift. (For those of you who keep going on about metaphorical Lovecraftian monsters, this is probably good news.) Free-market progressivism is just good ole’ fashioned liberalism. For this reason I’m tempted to read your question as a proposal that liberalism be the most leftward position available (at least in the mainstream, however defined).

      While I can understand where you’re coming from, and despite usually voting liberal (under the above definition, i.e. centre-right), I at least would see it as the clearest sign of powerlessness and of resignation to “The System” that there can be. The world is already hyper-commercialised. Everything’s for sale, my friend, everything. If I had a sister, I’d sell her in a second. The Old Left in the developed world might not have been very successful in achieving power, perhaps fortunately, but at least, in a sense, it provided a sort of counterbalance to the most avid free-marketeers out there. I’m not sure I’d like to live in a world where commercialism has won its final victories over alternative manners of managing value and handling the material world, where it’s free to swallow every sphere of life previously left untouched by it, where everything that can be traded, will be traded. I’ve lived to see countries where you need money even to cross the street. I can understand the perspective that says, contrary to socialism, that trade is not an unalloyed bad and can be a very useful tool indeed, but then again there are a myriad specimens that see trade as an unalloyed good. And it’s not pleasant to think what would happen if they were to become the driving force in our societies, left utterly unopposed.

      P.S. Just the other day I was thinking about suggesting to the SSC commentariat that maybe they’re becoming too ideologised, and maybe we should stop obsessing about left and right. Then this had to come along. This here post of mine does not help my cause. Nope, not at all.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        I’m not sure I’d like to live in a world where commercialism has won its final victories over alternative manners of managing value and handling the material world, where it’s free to swallow every sphere of life previously left untouched by it, where everything that can be traded, will be traded.

        Why would this be bad? And if it were bad, why would people do it?

        People don’t act under capitalism to make the most money possible. They act to pursue their own self-interest. It does not follow from the fact that it is allowed to commercialize everything, that everything will be commercialized.

        Like, okay, suppose I can prove that marrying one woman will cause me to have more money than marrying another woman. Why is that the determining factor? If I would be miserable with one woman but have more money, or be happy with another and less money, I’ll take the second. All you can show is that all else equal I will prefer the woman with more money. But I don’t see why that it is bad. It makes sense. It’s good.

        It only follows from unrestricted capitalism that people will only pursue money if selection pressures are extreme enough to exclude everything else. That is, if anything else but making the most money possible led to death. But not only is that not the case, it is the opposite of the case. Capitalism has always acted to lower the strength of selection pressures by increasing the wealth of society. It is not the system of “survival of the fittest”; it is the system which enables the unfit to survive longer and in better condition than ever. Capitalism is dysgenic, not eugenic, and that’s a good thing.

        And it’s not pleasant to think what would happen if they were to become the driving force in our societies.

        What, exactly, would happen?

        I think we could use a good deal more of marketization and commericalization in our society. Jason Brennan and Peter Jaworski make the case for this in Markets Without Limits. If you want the short version, the best part of their analysis can be seen in their response to what they call the “semiotic objection to markets”.

        But I agree with you that there is an unhealthy political atmosphere in the comments.

        • Dahlen says:

          Well, I think I remember you saying that you were sympathetic to Objectivism, so even if I did explain my reasoning, the underlying differences between me and you would probably nullify any persuasive power my arguments may have had. You like it, I don’t. Two minds can be very different.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Well, you might as well put your reasoning out there for people to compare.

            What is supposed to be the reason commercialization ruins everything?

            People have values other than making money? I agree. In those ares of their lives, people will prioritize other things. And there’s no reason why capitalism will stop them from doing so.

          • Dahlen says:

            No, sorry, I was just about to go to sleep. Some things are more precious than the clashing of views.

            And please don’t twist my espoused views into “commercialization ruins everything”, it’s just not polite.

          • One way of cashing out “commercialisation ruins everything” is by noting that when one approach becomes sufficiently pervasive, others wither and become inaccessible for all practical purposes. In the middle ages, the religious framework was so pervasive that people could only see a failing sanitaton system in terms of biblical apocalypse, and not, for instance, and not an
            engineering problem.

      • “where everything that can be traded, will be traded.”

        That does not follow from the free market position having won a total victory. Believers in the free market do not believe you are obligated to sell things, only that you should be permitted to.

        Let me offer some real examples. One of my long term hobbies is the Society for Creative Anachronism, a group that does historical recreation mostly from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Every summer I go to the Pennsic War and teach a bunch of classes. Teaching is part of how I make my living–but those classes are free. Not only are the classes free, if I have a handout it is free too, although the rules permit me to charge for it. When I give a slide show on historical jewelry the CD of my slides is free too.

        One of my related hobbies is lapidary work, cutting gemstones. Almost a year ago I replaced the low end machine I had been using for the purpose for the past forty years or so with a modern high end machine. It made cutting stones more fun, so I cut more–and it occurred to me that, although I also do some jewelry making, I was never going to set any significant fraction of the stones I was cutting for fun.

        So I put a notice in one of the SCA facebook groups, offering to cut stones for free for anyone in the SCA who was making period jewelry. I think at this point I have sent off packets of stones to four or five people, perhaps more. I made it clear when asked that I was not interested in cutting stones for sale.

        I am about as extreme a pro-market libertarian as you are likely to find, having argued for over forty years for a society in which all government services would be replaced by private ones. It does not follow that I believe everyone should sell everything. Only that people should be free to sell goods or services if they want to—and free to make other arrangements if they prefer. There are good reasons why some people prefer to organize some parts of their lives as gift economies, or voluntary communes, or in other ways that have not occurred to me. Doing that is in no way inconsistent with a libertarian society.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        @ Dahlen
        Just the other day I was thinking about suggesting to the SSC commentariat that maybe they’re becoming too ideologised, and maybe we should stop obsessing about left and right.

        Well, the comments not the commentors. But I started a post about being against giant instant-dinosaur long-term payoff projects in high-tech-dependent fields, but it didn’t seem to fit into any current sub-thread. Then I thought, big corporations don’t like to risk money on building weird stuff (unless they can tie things up with patents), and there are not enough venture capitalists to go around, so who else is going to subsidize low-to-mid-size wild stuff except a government grant to please enviro voters?

        But that’s got several big BOO lights in it, so I didn’t bother.

        Where’s Queen Isabella when we need her?

      • Tracy W says:

        I’m not sure I’d like to live in a world where commercialism has won its final victories over alternative manners of managing value and handling the material world, where it’s free to swallow every sphere of life previously left untouched by it, where everything that can be traded, will be traded.

        I don’t get this. How could commercialism win out “finally” over alternative forms of managing value? Trade depends on differing values. If you and I both only want money why would we trade? (assuming we don’t want different currencies.) But if I want food and you want art, we can trade.

      • Mr. Breakfast says:

        In contradiction to all the responses defending freedom to trade, I read Dahlen’s concern as being along the lines of:

        I’m not sure I’d like to live in a world where the corporatist mass-market has won its final victories over alternative manners of managing value and handling the material world, where people are unable to come to non-commercial or technocratically unapproved arrangements in any sphere of life previously left untouched by it, where everything that can be traded, must be supplied / obtained through the cash nexus.

        Of course, I could be putting my own sentiments in Dahlen’s mouth, in which case I apologize.

        • But then the question is how you would get to such a world. It isn’t what you get if the pro-free market position wins out. What sort of scenario are you, or is he, imagining?

        • Tracy W says:

          people are unable to come to non-commercial or technocratically unapproved arrangements in any sphere of life …

          This sounds like you think Dahlen was criticising the regulatory state, which is tending that way (eg food regulations making charities reluctant to use home-made food because it wasn’t cooked in a controlled factory-type environment.)

      • Dahlen says:

        Alright, now that wild mass guessing has commenced as to the meaning of my comment, I admit this to have been my fault and think it’s about time I explained what I meant.

        When I said I feared an outcome wherein “everything that can be traded, will be traded”, I did not mean to state this as a causal relationship. I’m talking about a shift in not just opportunities, but also mentalities. Technically there are loads of things that are not, in principle, illegal to obtain through commerce because of state intervention in the market, but still don’t get traded because that’s not how people think of the thing, it feels weird for them to engage in commerce for that reason. And my point was that the old socialist left, as a last bastion of all things anti-trade, has a certain cultural or even political contribution to that. (Example of political contribution: anti-gentrification activism. I never really got why they thought of gentrification as a problem, since I live in a lower-middle-class neighborhood and I’d sure as fuck feel better if richer folks started moving in. But from their perspective it probably makes sense.) If, as a result of everybody tuning in to pro-market ideologies, commercialism and consumerism will reach new heights, it will not be because of some sort of mass psychosis driving everyone to buy and sell. It will be for the fact that entrepreneurially-minded people are always on the search for untapped markets, always looking for something to capitalise on (because they too need money for consumption, particularly when trends towards consumption increase), and consumers can be easily influenced to participate in them (for subtle reasons like advertising, or fashion, or libertarianism in the water supply).

        The mechanism by which the span of commercial activities would increase to an unpleasant degree is that of crowding out alternatives. I’ll give a few examples right away, but first, a perspective check. The amount of things we trade is staggering, especially when compared to previous eras. Beginning with our usual material fortunes, which is the most salient benefit of capitalism, and which any human being from any culture, at any point in history, can essentially understand, as an aspiration. E.g. most people in history obtained quite a lot less than 100% of their food on the market, mostly they grew/herded/hunted/gathered it themselves. Then the services — housecleaning, barber’s, restaurants, tourism, transportation and so on. From which point you start to have specifically modern phenomena found in advanced capitalist economies. Most adults in the developed world, for instance, have some form of insurance, accrue debt, maybe have some savings. There are middle-class people who invest in stocks and bonds. It’s culturally normalised for many women to have shopping as a hobby. Fashion is a phenomenon. Men have a similar thing going with trendy tech. There is a large number (and kind) of consulting positions available, ranging from the vital to the petty, learned-helplessness-inducing. And a lot of these things have only just begun to become popular, on a historic scale. Trade really does have a much larger share in our existence, compared to the past.

        All these activities do wonders for the GDP, and, to be frank, add a plus of comfort and material security to our lives as well. But their share of our lives can’t keep increasing ad infinitum without people experiencing some drawbacks as well. The obvious consequence is the constant feeling you’re short on money, while you can’t say that you have witnessed a larger degree of satisfaction of your needs. Then you have the psychological impact. Human psychology is such that we tend to not trade with our close ones, our inner circle (indeed, with family and close friends we can behave quite like perfect little commies), and the people we do trade with tend to be strangers with whom we share superficial social bonds created by mutual interest. Naturally, a society-wide increase in the frequency of our commercial activities entails more interactions of the superficial kind. People are in this position as sellers on their job, and as buyers off their job, in their capacity as consumers. Some people find this emotionally taxing. Maybe not you, but some do. It’s the shrinking of Gemeinschaft in favour of Gesellschaft.

        Now for the examples. My most salient example is something which I think happens to every sociable person in their mid-to-late teens: the abandonment of free hangout places like parks, each other’s houses, and your lawn in favour of places where you have to pay to stay: cafes, nightclubs, malls, pubs and so on. It’s not that the State suddenly legalised cafes, it’s that your friends start thinking it’s kinda uncool to gather around a park bench and drink cola from the corner store. Free vs. pay-to-use public toilets. Inserting coins for using shopping carts. Discontinued freely-distributed newspapers. Homemade vs. store-bought gifts. Public vs. private beaches. Psychotherapy vs. talking it out with a friend. Expensive internet smartphone subscriptions vs. seeing your friends IRL. Beeminder.

        There are so many ways of inserting something new to pay for in people’s lives, through some form of crowding out or changing fashions and social expectations. Forgive me if I don’t think that only good things will come out of this.

        P.S. @ David Friedman: Cool hobby!

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          The obvious consequence is the constant feeling you’re short on money, while you can’t say that you have witnessed a larger degree of satisfaction of your needs.

          Why will people constantly feel short of money and feel that their needs are not being as well-satisfied? For one thing, this contradicts what you said before about it improving comfort and material security. But if wealth is going up, why will people feel less satisfied because more things are traded?

          Because they want to live above their means? I don’t see what money has to do with that. If there are things you can only do if you are a baron—and which simply can’t be bought with money—you can still be unsatisfied because you are not a baron.

          Now, I grant that there is a sense in which people do not any longer accept their “inferior station” as a natural fact, as they did in patriarchal, aristocratic days. Women aspire to what men have, the poor aspire to what the rich have, instead of accepting that it is naturally impossible for them to achieve it. But this is just a consequence of freedom and social mobility, not commercialization.

          Now for the examples. My most salient example is something which I think happens to every sociable person in their mid-to-late teens: the abandonment of free hangout places like parks, each other’s houses, and your lawn in favour of places where you have to pay to stay: cafes, nightclubs, malls, pubs and so on. It’s not that the State suddenly legalised cafes, it’s that your friends start thinking it’s kinda uncool to gather around a park bench and drink cola from the corner store.

          Don’t children do this because they don’t have any money? As a kid, I always kind of wished I had the money / lived in the kind of community where I could hang out in the “malt shop” every afternoon as they do in old cartoons.

          Similarly, college students drink cheap beer in dorms because they aren’t allowed / can’t afford to go to bars.

          Besides, adults spend plenty of time visiting one another’s houses. It’s probably the most common form of socialization once people get out of the “nightclub” stage (if they enter it at all).

          • Dahlen says:

            I don’t think you’re trying to listen to what I’m talking about at all. I trust you don’t need explaining on all the points which you’re asking me to explain further. Maybe some communication would take place here if you tried to take into account my larger point, either to address it or to emphasize the real disagreement, instead of going through the argument mechanistically, just for the sake of disagreeing with something out of what I’m saying.

            Switch strategies or I’m not engaging.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Dahlen:

            To be quite honest, I really have no idea what your “larger point” is, beyond “free-floating antipathy toward market transactions”.

            I understand that you are trying to communicate something. But I don’t know what it is, if it’s not “commercialism bothers me, but I can’t quite articulate why.” I assume that wasn’t what you were trying to say, so I picked a couple of the more concrete harms.

            There are so many ways of inserting something new to pay for in people’s lives, through some form of crowding out or changing fashions and social expectations. Forgive me if I don’t think that only good things will come out of this.

            What are they? What are the bad things that will come out of this?

          • Dahlen says:

            This is taking too long, and for nothing. Several people seemed confused as to what I meant, so I explained. I typed up a 900-word reply, which explicitly mentioned two kinds of negative consequences, on personal finances, and on psychological well-being (with some relation to social cohesion). Some of that relies on relatability in order to be properly understood. If you don’t get the same reaction, then props to you, but I can’t walk you through empathising with that, I can just state that this reaction exists and depict the way it looks like. What more is left to do? If the bad things I’m talking about do not look to you like bad things, what can I do about it, and what point is there in making me repeat them? I mean, I can’t even seem to make you quit misconstruing my position of being okay with trade as long as it does not become the raison d’etre of a society. What point is there, then, of talking of alienation and consumerism and the hedonic treadmill to someone for whom these words evoke nothing, or at least nothing bad?

            Like I said in our very first exchange: agree to disagree?

