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OT39: Appian Thread

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

1. Comment of the week is this discussion on the calendar and the solstices, although everyone eventually agreed it was on the wrong track.

2. A while back, everyone donated some money for Multiheaded to be able to get a Canadian visa and escape Russia. Canada refused to grant such a visa and this plan has fallen through. If anybody else has any ideas for how a transgender person might get to a country that tolerates transgender people, please mention them in the comments so Multi can find them.

3. The first chapter of my book Unsong is now online here. New chapters every Sunday, new interludes some Wednesday, subscribe on right hand column of that site if you’re interested.

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1,568 Responses to OT39: Appian Thread

  1. Jeremy says:

    Is anyone an open source developer? Any projects you’d like to share?

    • I guess since I added support for fish (the Friendly Interactive SHell) to ROS. ROS is a pretty cool project if you’re looking for something to get involved with and robots are your cup of tea. Really lots of projects have a “things you can do to get involved” section and it’s more about finding what sort of thing you’re excited about.

      • Louis says:

        Ah. I used ROS in my Masters. Very impressive codebase in terms of features. Found the docs and versioning challenging, but that was back in 2012.

    • I’m one of the founders of LBRY, an open-source (but for-profit), decentralized information marketplace. The Simple English description it is a single box that let’s you find anything, powered by a network of computers and phones just like yours.

      You can try it out here, but it is only out for OS X and Linux atm.

      We’re also advised by some names likely familiar to this community: Alex Tabarrok, Michael Huemer, and Stephan Kinsella.

      Code is on Github here. Grandiose business plan is here.

      If anyone has questions, I will come back to answer, but probably not until tomorrow afternoon EST sometime. If you like the sound of LBRY but don’t want to jump in right away, you can join our list or follow/like us here.

      • gbear605 says:

        Am I roughly correct in saying that LBRY is an altcoin where the blockchain holds metadata for an equivalent to BitTorrent? (Interestingly, that sentence would not be remotely understandable thirty years ago)

        If so, other than a decentralized method of storing metadata, what advantages does LBRY have over BitTorrent for any patrons? I suppose it is useful because it is more legal than BitTorrent is, since publishers will be able to sell on it.

        Is it intended that the publisher will give away for free to all patrons of LBRY once a certain amount has been paid (Assurance Contracts in the design document), or is this simply an alternative to the patron paying per view?

        • LBRY wouldn’t have been possible just a few years ago.

          LBRY is what you describe, but there is a bit more too:

          1) Resolution of names in LBRY is controlled by highest committed credits. Names are not owned. If someone comes along and commits more, resolution will change unless the existing holder or other parties up the bid on the existing claim. We are betting that this is best structure for right’s holders. If the community backs a name resolving a certain way (as determined by committed credits), that’s the way it resolves.

          2) It’s not just for BitTorrent; it’s for anything. At the blockchain level LBRY is really just a key value store where key resolution is controlled by largest number of committed credits. We are suggesting a bunch of conventions to follow to make the system useful (like assurance contracts), but basically none of this is blockchain level. Similarly, you could have a contract where after the price is met the price is zero, or you could continue to set a price. We think free is a great price but we want to support all kinds.

          3) Another big thing LBRY vs. BitTorrent offers is that it brings power of marketplace and prices to data provision. BitTorrent is great, but a cost of zero reduces incentive to host rarely desired content. We’re big believes in the power of prices as signals, and think they could do a lot of good in an information marketplace context.

    • I’m not an open source developer, but I did put up a bunch of ideas for computer programs to teach economics quite a long time ago in the hope that someone would be inspired pick the project up:

      http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Living_Paper/living_paper.htm

      • The best framework for living papers for teaching purposes is IMHO IPython Notebooks, demo: http://www.nature.com/news/ipython-interactive-demo-7.21492

        The basic idea being that by embedding code in papers, the calculations are directly reproducible by a click. Instead of putting a graph into a paper, putting the code there that calculates it and readers press a button and they get the graph.

      • Anthony says:

        Have you seen MathCad (or its free substitute, SMath)?

        It’s primarily for mathematical calculation, but it sounds like at least some of what you want for economics would work in it.

        I’ve been told that some engineering offices use it extensively, as it allows one to do engineering calculations and update them, and provide a printable copy of the calculations which show the formulas (important when engineering work is being reviewed).

      • Emile says:

        Heeyyyy, those look super interesting.

        I’m a game designer / programmer that has been thinking about ways to make little applets that teach interesting concepts of economics or statistics … your Hansa thing might be worth implementing.

        (more specifically, my recent weekend project has been making a map generator with a bunch of cities and random-but-plausible characteristics, in the form of a webpage, so I would totally be able to cannibalize most of that and turn it into Hansa)

        (I haven’t put this online anywhere yet but I will when I have a clean enough version, even with few features)

    • Matt says:

      I’m an SSC lurker and work on open-source CAD software: Antimony is a design tool from a parallel universe where CAD evolved from Lisp machines rather than drafting tables (http://www.mattkeeter.com/projects/antimony).

      • HHELLD says:

        Would possibly be wonderful to see cointegration of things like this with things like procworld (and maybe noflo).

    • Christopher Chang says:

      I develop open source bioinformatics software supporting genome-wide association analyses; main Github project is at https://github.com/chrchang/plink-ng .

    • syllogism says:

      I have an open source NLP start-up: http://spacy.io

    • HoverHell says:

      Making a quantified federated queryable web of trust would be nice (hoverhell.github.io/wot/doc.html).

  2. iarwain1 says:

    Something I mentioned on LW a while back, but reposting here to get comments from SSC readers:

    For every controversial subject I’ve heard of, there are always numerous very smart experts on either side. I’m curious how it is that rational non-experts come to believe one side or the other. What are your meta-arguments for going with one side or the other for any given controversial subject on which you have an opinion?

    – Have you researched both sides so thoroughly that you consider yourself equal to or better than the opposing experts? If so, to what do you attribute the mistakes of your counterparts? Have you carefully considered the possibility that you are the one who’s mistaken?
    – Do you think that one side is more biased the other? Why?
    – Do you think that one side is more expert than the other? Why?
    – Do you rely on the majority of experts? (I haven’t worked out for myself if going with a majority makes sense, so if you have arguments for / against this meta-argument then please elaborate.)
    – Do you think that there are powerful arguments that simply haven’t been addressed by the other side? To what do you attribute the fact that these arguments haven’t been addressed?
    – Do you have other heuristics or meta-arguments for going with one side or the other?
    – Do you just remain more or less an agnostic on every controversial subject?
    – Or do you perhaps admit that ultimately your beliefs are at least partially founded on non-rational reasons?
    – Do you think that this whole discussion is misguided? If so, why?

    I know I don’t have to list controversial subjects, but here are some to perhaps stimulate some thinking: Politics, religion, dangers from AI / x-risks, Bayesianism vs. alternatives, ethics & metaethics, pretty much everything in philosophy (at least that’s what it often seems like!), social justice issues, policy proposals of all types.

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      Let me give this a shot.

      “Politics”

      I have a degree in economics so I have a reasonable level of confidence for that field. Aside from that politics also concerns foreign policy (which I am not competent in and so don’t have too strong opinions on) and ‘moral issues’ (which are pretty blatantly not expert opinion ones).

      ‘religion’

      Basic evidentiary requirements.

      “dangers from AI / x-risks”

      I’m not important enough that my opinions on those subjects matter. I do believe strong AI is possible and can be a threat, but I don’t have any opinion on when or how easy it is to control.

      “Bayesianism vs. alternatives”

      You mean frequentism? That requires you have enough trials to establish the probability and there aren’t rare events that you haven’t covered in said trials. As long as all coins are fair…

      “ethics & metaethics”

      The goals are not rationally derived, although the optimal method for achieving them is.

      “pretty much everything in philosophy”

      If people have been arguing about it for millennia, it tends to be a trivial issue. If it is something new, that is when I can’t provide an answer.

      “social justice issues”

      That covers so much that I can’t really answer it.

      “policy proposals of all types.”

      That is the interesting one. I assume you mean “should the state spend the additional money on x or y” and you don’t have anything else to go on. The simplest way to deal with that is to go for the one that benefits you more; if everyone else does the same thing, the course of action that benefits the most will pass. This obviously breaks down for certain cases, but I’m not aware of a better heuristic.

      • >I have a degree in economics so I have a reasonable level of confidence for that field. Aside from that politics also concerns foreign policy (which I am not competent in and so don’t have too strong opinions on) and ‘moral issues’ (which are pretty blatantly not expert opinion ones).

        This is a very narrow view of politics. The average white middle class guy in US or EU is generally not worried about these three, these are not his biggest concerns. The major issue seems to be he is feeling more and more unsafe because of immigration and changing ethnic/racial composition of countries. Econ is not really useful in figuring it out: Bryan Caplan, famously, doesn’t even understand the problem at all, his open borders advocacy demonstrates it, the idea that a monoethnic neighborhood could have demonstrable utilitarian value (more helping each other, more trust etc.) escapes him. The elites staunch refusal to relate to this “racism” of the white peasants via anything but pure scorn is driving the Trumpening, the Lepenning, the uncuck-the-right movements etc. I would nominate this as the No. 1 issue for our times, the elites have to figure out some more nuanced answer to race, ethnicity, multiculturalism and the felt need for communities of one’s own than the usual “raycism be evil”. So this is something that would require a lot of studying and currently there is no discipline that could tackle this well. Most social science currently tackles it from precisely the opposite angle i.e. how white peasants are being oppressive, not how and why they feel distressed. While social capital is something economics could theoretically understand, see Bowling Alone, in practice it is not done.

        So this is one example of a huge political issue of our time – swept under the rug of course, as all really important ones usually are – and your econ will not really help you that much there. And it is arguably far more important than moralizing about gaymarriage for example and other non-econ issues you have in mind.

        • baconbacon says:

          “Bryan Caplan, famously, doesn’t even understand the problem at all, his open borders advocacy demonstrates it, the idea that a monoethnic neighborhood could have demonstrable utilitarian value (more helping each other, more trust etc.) escapes him.”

          You just failed Caplan’s ideological Turing test. Caplan has specifically (and repeatedly) endorsed the idea of a “beautiful bubble” and the benefits of only associating with those you agree with.

          http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/03/my_beautiful_bu.html

          “Unlike most American elites, I don’t feel the least bit bad about living in a Bubble”

          • Marc Whipple says:

            Caplan’s bubble isn’t monoethnic and I doubt he could be convinced that a preference for same was anything other than misguided. Not sure you’re completely on target.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Marc Whipple:

            He certainly would think it is misguided. But he would support their right to do it, provided they didn’t violate the rights of those who choose to associate with foreigners to do so.

          • baconbacon says:

            @ Marc Whipple

            Caplan’s bubble isn’t monoethnic, but it is highly selective in other traits, and he specifically advises that people form their own bubbles based on their own preferences to make their lives better. Quotes from the same link

            “Instead, I pursue the strategy that actually works: Making my small corner of the world beautiful in my eyes.”

            “If you’re not happy with your world, don’t try to pop my beautiful Bubble. Either fix your world, or get to work and make a beautiful Bubble of your own.”

            The historical reality of immigration is not of foreigners moving into monoethnic neighborhoods and mingling, but of forming their own communities. The township I live in has maybe 5,000 people, and it had for decades an Italian portion, a Slavic portion and a Polish portion (each with their own church) with little overlap between them. This dynamic can be seen virtually everywhere with even “melting pots” like NYC having specific ethnic neighborhoods that for many decades were near monoethnic.

        • anonymous says:

          The average white middle class guy in US or EU is generally not worried …

          Everything you’ve posted to SSC suggests that you badly misunderstand US culture. You aren’t in any position to be correcting anyone about what the average anyone in the US is worried about.

          There’s no shame in not knowing, but there is shame in insisting you do when you don’t.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Some of the time, experts are mistaken about basic facts due to politics: either those internal to the field or external national politics. If you were a geneticist before 1956 you probably would have believed that humans had 48 chromosomes because you had never bothered to count them yourself. If you were a geneticist in the USSR at that time you probably would have loudly stated your belief in Lysenko’s theories to avoid the gulgag.

      In a controversial field, it can be a good rule of thumb to pick the political underdog for this reason. A bad theory needs political support to survive at all, whereas good theories will necessarily re-emerge even if initially ignored or suppressed. Of course this isn’t a perfect heuristic: going by it without humility and common sense will leave you with plenty of crackpot ideas for every correct belief that you gain.

    • Loquat says:

      Or do you perhaps admit that ultimately your beliefs are at least partially founded on non-rational reasons?

      For a lot of the most controversial subjects (ethics, religion, social justice issues, etc) your position is going to be heavily determined by your moral views, not so much by logic. What’s the “rational” position on abortion, for example? You can’t possibly answer that question without first deciding what moral weight you place on the developing fetus, what moral weight you place on the pregnant woman’s freedom, and how/whether either of those weights is varies by the age of the pregnancy. If I discuss abortion with someone on the opposite side, it’s almost certain they disagree with me on the above moral questions – a fundamental conflict no amount of “rational argument” can solve.

      • Nadja says:

        True. At your level of understanding. Most people aren’t there, though. I think a lot of people would change their minds about abortion (both ways) if they actually got their facts straight.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          No offense, but that doesn’t make any sense. Why would getting facts straight change their minds both ways? Are you saying that the distribution of current positions is essentially random, and the response to getting the facts straight is equally likely to flip a person one way as the other?

          • Virbie says:

            > Are you saying that the distribution of current positions is essentially random, and the response to getting the facts straight is equally likely to flip a person one way as the other?

            The comment you’re referring to here said nothing about _equally_ likely. It simply said that there are a lot of people on both sides who are misinformed and would switch sides. Depending on the number of flippers, that could easily be consistent with (say) 10% of the flippers being on one side and 90% on the other.

            This may sound unnecessarily pedantic, but I think the point of her saying “lots” was to point out that (in her opinion) it’s not a particularly rare phenomenon.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            I find your logic reasonable but I still think that absent more specific statements, my reading of the original post was more reasonable. 🙂 The OP is invited, not that they need my permission, to tell us which, if either, interpretation is more in line with their intent.

          • Virbie says:

            I certainly agree that clarification from op would be more meaningful. That being said, it seems like an interpretation that you claim “makes no sense” would by definition be the less reasonable one.

          • Nadja says:

            None taken. =) I meant the comment exactly as Virbie interpreted it.

        • Julie K says:

          Which facts do you think most people are unaware of?

          • Wrong Species says:

            It seems to me like that abortion is one of those rare issues where there isn’t much disagreement on facts. Anyone disagree? Because I can’t think of any.?

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Wrong Species:

            That depends on your definition of fact. If you limit it to “things which can be experimentally and observationally verified,” then I would agree with you. Not many people disagree on the observational parameters of gestation.

            If you include things like “has a ‘functioning brain'” or ‘feels pain’ or ‘is a human being’ in that status, then I would argue that the whole argument is about the fact that people disagree about the facts.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Is a human being” isn’t a matter of fact, it’s a matter of definition. There are minor disagreements over facts like when a fetal brain is capable of sensing pain, but the big disagreements are over which factual distinctions are to be included in the morally relevant definition of “Human Being”.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ John Schilling:

            That presupposes that definitions are not matters of fact, or (if they are not) that it is at all morally relevant whether someone fits into the apparently arbitrary definition of “human being”.

            Moreover, this whole discussion presupposes that there is some deep dichotomy between matters of fact (on which reason has something to say), and matters of value (on which reason apparently has not). Now, there is a distinction between descriptive facts and evaluative facts, but they’re still both facts (or else false). It’s like the distinction between physical facts and architectural facts.

            Some facts I can think of on which people disagree:

            1) Does God exist?

            2) Is the Christian Bible the word of God, and do the various religious authorities which condemn abortion correctly interpret it?

            3) Is there an immortal, immaterial soul which is generated and joins with the body at conception?

            4) Is there, in fact, a moral duty never to kill any (or any innocent?) being with such a soul? If so, what is the basis of it?

            5) Is there any basis for attributing rights to children and adults, and if so what is it?

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            @Vox

            For “Does God exist?” to be a coherent question you first have to define God, and that itself is pretty tricky, especially considering that the word seems to mean very different things to different people.

            It gets extra tricky because a key component of the definition of God seems to be “transcends human reason (at least partially).”

            Defining “soul” or “person” seems equally difficult. You could come up with a list of criteria for personhood and I’m sure many people have done so, but there’s inevitably going to be a lot of disagreement on that too.

          • Mark says:

            I think the most general definition of God would be “some form of consciousness with meta-natural powers”.

          • Anthony says:

            Wrong Species, I’d think that too, but lately, I’ve been seeing a posting running around facebook (probably tumblr, too) which attacks a pro-life posting about fetal heartbeats by pointing out the difference between defining “alive” by heartbeat and by brain activity.

            Then it says that there’s no fetal brain activity until 25 weeks.

          • Nadja says:

            Thanks for the question, Julie.

            This is based on my own lack of knowledge not so long ago and on my conversations with fellow pro-choice family and friends. A lot of folks aren’t aware that you can hear the fetus’s heart beating 4 weeks after conception. Or that roughly a quarter of babies born at 23 weeks can survive. They aren’t aware of what those babies look like. Or that it’s legal to abort them in most states. Now, I’m sure people commenting here know all of those things. And even if they don’t know some of the specifics, these facts won’t change their minds, because their positions are based on a deeper understanding of the issue, as per Marc’s original comment.

            When Carly Fiorina made a false statement during one of the GOP debates about the Planned Parenthood tapes showing a fetus, its legs still kicking, its heart still beating, waiting to have its organs harvested, the media was abuzz about what a liar she is. Yes, Fiorina lied. In fact, the fetus whose legs were still kicking was not the same fetus whose heart was beating, and who had its brain harvested. She got her fetuses confused. “Liar the likes of which we have never seen.” Sigh. For the longest time I couldn’t understand why people were giving her such a hard time about it. So she got the fetuses wrong. She exaggerated to sound more persuasive. (Which, interestingly, ended up backfiring very badly according to Scott Adams.) Big deal. I couldn’t understand the fury. But after talking about it to my friends, I now think I get it. Turns out many people aren’t exactly comfortable with those very human, very viable looking fetuses being aborted. So it was much easier for folks to focus on calling Fiorina a liar (thankfully, her statement wasn’t true, phew) and just forget the whole thing. Moving on. It was much easier than saying, like most of the pro-choice people commenting on this blog would, I’m sure, that “hey, yeah, we’re aware this is what fetuses look like at 20-odd weeks. We know many of them would be viable if they were born prematurely to mothers who want them. But we’re still pro-choice, because A, B and C.”

            Further, many people aren’t aware that in some doctors’ offices, if a woman says she’s pregnant but not sure if she wants the baby, she’ll be given all the info about how easy the abortion procedure is, and about how the friendly doctor X she’s just met in the hallway performs it. And so that before going home to think about it she’ll be given all the reassuring information but none of the not-so-reassuring stuff. (I’m not saying this is wrong. Just saying this happens. Some people I spoke to believe this sort of thing is pure right-wing propaganda.) So then when the woman goes home and talks to her partner about it, she thinks he’s crazy for bringing up how traumatic abortions end up being for some women, and how difficult they can be for families, and that, yes, it is a big deal. That’s all right-wing propaganda made up by religious freaks who just want to control women, right?

            Many pro-choicers don’t know how (psychologically) difficult it is to have an abortion or how likely a woman is to regret it because I don’t know if anyone knows these things. And we don’t know because the abortion conversation is so polarized. It’s either all good or all bad. Most of the info you get about regret is from pro-life websites and, well, they are motivated, so how trustworthy can they be. If you are pro-choice but call an abortion a tragedy, you get attacked by (some) feminists. “It’s not a tragedy. In fact, it’s not a big deal. Let’s have a coming out campaign to destigmatize abortion.” So polarized. So little room for people who think an abortion is (often) a tragedy and that a human being is in fact killed in the process, but abortion should still be legal.