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Vox Imperatoris

            Now, I grant that there is a sense in which people do not any longer accept their “inferior station” as a natural fact, as they did in patriarchal, aristocratic days. Women aspire to what men have, the poor aspire to what the rich have, instead of accepting that it is naturally impossible for them to achieve it.

            And this is a problem. We tell children things like “anyone can grow up to be President” which are utter lies. “Follow your dreams, no matter how big” is lousy advice. What ever happened to:

            The rich man in his castle,
            The poor man at his gate,
            God made them high and lowly,
            And ordered their estate.

            ?

            Why not “find satisfaction and meaning in being the best you can be at whatever place in society you find yourself”? Why not an orderly social hierarchy, with clear duties and responsibilities to each relationship within it, with people called to be ever better at fulfilling those duties and responsibilities (see Confucianism)?

            There’s a part of me that just wants to tell people minohodo o shire.

          • Jiro says:

            Why not an orderly social hierarchy, with clear duties and responsibilities to each relationship within it, with people called to be ever better at fulfilling those duties and responsibilities (see Confucianism)?

            Because we’ve figured out that people who tell you your proper place in society are probably engaged in motivated reasoning and it is therefore generally a bad idea to trust them.

        • “If, as a result of everybody tuning in to pro-market ideologies, commercialism and consumerism will reach new heights”

          And part of my point was that there is no reason to expect “tuning in to pro-market ideologies” to have that result.

    • “How long does our dear commentariat think it would take for the mainstream left to altogether decide trade and commerce is a good thing?”

      What makes you think they haven’t? I think this will turn out to be about how things are labelled.

    • Adam says:

      Let me just be about the fourth or fifth or whatever to say the mainstream left, at least in the U.S., long ago decided that trade and commerce are good things. Virtually every single leader they have is, in fact, a wealthy capitalist. The major fight between left and right economically, besides the +/-5% tax policy differences, seems to be which industries on the margin have enough or not enough public goods characteristics to be either nationalized or privatized, and even then the fight seems to be over tiny degrees of nationalization and privatization, never complete or immediate in either direction.

      The people throwing Molotov cocktails at WTO meetings are not the mainstream left. Arguably, the WTO is itself leftist. Their mission statement includes protecting the environment and aiding underdeveloped countries.

    • Sastan says:

      During the enlightenment, free-market hardliners were progressives, or liberal. This was the original meaning of the term.

      Over time, the positions shifted.

      If one thinks of two forces, progress and conservation, this is politics. All the new ideas come from progress, and are resisted by conservation. Of course, the exact political layout can shift all over the place (For instance, American liberals are conservative about abortion, which they would like to maintain, while the conservatives would like to try novel financing schemes for social security).

      Good ideas tend to be adopted, and bad ones to fall away over time. Sometimes good ideas fail and bad ones persist, but it is the role of progress to suggest improvements, and conservation to prevent the obviously stupid ones. Much of what we see over time with the shifting of political positions is the conservationists moving to agree with a position they once resisted, because they see there was no horrible downside. They then wind up defending this position against whatever new innovation the other group dreams up. See: DADT, etc.

      • During the 19th century, free market hardliners were liberals. As far as I know, “progressive” as a political term dates from the early 20th century and described a position generally hostile to classical liberalism.

        But I will be happy to be corrected by someone with more information on the relevant history.

        • Sastan says:

          You are correct about the term “progressive”, I’m just trying to make it work as a generalization.

        • Brian Donohue says:

          This sounds right. The Supreme Court decision in Lochner (1905), which struck down a law limiting hours worked, was a victory for freedom of contract and a loss for progressives.

  19. Error says:

    I am curious about the mental experience of other poly people when they know their partner is having sex with someone else.

    For my part: I have a weird adrenaline rush that’s partway between nervousness and excitement but leans mildly unpleasant, a bit like having way too much sugar in a short time. I find myself inspecting it and thinking something like “huh, is this the physiological response that normal people interpret as jealousy?” except I interpret it more like stage fright: “I hope it’s going well and I’m afraid it’s not.”

    • nonymous says:

      When you say you’re anxious that it go well; Is there any upper limit to how well you would like it to go?

      • Error says:

        Not really, but I don’t think you interpreted that the way I meant it. I have fairly severe social anxiety and one of its more peculiar properties is that I experience it vicariously. “Going well” means “none of the horribly embarrassing moments that my brain insists on vomiting up are actually happening.”

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      For my part: I have a weird adrenaline rush that’s partway between nervousness and excitement but leans mildly unpleasant, a bit like having way too much sugar in a short time.

      So don’t do polyamory. It’s bad for you even on utilitarian grounds*.
      *I suspect we humans are similar enough that we can express a lot of these issues in terms of “Do this not that, if you want to flourish.” Whence virtue ethics.

      • Error says:

        I’ll make that call for myself, thanks. I was looking to compare experiences with people who’ve chosen the same path I have, for the sake of curiosity alone; I’m neither complaining about the results of that path nor looking for reasons to change it.

    • Robert says:

      That sounds very similar to the experience I had when I introduced a close friend to my employer for an interview. My experience with the scenario you describe is different – simply moderate jealousy (only when I was physically present and/or left to give them time), eventually reducing to nothing noticeable.

    • Cadie says:

      Caveat: My partner has 3 partners and I’m the “last” on the list, we’re more like close friends with benefits than partners, but of course it’s kind of complicated.

      Depending on my mood I either don’t feel anything other than “ok, good for them, I’m going to go make dinner now”, or a small twinge of envy/jealousy that is just barely enough to notice and not enough to ruin my day. By now I know that his other two relationships are long-standing and stable, our friendship-plus is also long-standing and stable enough that I don’t fear he’ll suddenly drop me just because of one minor problem or preferring to spend a Saturday with his main secondary; he’ll spend time with her and then a different day with me, no big deal. My biggest fears are abandonment, not delay or having less time together or whatever, so now that I know this won’t happen without time to try to work it out first, I don’t worry about the situation. As long as he’s happy, and we’re together enough to keep the relationship alive and have a real connection, it’s all good. I knew going into this that I was going to be #3 and that is unlikely to change. At first I was unsure, but willing to try it out. Now it’s working and I’m a lot more confident about it.

    • Adam says:

      I’m probably not much like you, certainly not at all ‘poly.’ I have no desire for multiple continuing sexual relationships with people, but my wife and I do allow and occasionally have sex outside of the marriage just because it seems somewhat arbitrary and unrealistic to draw the line at zero. As with anything else she ever does, I hope it goes well, but I don’t actively think about it at all, much less agonize over it. If you have vicarious social anxiety, that seems like a trait that will determine how you experience these types of things quite separately from how you label your sexual orientation.

  20. estelendur says:

    Have you seen stuff about the Murphy Bill? I just read Siderea’s summary and went aaagh.

    • keranih says:

      Many parts of this seemed possibly very good to me. (Note: most of my interaction with mental health care in the USA has been as a friend of the family of people with severe issues.)

      The part that would have made the most difference to people I know is the provision for mandatory taking of meds – I know multiple people whose conditions have put themselves and their loved ones through the turnip mangle over and over again – they have a crisis, are hospitalized, physically stabilized, mentally stabilized, released to outpatient/own reconnaissance status, stay on meds for a while, go off meds, have a crisis, lather, rinse, repeat.

      When on a regular med schedule, they are just as functional as the rest of us, if not a hair better. Certainly not in any condition where it is appropriate for someone else to tell this independent adult what to do. But when they slip off their meds, they rapidly move out of (their own) control and disrupt the lives around them. Creating a niche (if that’s what the law does) to give the outside management to keep them on the narrow path seems the right thing to do.

      The part about medical records of people-over-18-who-should-be-independent-adults being turned over to parents/caregivers is…well. One of those things that only makes sense, when we extend childhood out to the 26th birthday.

      The part that gives me the most concern is the money part – because that stuff doesn’t grow on trees – but the shift from “mental health care for all” to “mental health care for the most ill” makes me feel a great deal more hopeful. (I’d rather one severe car accident victim get treated on the public dime than 100 accidents with a kitchen knife.) What *is* the status of research on “preventative mental health care” along the lines of water sanitation and vaccination?

      Finally, I would also like to know the origin of the Medicare rule on same-day services – I suspect it is to prevent a patient being shuffled from clinic to clinic all day, racking up charges along the way, all working up variations on the same problem, instead of doing a stepwise diagnosis, but the rule seems overly strict (and I could be wrong). Scott, can you talk on this?

      • Jiro says:

        I really don’t like the idea of forcing people to take medicine because I’ve personally experienced a case where a doctor was incompetent at telling me what medicine to take.

        Summary: Blood pressure was high (because of something like a panic attack, it was not my normal pressure). Taken to hospital, given drug A. Pressure goes down. Go to doctor for non-panic-related somewhat high blood pressure. Given drugs B and C. B and C do not work. Complain to doctor that A worked, given A. Doctor insists on still taking B and C as well. Since I had no desire to take 3 medications for the same condition, two of which don’t work, I stopped taking the B and C contrary to what the doctor told me (I was aware that you have to be very careful of rebound effects in stopping blood pressure medication). Still taking A, works fine.

        If I had obeyed the doctor, I’d still be taking 3 medications, two of which don’t work, to this day. So I’m not very inclined to support the idea of forcing people to take medication.

        (Of course blood pressure medication is an unusual case in that a layman can easily and directly measure whether it is working.)

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ Jiro

          I agree with you about forcing. But, having helped two elderly people on multiple meds, I see a need for some help on a confusion factor. “Instead of 2 each 5mg tablets three times a day, take 1/2 of a Xmg four times a day” — is just too much to deal with, and finding someone who can deal with it to deal with it is … difficult. There are regulations about who can do what. So a service where some qualified person fills a daily “Pill Minder” and sends it out to the patient, and phones to nag him to take it … would be worthwhile.

        • keranih says:

          @Jiro –

          I absolutely acknowledge the conflict with removing a person’s right to make their own decisions – on any front, but particularly with regards to medication and health care.

          I’ll bring your attention back to what I was talking about – people who have severe depression or schizophrenia, to the point of attempting suicide or harming others (like a demonstrated pattern of walking out into traffic, causing accidents) who don’t do those things when on their meds, and who have a pattern of needing a minder to keep them on their meds.

          The thought of the State ordering people to take medication gives me hives. Thinking of my friends and their struggles with their family members makes me want to weep. I am not sure that this law is a best fix, but I’m in cautious support.

    • Evan Þ says:

      One thing in the summary made me throw up my hands at Congress’s dangerous stupidity:

      A definition of “Caregiver” that is someone who meets one of four conditions and doesn’t have a documented history of abuse: immediate family members, “an individual who…”, “a personal representative…”, or someone who…”

      So, a patient’s immediate family members always get counted as caregivers and can find out his health information. No matter what. No matter if they’re across the country and he’s cut off all contact with them – unless they have “a documented history of abuse,” they’re in!

      I’m not sure whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing that the actual text of the bill is so badly-worded that I can’t figure out whether the summary got it right or wrong…

      • Murphy says:

        *Most of the time* family works ok and you have to deal with things like people who wouldn’t have any problem with their family when in a normal state of mind but who think they’re poisoning their food or that they’re witches while suffering a psychotic break and being unable to tell family members who are actual care givers things they need to know is a problem.

        If you hate your family and they turn up demanding info the situation still has to meet all these conditions:

        (a) Caregiver access to information.—In applying section 164.502(g) of title 45, Code of Federal Regulations, to an individual with serious mental illness an exception for disclosure of specific limited protected health information shall be provided if all of the following criteria are met for the disclosure by a physician (as defined in paragraphs (1) and (2) of section 1861(r) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395x(r))) or other licensed mental health or health care professional to an identified responsible caregiver:

        (1) Such disclosure is for information limited to the diagnoses, treatment plans, appointment scheduling, medications, and medication-related instructions, but not including any personal psychotherapy notes.

        (2) Such disclosure is necessary to protect the health, safety, or welfare of the individual or general public.

        (3) The information to be disclosed will be beneficial to the treatment of the individual if that individual has a co-occurring acute or chronic medical illness.

        (4) The information to be disclosed is necessary for the continuity of treatment of the medical condition or mental illness of the individual.

        (5) The absence of such information or treatment will contribute to a worsening prognosis or an acute medical condition.

        (6) The individual by nature of the severe mental illness has or has had a diminished capacity to fully understand or follow a treatment plan for their medical condition or may become gravely disabled in absence of treatment.

        If you already have some other caregiver and some previous wish for them not to be made your caregivers recorded then it’d be pretty easy to argue that at least one of the above does not apply since they don’t need to know if another care giver is already seeing to your wellbeing.

  21. Alexandra says:

    Does anyone have any experience in treatment for mild to moderate ADHD? I’m almost certain that if I go in for a diagnosis I will get one, but I’m not thrilled about the idea of taking Aderalla or similar medications.

    • Error says:

      I do, sort of. I saw a psychiatrist for the same thing (among other things) recently, and she put me on Strattera. The choice of drug was partly informed by my aversion to dependency risks. I can’t even get myself off sugar without removing it from the household; I don’t want to go down that road with drugs.

      My understanding is that the Strattera takes longer to have an effect but doesn’t carry the dependency risks of Adderall et al. So if your concerns are similar to mine, well, there’s at least one alternative.

      I’ve been on it for 2-3 months. I do notice a difference, but it’s subtle enough that I can’t tell if what I’m noticing is the drug working, the placebo effect, or an artifact of paying more attention to my mental habits.

    • nope says:

      I’ve been on treatment for about 6 months, and I wholeheartedly recommend stimulants if you can tolerate them. I started out on methylphenidate, which worked well at first but pooped out on me after a few weeks, at which point I switched to amphetamine. I too had concerns about medication beforehand, but the health risks are largely overblown for the sorts of people who take meds responsibly, and the evidence regarding long term effects on the brains of patients on stimulant treatment is not only not negative, but slightly positive. Mood issues like depression/mood swings should improve on stimulant meds. Anxiety is a bit trickier, because it worsens for some, but improves for others. I have OCD-type anxiety, which amphetamine has been surprisingly helpful for. A word of caution on these is that if your weight is already low, stimulants might bring you into the danger zone. I’m not extremely active, but I went from medium-low-end-of-normal BMI prior to treatment to underweight in just a few months and would probably still be dropping weight if I didn’t make a concerted effort to eat food.

      From what I can tell, atomoxetine is garbage for most people and not worth the money. If you *really* don’t want stimulants, you could try clonidine or guanfacine, which are pretty uncommon but seem pretty safe and decently effective unless you have low blood pressure.

      Finally, on usage: this is probably obvious to you, but meds aren’t magic bullets. They’re most helpful for establishing the sort of productive structures in your life that non-ADHD people don’t have to work too hard at. There’s still a lot of work that you have to do in terms of setting plans, goals, schedules etc for yourself, but the meds make it possible to stick to these. Thomas Brown researches high intelligence ADHD patients and has written some decent scientifically oriented books on ADHD which you may want to check out. Most of them are on libgen last I checked.

    • Cadie says:

      Caffeine works for some people. My ADHD is a bit more than mild to moderate, so caffeine alone isn’t quite enough to make me as functional as I’d like to be, but when I didn’t have access to medications, caffeine was better than nothing. Now that I’m on a low dose of Adderall, I drink less coffee; just one cup in the morning. I used to drink 2 in the morning and sometimes 1 in the early afternoon (without other sources of caffeine, I’m not a cola fan anyway).