            Now, on the other hand, I’m sure pro-lifers don’t know many things either. To begin with, most probably don’t know God doesn’t exist, and neither does hell, so, no, you aren’t going to go to hell for having an abortion. 😉 More seriously, many probably aren’t aware of the Levitt hypothesis about how legalization of abortion may have contributed to reduction in crime. Many probably don’t know what hyperemesis gravidarum is, and what it feels like, and that a woman can be so sick she can’t keep down anything, for months, not even water, and that she’d die if it weren’t for IVs. And that when someone has hyperemesis, it’s not the constant vomiting that’s the worst, it’s that there’s never respite from the nausea. The nausea, which doesn’t go away even after she throws up. Which doesn’t go away even if she’s on anti-emetic drugs (if she’s lucky enough for them to be working.) The nausea that is so bad that it makes her depressed and suicidal. So bad that rather than suffer another week of it, she’d go through the pains of labor and a difficult birth med-free. In fact, she’d do it many, many times over if it could save her from hyperemesis. I don’t assume all pro-lifers are right-wing morons, I and understand there are valid reasons one might be pro-life. But I wish they all knew, really knew how truly soul crushing hyperemesis can be, even though no, with modern medicine available, it doesn’t put the mother’s life at risk. I wish they could all spend a day by the bed of a woman who is suffering from it. Hold her hand, talk to her, help her with the IV. I’m not saying these folks would then change their minds. But I do hope most of them would henceforth speak their views a tad more softly, and with a bit less vitriol.

            Anyway, these are just a couple of examples, and, again, I’m sure they don’t apply to most of the readers of this blog.

    • Nathan says:

      I actually have a slight bias against a majority view of experts, which gets stronger the more ridiculed those who go against it become. I tend to think people, including experts, are pretty susceptible to social pressure. So if there is strong social pressure to adopt a particular point of view, I tend to assume that the social pressure is in significant part the cause of the popularity of that view. Conversely, what is the cause of the support for a less supported position? Maybe pig headed contrariness, but maybe the facts just support it better.

      That’s not to say I think the mainstream view is always wrong – I’m confident the holocaust happened for example – but the kind of scorn that gets heaped on holocaust deniers would incline me to disbelieve it if I knew nothing else about the subject.

      • Nadja says:

        I was really happy to see this comment, because the exact same is true for me, and because I’m always surprised more people don’t think this way.

        • Troy says:

          Nathan: I actually have a slight bias against a majority view of experts, which gets stronger the more ridiculed those who go against it become. I tend to think people, including experts, are pretty susceptible to social pressure.

          Nadja: I’m always surprised more people don’t think this way.

          Although in this case there’s nothing strictly contradictory, this exchange reminds me of the following quote from Bertrand Russell:

          “I once received a letter from an eminent logician, Mrs. Christine Ladd-Franklin, saying that she was a solipsist, and was surprised that there were no others.”

          (For what it’s worth, I am sympathetic to Nathan’s reasoning myself.)

          • Anonymous` says:

            (This is not a rhetorical post about the other parts of this conversation. I am solely interested in the quote. Moreover, my post below sounds snappier and more arguing-for-a-position than is intended–it’s actually just exploratory, and not just exploring “what the *other* person believes” either. Now that the unwarrantedly large preamble is done…)

            When you dream and dream characters share basic characteristics with yourself, do you find that surprising?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @Nathan:
        “Conversely, what is the cause of the support for a less supported position? Maybe pig headed contrariness, but maybe the facts just support it better.”

        Aren’t you refuting yourself here? Your reason for supporting the idea is, essentially, pig-headed contrariness.

        • Nadja says:

          It isn’t just pigheaded contrariness, though. Nathan makes it clear with his social pressure argument. He’s basically noticing something about how certain people in our society behave when their views are challenged. If the reaction is to try to shame/burn at the stake/attack personally/lie, then there’s a reason to believe that perhaps that majority view is, well, somewhat “religious”/irrational in nature? Or maybe he’s not even noticing that. Maybe that’s just me. What he is saying, though, is that social pressure is often a reason people believe stuff. So that’s why we have to discount the majority of experts argument a bit. Also, “social pressure” doesn’t even begin to describe other forces at play, such as significant personal and financial rewards for those who subscribe to the “majority of experts” view.

        • Nathan says:

          I don’t think so. I’m just somewhat discounting opinions where I can see a bad-but-persuasive reason for people to adopt them.

        • anonymous says:

          Even if you apply a penalty to the expert side when certain conditions are met (e.g. opponents are ridiculed) no discount should ever get you back to zero, much less to the entire other side.

          There needs to be something affirmative pushing you there.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yes. This.

            If the only reason you have to accept that a theory is correct is that lots of other people argue it is not correct, and do so vociferously, that is not evidence in favor of the theory actually being correct.

          • Nathan says:

            I can see a lot of potential reasons for a proposition becoming popular among experts in the first place. One of those is that the proposition is correct (or at least, the best reasonable guess), but there are plenty of other possibilities. So to me, this does discount the penalty I give to majority opinion, but in net terms I still tend to lean against the majority.

        • Loyle says:

          There’s a subtle difference between an expert who has done all of the work, and an expert who has learned all of the correct memes.

          Most of the doctors I’ve been to, it seems, try to quickly cross reference my condition with whatever’s been in the book. Only one actually tried to understand what I was communicating to them. (He then sold me on a rather unpleasant flu shot which I was surprised to learn my insurance didn’t cover, but oh well)

          It is at this point where I should be asking if there are qualifications for expertdom, or is it just a label applied liberally to whatever the important academics are speaking on the subject. or somewhere in between.

          Incidentally I scrutinize the hell out of anything which is written in such a way to assume what I should be thinking. Most news is written that way, so I end up in a situation where everything is made up, and the points don’t matter. Which is perfect for me since I don’t like getting into dumb fights.

      • Buckyballas says:

        Could you clarify a bit on your strategy? As expert opinion on the truth of a proposition increases from 50-100%, does your confidence decrease from 50-0%? That seems absurd so I don’t think that’s what you mean. So do you just apply a larger penalty as the expert opinion increases? So for a 99% proposition, you would have something like a 80% confidence in a field in which you are a nonexpert? This seems like a fair strategy, but would still lead you to live your life pretty much the same as someone who did not apply any penalty. You’d just be less vehement about your beliefs. Which I guess is a good thing.

        • Nathan says:

          If I know nothing at all about a subject I’m never going to take a strong position one way or another. So I might go from being 50/50 on a proposition to 60/40, but never all the way to 100/0.

          But if I’ve understood your two proposed models right, then the first is closer to being true. That is, additional agreement in favour of a proposition decreases my confidence in that position.

          Note that I apply this only to areas where there is actual disagreement. As far as I know, for example, literally no one disagrees that the Roman Empire existed, so I’m happy assuming that to be the case.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I have heard second-hand accounts of people claiming that the Roman ruins are forgeries.

            Fomenko’s New Chronology should count as denying the existence of the Roman Empire.

          • Buckyballas says:

            So since most scientists reject these ideas, you are more inclined to believe them?

          • Nathan says:

            Okay, I suppose I should refine my caveat. Basically my standard is among the set of opinions held on a subject by intelligent, reasonable people knowledgeable about the subject, I will tend to support the less popular ones.

            Now it is possible that all dissent to a view is from people who are not intelligent or reasonable. Even among nominal experts, such people will exist. But if the level of dissent is sufficient that it seems likely to include intelligent and reasonable people, or I can be convinced that a singular example of such exists, then I will weight in favour of it.

            A complication is that I don’t actually know what the level of dissent is on many subjects.

            Obviously this isn’t my only heuristic for judging what to believe. For example, I trust evidentiary claims in general more than I do theoretical constructs. E.g. Someone who says “I survived the holocaust” over someone who says “the holocaust makes no sense” or someone who says “I went to the moon” over someone who says “the moon landings make no sense”.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Someone who says “I went to Mars” over someone who says “Alien abductions make no sense”?

            Someone who says he faked the moon landings? Someone who says he shot JFK? (S Kubrick and EH Hunt, respectively)

          • Nathan says:

            Absent any other information? Absolutely. Most people who confess to crimes are in fact guilty of those crimes.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Most people who confess to dramatic crimes are not guilty of them.

    • Jiro says:

      What convinced me to oppose gun control is that the side in favor of gun control had some really terrible arguments, the side opposed to it was able to tear them down, and there wasn’t anything similar in the other direction.

      • Nadja says:

        This happens to me a lot.

        Somewhat relatedly, I used to resist filtering the comments of people of opposing political beliefs out of my Facebook feed. I was trying to keep myself exposed to the other side’s arguments because, well, open-mindedness. But recently I realized that most of these arguments were so flawed that reading them had the opposite effect on me. All these bad arguments, often drenched in vitriol, made me think that if that’s the best these people can do, my side is probably right after all. So instead of keeping me open-minded, the feed was doing the opposite. After realizing this, I started filtering the stuff out. Now I get the opposing view from places like this blog. Good arguments, very few sideswipes. Works much better to keep me open minded.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          Seconded. It makes it far too easy to think the other side’s arguments are stupid when you only (mostly) listen to the stupid people on the other side making them.

          • On the other hand, you might notice that a lot of your side’s arguments are stupid too.

            One result of participating in climate arguments on Facebook is to temper my unrealistic view of how reasonable other people are.

        • John Schilling says:

          I had to do this recently myself. The only down side is realizing how thoroughly certain friends, and they are truly that, had all but disappeared from my feed. More than compensated for by the improvement in the quality of the remaining dialogue.

          • LHN says:

            Yeah, I have a number of friends I’d really like to read a #nopolitics filter of, since I’m in danger of missing actual developments I care about in their lives. But there’s a limit to how much snark and ragebait and self-congratulation I can (or should) wade through.

            (My wife and I sometimes have to remind each other that they’re not at all like that in person, and that we should really make plans with [X] to remind ourselves of that fact. Social media are an odd and highly uneven magnifier.)

            Though I admit I’m sort of jealous of having a bubble in which it’s possible to post weak or bad arguments to much support and minimal, easily shouted-down criticism. As someone who always feels as if he needs cites and disclaimers when presenting anything remotely controversial, it looks like a relaxing way to live.

        • Error says:

          I have the mirror image of this problem; I keep running into people presenting positions I agree with, but backed by arguments or invective so terrible that I can’t rightly comprehend the confusion of ideas that give rise to them.

          I find there are increasing swaths of human interaction where there’s so little sense involved that I just want to check out of the conversation.

        • onyomi says:

          I wonder if there is a generalized tendency for the internets to increase polarization by means of the following mechanism (in addition to the generally enhanced ability to keep yourself in a content bubble):

          The smarter arguments for any position are usually found in more esoteric, intellectual places devoted to their discussion, rather than on Facebook, Twitter, etc., though the latter may occasionally link to the former.

          The average netizen reads something like Facebook and/or Twitter and/or Youtube for purposes of socialization, and, if they are at all interested in political science and other intellectual stuff, more specialized blogs, forums, etc. aimed at people who think like them.

          Hence, you get exposed to smart, sophisticated arguments for your own side and dumb, simplistic arguments for the other side–unless, of course, you seek out smart, sophisticated blogs dedicated to expounding the opposing view, but this is very uncomfortable. I, for example, have difficulty reading Jacobin for more than five minutes without wanting to break something.

          Of course, it was always true that one was more likely to seek out evidence to support a view he already had, but this wasn’t necessarily further reinforced by constant bombardment of bad arguments for the opposite.

          • Virbie says:

            > Hence, you get exposed to smart, sophisticated arguments for your own side and dumb, simplistic arguments for the other side–unless, of course, you seek out smart, sophisticated blogs dedicated to expounding the opposing view, but this is very uncomfortable. I, for example, have difficulty reading Jacobin for more than five minutes without wanting to break something.

            Does this mean that you find Jacobin smart and sophisticated but it has other flaws that make you want to break something? Do you mind if I ask what these are (I’ve had fairly little exposure to Jacobin beyond an article or two)? I definitely can relate to feeling discomfort when reading smart, sophisticated writing I disagree with, but for me wanting-to-break-something is rarely caused by sources that I think highly enough of to call smart and sophisticated.

          • Echo says:

            It just inflames his passion for the revolution, comrade. Is sad time for Jacobin with no guillotine to purge the enemies of the people.

          • Luke Somers says:

            I’ve encountered the same feeling. It’s generally someone laying out a sophisticated argument that completely misses the point or dismisses values I find important (or the reverse). And if coupled with the feeling that there’s no way they’d take a response seriously, it’s especially frustrating. One way you can get there is when an objection similar but not identical to yours is made, and then successfully counterargued.

            For a non-political example, I remember when Scott Aaronson had this thing about consciousness requiring radiating entropy, therefore nothing in an anti-deSitter space could be conscious because the radiation would come back eventually. Someone made a poor argument against this, which Scott answered. My more sophisticated (and, I believe, correct) counterargument pattern-matched to it, he referred to his previous counterargument, not noticing that it didn’t apply, and moved on. I’m left with nothing new to add but just telling this grand expert he didn’t pay ME ATTENTION LOOK AT ME I KNOW BETTER Blah blah or maybe instead of that I’ll just leave.

            Now, substitute out this thing that doesn’t really matter with someone advocating a policy which I think hurts people I care about (possibly including me). Kiiinda awkward.

          • Yrro says:

            See, I think we just get better at ignoring bad arguments for our side. We’ve heard them before, and we can easily dismiss them as “those idiots who don’t represent me.”

            We see our own side as varied and complex. But the other side is more nebulous. It is easy to see the other side as the extremes of all their opinions, because you don’t have that constant voice saying “don’t link this idiot to me.”

      • AlexanderRM says:

        Obligatory LW warning against reversed stupidity here. Actually thinking about it, I haven’t seen any *really terrible* arguments against gun control on par with some I’ve seen in favor of it, but that might be related to living in a Blue Tribe echo chamber and seeing way more pro-gun control arguments than the reverse.
        (actually, correction, it seems to me that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is a really terrible argument, because a person with a gun can kill far *more* people than a person without, so I have seen at least one. On the other hand, “if guns are made criminal, only criminals will have guns” is an entirely decent argument which I mostly accept, so this makes a good example of why reversed stupidity doesn’t work.)

        Also as a general thing on literally any “gun control” discussion, I feel the need to point out there’s a strong risk of getting into an affect debate, and that among other complications there’s a big space between “ban all guns altogether” and “legalize all firearms”. Unfortunately in affect debates this space just tends to get used as a weapon to hit the other side and make ones’ own side seem more reasonable. (see “at least we should ban uzis” vs. “of course no-one opposes banning uzis”)

        • Jiro says:

          “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is a terrible argument if taken to mean “because people can kill without guns, guns are harmless”. But it’s not so terrible when used to mean “because people can kill without guns, you need to reduce your estimate of gun-caused deaths by the amount that would still exist without guns”. It is common for gun control advocates to imply that the deaths caused by guns would all be nonexistent without guns; that’s a bad argument, and this is a reasonable reply.

          • JBeshir says:

            Be warned that in my experience, basically any blue tribe person will read that argument as a claim that the substitution rate for guns is 100%; that all of the crimes that happened with guns would have still happened to the same people had a gun not been available.

            If you’re talking with other people who will read it the way you mean it, that’d not be a problem, but otherwise it’s worth bewaring the potential communications issue, because these matters are bad enough without it.

          • Anonymous` says:

            JBeshir: this is why you don’t bother discussing politics with people unless you already know they are statistically literate.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          However, you will find the number of incidents where a gun killed a person of its own accord to be so low as to be statistically irrelevant. Would you like “Guns don’t kill people, killers kill people?” better?

          I think the strongest way you can frame that argument is that a stupid person with a gun can usually kill more people than a stupid person without a gun. (If I wanted to kill a lot of people, guns would not be involved, even though I have several including a battle rifle.) Since there are a lot of stupid people running around, some of whom can’t be trusted with string let alone guns, I am actually a bit sympathetic to that line of thought. However, I am not a big fan of group punishment nor pre-emptive punishment and I am definitely not a fan of pre-emptive group punishment at all, so the Argument To Stupid People does not carry much weight with me, whether it be applied to guns, cars, drugs, or blogs.

          On another note, one thing that helps me determine which side of an “expert” debate, or even a smart-person debate, to listen to is the extent to which the debaters have bothered to learn about the details of the topic. Gun-control advocates invariably come out on the losing side of this. If you were advocating gun control (I don’t think you were, and I am not castigating you) in your post above, I’d already have no interest in what you said because you made a fundamental error in what should have been a simple example. Popehat has a very good essay on this in regard to guns: https://popehat.com/2015/12/07/talking-productively-about-guns/

          For another example, someone wrote an article in the NYT the other day about why the statute of limitations should not apply to rape. Very early in the article, they demonstrated that they don’t know what it means to toll a statute of limitations, which is a fundamental concept regarding the topic. I stopped caring what their opinion of the question was at that point, because if you write a whole long op-ed about some social topic and can’t be bothered to learn basic terminology*, you are not interested in debating, or even advocating: you are signalling.

          *The person was a licensed attorney, which adds a whole new level of why-should-I-take-you-seriously to the question. But even if they weren’t, the objection stands.

          • Mary says:

            “I think the strongest way you can frame that argument is that a stupid person with a gun can usually kill more people than a stupid person without a gun.”

            Actually the death toll for mass murderers by means is first explosives, second arson, and only third guns.

        • Mary says:

          ” It is common for gun control advocates to imply that the deaths caused by guns would all be nonexistent without guns; that’s a bad argument, and this is a reasonable reply.”

          Alternatively, one can offer to beat them to death with a baseball bat, which will preserve them forever from any form of “gun violence.”

        • Agronomous says:

          Even couching the problem, as gun-control advocates and NPR do, as “gun violence” obscures the reality of what’s happening in unhelpful ways. At the risk of being banned for shameless self-promotion, here’s my take in a comment from a previous post.

          • The Anonymouse says:

            Even couching the problem, as gun-control advocates and NPR do, as “gun violence”

            Glad I’m not the only one who noticed that. And that’s in their straight news coverage, not just “The Diane ‘I don’t even pretend to be objective’ Rehm Show.”

      • Wrong Species says:

        I happen to see it the other way. I’m a natural born libertarian but kept hearing so many bad arguments against gun control that I started leaning away from that view. I’m still split between the two but I feel like the anti gun control faction has an arrogance that’s unearned.

        • Yrro says:

          I’ve heard plenty of dumb arguments on both sides… the biggest thing that swayed me was which side understood violence, violent encounters, and the use of guns.

          The people in favor of gun control, broadly, have little experience with guns. The experts I consider most reliable in terms of gun rights tend to be firearms trainers — people who have studied violence, who know how to use guns, and who know how people respond to training with guns.

          Now, these people are *incredibly* biased. But when all of the people you can find with that direct personal knowledge are biased the same direction… that reads as a clue to me, at least from *that* aspect of the issue.

          Do I trust them to analyze an academic study of country or county-level trends of gun use? No, not at all. But I do trust them on the “what are the possible personal benefits of having a gun in a bad situation” which is a part of the analysis that most gun control advocates seem to have spent zero time researching.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        @ Jiro
        What convinced me to oppose gun control is that the side in favor of gun control had some really terrible arguments, the side opposed to it was able to tear them down, and there wasn’t anything similar in the other direction.

        In some other venue it might be the opposite. Anyway, in the world there are an infinite number of stupid arguments, and of stupid people, on both sides — so the obvious win on that point is to have more gun control. The fewer guns in the hands of stupid people, the better, and the stupid pro-GC people already don’t have guns.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          I am greatly saddened by how convincing I am beginning to find that argument, despite my earlier disavowal of the Argument to Stupid People. (Maybe it should be called The Argument to Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.)

          • John Schilling says:

            Meh. Stupid people with votes cause far more damage than stupid people with guns, and we’ve officially decided we’re not even going to try and stop them. If I have to deal with the slightest possibility of President Donald Trump, you all can deal with the possibility of being shot by a drunken redneck. At least the rednecks tend to be concentrated in known danger areas.