      There are non-stimulant medications available too; how well they’ll work for a person is highly individual. My brother did fine on Strattera. I had severe nausea on it and couldn’t take it long enough to find out if it would work or not, and Wellbutrin didn’t work for me. I just take 10mg of Adderall a day, 5mg twice a day, which is pretty low for an adult and it does the job with no noticeable side effects other than feeling less hungry at lunch. (Dinner seems unaffected, by then it’s starting to wear off).

      • Alexandra says:

        You’re severely under-estimating my aversion to habit forming drugs. I avoid using caffeine regularly for the same reasons I’m wary of Adderall.

    • Adam says:

      My wife’s been on Adderall for I want to say at least a decade, possibly longer, and it works basically perfectly. Dependency shouldn’t be too much of a concern, provided you have consistent access to a pharmaceutical grade supplier. The concern is tolerance. She doesn’t take it on weekends or vacations or any time she doesn’t have to work, really. That seems to be a successful strategy. When you need to be able to concentrate for long periods of time, take it. Otherwise, don’t.

  22. hellahexi says:

    Any old-school RPG folks out there? (I almost said OSR aficionados, but that can be a bit divisive.) Since I’ve gotten some free time lately, I’m working on ramping up my gaming blog. I focus on hand-drawn maps, random weirdness tables, and theme/tone commentary. You can find it here: hellahexi.

    I’m relatively rules-agnostic, with the caveat that you can’t ignore Pathfinder, and you can’t ignore the OSR. I like Pathfinder as the least-worst “generic” world out there, but the more I play the more I fear that having a rules mechanism for every action means that too much storytelling and player agency gets tossed out the window. I like OSR for my love of deep weirdness. I mean, really: you’re taking a bunch of malcontents, loading them to the teeth with sharpened steel and eldritch powers, and leading them into a hole in the earth to slaughter the inhabitants and take their stuff. Such a profession should be weird and wondrous and petrifying.

    I like maps, hand-drawn particularly, and am working on building my skills both in draughtsmanship and in GIMP. I owe a debt to Dyson for this.

    I used to think Scott was pretty neat for having such consistently good content, posted several times a week. Now that I’m trying to create content in addition to consuming it, I have updated my opinion of him to “incredible.” Maintaining a frequent, high-quality posting schedule is tough.

    • anon says:

      I’ve been running an LotFP game for a few months, though the group meets pretty irregularly now and I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to keep getting everyone together.

      My experience with oldschool gaming has been that it’s lot’s of fun, but keeping track of things like encumbrance, how long torches last, daily use of rations, etc is pure torture. I know it’s supposed to be a crucial part of the dungeoneering experience but it’s like pulling teeth, the players hate it and I hate it. What I need is a better way to impose costs on the players for resting, taking lots of time doing things, etc. One that doesn’t require lots of tedious bookkeeping. Gygax said it was impossible to have a meaningful campaign if strict time records weren’t kept, but if I wanted to spend the whole game filling out time cards in 15 minute increments I’d homebrew a Dilbert RPG.

      One nice feature of the old school games is that there was actually a lot more going on in the setting than people remember. Cavemen, river pirates, dinosaurs, martians, the world was a lot more exciting than the suffocatingly generic elves, goblins and dwarves that infest the later editions. I’ve been running games in my own setting anyway (based on Urth from the Solar Cycle) but it’s a nice touch.

      • hellahexi says:

        I definitely get it regarding the recordkeeping. The trick–the one we’re all trying to solve, I think–is how to make dungeoneering and exploration the forefront of the experience, without feeling like you’re filling out a tax form. In real life, spelunking is scary: claustrophobia, lightlessness and risk of losing your light source, bad air, getting lost, and no hope in the event of an accident. Add in denizens who know where they are and want nothing more than to chew on your face in the darkness while you’re wriggling through a shoulder-width tunnel, and that business is terrifying. I think this tone is largely the DM’s purview, but requires buy-in from the players.

        (I have heard good reviews of Torchbearer, though.)

        How to prevent the “15 minute adventuring day” is a related problem. The classic solution is a robust set of wandering monster tables, but I like as much verisimilitude as I can get. My touchstone is to remind myself that life in the world continues along whether the PCs want it to or not, and the antagonists are intelligent actors pursuing their own goals. Then extrapolate from there. What the antagonists are not–or shouldn’t be–are static targets to be knocked down, mannequins waiting in a room for the PCs to stab them.

        • hellahexi says:

          To reply to my own post (classy move, hexi):

          Has anyone here played Torchbearer enough to form an opinion? I’d love to have some idea how it runs in actual play before disrupting my normal gaming routine for it.

      • hellahexi says:

        Cavemen, river pirates, dinosaurs, martians, the world was a lot more exciting than the suffocatingly generic elves, goblins and dwarves that infest the later editions.

        Also, isn’t it interesting how removing options can make gameplay more diverse? Never mind the fact that you can play a game full of hill bandits and dinosaurs and elves and dwarves, but keeping the trappings of modern PF/D&D seems to erase from peoples’ minds all the options available. Tolkien casts a long shadow, indeed.

        I do like the LotFP feel, and the greater OSR DIY aesthetic. I don’t care to be a Raggi fanboy, but one thing he definitely does get is the fact that what we euphemize as “adventuring” is–or should be–a fundamentally horrifying experience, and that we should embrace it as such. All fantasy RPGs should be thought of as the horror games they truly are.

      • Orphan Wilde says:

        In the tabletop I’m working on, I have almost all of the basic necessities of adventuring purchasable with generic Equipment Points (which cost 3-5 GP apiece, weigh a pound or two, and each of which “buys” 1 GP of dungeon gear – balance as appropriate), which I subtract from every night. (HP and spell slot restoration overnight both cost equipment points, as well, rather than being free).

        For torches and such – don’t track time. Track plot. Don’t worry about time intervals – have their torch/lantern sputter out at a dramatic (and for the players, inopportune) moment, such as just when they enter a room/cavern with a giant spider. (If they complain, suggest they check their torch/fuel supply next time. Once they get in the habit of regularly checking, just subtract from the torch status/fuel supply as you feel appropriate.)

        As the DM, your job isn’t to enforce tedium, it’s to mediate it away.

        (As far as players just screwing around – keep background stuff happening. Make it worse if they neglect it, setting schedules – in three days, X happens, and if they wait three days, X happens, and you plan the next event for several days further out. In the major game I’m running right now, my players have neglected some drakes to the north of the village for a while now, so the next time they return to town, they’re going to encounter a lot of refugees whose farms were burned down which will have totally ruined the festival they were all looking forward to participating in, and I’m going to draw all over their maps with shame-inducing scorch marks.)

        • Jiro says:

          As the DM, your job isn’t to enforce tedium, it’s to mediate it away.

          But you just suggested negative consequences (torches running out at a crucial moment) if they ignore the tedium (keeping track of torch supplies). If you punish the players for ignoring the tedium, you *are* enforcing tedium.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            They’re not being punished for not tracking their torch status, they’re being punished for ignoring the fact that their torch status matters. The goal is balancing the tension of “We might run out of light” against the tedium of “Torches last exactly fifteen minutes, how many fifteen minute intervals have there been?”.

            Ignoring torch time entirely is eliminating tedium at the expense of tension. By having their torch go out at an inopportune moment on occasion, they’ll have that sense of tension the rest of the game, without necessarily having to enforce a sense of tedium. You don’t want them going out routinely, every time they walk into a new and dangerous cavern; but when the players find an Ever-Burning Lantern or whatever, it should mean something to them.

            It helps to be liberal with Notice-or-equivalent-skill checks (have a lot that don’t matter, and some that do, to keep your players guessing) for this sort of thing. If your players are checking every room they go into for magic spells, physical traps, hidden doors, hidden treasure, invisible monsters, or any similar list, you’ve reached the point of enforcing metagaming tedium rather than tension.

          • Jiro says:

            By having their torch go out at an inopportune moment on occasion, they’ll have that sense of tension the rest of the game, without necessarily having to enforce a sense of tedium.

            But if you make their torch go out at an inopportune moment, they’re quickly going to figure out that the way to prevent that is to constantly keep track of torches. So you ended up forcing them to keep track of torches.

            If your players are checking every room they go into for magic spells, physical traps, hidden doors, hidden treasure, invisible monsters, or any similar list, you’ve reached the point of enforcing metagaming tedium rather than tension.

            If your players are constantly doing that, it’s probably because at some point they didn’t check and they got attacked by an invisible monster or fell into a trap.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            My players don’t do that in my game. However, my players do do that in other games they participate in, and it’s a characteristic I try very hard to avoid in my own games.

            If you do the same thing to them repeatedly, yeah, they’ll quickly catch on and start trying to head them off. I bring up the Ever-Burning Lantern for a reason – if your players do start checking their torch status routinely, then it’s time to give them something so they don’t have to.

            But you should definitely get them at least once, ideally in a very dramatic fashion – but it’s only dramatic the first time you do it. And maybe a few dozen games after they get the Ever-Burning Lantern, take it away, and then wait a little while longer, and get them with it again, because then it’s dramatic in an “Echoing the past” sort of way – and interesting in that they should then have more tools in their box to compensate, and discover their earlier terrors aren’t really challenging anymore, and they’ll have an opportunity to feel their character growth in a very substantial and meaningful kind of way.

        • hellahexi says:

          I wrestle with the same questions in my games. I worry that removing tallies of provisions doesn’t much help if they are simply replaced by tallies of abstract units of provisions. (Moreover, rules really do set the tone for a game: abstract away too much detail, and you end up bloodless and unfun. Down that path lies madness… and GURPS.)

          Not many of us signed on to play a game of Aboleths & Accountants.

          I think what I’m hinting around–and you nailed–is that it’s not the record-keeping that we GMs desire, but rather the storytelling opportunities that come when those provisions fail or run out. I don’t want to keep track of every arrow you carry; what I want is that desperate moment when you’re out and you have to scrabble for a broken clothyard shaft to rush and stab it through the brigand-king. I don’t want to run an egg timer on your torch; I do want that moment when your ill-prepared axeman watches his torch gutter out and you realize that you’re under a half-mile of limestone cavern, don’t know which way is out, and every carnivore along the way knows where you are… except you.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Abstract units have some advantages:

            If none of your players are carrying a ladder, force them to buy one to get past an obstacle. Which is to say, you can deliberately deplete your players of resources. You can go further, and impose arbitrary obstacles which players with given skillsets can get past freely, and others cannot. Which is to say, you can -selectively- deplete your players of resources. And with all their resources pooled, there’s opportunity cost in each such transaction. (I love imposing opportunity costs on my players.)

            And they let you control the story to a finer degree, because the players are unwittingly handing you control over their inventory in exchange for convenience. They purchase a pint of lantern oil, three days journey and gallons of lantern oil into some caverns – and you tell them that as they rummage through their provisions, they find there is only one more pint there, and nary a torch to be found. And then you have a storytelling moment ahead.

          • John Schilling says:

            If the players want to do detailed accounting of provisions, let them – and then don’t deny them torchlight or whatever unless they screw up or you have both a plot need and a plausible in-game mechanism.

            If the players don’t want to do detailed accounting of provisions, prompt them on the common-sense issue of whether they want to buy enough generic provisions for three days of wilderness travel and one of dungeoneering, or whatever, accounting for any desire they might express to “travel light” or “be prepared for everything”. Tell them of any non-trivial cost or encumbrance penalties, but otherwise let them ignore the whole issue.

            If it matters to your plot, say because you’ve got a detour planned that will stretch three days of travel to six, you keep track of the provisions, but assume they make optimal decisions on how to use them at every step and warn them when any reasonable person would notice an impending resource shortfall. If it doesn’t matter to your plot, then you get to ignore it too.

            If your plot hinges on exactly what non-obvious decisions the players make w/re torch utilization or whatnot, then either you and your players all like doing that sort of thing or you’ve chosen the wrong plot.

          • Jiro says:

            If you “don’t want” the players to keep track of every arrow, but you put them in a situation where they’re out of arrows, then regardless of what you wanted, what you actually did encourages the players to keep track of every arrow.

          • John Schilling says:

            If you just up and tell them, “you’re out of arrows”, then A: you’re (probably) not playing fair and B: they’ll almost certainly count every arrow in every session from then on in response.

            If you tell them one skirmish earlier, “You had plenty of arrows when you started out, but now it looks like there’s only six or seven left in the quiver”, they’ll start counting from that point on – and they should, because now it’s that kind of plot.

            If they think it’s unfair that you didn’t bring that up mid-skirmish when they had a dozen arrows left so they could start counting and efficiently allocating arrows earlier, then your players are probably munchkins and you’ll have to decide whether you can all have fun in a munchkin campaign – which by its nature will involve detailed accounting for anything and everything that can make a hit point’s worth of difference in combat.

            If you absolutely don’t want an arrow-counting plot, or if your players don’t, then don’t ever tell them that they are either low on or out of arrows. If they bring it up, well, the third-to-last guy they shot was an archer with a full quiver and you thought it was obvious that a proper dungeoneering hero would scavenge every usable munition within reach.

            If you absolutely don’t want an arrow-counting plot and you also don’t want your characters to be able to shoot arrows at all of their foes without limit, your desires are inconsistent and cannot be satisfied.

          • bean says:

            There was actually a pretty good solution to this problem in a recent issue of Pyramid (the monthly GURPS e-magazine). They suggested creating an abstract space with a specified cost and weight, which the player can draw things out of with a scrounging roll. When things are withdrawn, the compartment decreases in size. It’s intended for easier starting equipment, but you could do so with provisions as well. There was also a suggestion of compartments dedicated to specific skills.
            The implementation that I’d go for if I was running this type of game (which I’m not at the moment) would be to assume the players have bought a reasonable amount of provisions, and then tell them that you’ll roll dice in cases where supplies are marginal. Give the players a bonus if they specify that they’re being careful about retrieving arrows or something of the sort. Normally, you do so, and accept the results as they come. (Some of my best gaming moments have come as a result of failed rolls that should have been easy.) If the dice come up anomalously bad, then someone tripped and broke the oil jars or rats got into most of the food. If they’re good when they shouldn’t be, someone noticed a bunch of edible plants or that goblin had a bunch of arrows.
            But every once in a while, when the moment is just right, you roll the dice behind the screen, and declare failure. The players are much more likely to accept it because there’s a mechanism, even if you’re using GM prerogative to dictate the result.

          • I vote be explicit and in-world. Dungeons are magical, and in some cases semi-sentient. Your torch didn’t gutter out because you were careless; if you were careless, you would have died of spiderbite or green slime infection a dozen dungeons ago. It guttered out despite your painstaking attention to detail because the dungeon has lair actions and just spent one.

          • bean says:

            @Robert
            That seems like an excellent way to get your players making ‘choo-choo’ noises. Or at least it would be with my players. You’d need to either have a slowly-building set of apparently random things go against them, and then reveal that the dungeon itself was behind them, or explicitly lay the mechanism out ahead of time. The first would be interesting, while the second would likely just make them even more paranoid than usual, with a consequent slowdown in their progress.

          • Samalamalam says:

            ‘(Moreover, rules really do set the tone for a game: abstract away too much detail, and you end up bloodless and unfun. Down that path lies madness… and GURPS.)’

            GURPS is too abstract now? I thought the usual criticism was that it was exactly the opposite…

          • bean says:

            ‘GURPS is too abstract now? I thought the usual criticism was that it was exactly the opposite…’
            That’s actually a really good point. What do you usually play? Rolemaster? Phoenix Command?
            Actually, I think GURPS gets a bad rap here. With a bit of practice (and some Roll20 macros) it’s not that much slower than D&D. Yes, most of my games have been GURPS for the past 5 years or so.

          • hellahexi says:

            @ Samalamalam

            Maybe abstract was the wrong word; I’ll stand by bloodless, though.

            GURPS always reminded me of my Leatherman: it’s got all kinds of useful things, but the knife isn’t as sharp as my real knife, the pliers aren’t as strong as my real pliers, and the screwdriver is harder to use than an actual screwdriver. I’d rather use a specific tool dedicated to a specific task.

            Maybe GURPS has changed, but it can’t have changed that much, as it’s still a “universal” system.

            A ruleset sets the tone for a game, far more than I used to realize. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also: without active intervention, a game will tend to be about whatever activity has the most pages of rules devoted to it.

            NB: An interesting exception seems to be LotFP. Without the art or secondary adventures (like when you download the free version of the rules without the artwork), the rules read like any other retro-clone. With the art… well, it’s obvious Raggi comes out of the metal scene, it’s manifestly transgressive, and the polarizing emphasis on deep weirdness emerges.

          • hellahexi says:

            @ Robert Liguori

            I like the idea of a sentient dungeon and “lair actions,” but having such as a constant in the game world is a level of weirdness I don’t yet aspire to. As a one-off dungeon, it sounds interesting (and would require some foreshadowing).

            I don’t think that a failure of equipment or provisioning (torches, arrows, ropes, etc.) is necessarily a mark of incompetence, however. Incompetent people fail at tasks for want of basic preparation all the time. But otherwise-quite-competent people also frequently face deprivation in the face of extraordinary circumstances, whether that be a lack of ammunition in Mogadishu or the Alamo, a lack of food in the Arctic pack ice, or lamp failure whilst spelunking. And by just about any measure, adventurers going dungeoneering is an extraordinary circumstance.

            All that said, I still don’t know what the best answer is. Handwaving basic equipment needs seems unsatisfying, and defeats the fundamental challenges (darkness, isolation, cold, gravity) that make delving into the bowels of the earth a narratively interesting proposition. Accounting for each item is tedious and unfun. Not-counting, and then enforcing consequences anyway, is both unsatisfying and a great way to incentivize your players to indulge in preventive accountancy next time. I don’t know the answer.

          • bean says:

            ‘GURPS always reminded me of my Leatherman’
            That’s an interesting perspective, and somewhat true. But there are times when the Leatherman is right there, and you don’t want to hunt down your real tools. I’ll agree that it’s worse in a lot of cases than a dedicated system, but the advantage is that once you know it, it is right there, and you don’t have to hunt down said system. My group has done three different games, all in GURPS, with very different emphasis, and we’re about to start a fourth.
            1. Space Commandos. Military Sci-Fi. GURPS worked very well from an in-game rules perspective.
            2. Space Band. Silly. Little serious combat. GURPS worked very well because we could build the characters we wanted. I’m not sure even a dedicated Space point-buy system would have worked as well.
            3. Modern Conspiracy. Moderately serious. Has also worked well, both on game and building rules sides. (And we started playing a week after the idea was first floated, which you couldn’t really do with a new system.)
            4. High fantasy. So far, we have two characters which couldn’t be built in D&D with a reasonable number of books. Everyone involved has D&D experience, and we still chose GURPS for this one.
            The advantage is that it allows you to build exactly the game you want, and exactly the characters you want in-game. If you want classic dungeon fantasy, it’s not the best, but there are so many other possibilities that nobody has covered yet. And I, at least, enjoy exploring those niches.

            ‘A ruleset sets the tone for a game, far more than I used to realize. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also: without active intervention, a game will tend to be about whatever activity has the most pages of rules devoted to it.’
            That’s a good quote, although I do have a compulsion to measure my rulebooks to verify.

            Re:Provisioning, I can’t see a good abstract solution beyond setting up the scenario so that it’s obvious that they would be in supply trouble despite reasonable precautions (Mogadishu is a good example here), and then not doing it regularly. They’re planning a 24-hour trip into the dungeon, but a cave-in strands them 4 or 5 days from the nearest alternate exit. Even if they had a big safety factor, it’s obvious they’re in trouble. Then, don’t bother them about supplies for quite a while.

          • Nornagest says:

            High fantasy. So far, we have two characters which couldn’t be built in D&D with a reasonable number of books. Everyone involved has D&D experience, and we still chose GURPS for this one.

            D&D has a lot of trouble building anything but well-worn D&D characters, even where the setting’s compatible. I think the problem’s that every class is (or at least was) designed to pastiche a specific archetype, usually derived from a single work of literature (the Dying Earth stories for the wizard, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser for the thief, and so forth) and so you end up being restricted to, basically, crossover fanfic of those characters.

            Recent editions have filed off the serial numbers and given them a fresh coat of paint, but the issue’s still there.

          • hellahexi says:

            @ Nornagest

            D&D has a lot of trouble building anything but well-worn D&D characters

            Agreed. The class/level system is hella restrictive, but by now it’s so ingrained in the system (like hit points) that getting rid of it wouldn’t be an edition-shift; it’d be not-D&D. The restrictiveness is what led them to lose race-as-class, add multi-classing, add prestige classes, add feats… all kludges to address the fact that classes lead to homogeneity.

            For my money, I prefer a Shadowrun-type system: all of your abilities derive from skills, and you mix and match to make your character. It converges on common archetypes–you still get street sams and mages–but there’s much more variety. In D&D, everyone starts the same and diverges as they advance; in SR, everyone starts different and tends to converge on nebulous archetypes as they advance.

            Not having a level system also rids the game of the result of higher-level characters being better than lower-level characters at everything. A 10th level fighter will always beat a 2nd level fighter. But a 0 karma street sam could very well outbrawl a 100 karma sammie, if the latter had invested her karma in stealth and snipercraft.

            (Losing the level system also obviates the interminable verisimilitude question of ‘hey, why isn’t the king always just the highest-level dude in the kingdom?’)

            But I still love D&D. To mangle Rumsfeld, you go to the dungeon with the D&D you’ve got, not the D&D you might wish to have.

          • bean says:

            Oh, I’ve been dissatisfied with all level-based systems since the day I discovered GURPS. There is one point, and only one, on which they significantly beat point-buy systems. And that is when dealing with novice players. We had two novice players who wanted to join the conspiracy game. One didn’t end up actually doing so, partially because she couldn’t come up with a character concept. On the other hand, D&D gives a reasonable set of choices. The problem is that it also prevents what happened to me during the setup of the High Fantasy game. I started out as a Bard, but didn’t have enough points, so I ended up with a rogue with a tiny bit of magic and a violin.
            All this talk of gaming makes me think. Would anyone be interested in a Roll20 game? I’d suggest 3.5, as it’s not a terrible system, and everybody knows it.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            ‘A ruleset sets the tone for a game, far more than I used to realize. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also: without active intervention, a game will tend to be about whatever activity has the most pages of rules devoted to it.’

            That’s a good point. Some guys say things like “D&D wasn’t really based on Tolkien. It was based on pulp heroes; Conan, Edgar Rice Burroughs stuff.”
            Okay… well maybe Gygax envisioned that a Level 8 Fighter would be equivalent in abilities to Conan, and maybe Burroughs is the reason the Monster Manual had apes, cavemen, and dinosaurs. The thing is, though, character creation makes you choose whether to be a human, elf, dwarf, or halfling and a huge number of pages deal with wandering around dungeons and the wilderness having random encounters. That’s going to make every adventuring party look and feel like the Fellowship of the Ring. If you wanted it to feel anything like Burroughs, there’d be no Tolkien races, pages of romance rules, and wilderness travel would be based around trying to track the monster who kidnapped a love interest.

            D&D has a lot of trouble building anything but well-worn D&D characters, even where the setting’s compatible. I think the problem’s that every class is (or at least was) designed to pastiche a specific archetype, usually derived from a single work of literature (the Dying Earth stories for the wizard, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser for the thief, and so forth) and so you end up being restricted to, basically, crossover fanfic of those characters.

            LOL, ouch. 🙂
            I don’t think it’s quite that bad. The fighter, trickster, and wizard are archetypes that appear in folk tales, epic, and romance. A class/level system shouldn’t be so myopic that the Thief looks like the Grey Mouser at every level. Bilbo Baggins starts The Hobbit at 1st and gains a few levels. Loki could be a god-tier Thief.

            Has anyone checked out “Adventurer, Conqueror, King”? It looks like the 3rd Edition SRD simplified into a Basic clone (keeping feats to differentiate characters), with worldbuilding rules built on a consistent economic model.

          • Nornagest says:

            The fighter, trickster, and wizard are archetypes that appear in folk tales, epic, and romance. A class/level system shouldn’t be so myopic that the Thief looks like the Grey Mouser at every level. Bilbo Baggins starts The Hobbit at 1st and gains a few levels. Loki could be a god-tier Thief.

            Sure, but most of the D&D classes are a lot narrower than the folk archetypes, is the point. This gets obscured a bit in practice because D&D itself now has a whole family tree of literary offshoots, but if you pick even someone described as a roguish type from older literature that isn’t Fritz Lieber’s — Silk of the Belgariad, let’s say — you’ll likely find that he can do stuff you can’t build in D&D, and also that D&D mandates (through adventure design if not through class design) features that he doesn’t have. This goes double if you branch out to “trickster” rather than specifically “rogue”, and triple when you get magic involved.

            I think ACK is one of the better retroclones out there, for what that’s worth; I like its economics and the way it handles character growth. And I’m not trying to shit on D&D unnecessarily; there’s something to be said for having archetypes you can readily pick up, especially in a murder hobo game. But you’re trading off for range.

          • Wency says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            I’m currently running a D&D 5e game, but I’ve relied on AKCS for guidance on many world-building issues. From that standpoint, it has been quite helpful. Of course, I have a very systematizing mind, and I like to be able to know things like the resources available to a local lord that the PCs may interact with. I embrace internal consistency and logic within my fantasy setting, which I recognize as a disease that many others that don’t share, but AKCS has some helpful tools for those who do.

            With AKCS, I can quickly determine the hex ownership of a lord, assign the hexes values, and then arrive at a conclusion about his resources. I can also use the demographic information to surmise the character level of the lord and/or his most prominent warriors.

            I’ve also modified prices of certain items (especially armor), since it seems AKCS has done its work on that front. Of course, some assumptions in 5e are fairly compatible with AKCS, to the degree that the designers might well have read AKCS.

            I imagine AKCS works reasonably well as a stand-alone game, though for me, I was interested in 5e and had a much easier time pitching a 5e game with houserules than I would pitching an AKCS game.

          • bean says:

            There is one D20 system variant that actually solves the ‘this class is this archetype and this archetype only’ problem. It’s the Talent system first used in D20 Modern (although handicapped there by a bizarre choice of base classes) and later in Star Wars Saga Edition. In the latter, it worked very well. You could build a Scoundrel (Rogue-equivalent) as a computer hacker, a sneak attack specialist, a pilot, a con man, or a mechanic, and it worked pretty well for all of them. The other classes were pretty much the same. It was a really nice system. And the next RPG Wizards released after this? 4.0. No, I can’t explain it either.

        • hellahexi says:

          Regarding the background stuff: yes. The world keeps happening, even when the PCs aren’t watching it. Especially when the PCs aren’t watching it. I don’t much care for high fantasy, and my PCs are never world-striding heroes.

          If the world is ugly and nasty–and it is, if your characters’ best life choices include strapping up and grubbing into cracks in the earth so as to kill other beings and rob them of their stuff–something ugly and nasty is always going on in the background. If you’re the good guys, marching south to protect halfling refugees from slavers might mean that the drakes to the north are burning crops and creating more refugees. If you’re the bad guys, garroting your way into the guildmaster’s villa to steal his emeralds means creating a power vacuum that will be filled by those most prepared to use ugly means for ugly ends.

          The PCs can only do what they can, where they are, with what they’ve got. The GM gets to decide how much lasting effect it has on the world. You can ratchet the savagery of your world up or down according to taste, but the world should never feel like a game board where everyone else stands still while the ‘heroes’ are exercising agency.

      • Aegeus says:

        Take a cue from Exalted and abstract stuff into “scenes.” Stuff that lasts a short time (minutes) lasts “a scene” – enough time for combat, and a bit more for non-combat exploration afterwards. Stuff that lasts a long time (hours) lasts a number of scenes, or perhaps “a session” – it lasts until you reach a lengthier pause in the story (Rest for the night, long march where nothing happens, etc.) I don’t recall how Exalted handles ammo (I think they assume you brought enough unless there’s a dramatic reason not to), but there’s no reason you couldn’t say “1 quiver per scene.”

        That means that a player can quickly work out what they need (“We’re probably facing 4 combat encounters before we get to the next town, so I’ll pack 4 scenes worth of arrows”), and you as the GM can say “I’ll plan out 5 combat encounters, so he learns to keep a margin of safety.”

    • Nicholas says:

      I think that Dungeon World provides a pretty good mechanism here. The first thing to keep in mind is that DW abstracts some elements of overland travel and exploration (like mapping an area that’s already been cleared) with skill checks, so this is going to be the specific example for this.
      The actual meat though, is that DW has a partial success mechanic: That mechanic goes something like “The following skills require consumable supplies such as arrows or torches. When the player scores a partial success on their roll they succeed, but must then choose: Either to take some penalty forward from the check (Like a sniper who scores his target but is then spotted, or a mapper who must take double time to correct an error in his first survey) OR they may use up one “Supply” of their required equipment. When they have used up all of their Supply they may not use that skill again until they return to town. It is suggested to the DM that the cost of certain tactics may be “You can totally do that, but it’s going to eat up your Supply of [relevant].
      Because of the cost of supplies per Supply and the randomness of their consumption, the average Dungeon World character has about three supply per relevant skill. So you get the tension of “only a few arrows left, I can’t afford to be careless” without having to track all 34 arrows.

      • hellahexi says:

        I wasn’t aware of that particular bit of crunch. I like it! From what I can see, it doesn’t remove player choices, but does make them consequential.

        I like to think of adventuring–most of the time, before PCs get to the (IMO) boring I-can-do-anything! power levels–as similar to the cycle of poverty. That is, a set of life choices or events by which precariousness, once started, is likely to continue unless there is outside intervention. You strike off into the world in search of the big score to improve your lot (trading security for upside). But most never hit the big score, and it takes substantial life-threatening risks to pursue such a path. Every step along the way there are small, incremental choices for which there is no clear good option and the more choices you make the more you’re locked into the lifestyle and locked out of stable society.

        Oddly, the older I get the less cynical I am about real life, and the more cynical I am about my gaming.

  23. anonymous says:

    Scott writes>Jewish law forbids a divorce unless both parties agree, leading to some complicated situations when one party refuses to consent. Now a New Jersey Orthodox rabbi is sentenced to ten years in prison for hiring goons to beat up Jewish husbands until they agreed to divorce their wives

    Question: what is the correct term for repeating provocative, unpleasant stories about a group you dislike or want to disparage?