            The United States of America: An experiment in whether firmly believing that any idiot can exercise the traditional rights and responsibilities of a free man, will eventually make it so. It has outlasted all but a handful of the sovereign nations of this world, and alone sent its emissaries to another. Pretty cool, all that.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Marc Whipple:
            I think this essentially reduces to an externalities argument.

            If I could trust [entity] not to produce a negative externality using [right], then said right could be unconstrained. The extent to which this is not true is the extent to which the right must be constrained in some manner.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            Very little can be done with a single vote.

            Quite a bit can be done with a single gun.

          • John Schilling says:

            If very little can be done with a single vote, then very little harm is done by disenfranchising a single person. Say, the single stupidest person in the United States. By induction, we can then harmlessly disenfranchise everyone but the intellectual elite.

            And at the other end, very little of national interest can be done with a single gun. For that, you need a gun and a television camera – and the gun is optional.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            “If very little can be done with a single vote, then very little harm is done by disenfranchising a single person.”

            Which is why the actual punishments for disenfranchising a single person are small.

            “By induction, we can then harmlessly disenfranchise everyone but the intellectual elite.”

            That doesn’t follow at all, for all of the reasons you know very well.

            Are you really making that argument? Or are you just sort-of trolling.

          • John Schilling says:

            You seemed to be arguing for broad and substantial gun control on the basis of one shooting that nobody had ever heard of, or on the basis of proof-by-induction, or to be simply trolling. I’m not sure which, but I’m pretty sure I don’t have to be any more specific in my response.

            Also, per 18 USC 421, conspiring to deprive one single United States Citizen of the right or ability to vote is a federal felony worth a ten-year prison sentence.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            I’m not arguing for gun control. All I did was point out a massive flaw in trying to use suffrage as a reference.

            And you seem to have ignored the word “actual”. The number of cases where people go to prison for a single case of disenfranchisement is very low compared to the number of cases where people go to prison for a single case of misusing a gun.

        • Jiro says:

          “Stupid argument” doesn’t imply “stupid people”, though.

          Someone in this very thread mentioned Neil Degrasse Tyson quoting the bogus statistic about being 22 times more likely to be killed by your gun than to use it on an intruder. I don’t believe Tyson is stupid. He’s just biased and latching onto whatever argument his side has.

      • Maware says:

        What’s amazing is that we have two arguments that should be similar being opposite.

        By this I mean many believe somehow believe that:

        1. Prohibition and incarceration for a particular item is harmful and created a huge prison industrial complex despite the majority of use being harmless or recreational (drugs) and despite having no effect on use.

        2. Prohibition and incarceration for another item is needed and will not create a huge prison industrial complex, despite the majority of use being harmless or recreational (guns) and will have a strong effect on use.

        It’s doubly telling when you realize that the death rates are far worse by illegal drugs than guns. Something like 13k for heroin and cocaine alone, and 11k for gun violence in 2013.

        By the same measure, if I believe in gun control I feel like I should believe in drug prohibition due to the same level of harm. Yet people do not on either side.

        • HlynkaCG says:

          I’m not sure if I’m seeing “the opposite” you’re referring to. In my experience most of those who oppose gun-control also oppose (or at least display ambivalence towards) the “war on drugs”. The staunchly Pro-War-On-some-Drugs but Anti-Gun-control voter or politician strikes me as an extreme outlier.

          Of course that could just be a product of Libertarians being overrepresented among anti-GC advocates.

          That said, I agree with you that the contradiction here is worth noting and it is largely why I oppose prohibition in general despite harboring strong Socially Conservative tendancies.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @HlynkaCG:
            “In my experience most of those who oppose gun-control also oppose (or at least display ambivalence towards) the “war on drugs”.”

            I think the “in my experience” is doing a great deal of work there. I would be very surprised if this were the case for the broad Republican coalition. At least since Reagan, the coalition has been largely pro-war-on-drugs and anti-GC. I think this tendency has been ramped up even further as the Republican coalition has added the “Blue Dog Democrats” and shed the Rockefeller Republicans.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            What HBC said. Come home with me next Christmas and I will broaden your experience. 😉

          • Anonymous` says:

            Rural people (and the significant fraction of their suburban descendants who still like their cultural heritage) are used to having and enjoying guns. Drugs are for those crazy outgroup urban people.

          • John Schilling says:

            Drugs are for those crazy outgroup urban people.

            Says someone who’s never lived in a rural community, or does so but can’t pry themselves away from their “Andy Griffith” reruns. There’s plenty of drug use in contemporary rural America, just (mostly) different drugs than in the cities.

            I assume you know this, but I think it needs to be made clear.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ John Schilling:

            Of course drugs like meth are “popular” in rural areas, but does anyone have a positive view of them, in the way some people in the cities / on the West Coast practically worship marijuana? Or even how cocaine was for a long time seen as “cool”?

            My impression is that this is not the case. The prevalence of drugs like meth only makes people there have a worse view of drugs.

            Indeed, a similar point could be made about guns and cities: where do most instances of gun violence occur? City people perceive guns as more of a threat.

          • Nornagest says:

            I grew up in a rural, red (but not exclusively Red) part of a blue state. Weed was quite common. Being a stoner carried some stigma, but I got the impression that that had more to do with the culture (and the lack of moderation) than the drug per se. Meth was just becoming popular, but the stigma there was serious; “tweeker” bordered on fighting words. Hallucinogens were rare, cocaine and derivatives were rare, opiates were rare.

          • TheNybbler says:

            Marijuana, certainly, is just as popular in rural areas as it is in urban. It’s a drug which crosses tribal lines. Alcohol in the form of cheap American beer is as red as you can get.

            I went to high school in an area which was red at the time (but is probably now blue). Pot was ubiquitous, cocaine was available. Meth hadn’t really gotten started yet.

        • Luke Somers says:

          1 seems right. I’m not sure how ‘we should institute a somewhat higher level of control’ qualifies as #2, though.

        • xq says:

          What is the basis for saying there is no effect on use? Prohibition led to a large reduction in alcohol consumption, and there’s a lot of evidence that cigarette taxes reduce smoking. And guns per capita does seem to relate to stringency of gun control laws. The idea that states have no power to influence ownership rates of guns, or usage rates of drugs, by affecting the cost of these activities, seems implausible.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ maware
          By the same measure, if I believe in gun control I feel like I should believe in drug prohibition due to the same level of harm

          The direct harm from drugs is to the user. The direct harm from guns is to others.

          Taking it up a level, there’s no contradiction in “Keep the most dangerous [nouns] away from the most dangerous/at risk users.” ‘Stop the War on Drugs’ does not mean selling heroin freely to children. Making it harder for NECAR* profile under-30s to get NECAR-capable armament does not mean mass incarceration of all users etc.

          * NECAR = Newtown/EliotRodger/Columbine/Aurora/Roseburg

    • That’s an interesting and important question. Figuring out what is true in such a context is harder than most people assume.

      One approach is to look for some overlap between the arguments for either side and things where you have enough expertise to rely on your own judgement. If one side includes in its arguments bad economics or a misunderstanding of physics, that does not prove that the rest of their argument is wrong, but it’s at least grounds for suspicion.

      Another is to look at how the argument is put. Real world controversies almost always have arguments on both sides. Someone who presents his side as if it’s perfectly obvious that it is right and only a fool or a villain could disagree either does not understand the issue or is lying. That is not certain, but it’s the way to bet. Someone who offers a persuasive case while acknowledging its weaknesses deserves to be taken more seriously. In practice, of course, there may be people of both sorts on both sides.

      A related approach is to see how honest each side is about its own members. If it becomes clear that someone was dishonest, do those on his side acknowledge the fact, try to obscure it, or avoid the subject? There’s obviously a problem here, since each side will accuse the other of dishonesty, but sometimes you can find a clear case. I think we saw one here when a commenter accused Lomborg of dishonesty on the basis of a book attacking him and another poster provided a detailed analysis of what each side said that was strikingly inconsistent with the first commenter’s initial view of the subject. That did not prove that Lomborg is correct or even honest, but it was pretty clear evidence that his critics were not.

      Another approach is to look at predictions. See what each side was saying as far back as the controversy reaches. See how their claims then fit what has happened since. If they confidently said X would happen in five years, it didn’t, and they then revised either the date or X, that’s a reason for skepticism.

      I have discussions of some this, in the context of climate and nanotech, at:

      http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2015/06/judging-outside-your-expertise.html

      and

      http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2007/02/global-warming-nanotech-and-who-to.html

    • zz says:

      My own response, absent expert consensus that I have no reason to suspect, is to decrease my confidence, usually to levels bordering complete agnosticism, about pretty much everything that I don’t know much about. So:

      Politics: complete and total apathy; no real beliefs one way or another. This might change once Open Philanthropy Project starts publishing writeups about political causes, at which point, I predict my political beliefs in the areas they write about will closely reflect said writeups and I will continue my policy of total apathy elsewhere.

      Religion: I’m an apatheist (don’t care enough about God to bother with an opinion about existence). In practice, this turns into secularism unless I want to consort with religious types, at which point I fit in disturbingly well.

      Dangers from AI x-risks: no strong beliefs. Again, this should change once OpenPhil starts publishing relevant writeups. I plan to check MIRI to see whether the math I understand they’re not publishing in academic journals is really good, and whether I think they’ve gained a reasonable degree of organizational competence since Holden thought about them, but that requires some amount of math and CS that I don’t already know and learning takes time.

      Bayes: I’m currently learning calculus (turns out one can score a 5 on BC calc exam and A’s in multivariable calculus and differential equations without ever actually having learning calculus); once I get through chapter 7 of Apostol volume 1 (dealing with Taylor series), I intend to have at Jaynes’s book. (Is this the right prerequisite? Jaynes himself is unclear, but my understanding of this lw post’s comments is that Taylor series were a necessary and sufficient prerequisite, but I’d be happy to learn I’m wrong.) After finishing, I’ve bookmarked/toomanytabsed two criticisms of Bayesianism that should be of the highest quality, and will read them and then decide what to believe. Internally, I expect the result to come out Bayes-side up, but we’ll see.

      Social justice issues: deep, deep, deep apathy. I generally trust things Scott writes, but find I have to apply a much higher degree of skepticism to his social justice posts (congratulations on going a year without a ten-thousand word rant on feminism, btw, Scott; also, after reading SSC on feminism, I have come to believe that you’re getting better at writing about it, so grats again), which is exhausting and needing to check every single fact against a third party really ruins the reading experience. I have taken this as a cautionary tale and systematically refuse to take anything approaching a position on social justice. (I am, however, happy to take positions on things that sometimes get brought up, like freedom of speech (which I tend to favor); or admissions (merit, based on a test, and if the test sucks, build a better test; if test-prep resources suck, not only am I going to look at elite school that are overflowing with really poor Asians and call bullshit, but you have a computer, you can download LaTeX, it’s free (libre and gratis), and it only takes one person to write a decent test-prep but and slap a Creative Commons license on it; or protesting during classtime (students skip class to protest is stupid; students who prevent other students’ learning, either by having classes cancelled for their protest or interrupting their study, may be expelled).)

      I’m not sure the degree to which other rationalists tend towards not being political, but I think it’s the trend. As I understand it, Eliezer (who I only bring up because he’s a data point I know about) has progressively become less political over time. We have all these posts about not having strong opinions and not quite being radically skeptical and noting the tendency of looking at the other side’s evidence to create a more nuanced picture which gives their arguments some validity, resulting in a sort of policy-effect regression to the mean. We’ve been certainly been deemed postpolitical, and while some of that’s certainly preselection, I like to think that some of it’s also the result of learning useful heuristics that go something like “if they outside view suggests that, without doing hours upon hours of homework—and you have to be maximally epistemically virtuous the whole time or it doesn’t count, no matter how hard it is to constantly challenge your cherished beliefs and sometimes change them in response to evidence (Litany of Tarski is very helpful here)—you don’t won’t have opinions based on reality much better than randomly choosing them, then don’t have opinions.”

    • I don’t feel like every controversial issue has equally smart people on either side. Obviously, if we’re talking about “thing that is currently in dispute among two different factions of trained biologists,” then there are probably very smart, very competent people on either side, and I’m probably not in a position to judge so I’m going to stay agnostic.” But matters like that tend not be “controversial” because most people don’t read about intra-biology disputes.

      But if we’re talking about something like evolution, which a lot of Americans still don’t believe in, then I think the pro-evolution side actually has a much better set of arguments because it’s being argued by people who know what they’re talking about. In this case, the arguments are simple enough–and there is enough normal-people level material out there, explaining both sides, for me to just read a book on each side and then decide.

      “Who caused 9-11” is another controversial question (at least in certain quarters), but one where I don’t have the lay knowledge to really evaluate the relevant arguments; eg, I can’t tell a bogus claim about the melting habits of steel from a legit one. In this case, I’ve stuck so far with reputation–people whom I know to be basically trustworthy and have a good track-record of avoiding bullshit get their opinions ranked more highly than people who have a track record of being gullible or believing things that turned out to be incorrect.

      So I guess for most controversies, I’d go with a combination of “Do I trust these people’s judgment?” and/or “Does this argument make sense to me after reading a respected argument from both sides?” But if it takes detailed knowledge of a field I haven’t studied, I go with “I don’t know.”

      • As it happens I agree that the case for evolution is much stronger than the case against, but I’m not sure how easy it is for the random lay person to tell. You read a book on each side and, if they are well written, each is convincing.

        In my view, most people believe or disbelieve in evolution for the same reason–because that is what they are told by the people they trust. Very few, even in that case, could provide an adequate argument for their position.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          I get very little disagreement with evolution from my conservative friends and family. The few that disagree, seem to get the most emotional about it when it’s used to talk about human evolution in particular; they appear perfectly receptive to, say, the concern over over-use of antibiotics.

          As a result, I have a weak hypothesis here that support for creationism is mainly just support for the notion that humans are special and unique among lifeforms, and irritation at arguments suggesting they aren’t.

          • Anthony says:

            There’s History involved in the creationism issue.

            Back in the late 19th and even more the early 20th Centuries, Scientific Opinion was all for eugenics. Not in the Nazi sense of killing “undesirables”, but at least in preventing them from breeding, and encouraging the Superior People to have more children.

            The only real organized opposition to eugenics came from the more devout (and retrograde) sorts of Protestants. Since they weren’t generally smart enough to convincingly say “Look – Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection doesn’t require us to speed things along, (partly because all the True Scientists said that it did), they attacked Darwin’s theory instead. The Catholic Church was awfully slow to accept Darwinian evolution, but they had (and have) intellectuals of sufficient firepower to make that argument.

            Anyway, both sides have mostly forgotten what that was all about. Though creationism also presents an argument against some of the “naturalist” justifications for sexual libertinism which started coming up in the 1960s (and which continue to this day. For example, almost any article with the word “Bonobo”). Since the poltical valences of the arguments were the same – the pro-eugenics side had become the pro-libertinism side, creationism persisted as a mass movement. Albeit a mass movement which requires a certain amount of crankishness, as the argument from the Literal Truth of The Bible is quite brittle, and can be defeated by astronomy or geology.

          • “The only real organized opposition to eugenics came from the more devout (and retrograde) sorts of Protestants.”

            ???

            And the Catholic church.

          • Deiseach says:

            The only real organized opposition to eugenics came from the more devout (and retrograde) sorts of Protestants. Since they weren’t generally smart enough to convincingly say “Look – Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection doesn’t require us to speed things along, (partly because all the True Scientists said that it did), they attacked Darwin’s theory instead.

            Belloc’s take on why the Catholic Church was not twisted into knots about Darwin was (discounting the usual pugnacious way in which he phrased such things) that Protestantism had based itself on sola Scriptura which led to a tendency to a literalist reading, and when freethinkers leapt on Darwin’s theory as “See? The Bible is wrong in its reading!”, they had no recourse other than to attack the science and the scientist.

            Whereas Catholics were quite comfortable going “Yeah, we know, it’s not meant to be taken literally as scientific description” so that attack glanced off.

            If you think modern anti-theists have spoken harshly about Biblical literalists, you should read what Belloc says from Survivals and New Arrivals (1929):

            It had already sunk into Literalism: the idea that the English text of the Hebrew scriptures, as published under James I 300 years ago, gave an exact historical and scientific description of all therein contained.

            The Literalist believed that Jonah was swallowed by a right Greenland whale, and that our first parents lived a precisely calculable number of years ago, and in Mesopotamia. He believed that Noah collected in the ark all the very numerous divisions of the beetle tribe. He believed, because the Hebrew word JOM was printed in his Koran, “day,” that therefore the phases of creation were exactly six in number and each of exactly twenty-four hours. He believed that man began as a bit of mud, handled, fashioned with fingers and then blown upon.

            These beliefs were not adventitious to his religion, they were his religion; and when they became untenable (principally through the advance of geology) his religion disappeared.

            It has receded with startling rapidity. Nations of the Catholic culture could never understand how such a religion came to be held. It was a bewilderment to them. When the immensely ancient doctrine of growth (or evolution) and the connection of living organisms with past forms was newly emphasized by Buffon and Lamarck, opinion in France was not disturbed; and it was hopelessly puzzling to men of Catholic tradition to find a Catholic priest’s original discovery of man’s antiquity (at Torquay, in the cave called “Kent’s Hole”) severely censured by the Protestant world. Still more were they puzzled by the fierce battle which raged against the further development of Buffon and Lamarck s main thesis under the hands of careful and patient observers such as Darwin and Wallace.

            So violent was the quarrel that the main point was missed. Evolution in general—mere growth—became the Accursed Thing. The only essential point, its causes, the underlying truth of Lamarck’s theory, and the falsity of Darwin’s and Wallace’s, were not considered. What had to be defended blindly was the bald truth of certain printed English sentences dating from 1610.

            … My third example shall be from another writer of high standing in our time, thoroughly representative of modern English thought and also in close sympathy with his great audience; skeptical in profession, though as Protestant as Dr. Gore in morals and tradition—I mean Mr. H. G. Wells.

            Mr. H. G. Wells has been at great pains to discuss the fall of man, in which considerable catastrophe he puts no faith. But when he discusses the fall of man he always has in mind the eating of an apple in a particular place at a particular time. When he hears that there is no Catholic doctrine defining the exact place or the exact time—not even the name of the apple, he shrewdly suspects that we are shirking the main issue. He thinks in terms of the Bible Christian—with whom he disagrees.

            The main issue for European civilization in general is whether man fell or no. Whether man was created for beatitude, enjoyed a supernatural state, fell by rebellion from that state into the natural but unhappy condition in which he now stands, subject to death, clouded in intellect and rotted with pride, yet with a memory of greater things, an aspiration to recover them, and a power of so doing by right living in this world of his exile; or whether man is on a perpetual ascent from viler to nobler things, a biped worthy of his own respect in this life and sufficient to his own destiny.

            On that great quarrel the future of our race depends. But the inventors of Bible Christianity, even when they have lost their original creeds, do not see it thus. They take the main point to be, whether it were an apple — who munched it — exactly where — and exactly when. They triumphantly discover that no fruit or date can be established, and they conclude that the Christian scheme is ruined and the Fall a myth.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Nobody* believes in evolution, at least not from the neck up. Everybody*, left and right, wants to exempt humans.

            The extreme HBDers are what comes of telling people that Belief In Evolution is super-important; a few of them are going to end up believing you.

            I feel weird being the first to point this out in this thread, because I thought that was pretty much the consensus view here, but maybe the purges have worked their magic.

            *to a first approximation

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jaskologist:
            Evolution simply says that, over a long enough period, fitness in reproduction will become dominant.

            I’m not sure why that means I don’t believe in evolution “from the neck up”. But evolution doesn’t mean that “we” get “better” at anything other than reproduction. This isn’t Heroes or some other sci-fi fantasy where “evolution” means “we are just about to become uber-beings”.