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      I don’t know who you people are, but is this going to happen in every open thread from now on?

    • Dan Peverley says:

      Get your insinuations out. Call him an anti-Semite or leave, this waffling nonsense is tiresome. For the record, I read that story and thought, “Oh, so that’s how they handle that sort of thing. Practical!”

      • For a little background on divorce in Rabbinic law …

        The basic legal rule is that a husband can divorce his wife, a wife cannot divorce her husband. The destruction of the Kingdom of Israel and the diaspora resulted in a lot of Jewish communities functioning under their own law within Christian or Muslim polities. The Christian or Muslim ruler found that the easiest way to deal with his Jewish subjects was to subcontract the job to the Jewish communal authorities.

        Sometime around the tenth century, Jewish communal authorities decided that it ought to be possible for a marriage to be ended because of misdeeds by the husband. Since this was impossible under religious law, they came up (as in other cases) with a kludge, a work around. If the wife convinced the court that she was entitled to a divorce, the husband could be imprisoned until he gave her one.

        It sounds as though what Scot mentioned was a modern version of that approach. I can’t see that reporting it is evidence of anti-semitism. I discuss the older version in one of the draft chapters of the book on legal systems very different from ours that I’m currently working on.

  24. The original Mr. X says:

    So after the long argument on Israel and Palestine in the last open thread, I thought I’d pull some bits out of the Hamas founding charter to illustrate why the Israelis might be a little bit reluctant to trust them as negotiating partners. Here are the most relevant quotations:

    Introduction: Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it” (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory).

    Article 7: The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.

    Article 11: he Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Moslem generations until Judgement Day. This being so, who could claim to have the right to represent Moslem generations till Judgement Day?

    This is the law governing the land of Palestine in the Islamic Sharia (law) and the same goes for any land the Moslems have conquered by force, because during the times of (Islamic) conquests, the Moslems consecrated these lands to Moslem generations till the Day of Judgement.

    It happened like this: When the leaders of the Islamic armies conquered Syria and Iraq, they sent to the Caliph of the Moslems, Umar bin-el-Khatab, asking for his advice concerning the conquered land – whether they should divide it among the soldiers, or leave it for its owners, or what? After consultations and discussions between the Caliph of the Moslems, Omar bin-el-Khatab and companions of the Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, it was decided that the land should be left with its owners who could benefit by its fruit. As for the real ownership of the land and the land itself, it should be consecrated for Moslem generations till Judgement Day. Those who are on the land, are there only to benefit from its fruit. This Waqf remains as long as earth and heaven remain. Any procedure in contradiction to Islamic Sharia, where Palestine is concerned, is null and void.

    Article 13: Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. Abusing any part of Palestine is abuse directed against part of religion. Nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its religion. Its members have been fed on that. For the sake of hoisting the banner of Allah over their homeland they fight. “Allah will be prominent, but most people do not know.”

    Now and then the call goes out for the convening of an international conference to look for ways of solving the (Palestinian) question. Some accept, others reject the idea, for this or other reason, with one stipulation or more for consent to convening the conference and participating in it. Knowing the parties constituting the conference, their past and present attitudes towards Moslem problems, the Islamic Resistance Movement does not consider these conferences capable of realising the demands, restoring the rights or doing justice to the oppressed. These conferences are only ways of setting the infidels in the land of the Moslems as arbitraters. When did the infidels do justice to the believers?

    “But the Jews will not be pleased with thee, neither the Christians, until thou follow their religion; say, The direction of Allah is the true direction. And verily if thou follow their desires, after the knowledge which hath been given thee, thou shalt find no patron or protector against Allah.” (The Cow – verse 120).
    There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors. The Palestinian people know better than to consent to having their future, rights and fate toyed with. As in said in the honourable Hadith:

    “The people of Syria are Allah’s lash in His land. He wreaks His vengeance through them against whomsoever He wishes among His slaves It is unthinkable that those who are double-faced among them should prosper over the faithful. They will certainly die out of grief and desperation.”

    Article 22: For a long time, the enemies have been planning, skillfully and with precision, for the achievement of what they have attained. They took into consideration the causes affecting the current of events. They strived to amass great and substantive material wealth which they devoted to the realisation of their dream. With their money, they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money they formed secret societies, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there.

    You may speak as much as you want about regional and world wars. They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources. They obtained the Balfour Declaration, formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state. It was they who instigated the replacement of the League of Nations with the United Nations and the Security Council to enable them to rule the world through them. There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it.

    “So often as they shall kindle a fire for war, Allah shall extinguish it; and they shall set their minds to act corruptly in the earth, but Allah loveth not the corrupt doers.” (The Table – verse 64).
    The imperialistic forces in the Capitalist West and Communist East, support the enemy with all their might, in money and in men. These forces take turns in doing that. The day Islam appears, the forces of infidelity would unite to challenge it, for the infidels are of one nation.

    “O true believers, contract not an intimate friendship with any besides yourselves: they will not fail to corrupt you. They wish for that which may cause you to perish: their hatred hath already appeared from out of their mouths; but what their breasts conceal is yet more inveterate. We have already shown you signs of their ill will towards you, if ye understand.” (The Family of Imran – verse 118).
    It is not in vain that the verse is ended with Allah’s words “if ye understand.”

    Article 27: The Palestinian Liberation Organization is the closest to the heart of the Islamic Resistance Movement. It contains the father and the brother, the next of kin and the friend. The Moslem does not estrange himself from his father, brother, next of kin or friend. Our homeland is one, our situation is one, our fate is one and the enemy is a joint enemy to all of us.

    Because of the situations surrounding the formation of the Organization, of the ideological confusion prevailing in the Arab world as a result of the ideological invasion under whose influence the Arab world has fallen since the defeat of the Crusaders and which was, and still is, intensified through orientalists, missionaries and imperialists, the Organization adopted the idea of the secular state. And that it how we view it.

    Secularism completely contradicts religious ideology. Attitudes, conduct and decisions stem from ideologies.

    That is why, with all our appreciation for The Palestinian Liberation Organization – and what it can develop into – and without belittling its role in the Arab-Israeli conflict, we are unable to exchange the present or future Islamic Palestine with the secular idea. The Islamic nature of Palestine is part of our religion and whoever takes his religion lightly is a loser.

    Article 28: The Zionist invasion is a vicious invasion. It does not refrain from resorting to all methods, using all evil and contemptible ways to achieve its end. It relies greatly in its infiltration and espionage operations on the secret organizations it gave rise to, such as the Freemasons, The Rotary and Lions clubs, and other sabotage groups. All these organizations, whether secret or open, work in the interest of Zionism and according to its instructions. They aim at undermining societies, destroying values, corrupting consciences, deteriorating character and annihilating Islam. It is behind the drug trade and alcoholism in all its kinds so as to facilitate its control and expansion.

    Article 32: The Islamic Resistance Movement calls on Arab and Islamic nations to take up the line of serious and persevering action to prevent the success of this horrendous plan, to warn the people of the danger eminating from leaving the circle of struggle against Zionism. Today it is Palestine, tomorrow it will be one country or another. The Zionist plan is limitless. After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying.

    Leaving the circle of struggle with Zionism is high treason, and cursed be he who does that. “for whoso shall turn his back unto them on that day, unless he turneth aside to fight, or retreateth to another party of the faithful, shall draw on himself the indignation of Allah, and his abode shall be hell; an ill journey shall it be thither.” (The Spoils – verse 16). There is no way out except by concentrating all powers and energies to face this Nazi, vicious Tatar invasion. The alternative is loss of one’s country, the dispersion of citizens, the spread of vice on earth and the destruction of religious values. Let every person know that he is responsible before Allah, for “the doer of the slightest good deed is rewarded in like, and the does of the slightest evil deed is also rewarded in like.”

    Source: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp

    • Evan Þ says:

      “…and the same goes for any land the Moslems have conquered by force, because during the times of (Islamic) conquests, the Moslems consecrated these lands to Moslem generations till the Day of Judgement.”

      Looks like Spain, the Balkans, and southern Italy should be worried, then. Though given the recent Muslim immigration and falling birthrates…

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Looks like Spain, the Balkans, and southern Italy should be worried, then. Though given the recent Muslim immigration and falling birthrates…

        Give this man a gold star.

      • Sastan says:

        Actually, there was a very public argument between Hamas and Islamic Jihad some years back over whether or not they needed to expand their terror campaigns to Spain as well, with Hamas holding the line that until they had killed all the jews, they should wait on trying to reconquer Andalusia. A weird sort of moderation, but this is what is meant by “moderate” when speaking about the denizens of the mideast.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Exactly. We need to understand that Muslims like Hamas are pursuing goals abhorrent to us in “moderate”, methodical ways. ISIS is like jihad on ADHD, which might make them less of a threat.

        • vV_Vv says:

          But the super-radical groups like Islamic Jihad, al-Qaeda and ISIS want to conquer and Islamize the whole world anyway, they wouldn’t be content to stop at al-Andalus.

    • Machine Interface says:

      The whole “Our enemies can’t be trusted to keep their word in any circumstance” is a classic hawkish argument used to justify the refusal of negotiation or compromise and the maintenance of a hard line, but which has never produced the expected results and always proves to be a paper tiger.

      America could never possibly negotiate with a dictatorial, psychotic communist regime… and then they allied with China against the Soviet Union.

      And it’s not like Israel has a long history of always staying true to its word and never betraying its allies in any way — between being Iran’s main arm dealer during the Iran-Iraq war, to selling American military technology to China, through terrorist operations against western targets in Egypt, Israel makes about as good of an ally to the US as Saudi Arabia.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        The whole “Our enemies can’t be trusted to keep their word in any circumstance” is a classic hawkish argument used to justify the refusal of negotiation or compromise and the maintenance of a hard line,

        Sometimes, your enemies can’t actually be trusted to keep their word.

        And it’s not like Israel has a long history of always staying true to its word and never betraying its allies in any way — between being Iran’s main arm dealer during the Iran-Iraq war, to selling American military technology to China, through terrorist operations against western targets in Egypt, Israel makes about as good of an ally to the US as Saudi Arabia.

        So what? Sure, Israel isn’t perfect, but until the Israelis elect a government which has genocide against Arabs as one of its founding principles, any attempt at drawing a moral equivalence between the two is mere sophistical whataboutery.

        • sabril says:

          “Sometimes, your enemies can’t actually be trusted to keep their word.”

          I agree, but I think the problem is actually worse than that. Because if it were just a matter of trust, there might be a way to do some kind of a deal using demilitarized areas; international inspections; and so forth.

          I think that Hamas’ charter exposes a more serious problem. Since Hamas’ primary goal is to put an end to Jewish Israel, any deal which benefits Israel, particularly by enhancing Israel’s long-term security, would be unacceptable to Hamas. (And indeed to the Palestinian Arabs in general) So that leaves the question: What concessions would or could the Palestinian Arabs make to Israel in order to do a peace deal? Given their goals, the answer is “none at all.” Which is why there will never be peace until the Palestinian Arabs change their attitude.

          Put another way, if both sides primarily wanted security, autonomy, and demographic stability, there would be room for a deal. Israel primarily wants these things, but the Palestinian Arabs primarily want Israel NOT to have these things. How can you have a workable deal under these circumstances? The answer is that you can’t.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Yes, given the attitudes of the international community, the very existence of a “Palestinian problem” continues to delegitimize Israel and undermine it in public opinion.

            So why should they come to the table? If they do nothing, they win!

          • Pku says:

            I mostly agree, but Just because Israel can’t unilaterally solve the problem doesn’t mean there’s nothing it can do – there are things it can do to help make palestinian public opinion less radical while not decreasing its own security (like freezing settlement construction, and being more willing to negotiate with Abbas over Hamas), and it should do those.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Pku:

            I sincerely do not believe that Israel’s being more willing to make concessions will make the Palestinians more cooperative. It’s just appeasement: giving them some concessions, especially unilateral concessions, just confirms that the current strategy is effective.

            I don’t believe either in the idea that all Israel needs to do is keep appeasing, or in the idea expressed—usually covertly but openly in this thread by Sastan and others—that there is no solution but for Israel to engage in “ethnic cleansing”. I believe that the Palestinian culture is inherently backwards and anti-Semitic in the exact same sense that the German and Japanese cultures were inherently militaristic and totalitarian: they were until someone was prepared to totally defeat them and make clear that they weren’t going to be allowed to be like that anymore.

            That is not the policy Israel has toward the Palestinian territories. Rather, Israel has a policy toward them which is quite like that of the Treaty of Versailles toward post-WWI Germany. They occupy large parts of their land, meddle in their affairs, impose harsh sanctions on them—but at the same time grant them extensive autonomy and allow the local regime to stir up anti-occupier sentiment and perpetrate injustices on its own population, indeed allow it to enforce anti-Israel ideological uniformity among that population.

            This is not a “sustainable” strategy toward peaceful coexistence.

            Israel has to decide which option it favors: to totally withdraw and wash its hands of Palestine, or to really defeat and suppress the anti-Israel resistance. There is no middle way, except the status quo of continuing conflict—which is not going to last forever.

            Now, I believe that it is not in Israel’s rational interest to withdraw and abandon all of the post-1967 Palestinian land. But if victory is what they want, they can’t just putter about trying to appease the Palestinians. They’ve got to take decisive action.

            Part of this is an inherent problem of democracy: it tends toward the “middle-of-the-road”, compromise solution, even when this is worse than either of the extremes. Peter van Doren explains this in the context of the Vietnam War. There were, in principle, two plausibly defensible courses of action: a) don’t get involved and b) as people like Curtis LeMay said, “nuke Hanoi”, i.e. maybe not literally, but do what is necessary to win the war. The third option: c) fuck around for 20 years, killing millions of civilians and 50,000 American soldiers, while accomplishing nothing—that option was not desired by anybody. But that’s what happened because that’s the average between the two.

            The same could be said for Afghanistan and Iraq. Either do nothing, or win and set up a genuinely liberal government—occupying the country as long as necessary to do so. But to invade and set up corrupt governments based on sharia law which are friendly to American enemies—and this includes the governments that are not ISIS—what is the point of that?

          • sabril says:

            “I mostly agree, but Just because Israel can’t unilaterally solve the problem doesn’t mean there’s nothing it can do – there are things it can do to help make palestinian public opinion less radical while not decreasing its own security (like freezing settlement construction, and being more willing to negotiate with Abbas over Hamas), and it should do those.”

            Freezing settlement construction would probably have the opposite effect from what you anticipate. Because it would make the Palestinian Arabs more optimistic about achieving their goal of putting an end to Jewish Israel. And at a minimum, it would not help anything.

            Just look at what happened with the Gaza pullout. Did it help things that Israel dismantled a number of settlements and left the greenhouses intact in a gesture of goodwill? Of course not.

            You need to keep in mind that there is a difference between a reason and an excuse and that people tend to lie when reporting their motivations. The settlements are a convenient excuse and nothing more.

        • birdboy2000 says:

          And sometimes they can. And I don’t think hard-line language in a charter is in itself proof to the contrary, any more than the IRA’s commitment to a 32-county socialist Irish Republic prevented them from coming to the peace table.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            “And sometimes they can.”