            Basically, I don’t know what the heck you mean. I am happy to be corrected if I am misinterpreting what you are saying, as I suspect I am.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            It does not require “better” to incur the wrath of the Tabula Raza. It only requires “different.” Because different will inevitably work out to different outcomes, and if those different outcomes are the result of natural selection, it means that they’re not the result of human activity, and that conclusion is unacceptable to them.

            They are perfectly okay with those differing outcomes “from the neck down.” One rarely hears complaints about the lack of diversity in the NBA, marathon running, or strongman competition. Let them occur in a field which is not a “neck down” field, and all bets are off.

        • As noted, the anti-evolution side really only cares about human evolution; there’s no way to prove that evolution itself doesn’t happen, because we can observe simple cases of it happening with our own eyes.

          Anyone who has the ability to basically understand what the theory of evolution is does not reject it on those grounds. They only reject it in the specific case of human evolution, and the arguments I have seen there are along the lines of, “Here are some bones that got miscategorized/misdated” or “here are some stone tools that are in rock layers that are way too old for stone tools.”

          Since I’m probably not going to go dig up the original papers about Piltdown Man or how they figured out Lucy’s age, this is where trust kicks in; do I really think the majority of people in paleoanthropology (and science in general) are either completely misinformed about crucial facts related to their fields and/or lying to us? Or do I think that people who haven’t devoted their lives to studying paleoanthropology might have missed something?

          It may help, though, that I know a lot of people in science and know they’re trustworthy. I suspect that a lot of people don’t have any concrete grasp of how science works. I don’t know if this is a problem that can be rectified by simply learning about how science works, or if it’s a fundamental personality issue that some people just don’t think in sciency ways.

          • (Okay, i lied, i would totally dig up those papers. But I didn’t dig them up back when reading about the subject for the first time back in highschool.)

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            It may help, though, that I know a lot of people in science and know they’re trustworthy. I suspect that a lot of people don’t have any concrete grasp of how science works. I don’t know if this is a problem that can be rectified by simply learning about how science works, or if it’s a fundamental personality issue that some people just don’t think in sciency ways.

            What evidence do you have that MOST people think in “science-y” ways? Given the Scientific Method was not formalized and did not receive wide acceptance until relatively recently, I would strongly believe that MOST people do NOT think in a way that is “science-y.”
            I think this might be the more relevant part:

            It may help, though, that I know a lot of people in science

            The Enlightenment, for lack of a better descriptor, is a social force and slowly works its way through more of the global culture.

            HOWEVER:
            This still doesn’t help resolve knowledge claims for those interested in delving deeper into fields, and doesn’t help much at all with certain political questions.

            Why should I trust Elizabeth Warren more than Dick Fuld on the proper regulation of investment banks?

          • Julie K says:

            > the anti-evolution side really only cares about human evolution

            Alternatively, perhaps some of them agree that, given a population with diverse traits, the ones that are fittest will be most likely to survive and reproduce, but disagree that random events produced the diverse traits in the first place.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          In my view, most people believe or disbelieve in evolution for the same reason–because that is what they are told by the people they trust. Very few, even in that case, could provide an adequate argument for their position.

          That’s really the crux of the issue. I accept the validity of evolution but could not defend it at anything beyond a freshman high school class.

          My “knowledge,” to whatever extent it actually exists, consists of received wisdom from elites who may very well lie to me on an hourly basis.

          Can’t really operate a society of hundreds of millions of people in any other fashion, I suspect.

          • FJ says:

            This is an important point that is broadly true of even fairly uncontroversial topics. Very few people (including me!) could write out a valid mathematical proof of the Pythagorean theorem. But I’m not aware of any Pythagorean truthers out there. We are told as little children that a^2 + b^2 = c^2, and we accept it. Perhaps the very inquisitive once glanced at a proof, but they almost certainly don’t remember the details. You are far more credulous than you should be. I think.

          • Urstoff says:

            What would Timecube guy say about the Pythagorean theorem?

          • Marc Whipple says:

            You might not be able to write it out now, but a proof of it is usually provided not later than high-school geometry. You are not taking anybody’s word for it.

            (Heck, *I* would have to think hard to work out the proof, and I have a degree in math. The only Big Proof I have permanently memorized is the proof of the infinitude of primes, because one of my math professors swore he would jump up at our graduation and ask us to prove it, and if we couldn’t he would rescind our grades. I memorized it just in case I saw him that day so I could recite it.)

          • On the Pythagorean theorem:

            My guess is that most high school students who have been exposed to the classical proof did not follow it closely enough to have a justified belief that it’s true.

            There is, however, a much simpler proof (square within a square) that I could readily reproduce and that a reasonably intelligent high school student paying attention should be able to follow adequately.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I found this wonderful page with dozens of proofs: http://www.cut-the-knot.org/pythagoras/

            The first few will make anyone’s eyes glaze over, but some of them are intuitive and involve remembering just one thing (followed by some simple derivation from there).

          • Anonymous says:

            >But I’m not aware of any Pythagorean truthers out there.

            Probably because:
            – it is a math equation, which is boring,
            – it is not politically charged, which makes it even more boring,
            – you can easily show that it is true for arbitrary inputs with just a pencil and paper, unlike many controversial issues.

        • Wrong Species says:

          I disagree. It’s not that hard to get a decently smart kid to understand what’s wrong with the “evidence” for creationism. It has basically no explanatory power and so many holes that any layman can see. A simple Wikipedia read through is all that’s needed. Just look up “human evolution” and look at all the bones of the various homo species. It takes a great deal of ideological contortionism to see that as anything but strong evidence for human evolution.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            A simple read-through of the Wikipedia article would prepare one wonderfully to defend the fact that there’s a Wikipedia article which makes evolution seem pretty open and shut. However, I’m not sure that answers Dr. Friedman’s assertion adequately. IMO it sort of supports it. 🙂

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            A simple Wikipedia read through is all that’s needed.

            Why should I trust Wikipedia?
            http://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2012/01/18/145338804/why-do-so-many-have-trouble-with-evolution

            The same poll correlated belief in evolution with educational level: 21 percent of people with a high school education or less believed in evolution. That number rose to 41 percent for people with some college attendance, 53 percent for college graduates, and 74 percent for people with a postgraduate education.

            Almost half of college graduates do not accept evolution!

            Even a quarter of post-grads do not accept evolution!

            Are these people not decently smart?

            This is in part an issue of identity politics, which is why the blog author has no problem stating:

            Not surprisingly, and rather unfortunately, religious belief interferes with people’s understanding of what the theory of evolution says.

            Wonderful causal explanation.
            Wait, what was that evidence?

            Another variable investigated by the same poll was how belief in evolution correlates with church attendance. Of those who believe in evolution, 24 percent go to church weekly, 30 percent go nearly weekly/monthly, and 55 percent seldom or never go.

            Yeah, okay, I renounce my beliefs in evolution and proclaim my belief in FSM, because I just don’t like this author.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @beta guy

            My point wasn’t that smart people can’t be creationist. It was that basic evolutionary concepts are pretty easy to understand. You don’t really need any technical information to understand the debate. Compare that to climate science where there are all these complicated models and reports that are hundreds of pages in length.

          • Anonymous says:

            Based on my high school experience with genetics 101, the average person cannot understand how evolution works without extreme efforts made to pound it into their heads. At best, you can make them understand it as “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”, but all that stuff about random mutation (popularly perceived as getting superpowers from radiation, rather than cancer), adaptation (popularly something like mutated Lamarckism) and speciation (which is fairly mystifying even to me) is going to get lost along the way.

          • My mistake, Wrong Species. I absolutely agree with you. Most people above a certain IQ threshold can intuitively understand evolution, same as economics, although some concepts need to be rehearsed and pounded repeatedly for the concept to REALLY stew.

            My point is that most people do not embrace this “pounding,” so no one really embraces the theory either. For me and economics, this means most of my business classmates thought rent control was a great idea by senior year, far more than you’d expect for people who all took Econ 101 and are business majors.

            What’s happening is that people don’t really hold this idea, IMO, and are just evaluating the credibility of different sources with only a superficial review of the ideas.

            IE: If I said “rent control” is a public good because XYZ, most of my senior year business students do not actually remember enough of their economics to evaluate this claim at any real level.

        • ShemTealeaf says:

          Just out of curiosity, does anyone have a suggestion for a place where I can find potentially compelling (or at least well written) arguments against evolution?

          • Jiro says:

            Evolution (and homeopathy) are the examples I always give when someone claims that people need to be able to understand their opponents’ good arguments.

            Not everything has a good argument.

          • Troy says:

            Just out of curiosity, does anyone have a suggestion for a place where I can find potentially compelling (or at least well written) arguments against evolution?

            The book Debating Design, ed. Dembski and Ruse, contains essays defending a variety of perspectives on creation and evolution. The Intelligent Design essayists in the book — William Dembski, Walter Bradley, Michael Behe, and Stephen Meyer — reject the consensus view of evolution to varying degrees.

            I haven’t read it, but you might also try Three Views on Creation and Evolution. I’ve read some other stuff by one of the Young Earth Creationist co-authors, John Mark Reynolds, and enjoyed it, although it was on culture and had nothing to do with biology.

            (I accept theistic evolution and do not find the creationist or Intelligent Design arguments in biology I’ve encountered persuasive, although I do endorse what some would call Intelligent Design arguments about the fine-tuning of physics.)

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @David Friedman:

          You really think the case against evolution is convincing? Is that what you just said?

          Or, are you making the argument that most people are too uneducated/unsophisticated/illogical/something to realize the case against evolution is not convincing?

          • I am arguing that most people have not followed either the arguments for or the arguments against carefully enough to justify their view.

            I wouldn’t be surprised if a majority of the population didn’t clearly understand what the substance of the theory was. GKC, a very bright man, apparently thought that the essential idea was gradual change–I could see no evidence in The Everlasting Man (a fun read, attacking both evolution and comparative religion) that he understood the Darwinian mechanism.

            I expect many, perhaps most, people could persuade themselves that the case against evolution was weak if they paid sufficient attention to the argument–but why should they? It’s much less trouble to simply believe whatever the authorities they trust tell them and congratulate themselves for their adherence to scientific (or religious) truth. It isn’t as if an incorrect belief on the subject is likely to affect any important decisions they make.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            This –
            “You read a book on each side and, if they are well written, each is convincing.”

            and this –
            “I am arguing that most people have not followed either the arguments for or the arguments against carefully enough to justify their view.”

            seem to be very different statements.

          • Anonymous says:

            They’re not. Reading a well-written book that proposes Lysenkoism, and accepting it as fact because it “seems legit” is not the same thing as investigating the various propositions, comparing them with data and seeing which is a best fit.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @anonymous:
            The second statement says, roughly, that they aren’t reading both books. Or perhaps either book.

            But even for the layman, reading any current book on evolution will show the great big holes in the current arguments against it.

            Sure, most people aren’t reading the books. But in a thread that is about “how do you decide between opposite sides of the debate” it seems weird to say that the argument against evolution is a convincing one. That’s not a statement about most people’s source of knowledge.

    • dndnrsn says:

      This is a hard one.

      I suppose that I am more likely to be willing to go against experts the more “soft” a subject is. This is due to the fact that my educational background is in the humanities (not really the “arts” humanities, though)and to a lesser extent the social sciences: I am better able to pick holes in something in the field of, say, history or sociology, than I am in physics or biology. Additionally, the softer something is, generally the more influenced by outside society something is. There are, of course, exceptions. Here I may of course be wrong, and am just less aware of institutional dogmas in the hard sciences.

      There are some fields, primarily in the social sciences, where the experts often seem to be doing something that is very much like theology: they have constructed systems that are internally coherent and consistent, but that do not line up with the outside world very well. At this point, it becomes reasonable to disagree with the experts without being an expert, just as it is reasonable to disagree with theologians without becoming a theologian.

      Additionally, I’m more willing to have an opinion contrary to the experts on things where day-to-day experience is more reliable. For instance, I’d be more willing to contradict nutritionists about how to lose weight than climate scientists about the causes of climate change.

      However, this is all ideal. My personal biases, emotions, self-interest, etc all presumably come into play.

    • Alexandra says:

      An interesting excersie can be to argue a position from facts given by the opposite side. This doesn’t work too well in some cases (religion, etc.), but can give some interesting results in more factual/outcome based debates.

    • JBeshir says:

      I tend to scale things down, and think of a meeting of intelligent people where everyone is asked to determine and then put forward their perspective and position on a matter which requires a judgement or response of some sort. The ultimate goal being to come to a consensus about what that judgement should be.

      If you’re in such a meeting, you want to try to get information, think on your own, and then report back with an argument for a certain judgement, and you’ll often want to do this on the basis of your particular best areas of expertise. And this holds even if you think other people’s opinions are likely to be more accurate than yours, or your area of expertise is not the most important one.

      And then you want to attend the meeting, and present your arguments to the pool, even if you expect them to be worse than other people’s, I think. Everyone putting forward their inside views enables everyone else to react to those inside views and change their own, and this I think works better than everyone just deferring to whoever, from an outside view, would be expected to be best.

      I think society works a lot like this, on a much larger and messier scale. Where questions of fact are controversial I’d expect confidence to usually be wrong, and am willing to bite the bullet on the idea that policy should be made accordingly.

      I think it is nevertheless valuable to put out your inside view- your own little effort to filter for truth before adjusting for others’ opinions- so that it can inform other people, though. Just advisable to act on the outside view. It would be better if people could conduct this process more respectfully.

      An important proviso: I think it is necessary to use prediction markets/bet exchanges as the measure of controversy to determine your outside view, or failing that what you’d *expect* a prediction market/bet exchange to do if one were possible. Polls of popular opinion have all kinds of complicated social/tribal crap going on and are very dubious as a measure of belief-that-actually-anticipates-experience. This means in some cases of disputes over fact, where I’d expect one side to be willing to bet almost arbitrarily huge amounts, confident they’re ripping off the other, and the other side to be averse to actually betting, I feel justified in having my “outside view” opinion align very solidly with the side I think would actually expect to make money betting on their position.

      I think public policy is more complicated, because the questions of fact it is over are only a little the ones actually talked about and are much more questions over what broad concerns would be best to give attention to, belief which isn’t actually belief-as-anticipation abounds, and that’s before you even start to consider coalition building for both benign and malign purposes, revealed preferences for silly discounting rates, and probably a lot of other complicating factors.

      • “I think public policy is more complicated, because the questions of fact it is over are only a little the ones actually talked about and are much more questions over what broad concerns would be best to give attention to”

        That’s how it is often presented, but I don’t think it’s usually true. The big disagreements are usually over what policies have what consequences.

        Consider the minimum wage question. Supporters of a large increase like to see it as “are you for or against poor people getting a decent wage.” But the fundamental argument against the increase is that it hurts poor people. That may or may not be correct, but it has nothing to do with “what broad concerns would be best to give attention to.”

        Similarly for health care, where each side believes its preferred policies produce more health for less money, drug laws, and lots of other issues.

        Or consider the invasion of Iraq. If the opponents had agreed with the supporters’ view that a little violence now would produce democracy and freedom in the Middle East, most would have been for it. If the supporters had correctly anticipated what actually happened, I doubt very many of them would have been.

        • John Beshir says:

          There certainly are big disagreements over consequences, but I think it mostly goes “concern -> support for thing affiliated with concern -> arguments that thing probably works” rather than “believes thing probably works -> support for thing -> hey I notice this broad concern is neglected” for the majority of people- at least once they’ve already arrived at a favourite concern and they have their hammer and are only looking for nails.

          Said hammer might be insufficient empathy for the needy, or insufficient pressure to stand for yourself, or insufficient respect for traditional ways of doing things and thinking, or insufficient attention to systemic effects of things, or excessive involvement in other people’s lives, or some such thing. Minimum wage got affiliated, and then the affiliation chose belief.

          I do think belief-that-anticipates is still involved, and tends to determine actual long-term retention of a policy, but it is a lot messier and I’d be very wary of trying to trust an outside view when social and tribal crap is dominating.

      • Paul Torek says:

        That was a very useful reframing of the problem/question.

      • iarwain1 says:

        If I remember correctly, the following article by Helen De Cruz makes similar points to some of what you’re saying: http://users.ox.ac.uk/~some3056/docs/DeCruz_DeSmedt_2013_SHPS.pdf

    • Nornagest says:

      You’re basically asking for a general procedure for epistemic rationality. That’s hard to produce; Eliezer wrote half a million words on it and I’m not sure he entirely succeeded. I’m pretty sure “least astonishment” is at the root of the solution, but it’s quite hard to figure out what to be astonished by, or to apply the heuristics you come up with consistently.

      That said, there are some heuristics I use:

      – Are both bodies of theory taking into account basic economic, social, or (sometimes) physical rules of thumb? For example: thermodynamics, or supply and demand. Special cases do exist, but they’re special: I’m much less skeptical of a theory that says a well-known heuristic doesn’t apply in certain cases for such-and-such a reason than of one that ignores it or glosses it over.

      – As a special case, does one theory have people frequently making irrational choices (in an extended economic sense), in contexts where e.g. temporal discounting doesn’t apply and where they should be aware of the irrationality? In particular, does it require something like a conspiracy? Group selectionism and its relatives are the usual culprits here, but note that conspiracy can be hard to distinguish from Molochian incentives.

      – Does one camp of experts seem to spend a disproportionate amount of time on policy implications? Be careful here, though: the press loves jumping to conclusions, and pretty often the coverage of a theory says things the theory itself doesn’t.

      – In the case of ethics and related fields, how malicious, prejudicical, or hateful does the theory require people to be? Does it have a “Those Fuckers” without offering proportional, well-rooted explanations?

      – Is there an obvious generation gap between experts? It doesn’t necessarily make either side right if there is, but it does make at least one side more likely to be driven by intellectual fashion rather than anything more rigorous.

      – Is one theory unique to a relatively small demographic group? Size and isolation are important here; Europe, America, and China are big places with relatively isolated academic traditions, so theories unique to them might be right. A theory unique to Mormons is probably wrong.

      – If the theory derives almost all its conclusions by extrapolating from reasonable-sounding but highly abstract axioms, what’s the ratio of empirical confirmations to special pleading? Doesn’t apply to mathematics, does apply to most things.

    • One way you can try to form an opinion is by finding arguments you can evaluate for yourself that you are reasonably confident are bogus and seeing how other people on that side of the debate treat them. I have discussed before the case of Cook et. al. 2013, which involves actual dishonesty. Possibly more interesting is a case where, so far as I know, the authors of two articles said nothing that was not true, but a careful read makes it clear that the articles were intended to persuade readers of something almost the precise opposite of the truth, and to do so for ideological reasons—to counter a true argument by the other side.

      The issue is the effect of increased CO2 on the yield of agricultural crops. It’s been known for a long time that high CO2 increases yield by quite a lot for C3 plants, which most crops are, by less for C4—the difference being in the mechanism for photosynthesis used by different plants.

      This presents a problem for people who want to argue that AGW will lead to food shortages. The solution to that problem appeared in two articles claiming that increased CO2 made some crops, in particular grain, less nutritious. I had a blog post on one of them, with links, and a comment on that post pointed out the other. The list of authors of the two is not identical but has a close overlap.

      The articles ignore the effect of CO2 on total yield and focus on the effect on the concentration of nutrients–the amount of the nutrient in a fixed amount of the crop. They found that for two nutrients, zinc and iron, the concentration is lower in grain grown under a high CO2 concentration. The title of one article is “Increasing CO2 Threatens Human Nutrition.”

      Combining their results with the results of published articles on the effect of CO2 on crop yield, the net effect of doubling CO2 is, roughly speaking, to increase the carbohydrate yield from a given acreage of grain by 30%, increase the zinc yield by 21%, increase the iron yield by 25%, increase eight other minerals in wheat by about 30%, increase protein by 24%. They report this as “threatens human nutrition” because they do their calculations assuming that people eat the same number of calories of the same crops as before, hence get less zinc and iron.

      As in my previous case, anyone who wants can check my claims. The first comment on my blog post has links to lots of articles giving the overall effect on yield, or you can find those for yourself with a little googling–the subject has been studied for decades, since increased CO2 is routinely used in greenhouses to increase yield. Another comment gives the link to the second paper. I quote a bit from it making it explicit that they are holding constant the number of calories of each crop people consume, thus eliminating the entire effect of the increase in total yield. My post is at:

      http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2015/12/how-to-lie-while-telling-truth-part-ii.html

      What is the relevance of this case to the overall climate argument? Obviously it does not demonstrate that AGW is false–and I don’t think it is. But the fact that people find it necessary to make a deliberately dishonest argument in order to obscure one of the positive effects of AGW is evidence that the argument for net negative effects is weaker than they pretend. The fact that the dishonest argument is picked up and echoed in the popular literature on the dangers of AGW is evidence that that popular literature is either dishonest or incompetent, hence ought not to be trusted. The views of most people who regard AGW as a terrible threat are based on that popular literature. That does not prove that AGW is not a terrible threat, but it is a good reason to reduce one’s confidence that it is.

      For another example of the same pattern, consider my blog post examining a piece in the New York Review of Books by William Nordhaus, an economist who has done a lot of work on the effects of warming. It was written to respond to a piece in the Wall Street Journal that argued that AGW was not a crisis requiring immediate action. In it Nordhaus gives his estimate of the net cost of waiting fifty years to do anything about AGW, relative to the alternative of taking the optimal action immediately. He gives it as $4.1 trillion dollars, and comments that “wars have been started over smaller sums.”

      The cost would, of course, be spread out over the world and a long period of time. Assuming he is including costs only for the rest of the century, $4.1 trillion dollars corresponds to a reduction of annual world GNP by about .06%. And this figure is given in order to argue that AGW is a crisis that requires immediate action.

      That does not prove that AGW is not such a crisis—Nordhaus’ estimate might be wrong. But the fact that, writing in a high profile publication, he presents his results in the way he does is a good reason to distrust the literature arguing for crisis. It is also a good reason distrust Nordhaus’ claim that there is no incentive for academics to bias their work on the subject, since he has quite obviously biased the presentation of his own work.

      The relevant blog post is:

      http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2014/03/contra-nordhaus.html

      All of these are reasons to distrust the literature on one side of the argument. There may, for all I know, be equally good reasons to distrust the literature on the other side. They should, like my two, be cases where you can convince yourself with reasonable confidence, on the basis of publicly available information that you can check, that work is bogus—it isn’t enough to find work that people on your side say is bogus, as was illustrated in the exchange over Lomborg here a week or so ago. Tthey should be cases where the work is being done by reasonably high profile sources, treated with respect by other people on that side of the argument.

      Suppose you find examples that meet that criterion. Your conclusion should then be to lower your confidence in both sides of the argument, to conclude that we do not know whether AGW poses a serious threat or not.

      One further comment … . Looking for arguments that you can evaluate for yourself and doing your best to make sense of them is a lot more fun than the debate by dueling authorities/peer reviewed articles that largely dominates the climate argument and, I suspect, many others. Also more educational.

      • Nathan says:

        Speaking as a fairly strong climate sceptic, allow me to offer an example from my own side of the debate. Lord Christopher Monckton, a populariser of sceptical science though not a scientist himself, likes to describe himself as a member of the House of Lords. The clerk of the House of Lords wrote an open letter saying he wasn’t and could he please stop saying he was.

        When confronted on this point by the media, I saw him produce his passport as proof, demonstrating that it described him as a Lord.

        “The clerk says I’m not, my passport says I am,” he declared, obviously and deliberately conflating the concepts of “Lord” and “member of the House of Lords”.

        I spoke to him privately following this, and he explained that he actually thinks that legally he is entitled to sit in the House of Lords and explained why he thought it was so. I’m no lawyer so I’m not going to attempt to repeat his argument here but it centered on the letters patent received by his family never being revoked. He thought he could win a case in court on the subject but was unwilling to commit to that expense.

        I don’t know if he’s right or wrong, but either way he demonstrated that he was willing to make a misleading and dishonest argument in support of a position he believed to be true. So accordingly I recommend that people apply a decent helping of scepticism to things he says.

    • I have been thinking about why my response to the controversy over evolution is different from my response to the climate controversy. In each case, one side claims that all of the informed opinion supports it. In the climate case, I view that as in part based on the deliberate confusion of two different claims—that AGW is real and that it is a serious threat. Reports of how many people “support the consensus” test belief in the former claim but get used to imply similar agreement on the latter. And in part, I see it as reflecting blue tribe dominance of the institutions whose views get reported and the media that report them.

      My view of that controversy is the result of having spent a good deal of time looking into the climate debate. I have made no such effort in the case of evolution. If an intelligent and persuasive creationist told me that a similar pattern explained the appearance of scientific consensus over that controversy, I would have no adequate rebuttal. So why do I accept the orthodox view on evolution but not on climate?

      The answer is not the evidence—I have only a casual layman’s knowledge of that. The answer is the internal logic of Darwinian evolution, which I can check inside my own head. It provides an elegant and internally consistent explanation for the appearance of design in living organisms.

      That does not prove it is the correct explanation. If I was confident that the world was the creation of a benevolent and omnipotent God, that would provide a reasonably plausible alternative. To reject it I would have to look at the evidence for evolution more carefully than I in fact have.

      But the best argument I know for the existence of a creator god is the watchmaker argument, that the existence of intricately designed organisms implies the existence of an extraordinarily able designer. Evolution provides an alternative explanation, so eliminates that argument. In its absence I see no good reason to believe in a creator god. Absent that belief, I have no argument for creationism, a plausible argument although not a proof for evolution. Hence I prefer the latter theory.

      If I ever encounter a sufficiently persuasive creationist I might want to put more time and energy into checking my impression that the evidence supports evolution, not only the fossil evidence, which can probably be explained away by a sufficiently well designed version of creationism, but the evidence from actual design. There seem to be a lot of features of organisms that fit the evolution story reasonably well, the creation story poorly. But I have not in fact looked into the evidence with any care or subjected it to criticism by someone on the other side.

      There is one further element which I am tempted to describe as aesthetic. Darwinian evolution is an elegant theory, a pretty theory. I like seeing the world in terms of elegant theories. That’s probably one of the reasons why economics, which shares a good deal of the logical structure of evolutionary biology, also appeals to me.

      • Cop Party says:

        Because you were skeptical of AGW, you looked closely into the claims in favor of it.

        You compare this to your belief in evolution, which you were not (or, were less) skeptical of because it made logical sense to you, and so you didn’t look as closely into claims in favor of evolution as you made into claims in favor of AGW.

        But for this to be a symmetrical comparison, wouldn’t there have had to be a preexisting alternative to AGW that struck you as logical, causing you to dismiss the more seemingly far-fetched AGW claims? Instead it seems like you investigated AGW claims and then came to your own conclusions, and only THEN discovered who already agreed with you.

        To make the comparison more symmetrical, you’d have to look as closely into creationist claims (from a Jewish perspective, perhaps?) as you did into AGW.

        (That’s exactly what I did, by the way, and my conclusion was that the creationism vs. evolution debate has been misframed, and that creationism–defined as “the portion of Genesis describing the creation of the world”–is perfectly compatible with evolution or any other well-regarded scientific theory, because they don’t actually compete on the same plane.)

        • In the climate case, you need to distinguish AGW from CAGW. AGW struck me as a priori plausible, given the mechanism of the greenhouse effect and the quite substantial increase in CO2 concentration with an obvious cause in human use of fossil fuels. So I never looked very carefully at the various claims that the temperature data were fake or the AGW claim for some other reason false. I regard AGW is a probably but not certainly true theory.

          But CAGW, the claim that warming on the scale suggested by AGW would have large net negative effects, did not strike me as plausible, although not as impossible. As I usually put it, the current climate was not designed for us nor we for it and humans currently prosper across a range of climates much larger than the projected change. Insofar as I had an opinion based on the logic of the theory, CAGW struck me as probably wrong. Hence I had an incentive to look critically at arguments for it. Some of the results I’ve described already.

          On your second point … . A possible theory, and one that would be attractive if I believed in a creator god, is that he created the world with Darwinian evolution as the mechanism for developing organisms. That would be consistent with both theism and all the evidence for evolution. But that isn’t what “creationism” is usually taken to mean.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            In the climate case, you need to distinguish AGW from CAGW. AGW struck me as a priori plausible, given the mechanism of the greenhouse effect and the quite substantial increase in CO2 concentration with an obvious cause in human use of fossil fuels. So I never looked very carefully at the various claims that the temperature data were fake or the AGW claim for some other reason false. I regard AGW is a probably but not certainly true theory.
            But CAGW, the claim that warming on the scale suggested by AGW would have large net negative effects, did not strike me as plausible, although not as impossible.

            Your CAGW depends on how far in the future you set your net and whether you count the dis-utiities of AWG in the meantime (and assume that the obvious negative effects will ever be outweighed and unknown unknowns wlll not turn up).

          • “Your CAGW depends on how far in the future you set your net”

            True.

            When I wrote Future Imperfect, which is about possible technological revolutions and the issues they raise, I mostly limited myself to about thirty years in the future, on the grounds that things got too uncertain thereafter, largely due to technological change. I think basing decisions now on guesses about what will be happening a century from now almost never makes sense. The one possible exception that occurs to me is the threat of asteroid strikes, since we can actually calculate orbits out for centuries, and I’m not confident that we will have the ability to deflect an asteroid a century from now, although we might.

            So most of my analysis of CAGW is limited to the rest of this century and I think even the far end of that is pretty iffy. Nordhaus, who is one of the main people who has worked on the net consequences, comments somewhere that none of his estimates after (I think) 2050 are worth much.

            If I believed that our current civilization was static, that things in most non-climate respects would be about the same a century from now, I would be more willing to take very long run effects seriously. I think a lot of people implicitly make that assumption–and shouldn’t.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ David Friedman
            So most of my analysis of CAGW is limited to the rest of this century and I think even the far end of that is pretty iffy.

            Hm? But your large positive of Siberia growing warmer climate crops would take much longer than that (assuming it ever worked, with the difference in soil, rainfall, etc). The dis-utilities are beginning already. Eighty years (or even 100) would not heal the social disruptions (even if the warmer Siberia could in theory physically support the refugees from the becoming-too-warm, and/or flooded out, areas).

          • Cop Party says:

            Oops, you’re right, I meant CAGW.

            Re. my second point, you’re still treating them as being on the same plane, though it’s true that I’m probably defining “creationism” differently than those who are caught up in the “creationism vs. evolution” debate. But that’s my point: the whole debate is misframed, and I see it therefore as a non-issue.

          • @houseboatonstyx:

            I would expect the cultivable area to expand gradually towards the pole, and the increase in usable area from that, as best I can estimate it, is a couple of orders of magnitude greater than the (also gradual) decrease due to sea level rise.

            For one piece on the usability of land currently at the northern edge, see:

            http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/livestock/beef/news/info_vbn0713a4.htm

            “The dis-utilities are beginning already. ”

            The IPCC seems to have a hard time finding them. Their latest report retracted the claim of a link between AGW and drought. Hurricanes don’t seem to have been more common than in the past. They do more damage because there is more coastal property for them to damage. The extinction claim has been watered down to a few species (out of millions) plus the warning that climate change in the past has sometimes led to extinctions.

            And the increase in CO2 so far should have pushed up the yield of C3 crops by ten or twenty percent, as well contributing to a general greening of the globe.

            What substantial, measurable, disutility were you thinking of? There have been some increases in heat waves–but also decreases in very cold winters.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ David Friedman
            Their latest report retracted the claim of a link between AGW and drought.

            All drought worldwide, over the last how many years?

          • @Houseboat:

            “An assessment of the observational evidence indicates that the AR4 conclusions regarding global increasing trends in hydrological droughts since the 1970s are no longer supported. … we conclude there is low confidence in attributing changes in drought over global land since the mid-20th century to human influence.”

            AR5 Chapter 10 second draft. I haven’t actually checked to make sure it’s in the final draft.

          • James Picone says:

            [current costs of warming]
            I remember seeing graphs of losses from natural disasters normalised to some year dollars as estimated by a reinsurance company floating around, but I haven’t been able to dig it up. I have found this report, which appears to be from a banking organisation (“Established on 17 May 1930, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) is the world’s oldest international financial organisation. The BIS has 60 member central banks, representing countries from around the world that together make up about 95% of world GDP.”).

            Contains this text:

            Natural catastrophes resulting in significant financial losses have become more frequent over the past three decades (Kunreuther and Michel-Kerjan (2009), Cummins and Mahul (2009)). The year 2011 witnessed the greatest natural
            catastrophe-related losses in history, reaching $386 billion (Graph 1, top panel). The trend in loss developments can be attributed in large measure to weather-related events (Graph 1, bottom right-hand panel). And losses have been compounded by rising wealth and increased population concentration in exposed areas such as coastal regions and earthquake-prone cities.

            Any trend in losses is somewhat unclear in the graphs (which are normalised to 2011 dollars, I think that mitigates the ‘we’re losing more because we’re richer’ argument), they’re very noisy (hurricane katrina is very visible, as is what I assume is this earthquake) and presented as bar graphs. Trend in frequency of meterological disasters is pretty clearly significant. Speculate, conclude, and/or find better data as you will.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            Picone:

            which are normalised to 2011 dollars, I think that mitigates the ‘we’re losing more because we’re richer’ argument

            Adjusting for inflation is not nearly sufficient. The trouble is that as humanity gets richer, more populous, and more clever at building stuff, there is more stuff for storms to destroy. New housing developments are regularly built near beaches, in low-lying flood-prone areas or up on cliffs that can slide down the hill. When some area goes from NO houses to a dozen or a hundred houses, the growth in how much damage a really bad storm there can do grows by quite a lot more than the rate of inflation.

          • James Picone says:

            @Glen Raphael:
            Ah, right, yes. I was about to post something about how I thought that’s what inflation was, and then something clicked and I realised that that would imply that we had as much wealth in 5000 BC as we do today, corrected for inflation, which is obvious nonsense. I guess to the first order normalising against gross world product would do the trick? I don’t know, I don’t really have any knowledge of economics. (‘Clearly’, you think to yourself), I was mostly pointing towards useful data rather than making an argument here.

            Also we’d need data on spend on adaptation measures, I imagine. If losses from weather events are stable (suitably normalised) but spend on, iunno, dikes (suitably normalised) is trending upwards than the economic burden of weather stuff is increasing.

          • “I remember seeing graphs of losses from natural disasters normalised to some year dollars as estimated by a reinsurance company floating around, but I haven’t been able to dig it up.”

            MunichRe, perhaps?

            There is a graph of theirs of number of weather catastrophes sometimes posted as evidence of the effect of AGW. Taken that way, it’s clearly unbelievable, since it shows total number of disasters more than doubling over a period when global temperature rose by about half a degree.

            If you check back to the source, it turns out it is only showing catastrophes for which there was an insurance payout, so is largely reflecting the increase in insurance coverage over the period.

            I don’t remember if they also have the graph you describe but it wouldn’t surprise me. You would again have to check on whether it is limited to insured losses.

    • It’s pretty hard to avoid going with the majority of experts, that’s more or less what’ happening when you get medical treatment, and so on.

    • James Picone says:

      For most fields there’s a level of understanding that allows for evaluating some claims while still being weaker than the level of expertise actual experts have. Getting to that point takes effort, of course, but for some fields it’s worth it. Examples: Only very minor understanding of physics is required to sport blatant violations of the second law of thermodynamics, and if you spot one it’s a definite ‘bang you’re dead’ moment. Similarly you don’t need much expertise to know that conservation of momentum is probably not going to be overturned very soon. You can be rationally skeptical of the Cannae drive despite all the excitement and people who’ve studied more physics than me looking at it, because reactionless drives break a lot of the rules. I haven’t studied formal logic in anything like the detail Alvin Plantinga has, but his modal form of the ontological argument is very obviously a semantic game if you develop any understanding of modal logic.

      Another strategy is to look for crank magnetism. Some false beliefs have a weird habit of clustering. People who think the moon landings were faked, for example, are much more likely to have some JFK conspiracy theory as well. There’s a whole cluster of mystical/woo stuff that tends to occur together; if you know nothing about Reiki but discover it’s closely associated with homeopathy and antivax stuff that’s a strong signal that there’s nothing there.

  3. Deiseach says:

    “Unsong” is excellent (to date) and warms the cockles of my esoteric tradition dilettante heart 🙂

    Not even Epiphany yet and I’ve already managed to break my new year’s resolution “I will be nicer online and not such a thundering bitch”. Apologies to all at whom I’ve snarled! I am trying but you know, circumstances.

    Third time trying to put this snippet up, maybe better luck here than elsewhere.

    I’ve never known why “Bronze Age” is considered such a crushing put-down; I’m perfectly happy with the Bronze Age, that’s where I get my eye colour from!

    Sequencing the genome of an early woman farmer, who lived near Belfast 5,200 years ago, showed her majority ancestry originated in the Middle East, where agriculture was invented.

    Sequencing the genomes of three men whose bodies dated from the Bronze Age about 4,000 years ago showed one-third of their ancestry came from the Pontic steppe on the shores of the Black Sea.

    The woman farmer had black hair, brown eyes and resembled southern Europeans, according to the researchers.

    In contrast, the three men, who were from Rathlin Island, had the most common Irish Y chromosome type, blue eyes alleles and the most important variant for the genetic disease haemochromatosis, or excessive iron retention.

  4. Anaxagoras says:

    I read over Leah Libresco’s 2015 Ideological Turing Test (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked/2015/04/2015-ideological-turing-test-index-post.html), and I noticed something really interesting about the answers to the questions for Christians. If I classified them according to MTG color pie philosophy, the answers from Christians were all green, and the answers from non-Christians were mostly white, and all non-green.

    I showed the answers to friends knowledgeable about the color pie, and though our classifications somewhat differed, they all produced the same split. Obviously, Christian philosophy is very heterogenous, so this may be partially coincidental, but there definitely seems to be something there. Any thoughts on this?

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      You are going to have to define MTG color pie; it sounds like divine law versus utilitarian is the split you are highlighting.

    • pumpkin color pie says:

      You’re on to something there! Green is the color of a *lot* of traditional philosophies. “Moderns” (not my favorite word, but you know what I mean, even if it’s a pejorative people don’t ever call themselves) have trouble comprehending them because we have difficulty with the idea of a natural order, which is a very green idea in Magic terms. It’s widely considered (in MTG circles) the hardest color for most people to really identify with philosophically. I’m a philosophical Confucian, which is a pretty Bant ideology, and a Catholic, which is *also* pretty Bant (even if pop culture thinks we’re Orzhov…)

      After typing the above (except the last two sentences which I typed later), I looked at the first Ideological Turing Test page to see what you mean, and two out of the three Christian answers literally used the words “natural order”. I swear I typed that before looking at it.

      (For those who aren’t Magic nerds, color combinations have shorthand names based on the lore. Bant is White/Blue/Green, Orzhov is White/Black, and see http://humpheh.com/magic/c/ for a handy interactive guide to all of them.)

      • DrBeat says:

        I’m a philosophical Confucian, which is a pretty Bant ideology, and a Catholic, which is *also* pretty Bant

        You never go full Bant.

        Also, I feel all these color pie discussions are hampered by the fact we never got rundowns of what the wedges actually believe, unlike every other color combination. I might be Abzan, except what the hell is Abzan? Nobody knows. It is a mystery.

        • Anaxagoras says:

          I think the pairs, shards, and wedges don’t necessarily have one defined philosophy. The Simic are blue/green, and they’re all about improving nature through science. But Kruphix is also blue/green, and he’s about using all the knowledge of Theros to preserve the natural order against catastrophe.

          There’s a lot of ways to fall into one color; there’s even more ways to fall into several. If you’re WBG, it’s not necessarily because, like the Abzan, you venerate the spirits of your ancestors preserved in ancient trees. It’s because the dominant elements of your philosophy align with parts of white, green, and black.