            And in this case they have demonstrated repeatedly that they cannot.

            “And I don’t think hard-line language in a charter is in itself proof to the contrary…”

            Even if not proof, it’s certainly *evidence* for the proposition that the group is hardline, wouldn’t you agree? Perhaps we could stack it up alongside the war crimes and genocidal rhetoric and see if we can come to a provisional conclusion about the nature of Hamas.

            “…any more than the IRA’s commitment to a 32-county socialist Irish Republic prevented them from coming to the peace table.”

            And yet Hamas hasn’t come to the peace table. Odd, that.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        You’re squirting an awful lot of ink in order to not have to face the poisonous nature of Hamas’s fundamental beliefs. Why is that?

        “Israel makes about as good of an ally to the US as Saudi Arabia.”

        Oh, please. You’re full of it. Get back to me when Israeli-backed and funded terrorists bomb Washington and New York, then we’ll talk about who’s a worse ally.

        • Machine Interface says:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavon_Affair

          The only difference is that Israel is incompetent even there.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            You will note that Israel was not allied with the U.S. at the time.

            In fact, the U.S. was fucking supporting Nasser and his policy of pan-Arab nationalism, which was directly opposed to Israel. And this would of course lead two years later to the Suez Crisis in which the U.S. sided with the Soviet Union to stop Israel, Britain, and France from retaking the Suez Canal and deposing Nasser.

          • sabril says:

            “You will note that Israel was not allied with the U.S. at the time.”

            I agree, but keep in mind that “Machine Interface” is obviously trying to change the subject from “Can Hamas be Trusted to do a Peace Deal with Israel?” to “Is Israel Perfect?”

            So you are kind of playing into his hands here.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Sabril: Yeah, that’s a good point. I’m not surprised that he’s trying to move the goalposts as hard as he can, since “Hamas really is trustworthy, you guys!” isn’t a very defensible position.

    • Zur says:

      We can agree, the Hamas is a terrible dark movement that promotes hatred and violence.

      A simple question: why hasn’t Israel recognized the Palestinian authority as a state? Wouldn’t that be a good move, as it would strengthen the authority and weaken Hamas? It would seem to be in Israel’s best interests and to be in line with Israel’s policy of building a border (the separation wall/fence) and granting the Palestinians full autonomy on their side.

      Instead, Netanyahu has tried to block Palestinian statehood. What is the rationale for this? Doesn’t it strengthen groups like Hamas?

      • sabril says:

        “A simple question: why hasn’t Israel recognized the Palestinian authority as a state?”

        The Palestinian Authority is still bad news for Israel. But perhaps more importantly, if the areas under Palestinian Authority control were given the same sort of autonomy Gaza has, it’s pretty likely that either (1) groups like Hamas would take over pretty quickly; or (2) the whole area would devolve into civil war.

        Note that when the original elections were held for the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006, there was a decisive victory by Hamas.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        That might have been plausible at one point and (I’m guessing) was Sharon’s intention before his stroke, but Hamas’s rocket attacks from Gaza, along with their tunneling, rendered the idea of a wall not good enough. Another Gaza in the West Bank would drop hundreds of rockets daily on the capital and the international airport.

      • Sastan says:

        For the simple reason that under the framework of the peace agreements, recognition of the palestinian state is the final stage, the last concession to seal a final deal. To give it away for nothing would be incredibly stupid politically and useless in any case. Hamas has been the autonomous governing body of Gaza for years now, the PA and Hamas together govern the vast majority of palestinians. There isn’t that much shifting left to do before the states hit their projected parameters. But it’s like some commenters have noted. The Palestinian goal is the death of every Jew. This is fundamentally at odds with doing a peace deal. The Palestinians will never, ever stop trying to eradicate the jewish state and murder every jewish person in the world. This is the only reason for being palestinian, the thing that makes them palestinian as opposed to just another group of post-Ottoman arabs. Their entire culture is about little else. Asking them to stop is like asking the French to stop cooking, making wine and reading pretentious novels.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          Oh, come on. This is just as bad as the Hamas rhetoric.

          It’s not the case that they will “never, ever stop”. It’s not like it’s written in their genetic code.

          They’ll stop if and when they are made to stop, at the point where it becomes clear that they have no chance of success. They’ll stop when it becomes the case that continued resistance will hurt their goals rather than helping them. They’ll stop in the same way the Germans stopped trying to eradicate the Jews, or how the Japanese stopped trying to take over the Pacific.

          • sabril says:

            “It’s not the case that they will ‘never, ever stop’. It’s not like it’s written in their genetic code.”

            It’s pretty deeply ingrained in their culture. There are Muslim Arabs even today who talk about re-taking Spain.

            I think that the Palestinian Arabs don’t necessarily want to slaughter all of the Jews, but I do think they would never really adjust to having a Jewish state in the Levant.

          • Sastan says:

            No, it’s not genetic, it’s cultural.

            Think for a second man. In 1947, there is no palestinian nation, no palestinian people, just a group of mixed muslims and christians who happened to all live in the same area which had been colonized for the preceding two and a half thousand years. Ottomans, Egyptians, Mongols, Kurds, Crusaders, Abbasids, Syrians, Romans, Greeks, Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians again.

            But today, they have a strong identity, a distinct culture. And this is based completely, entirely on nothing more than opposition to the state of Israel. Were it not for the state of Israel being created, they’d all be citizens of Jordan or Syria or Egypt, and no one would have ever heard of the term “palestinian”.

            Oddly, it seems to parallel what we know of the formation of the Jewish identity thousands of years ago, where the scattered, fractious hill tribes banded together to resist the coastal invasion of the Philistines.

            Unfortunately, this means there will never be a peace in the area. The only real chance of that was for Israel to commit some Trail of Tears ethnic cleansing back in ’67 when they could have gotten away with it. Then they could apologize profusely today, imprison a general or two, pay a symbolic indemnity to the descendants in Jordan or wherever, and sign a deal.

          • sabril says:

            @sastan

            “Unfortunately, this means there will never be a peace in the area”

            I agree to an extent, but I think it’s worth keeping in mind that even if every Jew left the area tomorrow, it’s unlikely that there would be peace. Instead, there probably would be brutal civil wars and conflicts on a regular basis with periods of relative calm enforced by repressive dictatorships and theocracies. That’s the situation in Syria, for example and there’s no reason to think “Palestine” would be any different. Even now, there would probably be an open war between Fatah and Hamas if it weren’t for Israel standing in the way.

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      Article 7: The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.

      I have to say, I always found this line absolutely hilarious. Of course it’s terrible, but the imagery is just so silly. It’s even more absurd in the full context of the hadith, which specifies: “Only the Gharkad tree, (the Boxthorn tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.”

      It also definitely echoes (or rather, is echoed by) the Babylon 5 episode “And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place”, in which one of the Centauri leaders behind the oppression of the Narns gets beaten to death to the tune of a Negro spiritual with lyrics in the same general theme:

      There’s no hiding place down here
      There’s no hiding place down here
      Well I went to the rock to hide my face
      The rock cried out, no hiding place
      There’s no hiding place down here

      Is there some specific passage in the Bible that depicts sinners trying to hide behind rocks or trees? Or is it just the general concept, which is shared between Christianity and Islam?

      • brad says:

        The only thing that comes to mind is Adam & Eve after eating from the forbidden tree.

        And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden toward the cool of the day; and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto the man, and said unto him: ‘Where art thou?’ And he said: ‘I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.’

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Is there some specific passage in the Bible that depicts sinners trying to hide behind rocks or trees? Or is it just the general concept, which is shared between Christianity and Islam?

        I can’t think of any Christian sources for the idea. It might well be original to the Koran.

        • NN says:

          It isn’t in the Koran. It’s in a Hadith, or a recorded saying of Muhammed.

          “No Hiding Place Down Here” was first written down in 1907, so while it could theoretically have been influenced by Islamic traditions, it seems unlikely. They might have been independently invented, as weird as that seems.

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          Luke 19:39-40 : Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

          (I only know this from Jesus Christ Superstar)

      • Jaskologist says:

        Rev 6:15-16

        Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!”

        Isaiah 2:21

        They will flee to caverns in the rocks
        and to the overhanging crags
        from the fearful presence of the Lord
        and the splendor of his majesty,
        when he rises to shake the earth.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          But did the rocks cry out, “No hiding place!”?

          This just says they will hide. No word on the rocks and trees themselves giving away their positions.

      • Deiseach says:

        Two sources for “calling out to the rocks”: first from the Gospel of Luke:

        28 But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

        Second from Revelation:

        15 Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the generals and the rich and the strong, and every one, slave and free, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand before it?”

    • John Schilling says:

      So after the long argument on Israel and Palestine in the last open thread, I thought I’d pull some bits out of the Hamas founding charter

      I really wish you hadn’t done that. Are you truly foolish enough to believe that this will persuade anyone of anything, except that supporters of Israel tend to be annoying fanatics?

      You have harmed your cause, which I am normally inclined to sympathize with, and you have helped make this open thread less readable, enjoyable, and informative than it could have been. You have done nothing of value. Please go away until you understand why this is so.

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        Wait, what? He has harmed the cause of Israel by quoting the position of their enemies? Can I hurt Hitler by quoting the communist manifesto?

        • John Schilling says:

          Can I hurt Hitler by quoting the communist manifesto?

          You can if you’re a Nazi. Just do it in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and dial up the volume every time you notice people are trying to ignore you and go about their business.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        You have harmed your cause, which I am normally inclined to sympathize with, and you have helped make this open thread less readable, enjoyable, and informative than it could have been. You have done nothing of value.

        [Cue sad violin music in the background]

      • sabril says:

        “I really wish you hadn’t done that.”

        I’m glad he did (even though I’m one of those annoying pro-Israel types), but I think his excerpts need to be combined with an important fact, which is that in the Palestinian Authority elections in 2006, Hamas won a decisive victory. There have not been serious elections since then.

        There is a distinction between the “Palestinian Authority” and “Hamas” only because Mahmoud Abbas and the rest of his party have decided to disenfranchise all of the Palestinian Arabs. (Of course if Hamas were to gain power, it would do pretty much the same thing. There haven’t been any elections in Gaza either.)

        So why does any of this matter? There is an idea floating around out there that the Arab/Israeli conflict can be seen as two groups of people who can’t get along. That there is a “cycle of violence” and that if only one side (presumably Israel) would just start making nice, the whole conflict would fizzle out and a negotiated solution could be reached. Quoting the Hamas charter helps to show people that this idea is completely wrong; the situation is not symmetrical; and for there to be peace, the Arabs need to change their attitude.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          So why does any of this matter? There is an idea floating around out there that the Arab/Israeli conflict can be seen as two groups of people who can’t get along. That there is a “cycle of violence” and that if only one side (presumably Israel) would just start making nice, the whole conflict would fizzle out and a negotiated solution could be reached. Quoting the Hamas charter helps to show people that this idea is completely wrong; the situation is not symmetrical; and for there to be peace, the Arabs need to change their attitude.

          Yes, exactly.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            “Two sides!”

            Being from Alabama, I often heard this expressed as: “The reason the Jews and Muslims can’t get along is that their religions both encourage vengeance and ‘an eye for an eye’. If only they were good Christians and understood the virtue of forgiveness, this conflict would end.”

            Though, in general, people in Alabama support Israel a lot. Partly because they want Israel to demolish the Dome on the Rock, rebuild the Third Temple, sacrifice the red hefer, and bring about the Second Coming…

          • Jiro says:

            Did you hear personally from many supporters of Israel that they support Israel because they want to bring about the Second Coming? Last time that subject came up here (may have been LW, not sure), it appeared to be mostly a myth, not believed by more than a tiny minority of Christians, and spread because it fits preexisting prejudices about Christians.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jiro:

            Yes, I have personally heard it from them. I don’t know about “many”, since I don’t have a habit of engaging in long conversations with people about Israel and their reasons for supporting it, but I have heard it.

            And I get the impression that while only a tiny number of people are really serious about doing this immediately, a much larger number believe in a premillennialist interpretation of Revelations in which these things will happen inexorably.

        • John Schilling says:

          Quoting the Hamas charter helps to show people that this idea is completely wrong

          Only if they then read the relevant parts of Hamas charter, with an open mind and a willingness to reevaluate their beliefs rather than the more usual cherrypicking of fragments that will support their preexisting beliefs. Do you really believe that anyone here actually did that?

          Did anyone here actually read the quoted bits of the Hamas charter and as a result change any prior belief they had held in this matter? Anyone?

          Bueller?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            When I read the Hamas charter, it moved my views significantly towards the pro-Israeli side. So, yes.

          • sabril says:

            FWIW, the Hamas charter is one of several pieces of evidence which led me to the conclusion that the situation is essentially intractable until and unless the Palestinian Arabs change their attitude.

            I doubt you can point to anyone changing their mind based on Mr. X’s specific post any more than you can associate a specific TV ad for Coca Cola with a specific purchase.

  25. The Anonymouse says:

    Does anyone have any experience with Republic Wireless? The Moto G phone?

    Basically, I’m looking for a cheap-ass phone that doesn’t look like the slide-out dumb phone I still use. I would like a smartphone, but I’m a skinflint, and don’t care at all for having a plan that costs me $50+ a month. My primary use remains, well, making and receiving phone calls; my secondary use is dicking around on the internet. Thanks y’all!

    • Alexandra says:

      I recently got the Moto G. My only issue with it is that pages occasionally fail to load for no apparent reason, and reloading them generally fixes this.

    • Theo Jones says:

      Its not any of the carriers you named, but look at tracfone. They sell some pretty cheap prepaid phones. I got some $9 LG android (I forgot the model name). I went with that because I’m not a very heavy phone user, so, prepaid is a lot cheaper. But I want some data support (so, dumb phones are out). Its surprisingly non-sucky. Good enough for web browsing, and other light usage.

    • zolstein says:

      What’s your definition of “cheap-ass” when it comes to phones? $200? Lower?

      A good strategy when buying a budget phone is to get a used/refurbished flagship that’s 1-2 years old. The specs are typically comparable to a current mid-range model, and if they don’t have good official software support they often have an active custom-ROM scene so you can still get newer OS versions. The LG G2 has been popular for such purposes.

    • Cannon Hackett says:

      I have had a Moto G with Republic Wireless service for a year and a half (unlimited talk and text.) Overall I’m quite happy with it and plan to stay with them at least until my phone dies. The only big issue I’ve had is that one time my phone randomly switched to having another phone number for about an hour. No idea how well the cellular internet works. One great thing about Republic Wireless is that, last time I checked, you can switch plans twice a month without being charged any fee, and the cost at the end of the month will be the cost of both plans multiplied by the fraction of the time you had each one for.

      • The Anonymouse says:

        Thank you, Cannon. That’s exactly the kind of feedback I was looking for. The only other question remaining is how well it works in different parts of the country.

  26. anonymous says:

    On Charitable giving.
    I’m older and wealthier than most of SSC readers, so I have had a lot of experience with charitable giving. Here are some stray thoughts and experiences that may be of interest.

    When I didn’t have any money, as a teenager and person in my twenties, I gave through volunteer work. I volunteered inspecting tenements in Harlem for housing violations, in Head Start, in an old age home, in a mental hospital and via the Peace Corps. These were all fantastic life experiences for me, making me a much wiser person with broader life experience. How much did they help others? Not all that much. It is very uncomfortable to look back on efforts that were supposed to help others and helped only oneself.

    Head Start it turns out is pretty useless in terms of any long term benefits. The Peace Corps was a complete farce – all I did was provide some stimulating conversation to the people of an isolated African small town (think mud huts and a few stucco buildings at the market), but with the downside of helping make them dependent on the chimera of outside help by white people. It would be more helpful to leave them to their own devices so they more motivated to find effective solutions.

    “Helping” at the mental hospital was a total nothing as far as charity, but helped me decide on my first career as a psychotherapist.

    Visiting the old age home weekly was an act of one on one kindness that was real. This is the sort of charity Judaism and Christianity encourages. Yet it is not where my heart is. It is extremely demanding. As an older, busier person, I am not that kind.

    I came away from the Peace Corps totally cynical about African aid programs across the spectrum, which is why I think Scott’s allegiance to simple, direct grants is a worthy experiment.

    Personally, I concluded it is better to give in your own culture and even locale, where you understand what is going on and can monitor the charity for effectiveness. I mostly give to small, entrepreneurial charities or activist organizations where I know the director personally and stay in touch with them. This is emotionally satisfying and has led to meeting many admirable, interesting, self-sacrificing people who I am honored to know. These small groups are less likely to spend most of the money on themselves.

    I don’t give out of guilt or obligation for the many blessings of life as an American. My blessings f or the most part have added prosperity, freedom and beauty to the world. Besides, I’m not going to feel guilty for history or reality. I give out of love and concern, wanting to further a better world – obviously, better as I see it. This means there is a heavy dose of my personal values in where I give money, which makes it more satisfying than a generic gift, whether it be to the United Way of your grandparents’ generation or the ‘effective charity’ of your generation.

    So I choose very personally and give to things that mean a great deal to me at the time. Big drawback – I have looked back and felt some large bequests were ‘wasted’ according to my present values. This is actually extremely frustrating and discouraging. I guess you could say that is an argument for pure kindness, which is never wasted. But I am too much of a striver and would-be change agent to want to give only to help one individual instead of trying to solve a fundamental problem. Even giving big sums of money to buy land that is permanently conserved can seem wasted in hindsight, when you think of how you would donate that money now, or that the land in question was not that comparatively valuable to furthering conservation. I don’t have a solution to this dilemma.

    I hear a lot of idealism here about the right way to give, that giving in a very disengaged, intellectual way to do the most good for the most impoverished is pure and unselfish and superior. The reality is that human nature is not like that, and most giving is a mix of selfishness and generosity. Most giving is extremely social, in that it gives an entrée into the social group you want to belong to -that is undoubtedly true of effective altruism also. People give most to groups they are personally involved in – going to their fundraising parties and events, their lectures, trips – it is often how people meet their closest friends, among others who care deeply and share values. That is nothing to disparage.

  27. rose says:

    American Jewish intellectuals, journalists, organizational leaders are worse than the cowed Jews of the 1930’s. Many actively join Israel’s defamers. They work to subvert American support for Israel, pretending the problem is Israeli ‘intransigence’, not Islamic neo-Nazism. American Jews flocked to vote for Barack Hussein Obama, ignoring his viciously antisemitic “mentor,” host of anti-Israel advisors such as Samantha Powers, and sympathy for the Palestinian cause. Identification with the aggressor is a very dangerous strategy for psychological comfort.

    Victim Psychology: Being unable to escape cruel, unremitting violence damages reality testing, because reality is too painful to endure.

    The wife is in the hospital with a ruptured spleen and every bone broken in her body. The doctor pleads with her to report her husband to the police and enter a half-way house. But she knows he’ll try to kill her there. Neither “flight or fight,” nature’s two adaptive defenses, offer safety. Her mind comes up with a third solution: she caused her husband to beat her; therefore she can fix the problem by improving herself. It was her own fault for having dinner late, which of course made him lose his temper. She can go back and cook dinner on time, and it will work out. She refuses to file a complaint. The next month, he beats her to death.

    The victim creates an alternate reality, in which the victim is the one at fault. If your behavior is at fault, the solution is also in your hands. You no longer feel powerless. Unfortunately, now your life is in danger.

    For Jews, Islamic neo-Nazism, within living memory of the Holocaust, can be unbearable. Too much pain, too much fear, too much injustice. Too much helplessness, trapped in a world that will not stop killing us. Victim mentality makes all that disappear. We are no better than those Christians and Moslems who kill us. Jews are not targets, we are abusers ourselves. We have nothing to fear in Israel but our own bigotry. Isn’t that better now?

    Since this defense falsifies reality instead of coping with it, it resulted in bringing Arafat, a known terrorist, to be set up as a dictator over his people, with the crazy idea he would bring peace. It allowed him to re-arm and inculcate a generation in neo-Nazi hate. It leads us to forget that when Israel offered the P.A. half of Jerusalem and 90% of their territorial demands the Arabs walked out and began a reign of terror. It leads us to ignore Hamas firing five thousand missiles into Israel, to ignore that the current blockade is preventing the smuggling of missiles from Iran. In the alternate reality, the settlers are the problem. There is no danger, because the victim is the bad one, and can avoid murder by self-correction.

    Blaming Israel

    At the Brandeis lecture that started off my investigation the psychological use of Israel as a scapegoat was striking. Carroll was there to talk about his 750 page book on how the Roman Catholic Church destroyed its own soul by persecuting Jews. Every single Jewish discussant responded by defaming Israel.

    To understand scapegoating Israel coupled with a suicidal refusal to face Arab antisemitism, we must turn to the classic work of the psychology of trauma, Trauma and Recovery, by Dr. Judith Herman.

    Victims of abuse typically accuse themselves of being the cause of the problem, and bystanders are quick to agree. Dr. Herman, describing the psychology of an abused child:

    “When it is impossible to avoid the reality of the abuse, the child must construct some system of meaning that justifies it. Inevitably, the child concludes that her innate badness is the cause. The child seizes upon this explanation and clings to it tenaciously, for it enables her to preserve a sense of meaning, hope and power. If she is bad, then her parents are good. If she is bad, then she can try to be good. If somehow, she has brought this fate upon herself, then somehow she has the power to change it.”

    This tactic of blaming the victim is used by both victims and bystanders in order to “preserve a sense of meaning, hope and power.” This is the psychology at work when we see liberal Israelis and Americans, especially scared Jews, blame Israel for the Arab campaign to destroy her.

    It has become common to accuse Israel of acting like Nazis themselves, to accuse Jews of using the Holocaust as justification to abuse Palestinians. According to Dr. Herman, it is a common myth that victims become abusers. Abused children do not perpetuate a cycle of abuse. They are over-protective parents. Many abuse victims are suicidal; there is no correlation with homicide. Traumatized people are far more likely to behave in self-defeating ways that harm themselves.

    Society always blames the victim and ignores the perpetrator – Dr. Herman shows this with incest, with child abuse, with rape, with wife beating. She writes, in language that could be directly transposed to the way society approaches Palestinian violence against Israel:

    “It is sometimes forgotten that men’s violence is men’s behavior….(There is an) enormous effort to explain male behavior by examining the characteristics of women.” “What struck me most at the time was how little rational argument seemed to matter. The women’s representatives came to the discussion with carefully reasoned, extensively documented position papers, which argued that the proposed diagnostic concept (which claimed battered women wanted to be beaten) had little scientific foundation…The men of the psychiatric establishment persisted in their bland denial. They admitted freely that they were ignorant …”

    Anyone who has tried to argue on Israel’s behalf by marshalling reams of uncontestable facts has experienced this wall of complacent ignorance and denial. Is this why the lies of pro-Arab propaganda work so well? It is not that Israel is at fault for ineffectively presenting their case – we are once again blaming the victim. Why should Israel need to convince fellow westerners that terrorism against Jews is not a special case, and has no justification?

    Scared Jews: “Listen to the Prophet Mohammet: Finish Off Every Jew”

    Five years before 9/11, an intermarried American Jew spoke for millions of American Jews:

    “… Jews everywhere live in constant trepidation, if only subliminally. The fear is buried below the conscious level…but when I look at my daughters, I’m aware that somewhere on this planet, at this very moment, there are people who want to murder them…Unfortunately, some of these people have the money, means and ideological connections that can transform them from … haters to real-life killers….This fear, this existential insecurity, is authentic and it sets Jews apart.” (Dr. Halberstam, Shmoozing)

    Islamic neo-Nazism is an open secret. Moslem children are taught that Jews drink human blood. Imams preach Allah wants Jews to be tortured and killed ‘wherever you find them.” Iranian mullahs call for nuclear weapons to be dropped on Israel. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, that favorite Nazi book on Jewish conspiracy with its call to genocide, is turned into a TV series in Egypt. Children are trained to sing songs, starting at age 4 and 5, about killing Jews. In the official PA map, Israel has been wiped out. It was posted on their web for all to see during the entire peace process, but the sight was too depressing, and our media and most Jews turned their eyes away.

    If Palestinian society isn’t neo-Nazi , what is? If Jews can’t call it by its real name, who will?

    Google “Palestinians frustrated” and you get over five million hits. Arab neo-Nazism is rarely reported in the news, its direct links to Nazi German are never covered, and Arab hate of Jews is frequently justified. Hate and murder of Israelis is presented as an understandable reaction to those famously frustrated national aspirations. Ignore those call to to wipe out Jews – those are just angry words. The anger will disappear once they get justice. This is the same way our media whitewashed the rise of German Nazism, lulling Americans into complacency until the outbreak of World War II. The Germans are frustrated by their economic meltdown, we were told. Their grievances are legitimate. Their suffering deserves sympathy. Their scapegoating rich Jews is understandable. The extremists are a small minority.

    How can European governments and our mainstream media insist all the Palestinians want is their own country? The facts are there for all to see. When the U.N. recognized Israel in 1948, it simultaneously created an Arab state on the West Bank – which was refused. The West Bank remained in Jordanian hands until 1967, but a Palestinian state was never created by the Arabs. Remember the Arab wars to throw Israel into the sea, all before the occupation of the West Bank? Remember Israel in 1967 saying, give us a peace treaty, and we will give back the West Bank? They were refused. The Arabs have been offered a West Bank state four times from 1948 to the present, and every time refused it. The latest formula for destroying Israel is the ‘right of return’, or ‘one state solution’, which means making Israel an Arab state. Tell me again how the problem is caused by Israel denying the Palestinian Arabs their own country.

    Arab propaganda and military efforts to wipe out Israel have been consistently supported by Islamic teaching. The Jewish state is an abomination to Allah. Allah wants believers to kill and torture individual Jews, executing a world-wide Final Solution. This open goal to destroy Israel and murder Jews is not too complex to understand. It is as clear as Mein Kampf. But most people are unwilling to face unpleasant facts.

    • Ben Dov says:

      Maybe instead of armchair analyzing people you apparently don’t have any passing familiarity with, you should look into yourself and see where this bizarre obsession with Jews and Israel comes from. Sounds like some kind of variant of Jerusalem syndrome.

      We don’t need or want your “help”.

    • Zur says:

      So one interesting take on this theme is a book I recently read, “Catch the Jew” by Tuvia Tenenbom. It’s about a German/Jewish journalist who tours Israel for about 6 months and interviews everybody he can find. One interesting observation he makes is that sometimes the Jews themselves are the most anti-Israel, because they have this (racist) belief on some level that the Jews are or should be better than their neighbors.

      The idea is that Jews can accept Islamic terrorism and hatred, because they don’t have any particular expectations from the Arabs, but they can’t accept Israeli nationalism and militarism because, as Jews, they should be better then that. This explains why a Jew would be far more outraged by other Jews marching and chanting “death to Arabs” then by Arabs chanting “death to Jews”.

      Another version of this is that the fascination of the western world with Israel stems from an expectation that the Jewish nation must be the most moral of nations, because they view Judaism as a kind of ideal.

  28. Le Maistre Chat says:

    I admit I’m really late in noticing this campaign: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/11470985/Are-you-reading-too-many-books-by-straight-white-men.html
    That said, I think it would be interesting to come up with the most conservative possible reading list to suggest to SJWs who are sympathetic to this campaign. Who wants to help?

    The Bible
    Plotinus’s Enneads
    St. Augustine’s Confessions and City of God
    The Quran
    Al-Tabari’s History (at least the volumes on Muhammad)
    1001 Nights
    The Shahnama
    The Rigveda
    Major Upanishads
    Ramayana
    Buddhacarita
    At least Analects, Mencius, and the Book of Rites from the Confucian canon
    Dao De Jing
    Sun Tzu’s Art of War

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      Intuitively I would guess that straight would be a huge weak spot in this, since a lot of the literary canon was written by people who are either gay, very likely gay or tinged with vaguely homoerotic themes (Shakespeare(?), Ancient Athenians, T. E. Lawrence, Proust). I would imagine that you could build a collection of great western works while only nominating gay authors.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        This is tangential to your point, but Shakespeare is not a good example. In the homoerotic sonnets, bugging his male friend to marry is a major theme, and the poet’s erotic interaction with the Dark Lady is more explicit. If we calibrate our gaydar on Kit Marlowe, Shakespeare doesn’t register.
        (Kit Marlowe, gay anti-Semite who glorified the barbarian chief’s life of rape and pillage. Now there’s intersectionality for you.)

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          I put the question mark there because Shakespeare was a case that seems to be in legitimate dispute and not one where it is clear either way. (Wikipedia lists efforts to edit the poems in 1640 to change masculine pronouns to feminine and upon returning to the original in 1780 readers were struck by the apparent homo-eroticism. I am not an expert in literature of history, but it seems a legitimate controversy.

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      For one thing, reversed stupidity is not intelligence.

      But more importantly, that’s not even the books the SJWs are telling people not to read. They probably have in mind even people like Richard Dawkins, Samuel Harris, Jonathan Haidt, and other liberal straight white men. And the conservative straight white men they find totally out of bounds are mainstream conservative blowhards like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, as well as religious writers like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein. They’re also against the founders of American classical liberalism: John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and so on. And of course the straight white men behind modern libertarianism, like Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand (an honorary man), and the Friedmans.

      Any even non-ideologically, they are against any author who comes from America or Europe, like Shakespeare, Daniel Defoe, John Milton, Leo Tolstoy, Dostoevsky (he’s pretty ideological, too), Walt Whitman, Victor Hugo, and so on. Because that will just confirm the harmful ways of thinking natural to the West.

      More than half your books on there are non-Western and non-white, though perhaps not non-male. The SJWs would probably in fact say people should be reading more about Islam and Confucianism in order to get out of their parochial ways of thinking.

      Muslims and Confucianists are not the outgroup. They’re just random people in the desert (well, at least the former). The outgroup is American conservatives (actual regular conservatives), America’s allegedly crypto-racist classical liberalism, libertarianism, and everyone on the left who doesn’t see things their way.

      Mencius Moldbug, let alone the actual Mencius, is not on their radar.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        For one thing, reversed stupidity is not intelligence.