      • I used to mock the people who got overly attached to their color choices, until I read some MaRo article (I forget which one) that enumerated the philosophies associated with each color. And then I realized that my preferred colors to play with are White and Green… and those were exactly the philosophies that I most strongly identified with. (And I despise the philosophies of Red and Blue. Black I am neutral on.)

        Not Selesnya though: too hippie. I like Bant, Simic, Orzhov, and Golgari to varying degrees.

        • Bugmaster says:

          Huh, I personally identify the most with Esper, but my favorite decks are token decks, which is more of a White/Green thing. I think this makes sense: a token deck can be quite powerful, but you wouldn’t want to live inside one…

        • pumpkin color pie says:

          There’s a troublesome ambiguity between the shorthand names for color combinations, which is what most people use things like “Selesnya” as, and the actual organizations in the Magic lore, which are just one particular ideological expression of those colors. You can be GW without being a hippie – you could be a GW New Phyrexian that believes in killing and eating anything weaker than yourself so that the world may be joined in one flesh.

          • Anaxagoras says:

            Yeah, I find it kind of interesting how New Phyrexia seems mostly dominated by WUG. Would be funny for them to meet what’s left of Bant itself.

            I’m not sure how much personal color pie fit matches with favorite colors to play. I’m pretty blue, but my favorite decks have been RW. Admittedly, they’re control decks (yay Skred!), but still. The colors are mechanically broad enough to support most play styles.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          I played Magic: The Gathering a little (I mean, a very little) when I was in middle school and maybe a little bit in high school, but I never got into the color wheel stuff. I just spent some time reading through all the little articles on it, and it is an interesting, insightful, and original way of laying things out.

          I didn’t understand or play the game at any complex level, but I remember (from looking up the list of decks just now) having the “Mind Swarm” deck from “Darksteel” and the “Little Bashers” deck from “Mirrodin”. Those were both set on some kind of metallic world.

          I either used only the black deck or combined it with some white cards. (I liked the idea of combining black and white.)

          Philosophically, I fall at the exact meeting point between black and blue. Interestingly, according to the wheel, that places me diametrically opposed to green, which is correct.

          Blue represents enlightenment and black represents self interest, so the combination represents enlightened self-interest. People have the ability and need to shape their own lives and their own destinies through the use of reason; in this way they can perfect themselves and achieve their own ends. Black and blue fundamentally share the idea of free will and individual mastery.

          At the same time, knowledge isn’t valuable for its own sake or for the good of the collective; it is valuable for the personal benefits it brings. And the course of action that promotes one’s actual interest isn’t a matter of whim; it is determined by reason. Therefore, I reject the white side of blue and the red side of black.

          Of course, white and red aren’t completely opposed to blue and black. Social order is valuable insofar as it serves the needs of the individual (and society is especially for aggregating knowledge), but individuals do not exist to serve society. And emotions are not to be ignored, but they ought to be subordinated to reason and long-term goals.

          Green is the one I’m completely opposed to: nature, tradition, determinism, “acceptance” of one’s place in the status quo. This is not only on a philosophical but also an emotional level: I always disliked “rugged” nature and never thought much of the “natural beauty” of the world in contrast the artificial achievements of the human mind. Of course one ought to understand the way things are, but the point is not to “accept” the natural world. Rather, the point is to conquer nature, to master it, and to direct it toward the service of oneself. Green completely reverses the order of things.

          Someone said Francis Bacon was the combination of blue and white, but his most famous aphorism reflects perfectly the combination of blue and black: “knowledge is power.”

          I also quite like this little passage from the article on black:

          Black can’t stand when others seem to reject the basic truths of life. For example, there are those who are willing to do things not for the good of themselves but rather for the good of others at the expense of themselves. Black considers these individuals to be idiots; dangerous idiots, because they take away black’s ability to motivate them. Fear, pain, threat of death—what do you do when individuals would rather suffer than do what you want them to do?

          Black is baffled by the various self-made forces that get people to act against their own self-interest. On one level, black is intrigued, wondering if there are things it could learn from these forces in order to fool individuals into believing they want to do what black needs them to do. But these forces also scare black, because they undercut many of the certainties black has built its entire philosophy around.

          Okay, in real life I do not think that “fear, pain, threat of death” are the best ways to motivate people. But it reminds me very much of arguments from Ayn Rand / Leonard Peikoff that dictatorship and totalitarianism could never result merely from amoral and short-sighted self-interest, but in fact rely upon a large group of people willing to put “Gemeinnutz vor Eigennutz”. Unenlightened selfishness is bad but not really dangerous—it’s petty criminality. It’s selflessness and blind devotion to duty that’s the real danger.

          And this one speaks for itself:

          Black’s philosophy is very simple: There’s no one better suited to look after your own interests than you. Therefore, if everyone looks out after their own interests, you’ve created a system where everyone has someone looking out for them. In addition, black’s system allows everyone the opportunity to succeed. Will everyone succeed? Of course not—but once again, that’s not black’s doing. That’s just how the world works.

          Other thoughts:

          —M:TG predictably sets up the familiar dichotomy between white’s “sacrifice self to others” and black’s “sacrifice others to self”. But hey, it’s a game, and black’s “parasitism” is fun thematically.
          —Magic is obviously…not real, but necromancy has strong parallels to things like vivisection of animals and dissection of the dead. Black-and-blue is definitely the philosophy of “body-snatching” anatomists.
          —Like virtually all works in this regard, in M:TG black is presented as being solely concerned with the self but the depicted characters don’t seem very good at actually achieving long-run success. People want to say that self-interest is not only evil but not in your self-interest, which is an…interesting…position.
          —They say black is not concerned with sadism for its own sake, then consistently depict it as being just like that.
          —The flavor behind Dimir—the guild representing Blue and Black—is really lame: “secretive guild of plotters”, how original!
          —”Reaction” is definitely a green philosophy which takes on either white or white/black flavors. That’s why I hate it so much! It is the ideology of “blood and soil”.
          —”Identity politics” is also green, as is “deep ecology”. Regular environmentalism falls somewhere between blue, white, and green. The blue side wants to control and mitigate the harmful effects of nature, the green side wants to worship nature, and the white side says the government should be in charge of coordinating it all.
          —Belief that coordination problems are the main source of evil in the world is white. Belief that it is irrationality and lack of independent thought is blue. Belief that it is laziness, lack of ambition, and servility is black. Belief that it is lack of respect for the natural order and discontent with one’s station is green. Belief that it is not being in touch with your feelings is stupid red.
          —”Selling your soul to the devil” (a common theme for black) seems to me the epitome of red-type short-term thinking.
          —The article on black portrays it as highly motivated by a belief in psychological egoism: that everyone is completely selfish anyway and they simply recognize it. But all black really has to say is that self-interest is a firmer and more dependable motive than selflessness; not that people are always completely selfish, but that they are rarely as selfless as they say they are (because they have no reason to be, when push comes to shove).
          Liliana, Defiant Necromancer is pretty cool. Edit: compare the facial expression to my avatar.

          • Anaxagoras says:

            Things didn’t turn out too great for the metal world:
            https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/24/87/1f/24871fc05efb47dc6ce4b40020072786.jpg
            http://media.wizards.com/images/magic/daily/arcana/709_mortisdogs.jpg
            http://media.wizards.com/images/magic/som/factionwars/hotspots/lg/131604d.jpg
            http://www.artofmtg.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Lifes-Finale-Art.jpg

            Yeah, the Dimir aren’t the most original take on UB. Wizards does seem to struggle to do much with that color combination. Racism and other identitarian things are definitely in green, and a WGB group in a recent set was explicitly said to get a lot of its good elements from the black mana in it, such as not excluding capable outsiders, and supporting merit over species.

            The color pie really is surprisingly good for a trading card game alignment system.

          • Mark Z. says:

            —Like virtually all works in this regard, in M:TG black is presented as being solely concerned with the self but the depicted characters don’t seem very good at actually achieving long-run success.

            They’ve gotten more comfortable with letting black actually succeed at stuff in recent years (Liliana Vess in particular is doing pretty well for herself). That said, going mono-black has some serious failure modes. One is that in the course of running around looking for stuff to throw out of the plane to make it go faster, you can throw out the engine by mistake. Another is that nobody trusts you.

            —The flavor behind Dimir—the guild representing Blue and Black—is really lame: “secretive guild of plotters”, how original!

            They did a much better job in the Innistrad sets, which were based on Gothic/monster-movie horror, and blue and black were indeed the colors of body-snatching anatomists.

            —”Selling your soul to the devil” (a common theme for black) seems to me the epitome of red-type short-term thinking.

            Except red NEVER sells its soul. Red’s soul bows to nobody. Its mind is not for rent to any god or government.

            For black it’s not simple shortsightedness, but a calculated risk. You gotta John Constantine that shit. Like, make the kind of contract where the devil gets your soul when you die, and then make sure the devil dies before you do. (Again, Liliana Vess.) You have a plan going in but you have to assume the devil also has a plan, and if it’s faster or sneakier than yours, you lose. Which is a pretty good description of the game in general.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            They’ve gotten more comfortable with letting black actually succeed at stuff in recent years (Liliana Vess in particular is doing pretty well for herself). That said, going mono-black has some serious failure modes. One is that in the course of running around looking for stuff to throw out of the plane to make it go faster, you can throw out the engine by mistake. Another is that nobody trusts you.

            Well, that’s just the sort of short-run vs. long-run thinking. If you stab everyone in the back the first chance you get, you may do well at first, but then you’re worse off precisely because no one trusts you.

            It’s like playing Diplomacy. If you’re the kind of guy who always stabs his allies, allies will be harder to find in future games than if you keep your agreements no matter what. Of course, that kind of metagaming is no fun where the whole point is the joy of backstabbing people…

            M:TG is a game, of course, and “paranoia” is the flavor of black. But if the idea is “victory at all costs” and your typical strategy works very poorly…maybe you ought to consider “effective egoism”.

            For black it’s not simple shortsightedness, but a calculated risk. You gotta John Constantine that shit. Like, make the kind of contract where the devil gets your soul when you die, and then make sure the devil dies before you do. (Again, Liliana Vess.) You have a plan going in but you have to assume the devil also has a plan, and if it’s faster or sneakier than yours, you lose. Which is a pretty good description of the game in general.

            I was referring to how a “deal with the devil” is presented in the broader culture. It does make more sense in M:TG, where one can realistically hope to kill devils.

            Also, I like that Lilliana Vess is an anagram of “a villainess”. Very Scott Alexandrian.

        • Kevin says:

          Maybe this means that drafting a lot is the equivalent of learning to keep your identity small. I can enjoy playing all colors almost equally at this point, after a concerted effort to learn the strategies of the ones I used to play less often.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        This is going to be the geekiest thing I’ve ever said on SSC…

        Christianity was originally Selesnya. If Roman Catholicism is Bant, it’s because of philosophical changes since the Great Schism (Scholasticism, the Jesuits, Descartes). When the philosophes turned against Christianity, Blue was the only color they consistently kept.
        Islam and Hinduism both see themselves as Selesnya, I’d say.

        When you look at Magic cards, the archetypes each color is typically evoking is religion and chivalry for White, evil for Black, New Age environmental woo for Green, anarchy and violence for Red. Blue iconography is harder to pin down, but has affinities with the Enlightenment/magic-as-science. If he’d found magic to be real, Francis Bacon would have been Azorius

        • pumpkin color pie says:

          That’s something of an unkind stereotype. Christianity has deep roots in blue. Augustine is very much Azorius, for example. Many of the Church Fathers think very blue. Christ himself ordered his followers to “be perfect”.

          But the green part is what’s hard for enlightenment-types to get. They end up thinking things like “they can’t value blue, they have all these incomrehensible GREEN values!”.

          • Nicholas says:

            While I’m definitely assuming some things about LMC here, when I contrast “original” Christianity with Catholicism, I’m talking about the pre-Council cult of ~1BC to ~100AD. How blue do you think the Apostolic Fathers were on their own?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I think part of this is that the M:TG color wheel (shockingly!) is not a universally valid typology.

            Christianity has always said that you should strive to be perfect (blue) and hope for the salvation of your individual soul and the attainment of perfect happiness (black) by loving the creator and ruler of nature who made you and inherently deserves your obedience (green) and following strict moral rules (white).

            But (especially) early Christianity stressed that you should achieve this mainly by faith and trust in God (which is not even really a color; it’s closest to green but is not the same as instinct). The Catholic Church gradually emphasized the necessity of strict hierarchy (white) and developed a higher view of the competence of natural reason (blue).

            The Protestant Reformation said that every man ought to investigate the Bible for himself (blue, black insofar as not-white), but totally rejected natural reason—for the first century at least—and embraced complete determinism and the rejection of free will (green).

            It is true that the Enlightenment totally rejected the green part of Christianity and focused hard on blue. This is seen not only in science but in politics. Previously, everyone just thought that kings were natural rulers, that having a government with a king was just “the natural order” and part of the “Great Chain of Being”. But with people like Hobbes, Locke, and the American Founders, government was something you had to justify and explain the creation of by man. “Natural rights” is arguably an element of green, but can more easily be seen as blue insofar as it’s an individualistic concept based on reason.

            With people like Hobbes and Machiavelli, there’s also a strong black element of “we didn’t make people selfish; that’s just how things are.” Machiavelli is the stereotype of blackness. As such, he’s as friendly to red as he is to blue, having said such things as that fortune is a woman and therefore has to be held down and beaten (!) by young men who take the initiative rather than old men who plan.

  5. Muga Sofer says:

    Typo thread!

    new interludes some Wednesday

    “new interludes some Wednesdays”

    • Jon Gunnarsson says:

      Maybe Scott actually meant that there will be one Wednesday some time in the future on which all interludes will be posted :=)

  6. Multiheaded, I’m not an expert on immigration law, but what if you came to the United States on a tourist visa and then tried to claim that you would be persecuted if you went back to Russia? My understanding is that even if you lose it will take the government a long, long time to actually kick you out. Your major problem might be getting employment if you don’t have the legal right to live here, but millions of illegal non-English speaking immigrants manage this somehow so it can’t be that hard.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Please don’t encourage illegal immigration.

      • anon says:

        Why not?

        • Vox Imperatoris says:
          • Jiro says:

            Using King as an example is a cheat, because of the taboo against criticizing him. If I were to argue that it is correct to oppose criminals as a class (at least under Western legal systems) including King, I would be opposed by tons of people who defend King for unprincipled reasons.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jiro:

            Are you saying you do oppose King? Or you support him? For unprincipled reasons? It’s hard to interpret your comment.

            But let me just respond to the hypothetical you who opposes King’s civil disobedience because it’s breaking the law, and the law is the social contract and the foundation of all social order, and if anyone feels free to break it whenever he disagrees, there will be chaos. Besides, the law is the will of the people and of society, and since society made you, it can tell you what to do. Basically the Crito argument.

            It’s a terrible argument, especially for the situation of illegal immigration. For one thing, if illegal immigrants “obey the law”, they don’t get to live in our society, so it ought not to matter to them whether they allegedly undermine the social order to some extent by breaking it. And of course they’re not part of society and it didn’t make them, so that part of the argument has no force.

            But more importantly (and this applies to all forms of lawbreaking), people justifiably break the law all the time when they judge strict adherence to it to be immoral or unnecessarily burdensome. For example, almost everyone drives a little above the speed limit—and this is not thought immoral where it does not endanger others. No business (such as a restaurant) could possibly comply with all government regulations on it. People give homecooked food to the homeless even though it violates health codes in many places. And if you catch your child with marijuana, you don’t turn him in to the police.

            Strict adherence to the law would cause the collapse of society far quicker than widespread breaking of it. Maybe in a sense this would be good, as we would have no other choice but to change the laws. But it’s a very destructive way to go about it. (Not to mention completely contrary to human nature.) For instance, Murray Rothbard once argued that black marketeers were the biggest drivers of the success of communism: without them, the whole thing really would have collapsed in short order. However, it seems absurd to me to blame the black marketeers from doing their best to survive under that system.

            The only way a strong presumption in favor of obeying the law (even when you think it is wrong) could be justified, as I see it, would be if a) individuals were typically much worse judges of a law’s wrongness than society as a whole and consequently b) when people break a law they judge to be immoral or unnecessary, they almost always act against their own best interest and/or the good of society. Neither of those things are true, in my judgment.

            For one thing, almost all morally contemptible lawbreaking is done by people who do not reject the law in question as a general rule. The typical murderer does not think murder is a “victimless crime” that ought generally to go unpunished. They don’t even, in the vast majority of cases (and I would argue, all cases) make a rational judgement of the selfish benefits of murder. They act out of blind emotion or short-sighted greed, not misguided moral principle.

            So I find it hard to see how widespread acceptance of the idea that one’s own conscience comes before the law will lead to chaos. The vast majority of all dangerous lawbreakers don’t act out of any sense of conscience. Now, you might say “What about Muslim terrorists?” But, provided someone truly believes that he is a slave of Allah and that sharia is the will of Allah, how could “respect for the law” possibly convince him that man’s law takes precedence over God’s law?

            Besides, the whole thing is circular anyway. What faculty but individual judgment could lead someone to determine that he has a duty to obey the law, whatever it says? If it’s tradition, he has to accept the tradition as worth following. Yet if individual judgment is valid in this case, why is it not valid in any other? All you can do is make the (dubious) case for the good consequences of following the law no matter what, which the individual weighs against the reasons for breaking the law. Only the individual can decide. Thought and action are capacities of the individual.

          • Timothy Coish says:

            Martin Luther King Jr was also an unrepentant and consistent plagiarist. Would you defend a plagiarist out of hand by comparing him to MLK? If not, please do not detract from the issue at hand by making a weird hybrid appeal to emotion combined with appeal to authority.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Timothy Coish:

            I was linking to Scott’s article on the non-central fallacy by using the example he used. If you don’t like it, take it up with him.

            Besides, the point of the example is that King is liked precisely because he was a “criminal”. That is, he had the courage to lead protests against Jim Crow even when they were in violation of the law (which operated under the color of neutral purposes like “not obstructing traffic” to deny them permission to protest). His “criminality” is an essential part of what he is praised for: see “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”.

            On the other hand, plagiarism (and adultery) are not what is praised for. At worst, these transgressions completely undermine his accomplishments. At best, he was a great man in spite of these failures. But in either case they detract from his greatness. But no one says “King was a great man, despite his criminal behavior that tarnished his image.” The “criminality” is to his credit.

            No one would say: “Plagiarism isn’t wrong! After all, King did it!” At most, some might say: “A plagiarist is not necessarily a completely evil person. After all, King was a plagiarist.” That a great man had a vice does not prove (or even semi-persuasively argue for the view) that it was not a vice at all. It merely shows that one can be great despite being flawed.

            The same kind of analysis applies to a figure like George Washington and the fact that he owned slaves. You can argue either that he was a great man despite having owned slaves, or that his owning of slaves is sufficient to undermine his greatness. But for both sides, the owning of slaves serves as a defect. No one (except Confederates hiding under a rock somewhere) says that he was great because of his connection to slavery. So he can hardly serve to put slavery in a better light. (Again, except by refuting the naive position that slaveowners were all demons with no redeeming qualities.)

      • Lightman says:

        Making an asylum claim isn’t illegal. It would only become illegal if he stayed after his claim was denied.

    • multiheaded says:

      I’m not an expert on immigration law, but what if you came to the United States on a tourist visa

      Am young, legally male, unmarried, employed but poor + in a poor country, no travel history, no college degree as of yet (I’m working on it…)

      I don’t think I have a better shot at an American tourist visa than I had at a Canadian one.

      • So you couldn’t legally travel to, say, Disney World?

        • multiheaded says:

          Hell if I know. For the Canada attempt, I bought a ticket to a major hockey game in Toronto for the relevant weekend, and submitted proof of that with my visa application. Still didn’t work.

          (I’m reselling the ticket.)