        Of course not. However, my thinking was that contemporary literati read way, way too many novels, especially mediocre novels by living authors and not nearly enough philosophy, history, or poetry. Playing along with the letter of their rule while undermining its spirit (the spirit being an echo chamber of grievance-mongering novels) could be an act of intellectual judo that contributes toward their salvation from leftism. I agree 100% with C.S. Lewis’s “On the Reading of Old Books”, but as you say they have an ideological immune reaction to him. 🙂

        • DavidS says:

          I think it’s a bit unfair to assume that anyone who suggests reading more stuff that isn’t by ‘straight white men’ actually means ‘read greivance-mongering novels’. I suspect for most they just think that the process of identifying ‘literature’ tends to overlook women and minorities (e.g. the Great American Novel seems pretty white and male. Dunno about straight).

          • keranih says:

            I think it’s a bit unfair to assume that anyone who suggests reading more stuff that isn’t by ‘straight white men’ actually means ‘read greivance-mongering novels’.

            I think the phrase used is something along the lines of “works that highlight the struggles and oppression of non-cis-male-normative and non-white peoples by the kyriarchy” rather than “grievance-mongering.”

            If the work doesn’t focus on that type of struggle, then it’s just ‘brown washing’ or appropriation to have non-cis-male characters. Or something.

          • John Schilling says:

            When this came up in the specific context of science fiction and fantasy, I don’t recall too many suggestions that we geeky white guys should go out and read more Lois Bujold, Connie Willis, or Elizabeth Moon. To name a few exceedingly popular not-white-male authors who managed to not be overlooked by the field’s top literary awards while writing non-grievance-mongering novels. When actual suggestions followed “read more works by non-white-male authors”, they tended to be, as keranih notes, works that focused on the struggles and oppression of the aggrieved peoples in question.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            John, what, specifically, are you talking about?

            This is the same campaign. Le Chat links to the same article that Scott linked to, which, in turn, links to Bradford’s post specifically about SF/F, that I believe launched the campaign you are talking about. Bradford’s list doesn’t look to me to be grievance-mongering, although I don’t know many of the books on the list. Maybe other people wrote other lists, but I’ve never seen these other lists. I’ve never seen those other lists because no one ever makes specific complaints about other lists. Instead, they complain that Bradford is grievance-mongering and would not approve of Delany, when, in fact, he was on her list.

      • keranih says:

        They’re also against the founders of American classical liberalism: John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and so on. And of course the straight white men behind modern libertarianism, like Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand (an honorary man), and the Friedmans.

        I’m coming further and further around to the idea that a large – if not the primary – problem with SJWs is that they lack a foundation in the history of the Enlightenment – what it was, what it grew from, and what it was in opposition to.

        Enlightenment was not without its faults and downsides, but as a means of weighing pros and cons, it proved superior to the previous methods European humanity had been using. A lot of those methods looked a lot like SJW methodology looks like now.

        I went looking, once upon a time, for influential works from non-European cultures/authors on rationalism, individual liberty, and the rights of man. Couldn’t find any, and the SJs I hung with at the time couldn’t point to any, either.

        • Tibor says:

          According to Murray Rothbard, Lao-Tzu was supposedly quite libertarian in his writing. I have not read anything from him, so I cannot confirm or reject that. Rothbard likes to paint the world history as basically an epic struggle between libertarians or proto-libertarians and statists though, so I would really check Lao-Tzu first before citing Rothbard.

          • keranih says:

            I read several versions of the Tao Te Ching, as well as other Asia classics in this series. This is not anything like being expert.

            However, I absolutely agree that the Tao Te Ching expresses a small government, least-governance philosophy. It’s also a rather anti-innovation and definitely anti-tech.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @keranih: The combination of beliefs in individualism and science with institutions that produce technological innovation is probably unique to the Enlightenment. There’s a passage in his History of Western Philosophy where liberal Bertrand Russell says “technological advance has given human society much more power while making the individual increasingly powerless”, and another where he says “I’ll spend more pages discussing Locke than Leibniz or Spinoza even though he was a much weaker philosopher, because he was so influential.”
            If this combination isn’t true to facts, we would never expect another civilization to come up with it independently. China had a patriarchal, monarchical, bureaucratic and technologically innovative (until some time in the Ming Dynasty) culture and also a counterculture of anti-tech individualists. Hindus had principles of freedom of religion and free debate and outclassed China in logic and pure science while lagging in technology (no printing or compass, etc).

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Not really, no. Calling him a libertarian makes about as much sense as the “Jesus was a communist” schtick.

            Lao-tzu is just a particularly cryptic, or perhaps just poorly translated, esoteric philosopher. It sounds like a hippie cliche but all of those guys are basically teaching the same thing: IMO you aren’t getting anything that different from the Tao te Ching than from the Enchiridion in terms of what kind of life a sage should live. The main reason to read him is that it’s one of the chinese classics.

        • no one special says:

          I’m coming further and further around to the idea that a large – if not the primary – problem with SJWs is that they lack a foundation in the history of the Enlightenment – what it was, what it grew from, and what it was in opposition to.

          I realized, upon reading that, that I lack a foundation in the history of the enlightenment. What I know comes from it being “in the water supply” when I grew up.

          Is there a good intro for non-specialists that could be recommended? (Super-great if there’s a free/CC/PD option, but I’d rather pay money for an easy on-ramp than try to figure out free stuff that can’t speak to modern sensibilities.)

          “A 21st century 1st-world guide to the enlightenment, and how it built our society” would be great.

          • keranih says:

            …I don’t know. My first degree was in history, (emphasis on Europe and Slavs) so the Enlightenment was fairly well woven through it all. (Part of the history of the Russias was how the Enlightenment came late, slow, and parti-colored to the empire of the Tsars, and this was taught to me as being a Bad Thing.)

            I thought the Wikipedia article wasn’t horrible, and I wonder if the reddit historians wouldn’t be a decent source for the sort of text you mean. I would like the name of the text, if you find one you like.

        • nydwracu says:

          I went looking, once upon a time, for influential works from non-European cultures/authors on rationalism, individual liberty, and the rights of man. Couldn’t find any, and the SJs I hung with at the time couldn’t point to any, either.

          Yukichi Fukuzawa wrote some influential works on rationalism, individual liberty, and the rights of man, but, well…

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      Can we add the book of Lord Shang to all your classical Chinese literature? Mencius and Xunzi pale in comparison by the things that man suggested.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        True, but he’s not very conservative. Quite the opposite in fact, when you read him there’s a very explicit call to “smash the past” including eliminating virtue itself as a concept.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I think it’s worth discussing, as Dr Dealgood has started to!
        Lord Shang does seem progressive for his time to me (except on individual and women’s rights). OTOH, isn’t there an aphorism in Sinology to the effect that official Legalism continued to exist alongside official Confucianism in the Chinese tradition?

    • Anon. says:

      A big issue with this is that we are only projecting “whiteness” backward. The Greeks did not think about things such as “the white race”, they segregated by language. Are they white because we say so, even though they would never identify as such themselves?

      It’s hard to argue that The Bible (remember, the new testament was written in Greek) is non-white, while the Greeks are white.

      Just go back a couple hundred years to see how radically “whiteness” has changed, here’s Ben Franklin on those pesky non-white immigrants:

      >in Europe, the Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians and Swedes, are generally of what we call a swarthy Complexion; as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted, who with the English, make the principal Body of White People on the Face of the Earth.

      The Germans, “Swarthy”!

      • Dahlen says:

        Even worse — Swedes, swarthy, pick one.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        A big issue with this is that we are only projecting “whiteness” backward.

        Well yes, of course we are. You have to engage in dialectic to figure out how people define their terms.

        Socrates: Have white men existed as long as there have been men, or begin to when some men first identified as white?

      • Tibor says:

        I think the Saxons were possibly excluded since at that time, what is now Lower Saxony (it is probably not one-to-one geographical correspondence, but it is fairly close) was actually a domain of the British Empire, whereas the rest of German lands were not. So basically it was simply England über alles 🙂

        On a side note, the “Deutschland über alles” had zero German-supremacist connotations at first, it was/is a line in a 19th century revolutionary song which would then become the German anthem and the line means “We want a unified Germany above all else” not “Germany is better than everything else” (that would not even make much sense then, there was no country called Germany and had never been before). Of course, the Nazis interpreted it a bit differently then.

    • Simon says:

      The entire output of Yukio Mishima comes to mind, with him having the extra WTF factor to Occidental readers of being both flamboyantly bisexual and a hardline nationalist.

      • Tibor says:

        This is something I was wondering about. For some reason, in the west, gay is somehow politically associated with the left-wing. But there seem no good reasons for that save for orthodox christians being associated with the right wing, but it is not even the case in all countries (e.g. the Czech republic is 75% atheist, while the Christian vote goes mostly to the KDU – i.e. the Christian Democratic Union, which is centrist). Also, if a wider acceptance of gays is your goal, what is called “pride parades” is probably a very bad way to do that. The way these things are structured is similar to an average left-wing happening (also I think it has more to do with exhibitionism than with being homosexual and I know gays who really dislike these…I have no representative statistics though, or any statistics actually), unlikely to convince a conservative right-winger of something like “well, those guys have sex with guys which is weird, but otherwise they are by and large pretty stand-up citizens”, quite on the contrary, it seems to be deliberately put together to irritate anyone with a conservative sentiment and the message it sends is “see how weird we are?” (this is also what those gays I mentioned do not like them).

        I guess that you are not going to convince Bible literalists for whom it is a sin, end of story. But these people are not a majority of the conservatives, not even in the US, much less in Europe. I think that it might as well be that the reasons conservatives more often oppose gay marriage* and generally are not so keen about gays is that gays (or some gay organizations) brand themselves as left-wing. There is no reasons one could not be gay AND a nationalist or conservative in any kind of way (except for being a Bible literalist for obvious reasons, but as I mentioned – the “god hates fags” camp is a very minority group among conservatives anyway).

        *my ideal solution is actually marriage to nobody, or more precisely a divorce of the state and the institution of marriage (see what I did there? har har har) where anyone can get a ceremony from any church or secular organization he likes and feel free to ignore marriages instituted by different institutions and with practical things like access to medical records and inheritance being settled by separate contract, not called marriage and available to any number of people of both sexes. But save for crazy libertarians, nobody supports that 🙂

      • Simon says:

        My point is that probably isn’t so strange in his home country, which is largely un-influenced by Judaeo-Christian-Islamic sexual morality and whose own mores on the subject don’t line up with how most people in the West think in the relevant categories.

        • Tibor says:

          Japan, prior to the Meiji period, was sexually probably about as open as ancient Greece, which is to say, at least in my opinion, more than we are today in the Euro-Atlantic civilization (and any particular country). On the other hand, the position of women in Edo-era Japan was pretty bad. Women did not have it so great in the 18th century in Europe either, but Japan was a lot worse. The western influence after the 300 years of more or less complete isolation of the country changed a lot of the social norms in Japan (as well as the government system etc.).

          The reason I think we are not really as sexually liberal as it might look is that while you can do pretty much anything sexually today, sexuality is still highly politicized in many ways. What also made me think about this was when I saw various sex-toys, sexy lingerie as well as porn movies being sold at outdoor stalls in the Temple street in Kowloon, Hong Kong, in fact right in front of the temple (I think it was Buddhist or some kind of a mix of Buddhist and taoist…they don’t seem to differentiate that strictly over there and I cannot tell the differences very well :)). Now imagine an open market with sex toys in front of a church in any Christian or culturally Christian country…in fact, the Church is not even necessary. I can already hear people protesting and arguing that it is going to damage the development of children or something 🙂

          I remember, it was some 15 years ago, when they opened a sex shop in front of our grammar school (across the street). There were some “concerned parents” or something probably, because they made a story about it in the regional TV. Nothing happened really and the sex shop is still there as there was nothing illegal about it. I just remember that one of the students the TV crew asked about it said something like “we understand what it is but we do not like it”…he was a laughing stock for the whole school for the next few weeks :)). Fortunately, in a country with some three quarters of the population atheist/agnostic, one does not have to deal with too many people being offended by something for religious reasons. I was surprised how influential the Church(es) still is/are in Germany (things like forbidding shops to open on Sundays in most Bundesländer…this particular thing caught me by surprise the first Sunday I had nothing left to eat at home and decided to go grocery shopping :)).

          • Creutzer says:

            The Sunday thing has absolutely nothing to do with the influence of the church. It’s a historical remnant with christian roots, yes, but it’s turned into a cultural thing that people want to keep this as a resting day as much as possible. It’s not as if the Sunday would be abandoned if only it weren’t for the influence the church is exerting.

          • Tibor says:

            Creutzer: What do you mean by “Sunday would be abandoned?” I am talking about the law that says that you cannot open your shop on Sunday not that people usually do not want to work on Sunday (or Saturday for that matter).

            Now, if we are on the same page, then I would slightly disagree. Sure, it has become a norm in Germany that all, even the biggest shops are closed on Sundays, but I think that the church does play a role. There was a discussion about revoking the ban some 2 years ago if I remember correctly and I was under the impression that basically it is the Church+worker’s unions vs. big supermarket chains. The Church wants people to come to the church on Sunday instead of work, worker’s unions do what they always do – lobby for their members at the expense of everyone else – and the big supermarket chains are the only ones who would actually want to open on Sunday, because if you have a small grocery shop, not enough people will come on that day to make it worthwhile for you.

            Also, in Saxony, which is part of the former DDR and much less religious, the laws regulating the shopping hours are more liberal, whereas in the catholic and very (by German standards) religious Bavaria, their are probably the most strict.

          • Creutzer says:

            “Sunday would be abandoned” was short for “Sunday would cease to be the day on which large parts of the population coordinate as the general day off”. I’m still not sure that even the north-south difference couldn’t be explained in terms of culture as opposed to actual influence actively being exerted by the church. The basis for my skepticism was/is mostly that I’d never even heard the church mentioned in debates over Sunday opening hours. For me it was all about the chains vs. unions/small stores thing. But who knows, maybe there is some behind-the-scenes action happening after all. My impression is also that for a politician to mention Sunday churchgoing would be considered pretty ridiculous in Germany and Austria (at least everywhere outside of Bavaria and Tyrol).

          • Tibor says:

            Creutzer: Maybe you’re right and it is mainly unions vs chains thing, although I would guess that at least in Bavaria, the Church also plays a role.

          • Vaniver says:

            I had a ‘lost in translation’ moment along these lines with an Indian roommate. I was joking about some sort of fertility / religion thing, which hinged on established religion opposing sex, and he didn’t get the joke, and then I remembered that it’s fairly common for Hindu temples to be covered with erotic statuary.

        • Another angle on sexual openness: To some large extent in mainstream culture, people get the right to sex by being good-looking. There’s a chorus of “Oooh, that’s disgusting” about sex by non-good-looking people. How was pre-Meiji Japan about what sex was acceptable?

          • Tibor says:

            I am not sure what you mean exactly. Is this about people who are shown in some kind of a sexual way in the films tend to look good? I think that this is just that people are more attracted to attractive-looking people (citation needed) and so if you put those in a film, it will attract more viewers. For the same reason, you don’t see older people having sex on TV, people simply do not want to watch that, not even the older people. It is not that it would be a taboo, it is just that pretty much everyone is physically attracted to young(ish) good looking people more than anyone else.

            On the other hand, while I can tolerate a couple of teenagers french kissing next to me on a bus I guess I would feel really embarrassed for some reason if the couple was in their seventies. Not sure why exactly.