          (also, am not *that* young; turned 25 in October)

        • Anonymous says:

          If you aren’t from a visa waiver country (basically the first world) in order to get a tourist visa you need to go into a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and convince an immigration official that you have a permanent home that you have no intention of abandoning.

          Even if you apply for a student visa you still need to go to an interview and prove non-immgrant intent. H1Bs allow dual intent but a) they are oversubscribed and b) no degree makes it unlikely to qualify for a specialty occupation.

      • Slow Learner says:

        I don’t know if you’ve looked at the UK? I know that gender identity is recognised as one of the things that can cause someone to need asylum here. I am led to believe that entering the UK on a tourist visa is reasonably achievable for Russian citizens, at which point an application could be made.

      • vV_Vv says:

        I know some Russians who moved to various EU countries as college students and then got a job and stayed there.

        I doubt you can pull the asylum thing anywhere, as it’s reserved to people coming from war zones or subject to ethnic cleansing or personal political persecution. You would have a hard time arguing with an immigration officer who is motivated to keep you out that you would face legal persecution in Russia for being trans (and this assuming that you actually manage to convince the officer that you are really trans and not just pretending in order to claim refugee status).

        Therefore, if you want to live in a country other than Russia, you need to go through the regular immigration process.

        • multiheaded says:

          That’s not so; queer people from hostile countries are granted asylum both by UN convention and in practice, although of course some host nations are very unfriendly/reluctant.

          I’ve seen stats for Canada from ~5 years back: the rate of approval for asylum requests from Russian citizens (filed from within Canada) was around 40 pecent. (no info as to how many of those were LGBT-related + in good faith)

          • vV_Vv says:

            That’s not so; queer people from hostile countries are granted asylum both by UN convention and in practice

            But Russia is not Saudi Arabia where people can be arrested, lashed or executed for homosexuality or “cross-dressing”. If I understand correctly, in Russia transgenderism is not illegal per se. Arguing that you would face persecution would be probably difficult.

          • multiheaded says:

            There is omnipresent hostility (some of it by government-sponsored groups), massively damaged employment prospects, government censorship in the guise of preventing “the promotion of LGBT lifestyles to minors”, oh and the legal system specifically forbids LGBT individuals from being recognized under anti-hate-crimes law. I would be very, very fucking afraid of going out or interacting with an official as a non-passing trans woman.

            Speaking of which, for anything bureaucracy-related you either have to pass as your ASAB (or have trouble with the “mismatch”) or submit to institutionalization, be at the mercy of uncooperative doctors who’d try to dissuade you, and not infrequently be ordered by the court to have SRS before your legal gender marker is changed (due to no legal procedure for legal transition ever having been formalized).

            You are honestly so asinine and ignorant.

          • John Schilling says:

            I took, “Arguing that you would face persecution would be probably difficult”, in context, to be a very specific phrasing indicating not that the persecution wasn’t happening but that the argument would not convince an unsympathetic civil servant. And I think he may be right about that – most of the countries you’d want to emigrate to, do not I think offer asylum to people who “only” risk being beaten up by ordinary apolitical thugs. I could certainly be convinced that the thugs in question are not apolitical and are tacitly encouraged by state policy e.g. the explicit exclusion from hate-crime protections, but I already sympathize with you and I’m not a customs official.

            At minimum, I think the principle of charity calls for assuming vV_Vv was trying to offer useful advice.

          • DHW says:

            “You are honestly so asinine and ignorant.”

            Not exactly making a great case for strangers to help you emigrate to their countries here.

          • JuanPeron says:

            While I think vV_Vv and others are giving sincere advice, this seems to be a case of people on the internet using what’s “logical” in place of what’s factual.

            Russia recently passed a law that would bar trans people from getting driver’s licenses (though they don’t seem to have acted on that). Trans people are widely diagnosed as mentally ill (often as schizophrenic, with no evidence other than their gender identity and perhaps some understandable depression). At that point, some are involuntarily committed and medicated, which certainly counts as “harm or mistreatment” and conceivably as “torture” on an asylum application.

            I totally grant that a US bureaucrat might not grant this application, but it’s absurd to say that there’s no persecution to base a claim on.

          • vV_Vv says:

            I was trying to offer useful advice but I see that it’s not appreciated.

            While I’m not an expert I think it’s probably easier to get a work visa for an EU country rather than the US or Canada, therefore it seems to me that this is the most viable option.

            You may seek asylum if you want, but you may not be likely to succeed.

            I would strongly advise against illegal immigration: if you are caught and expelled it will significantly harm your legal migration prospects, if you are not caught you may end up homeless or in some other shitty condition.

          • multiheaded says:

            Alright, thank you for your goodwill then, vV_Vv, but as you said, you most certainly don’t seem to be an expert; you don’t know any refugees personally, your claims don’t appear to be founded on known stats, etc. So yeah, this advice feels a bit too generic and removed, sorry.

            Also, you seem to assume that I have not already spent some time and effort researching the basics here. (Like what constitutes the basis for an asylum claim.)

      • anonymous says:

        For the US, one option to consider is EB3 — other worker. For a long time the quota in this category was way way back, but now it is almost current for all chargeabilities except China, India and the Philippines. If you do manage to get in under that program you’ll have a green card and won’t need to worry about asylum. The whole process would probably take 18-24 months.

        The bad news is they’ve really cracked down on the labor certs. Realistically you’d probably need to find someone willing to sponsor you for a job with a business necessity to speak Russian in a part of the country where there aren’t a lot of Russian speakers looking for jobs.

      • baconbacon says:

        Hopefully someone else can chime in on the likelihood/cost/possibility of this idea. If the donations to help are large enough could they be funneled to an employer to support a work visa in the US?

    • vV_Vv says:

      Your major problem might be getting employment if you don’t have the legal right to live here, but millions of illegal non-English speaking immigrants manage this somehow so it can’t be that hard.

      But then you would be an illegal worker, and one removed from their family and social support network. Seems like a pretty harsh life. Makes sense if you are starving, but I’m not sure it would be worth in this case.

      • multiheaded says:

        and one removed from your family and social support network

        Hello? Lack of family and friends’ support is a big part of why my situation is so troublesome in the first place. (I am closeted to everyone, but I’m reasonably certain I would not be accepted.)

        Do you have any damn idea what it’s like to fear forced institutionalization, harrassment, nonconsensual abusive “therapy”, etc?

        • Yakimi says:

          >Do you have any damn idea what it’s like to fear forced institutionalization, harrassment, nonconsensual abusive “therapy”, etc?

          I’m still wondering why I should sympathize with your predicament given your other beliefs. How else are communists supposed to deal with bourgeois degenerates?

          • Virbie says:

            @Yakimi

            This is one of those peculiar situations where you feel like you might be coming across as condescending because what you’re saying is obvious to anyone with a shred of a humanity, but well, here we are.

            Even if you believe that treatment like that is justified based on someone’s political views[1], a thread in which someone is asking for help to avoid ‘forced institutionalization, harrassment, nonconsensual abusive “therapy” ‘ is quite obviously not the time and place to open this discussion.

            [1] It’s worth pointing out that I’m trying to keep the focus of my comment as narrow as possible to avoid getting into the broader discussion but this is one of the first times in my life that implicitly “condoning” a view so that it doesn’t distract from my point has actually made me feel ashamed of myself just a little bit.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Virbie:

            I have no idea what multiheaded’s political views are. I can easily imagine someone who was both in dire need of acceptance of their own non-typical traits and was endangered by them, and yet had stated political preferences condoning analogous things being done to people they themselves disagreed with. (The first example that springs to mind is Rosie O’Donnell.)

            In such a case, then actually yes, it would be a reasonable thing to say, “I’m not all that concerned about your persecution, since the only difference between you and your persecutors is want of opportunity on your part. I choose to invest my time in solving other problems and urge others to do likewise.”

            But, as I said, I don’t know if this applies to this particular situation.

          • Fibs says:

            “Other people seldom want to harass, institutionalize and abuse people in general” seems like a pretty low charity bar to clear.

            But, err, sure. I guess the “some people have used things like the things you believe to do things I disagree with so i’m using your predicamebt to get in sly digs at my ideological opponents” works too?

          • Virbie says:

            @Marc Whipple

            Tldr: while I may disagree, I don’t think your point is unreasonable. However, I don’t think it’s applicable either, given that we’re talking about a case in which the political views are entirely unrelated to the topic of conversation. To me this seems nothing more than “I disagree with you on something unrelated and I’m going to shoehorn it in the most disgusting way possible into a discussion where you’re desperately asking for help”.

            It seemed clear to me from Yakimi’s comment that the perception is that multiheaded is a supporter of Communism (otherwise, why would they be referring to Putin’s Russia as Communists?). It’s of course possible that I’m assuming too much, but I did a cursory search of some past multiheaded comments out of curiosity and it supported that hypothesis.

            I’m not sure I’d ever personally be okay with kicking someone in the middle of a conversation where they’re asking desperately for help. I can see where you’re coming from, and how you might reasonably feel differently in the situation you’re describing (ie, when you condone treating others the same way).

            I know the term “political views” is extremely broad, but I was trying to convey that the views were unrelated without having to go through a few logical contortions. This situation seems a lot less like someone asking for help about being fired for being Christian while they’ve supported firing all Muslims in the past.

            It’s a lot more like someone asking for help escaping racial harassment and being told to go to hell (in that very thread!) because they support capitalism (since the institutions that capitalism support entrench racism)[1].

            My example seems further applicable from the fact that AFAIK anti LGBT sentiment in Russia isn’t stemming from some sort of proto Communism, but rather traditionalist attitudes buttressed strongly by the influence of the Russian orthodox church.

            [1] this is my poor paraphrasing of things I’ve heard people say, not a view I personally hold.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Virbie:

            Thank you for your thoughtful and civil response.

            I’ll add to the factors I might consider from my side of the argument not only some sort of (admittedly) ambiguous, “I won’t aid you against bad people because you’re just as bad,” point, but as a further consideration “You want to come to my country because you’ll be safe from prosecution for being a member of $CLASS, but you are also an outspoken advocate of $POLICY which I believe is very detrimental to my country.” Supposing multiheaded were an unrepentant Stalinist-Communist, while I would still oppose people trying to persecute her for being trans because nobody should be persecuted for being trans, to be dreadfully honest if it were up to me I wouldn’t let her into the US either even if there were a high risk of her being persecuted for being trans. Please note that I have no reason to believe this is true, and have no opinion on whether the real, non-hypothetical multiheaded should be allowed into the US.

            In the book I mentioned elsewhere (Caliphate, by Tom Kratman, which is among other things a fictionalized version of what people who are opposed to Muslim immigration think will happen if it is allowed without sufficient restriction) a social activist from Germany wishes to emigrate to the US after Germany is essentially taken over by Muslims. Her application is rejected, and her history is the reason. “The attitudes and actions of people like you are what made what happened to your country possible,” she is told, “and we do not want them contaminating our country or we will end up the same way.” You may believe this, you may not. But it is not an irrational factor to consider.

          • multiheaded says:

            :popcorn:

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            (I don’t know if this post was deleted or just didn’t go through or if my browser is acting up, so preemptive apologies for doubleposting)

            >I’m still wondering why I should sympathize with your predicament given your other beliefs. How else are communists supposed to deal with bourgeois degenerates?

            For the same reason we sypathized with moldbug back when that tech conference happened. Because people shouldn’t be punished for their fringe views, particularly when they are (by now) mostly harmless.

          • Jiro says:

            Excluding someone from the country based on their fringe views isn’t punishment unless they have a right to be in that country, and only open borders advocates believe that.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >Excluding someone from the country based on their fringe views isn’t punishment unless they have a right to be in that country, and only open borders advocates believe that.

            Neither is excluding someone from a tech conference, but it didn’t sit right because the talk had nothing to do with their politics. Similarly, the cause of immigration here is not to try to spread communism throughout the US, so “I hope you can never come here because your views are awful” (and they are), doesn’t seem like the kind of behaviour we so often praise here.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            Excluding Moldbug from talking about his weird OS thing because of his political views is quite different from excluding a person from a country because of her political views. Moldbug’s political views are irrelevant to his weird OS thing and are not a danger to the purposes and goals of weird OS thing development. Being a radical Communist, a philosophy which is antithetical to the purposes and goals of the United States, is quite relevant to the question of whether you should get to live in the United States.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Marc Whipple
            Do you think that the US should start deporting Communists?

          • Jiro says:

            Neither is excluding someone from a tech conference, but it didn’t sit right because the talk had nothing to do with their politics.

            I think that such a person has a *moral* right to not be excluded from the conference on these grounds, even if this would not extend to a legal right. I don’t believe a non-citizen has a moral right to be in a particular country.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ sweeneyrod:

            I am not trying to argue against multiheaded, but in order to become a citizen of the United States, you have to swear that you have never been a member of the Communist or Nazi parties, or any other totalitarian or terrorist organization. You also have to swear that you have never advocated the overthrow of any government by force or violence (!), as well as swear that you would take up arms to defend the United States.

            In practice, you can get an exemption if (like billions of people), your membership in the Communist party was involuntary or effectively required for ordinary life in your country. And even if you were a diehard communist (but not a Nazi or terrorist), if you haven’t been in ten years, you can still be naturalized.

            I don’t know if similar requirements apply to permanent residency.

            The questions themselves:

            9. Have you EVER been a member of or in any way associated (directly or indirectly) with:

            a. The Communist Party?
            b. Any other Totalitarian Party?
            c. A terrorist organization?

            10. Have you EVER advocated (either directly or indirectly) the overthrow of any government by force or violence?

            12. Between March 23, 1933, to May 8, 1945, did you work for or associate in any way (either directly or indirectly) with:

            a. The Nazi government of Germany?
            b. Any government in any area (1) occupied by, (2) allied with, or (3) established with the assistance or cooperation of the Nazi government of Germany?
            c. Any German, Nazi, or S.S. military unit, paramilitary unit, self-defense unit, vigilante unit, citizen unit, police unit, government agency or office, extermination camp, concentration camp, prisoner of war camp, prison, labor camp, or transit camp?

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @sweenyrod:

            1) Citizens who are communists: No.

            2) Non-citizens who are communists: In a perfect world, yes, but that’s so far down on my “people the US could do without” list that the light now leaving “Known violent criminals illegally present here” will not reach it for several seconds.

          • baconbacon says:

            @ Mark Whipple

            “Being a radical Communist, a philosophy which is antithetical to the purposes and goals of the United States, is quite relevant to the question of whether you should get to live in the United States.”

            I would say there is a far stronger case to be made that blocking entry over political views is antithetical to the “purposes and goals” of the US.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @baconbacon:

            Entry, perhaps. The privileges of citizenship and/or long-term residence, I respectfully disagree. At some point, the melting pot overflows before it can render a good alloy. When the slag going in is resistant to molding, that point comes sooner. “We welcome those who would destroy us” sounds very noble, but at some point it becomes suicidally foolish as well as a very long moral stretch.

          • Linch says:

            I’m rather late to this conversation, but subjectively, Caliphate is honestly one of the stupidest speculative fiction books I’ve read in my teenage years, and that includes Battlefield Earth and Terry Goodkind.

        • multiheaded says:

          I do not think it would be possible to try and reason you into feeling sympathy in the first place, thank you very much.

        • NA says:

          Support, good luck : ). It seems like once the college thing is done it might be easier. Sorry if suggestions are not welcome, but maybe getting accepted to a masters program after that somewhere might be an option (with crowdfund for tuition). I think even without many academic credentials, it should be possible to find something, if that’s a worry. And yeah, people who have never dealt with immigrating will mostly never understand.

        • There is something I don’t understand. Let me ask, because I am really curious. Many people are “gender gray”. This is perhaps less common in the West where there is a strong social pressure to be sexy, but pretty common in Russia, due to it fitting the generic mood of light depression that tends to permeates the place. People whom I call gender gray people are generally lazy (or light depressed) who simply don’t put any effort in their gender expression. They wear loose, comfortable unisex clothes (jeans, basic tees, sweaters), no make-up, low-maintenance hair, and so on. They are just taking it really easy.

          The question is, if both men and women can live like that, why is it that difficult for you?

          This is something always confused me. Gender expression takes effort, especially a female one (guys get away better with just being lazy), and there are plenty of 40 years old women with a tough job like cleaning maid who are like to hell with that effort, they drop the make-up, cut their hair low-maintenance short and wear comfortable unisex clothes. So if it takes effort, and it gets discriminated against, it should not be that hard to give it up, all it takes is basically the path of lesser resistance, just giving up and being lazy?

          Question: are you of the elites? Because that is the only reason I can see how it could not work. Gender gray people typically stand in a bus stop that goes to a factory job, or drive the bus, or are postmen or cleaning maids, so they are almost always lower-class, reeking of cigarettes and halfway alcoholic. An elite, like a lawyer, is expected to have more gender expression. Is this your case? (Of course, speaking perfect English at 25 is already a highly elite marker, so it is almost unnecessary to ask.)

          • Linch says:

            “(Of course, speaking perfect English at 25 is already a highly elite marker, so it is almost unnecessary to ask.)” A even stronger indication might be posting/commenting on SSC.

    • JuanPeron says:

      If Multiheaded can get here, they have a year after arrival to file for asylum in the United States. It’s free to apply, and Multi is then eligible to work as soon as asylum is granted, or after 150 days if the case is still pending.

      The asylum application is pretty detailed, and Multi could justifiably claim a fear of persecution if they go home. Forced therapy might even qualify as ‘torture’ for the relevant section, though it certainly doesn’t meet the standards the US applies to itself. Awkwardly, the first question (“Why are you applying for asylum?”) has no option for gender or sexuality – the closest box is “membership in a particular social group”.

  7. voidfraction says:

    I’ve been wondering if most CFAR attendees wouldn’t benefit more by using their money to hire a personal trainer (assuming they don’t already have a regular fitness routine). Since a few CFAR alumni are active here, I’d like to ask some questions:

    1. Did you attend CFAR as part of a drive towards self optimization?
    2. Do you exercise regularly?
    3a. (if no) Why not?
    3b. (if yes) How do you feel the benefits of regular exercise compares to the benefits of the skills you learned at CFAR?

    Side note: I am not a very fit person. I recently signed up for two months of one on one training sessions at a local gym. It’s helped tremendously. I hope these questions come across in the spirit of honest inquiry in which they were intended, and not as some kind of “DO YOU EVEN LIFT BRO” type putdown.

    • Raymond says:

      I think CFAR is pretty important, but I also agree this is a pretty legitimate hypothesis to entertain. (Although it depends a lot on whether you’re paying the full rate for CFAR, and not getting a scholarship).

      I have just recently joined a gym. They tried to sell me on a personal trainer, which would have been over $1000. I did not do it, because I didn’t have the money, but I _clearly_ would be making much more progress if I did. My next major goal is to solidify my financial situation, and after that I am strongly considering doing some manner of Personal Trainer dealie.

      The value of CFAR, IMO comes from a few key things:
      – If you haven’t been tapped into the rationality network, that’s a major life improvement, and CFAR will plug you in. (There are other ways to do so, but there are also other ways to get the equivalent of a personal trainer, it’s just a lot easier for some people)
      – Some people report the CFAR techniques (and accompanying “mental soup”) to be valuable in their own right. This varies from person to person (I didn’t feel like I got that much in that regard)

      But the most important thing, in my mind, is the more altruistic notion that CFAR is *research*. I expect them to both improve at teaching, to improve at understanding underlying principles of rationality-teaching, and to improve at applying those ideas to high-leverage people over time.

      My current take is that most of the value of a CFAR workshop lies in the future, and not necessarily for you in particular.

      • Ano says:

        > I have just recently joined a gym. They tried to sell me on a personal trainer, which would have been over $1000. I did not do it, because I didn’t have the money, but I _clearly_ would be making much more progress if I did. My next major goal is to solidify my financial situation, and after that I am strongly considering doing some manner of Personal Trainer dealie.

        What’s more effective than hiring a personal trainer is finding a workout buddy. That’s easier said than done; with a friend, you need to coordinate your schedules and find exercise you’re both interested in, but it’s also free and you also have the advantage of exercising with someone you like and have interests in common with. It may be worth putting out feelers among your social group to see if anyone is interested.

        Depending on what your fitness goals are, simple bodyweight exercises in the outdoors may be enough. I exercise with two of my friends outside, meaning that I effectively exercise for nothing give or take the occasional visit to the swimming pool.

    • zz says:

      1. No, but I plan to.
      2. Yes
      3b. If CFAR does their job right, you don’t need to hire a personal trainer. Maybe you goal factor or find a buddy to spot each other on sets or something who keeps you showing up, or you overcome your shyness and start playing pickup ultimate.

      • Raymond says:

        So, I have not explicitly goal factored here, but the thing I’m looking for with a personal trainer is someone who’ll force me to stay accountable, and to work out longer and harder than I want to.

        To do this, I need someone willing to work out, regularly (at least once a week, possibly more), for a full hour. This is… well… work. All of the accountability-buddies I’ve had have never worked out, because the very sort of person who needs an accountability buddy also tends to flake, and what happens in practice is someone flakes, the other person (a friend, who LIKES the other person) isn’t able to the right level of “tough” on them, and then a few days later the OTHER person flakes, and then we get in the habit of cutting each other slack.

        (I can imagine systems wherein this works better, but it requires effort to find and get that system setup. Whereas you can just start paying a personal trainer and they’ll more or less do the thing you want. I assume they vary in quality and you should still shop around, but its a different class of problem)

    • beoShaffer says:

      1)Yes
      2)Yes
      3b)Probably think that exercise is more important, but a lot of that is because I feel compelled to exercise and get jittery if I don’t. I’m not sure if exercise would as important to the sort of person who needs a trainer to exercise.

    • Tyler Hansen says:

      1. No. (Attended CFAR, self-optimization wasn’t my motivation for it)
      2. No.
      3a. Getting other parts of my life in order has been higher priority, so I’ve been irregularly exercising.

  8. Ivan Fyodorovich says:

    I am a new and avid reader of the blog and I’ve been reading the archives. There was one argument back in March that I felt a strong need to respond to, in “List Of Passages I Highlighted In My Copy Of ‘Machinery Of Freedom'”. Scott cited Friedman’s idea for urban “jitney” system as an example of a brilliant libertarian idea destroyed by government regulation. I see it more as an example of why urban mass transit is really hard. I’m aware that bringing this up now is a little ridiculous, but I figure it’s appropriate for an open thread. I promise not to do this too often. Anyway, from Friedman:

    “I have solved the problem of urban mass transit. To apply my solution to a major city requires a private company willing to invest a million dollars or so in hardware and a few million more in advertising and organization. The cost is low because my transit system is already over 99 percent built; its essence is the more efficient use of our present multibillion dollar investment in roads and automobiles. I call it jitney transit; it can most easily be thought of as something between taxicabs and hitch-hiking. Jitney stops, like present-day bus stops, would be arranged conveniently about the city. A commuter heading into town with an empty car would stop at the first jitney stop he came to and pick up any passengers going his way. He would proceed along his normal route, dropping off passengers when he passed their stops. Each passenger would pay a fee, according to an existing schedule listing the price between any pair of stops.”

    Consider the following four cases:
    1. Cambridge MA.
    You want to get from one part of Cambridge to another. Fortunately Cambridge is a very dense city built along a single big street (Massachusetts Avenue). You hop on a jitney going farther along Mass Ave than you plan to go, the system works very nicely. Hooray.

    2. Greater Boston, morning commute.
    Boston is a dense urban core surrounded by sprawling suburbs. You want to get from say, the town of Woburn to your office in Copley Square downtown. It takes a couple tries to find a car going to the same part of downtown you are, but soon enough you find someone going close to your office. Works well enough.

    3. Greater Boston, evening commute.
    You stand at the Copley Square jitney stop. The first car is going toward Newton. No use. The second is heading south toward Quincy. A third guy is going to Wakefield which is a least closer to where you live, but it’s still not walking distance and catching a jitney out of Wakefield at night is not easy. After a lot of shouted conversations at the station, you get a ride to Winchester and accept that you’ll have to take a long walk home tonight. At least it’s better than the times that rides dry up at night and you have to find some other way home. You wonder why you don’t just drive to work like everyone else.

    4. Los Angeles
    Los Angeles is a huge decentralized city, with pockets of high density surrounded by low density. People are going every which way. You are one of the huge number of people who live in the Valley but work in the West side, one of the more common commuting routes, but unfortunately only a small percentage of morning commuters are going anywhere within walking distance of your office and on the homeward ride the fraction who can drop you near home is even smaller. You must put up with lots of interactions and multiple transfers to get anywhere. You give up after a week.

    In other words, outside of a few cities (like Cambridge), a jitney rider would have to be prepared to accept unpredictability, transfers, long delays, and the potential for a lot of walking. There’s a cheap alternative for the sort of person willing to accept this . . . the bus. Furthermore, the cities where jitneys work well are the ones like Cambridge that are highly amenable to train or bus transit. And trains have the advantage of taking cars off the road and often going faster than traffic. Jitneys would be of limited use in the places like Los Angeles (or really most cities) where mass transit is also hard to implement.

    These problems may not be unsolvable. In the Boston evening commute scenario you could have different stations for people going to different suburbs, but this means potentially walking across downtown to get to your station, lengthening your commute. You could raise the fee for jitneys and hope that it makes the drivers more pliant. The driver going to Wakefield might be more willing to detour if he is getting $15 rather than $5 for example. But demand drops a lot in that case, since most people aren’t willing to spend anything approaching taxi fare just to get to and from work. They just drive themselves. There might be some market for cheaper but less easily commanded taxis, but jitneys feel like a niche market to me rather than a solution to all urban transit.

    Finally, it’s worth considering why hitchhiking become unpopular in the first place. It wasn’t the taxi cab lobby. It’s because hundreds and hundreds of men and women were horribly murdered while hitchhiking. And sometimes hitchhikers would kill their rides, often in conjunction with robbery. I do not recommend googling “hitchhiker murders” or whatnot, but if you must you will find that I am not talking about one or two or five or twenty isolated serial killers. Services like Uber provide an electronic trail that protect people from crime (by guaranteeing that a criminal driver gets caught), but just getting into cars with strangers was actually pretty dangerous.

    • Julian says:

      The broader point that Friedman is making (I believe, I have only read what was in Scott’s post), is that, as you say, urban mass transit is extremely difficult to get perfect. What works for me is very unlikely to work for you. So the best system is one with lots of choice. Systems created from above (such as those by a government) do not have lots of choice because its very difficult for anyone or any group to anticipate what every is going to want to do now or in the future.

      So Friedman’s solution of the jitney is not just “jitney”, its “any system that can be tried.” If you have only buses, you need enough demand to open a bus line. If you have trains, same thing with higher barrier. Taxis appear to solve this but taxis companies and taxi drivers and taxi regulators aren’t going to be able to anticipate the demand for all times of day on all days of the year (and they suffer from bias as we all do).

      Friedman’s “jitney” is a stand in for an open source solution. If you want to drive me to Detroit for $400 then you can. Thats the choice you and I both made and agreed on. If you don’t want to do that then I’ll find someone else (or I’ll offer you more). But current cities limit the options by highly regulating transportation services in cities and between cities.

      Jitney’s may be niche (may not), but that niche does represent demand that is being unmet without jitneys. So by ignoring jitneys some people go unserved.

      The success of Uber et al. seems to show there is high demand for a jitney type service however. Addition there are major cities where private ass transport has succeeded. Santiago Chile used to have an extensive, efficient (for passengers), and profitable private bus industry (hundreds of different companies with many different types of buses and lines). In South Africa there are a number of informal private bus lines run in poor areas not serviced by the government.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        there are major cities where private ass transport…

        You mean like a sweet ass-car? :-p

      • From the angle of criticizing libertarianism from the right: libertarians tend to be too optimistic about security. Being a cab driver is a high-risk profession in many parts of the world, often killed / mugged. Since everywhere but in the snobbiest Euro cities middle-class people tend to drive, the people who use public transport are disproportionately of the dangerous population.

        Security problems are often solved by scaling. Buses can have cameras, discouraging attacks, and enough passengers so that hopefully some will help the driver.

        Taxi drivers put up with the risk because they have to. Often they are immigrants with poor language skills and not much in the way of job prospects.

        The chance that the average commute will pick up someone who may be a knife wielding maniac for chump change… is not very high. And if you consider that by putting 100 strangers into your car, at least 1 is not very good at wiping their butts, eww. It was for reasons like this that hitch-hiking has declined.

        Violence and the various security methods protecting people from violence don’t follow the normal market rules, they have their own, if I may say, kind of military logic. Libertarian logic generally works within a high-trust, minimal-violence community. It can internalize fraud, via lawsuits, but it cannot really internalize much violence.

    • spandrel says:

      I think the fear factor is overstated in the demise of hitchhiking. Other theories include the rise of car ownership and licensing, which left only the most desparate people as hitchhikers, and the spread of the Interstate system, which essentially prohibits hitchhiking.

      http://freakonomics.com/2011/10/10/where-have-all-the-hitchhikers-gone-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/
      http://www.theguardian.com/travel/blog/2009/may/29/hitchhiking-uk-road-trip

      As the second link points out, hitching is still common in countries with similar crime rates but much lower rates of automobile ownership.

      • Ivan Fyodorovich says:

        Julian and spandrel you both have good points. I used to live in a third world city with private buses, they were very cheap and convenient. But as in the US, they were popular only with people who didn’t have their own cars or motorcycles. I think the general problem is that driving yourself to work just isn’t that awful, and so if you have a car and can use it you will not tolerate the slowness of the bus, the uncertainty and cost of jitneys or cabs, or even a minimal risk of being murdered in a stranger’s car while hitching. The internet has made it possible for people to easily set up carpooling networks, but they mostly aren’t, because they can’t put up with even the minimal inconveniences associated. I think we can agree that jitneys could be a niche, maybe they would slightly improve the world, but the benefits associated should not be exaggerated. That’s what I took issue with.

    • drethelin says:

      What you’re ignoring is people’s ability to respond to market pressures. If there are enough people going from point A to point B who need rides, the Jitney system creates a profitable opportunity for freelance drivers to stop at known stops! It’s not entirely reliant on happenstance and volunteer drivers, but in fact allows for an ecosystem of transit solutions to problems. And it can happily supplement and interact with existing transit systems! While I was staying in New York recently, I would regularly take an uber a reasonable distance to get to a subway stop, and then go the rest of the way via train, because that was a good balance between footsoreness and convenience. This is especially the case with busses, because given enough traffic that’s not being handled by existing busses and stops, the jitney system enables an arbitrarily smooth scaleup using freelance busses.

      • vV_Vv says:

        If there are enough people going from point A to point B who need rides, the Jitney system creates a profitable opportunity for freelance drivers to stop at known stops!

        And then these freelance drivers have a profitable opportunity to associate in order to avoid competing all on the most transited routes and instead offer a network service, with predictable routes and schedules => van drivers guild.

        Then the van drivers guild attracts external investments and uses them to buy larger vehicles and schedule its services better => bus company.

        Professional specialization and economies of scale will cause the van drivers guild to put out of business the occasional jitners, and then the bus company to put out of business the van drivers guild.

    • Wulfrickson says:

      Friedman’s jitney model essentially describes mass transit in many developing-world cities, with competing private operators and loosely coordinated pickup spots. See this description of Lusaka, for example.

      It’s not a good system for cities that can afford better, for a few reasons. First, private operators chase after the biggest markets, which are usually radial lines directly to downtown, and neglect the circumferential connections between outer areas necessary for good network design. (This why Manhattan’s subways, built by three competing private companies, are good for traveling from residential areas in the north to the commercial centers in Midtown and the southern tip, but require long detours to travel east-west – something New York is only now somewhat rectifying, at thrice the cost of any similar project outside the US.) Second, cooperation is imperfect; the article I linked above discusses, among other things, that jitney operators do not offer free transfers; a ride on two companies’ vans involves paying twice. The more competitors there are, the worse this gets, because for N operators to coordinate requires O(N^2) agreements. (Note the interaction between this and the difficulty of running circumferential lines.) Third, there’s a fundamental capacity limit: cities have finite space for vehicles, and a 500-person train or 60-person bus can transport a lot more people per square meter of right-of-way than a 10-person van or five-person car. (This is also why driverless cars won’t end public transit either.) The 4/5/6 line in Manhattan carries 1.3 million daily riders. Even if they were evenly distributed into 27,000 per direction per hour, which they’re not, that’s still well over a jitney in each direction every two seconds, in Manhattan traffic, trying to use the same set of informally determined curbside stops. You would have to ban private car traffic and have jitney passengers board by taking running leaps from moving sidewalks to make this work.

      • (This why Manhattan’s subways, built by three competing private companies …

        Nitpick: TWO competing private companies (IRT, BMT), and the city government (IND).

        That being said, the era in which all three existed independently was brief: 1932-40.

        See, e.g., Wikipedia’s history of the NYC subway system.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Given the massive, massive differences in startup cost between subways and jitneys, I don’t think you can compare the two.

      • vV_Vv says:

        Friedman’s jitney model essentially describes mass transit in many developing-world cities

        It’s just my impression or many of these innovative libertarian proposals are just things that have always existed in ancient or third world societies?

        Actually, this is not that surprising. While over-regulation is a thing, for the most part if a regulation exists is because somebody noticed that something was not working well and sought to solve the problem (usually a coordination issue) by imposing some rules.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          It’s just my impression or many of these innovative libertarian proposals are just things that have always existed in ancient or third world societies?

          Yes, that’s typically the point.

          Actually, this is not that surprising. While over-regulation is a thing, for the most part if a regulation exists is because somebody noticed that something was not working well and sought to solve the problem (usually a coordination issue) by imposing some rules.

          It’s quite often (more often) a bootleggers-and-baptists coalition between the special interests who stand to benefit from the regulation and the useful idiots who think it serves the general interest.

          If you propose a law with the explicit purpose of enriching yourself at the expense of the public, you’ll never get anywhere. But if what’s good for General Motors is good for the country…

          So for instance you have taxi medallion caps, which allegedly exist to solve “coordination problems” like traffic congestion, and even (I have actually seen this argued in a newspaper editorial) to keep the taxi drivers from competing against one another until they earn less than a “living wage”. But in fact, they curiously end up benefiting the politically connected owners of the medallions, who rent them to the drivers. There may be useful idiots who believe that the medallions really exist to keep traffic under control (or some such thing), but that is simply the first excuse the real beneficiaries thought of.

          A similar story could be told of labor unions’ support for immigration restrictions, child labor restrictions, and the minimum wage (especially in the early 20th century).

          • DavidS says:

            I might be missing something, but I thought that Labour unions positions on all those issues were clearly stated in terms of protecting wages, which they explicitly said was a good thing. In which case it’s unlike the more concealed basis you’re suggesting for taxis?

          • vV_Vv says:

            Labor unions tend to be pretty open about their intent.

            Anyway, regulatory capture, cronyism and corruption certainly exist, but according to the “stationary bandit model”, even self-interested rulers have an incentive to keep society productive.

        • nonymous says:

          “It’s just my impression or many of these innovative libertarian proposals are just things that have always existed in ancient or third world societies?”

          Warlord Urbanism.

  9. Is there an consensus in the EA community of when it is rational to spend a dollar to help today vs. invest that dollar and save for tomorrow? Would one be considered to be an Effective Altruist if they committed substantial portions of future wealth to evidence-driven altruism (e.g. something like The Giving Pledge), but gave little money today?

    • zensunni couch-potato says:

      To your second question, I know of several prominent EAs doing exactly that, so I’m pretty confident the answer is yes.

      I don’t think there’s a consensus about which is better. I think it’s a tough question that EAs debate a lot, and nobody is all that sure. Holden Karnofsky, co-founder of Givewell, has a write-up from 2011 grappling with the question.

    • zz says:

      Paul Christiano’s written about it.

      Related: 80k hours on saving a 6—24-month runway

      I spent a moderate amount of time reading a lot more about this last year and, while I remember all the precise arguments in detail, I do remember concluding the balance somewhat favored donating now, although could change drastically depending on your values or how you see giving opportunities changing in the future. Maybe, since you’ve been reading the GiveWell blog, you know they been investing heavily in building capacity these past few years, so maybe wait until said capacity has had a good chance to root out the best giving opportunities. Or maybe you think that EA is going to catch on, so all the most effective opportunities are going to be saturated really soon, so donations now are worth more. Or maybe you’re doing the tech startup thing, and therefore should spend as little as possible, because you’re going to grow significantly faster than the world economic growth rate, but only if you don’t die, so wait until you’re Dustin Moskovitz to donate. Or maybe you think you can grow EA significantly better if you’re actually, you know, donating, so donate now to show you really actually are invested, since getting each time you get a marginal person, who you presumably know and so should on average have around your level of income, you get into EA for life, you’ve essentially added the amount of good you’re going to do over the course of your life yet again. Or maybe you’re young and don’t have many useful skills you, and maintaining any sort of runway requires you spend basically nothing, but it’s definitely better in the long-term to get skills with financially imperiling yourself now. Plus there’s small, but positive, value to pumping GiveWell’s “Money Moved” figure, since that should get them more cooperation from charities, experts, press, etc.

      This is off the top of my head. I’ve probably missed a bunch.

      Anyway, coming back to your question, there’s certainly no sort of “giving now is better than giving later” consensus. Indeed, many (most?) EAs are students who aren’t really able to give (How many Giving What We Can members does it take to change a lightbulb? Fifteen have pledged to change it later, but we’ll have to wait until they finish grad school.). This doesn’t imply that there’s not people for whom waiting to give is tremendously irrational.

  10. grendelkhan says:

    I came across this Skepchick post a while back, and I’m really impressed with someone in with the whole Atheism+, anti-fatphobia movement calling out, for lack of a better word, fatlogic, which is very consonant with her politics. It’s not just the post, either; the comments are an amazing mass of people being calm and reasonable with each other, even when they disagree.

    I’m impressed with the author’s authentic commitment to skepticism in the face of politics.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      This kind of thing is a big part of why I don’t call myself an atheist anymore. Atheism+ is a perfect counter-argument to the idea that we’re any more rational or enlightened than the average fundamentalist. A lack of belief should be just that, a negative factual claim, not a capital-I Identity which obliges you to become part of some grand political alliance.

      As for the article, I was impressed by her patience but much less so with her need to insert constant disclaimers that fat activism is still justified despite her takedown. The people those disclaimers are meant to placate will just see them as a sign of weakness; to anyone else they seem like either pointless redundancies or suspicious ass-covering.

      • Viliam says:

        I believe it is necessary to “cover your ass” in such debates, because when you point out an error in an argument used for some political side, someone will immediately accuse you of belonging to an opposing side. That’s the cheapest way to deal with criticism, and in a sufficiently mindkilled group it will immediately get a lot of support.

        So if someone uses a lot of disclaimers (and you agree that they have to; that there is a real need, not just their personal paranoia), it is an evidence that the group they belong to is in a bad epistemic situation. It is a bad news about the group, but not necessarily about the individual who uses the disclaimers.

        I think that “Atheism+” people in general are doing skepticism wrong. Their definition of “skepticism” is more or less “laughing at all claims made by my opponents (because they seem unlikely if you have already accepted my beliefs)”. Using the same definition, a religious person could claim to be “skeptical” about the reasoning of sinful people, or a homeopath could claim to be “skeptical” about the research done by official medicine. It simply means that you disagree with the people you disagree with, but with the connotation that you are smarter and more scientific for some unspecified reason. Real skepticism is more about looking at the specific claims, and looking at the specific methodology used to support those claims; and doing it for all claims regardless of which side uses them.

    • vV_Vv says:

      I suppose that fat activism is a fringe movement within the SJWs. Feminist women still sexually compete with each other in terms of looks.

      Fat activists are useful allies when it’s time to rally against the perfect digital bodies of female video game characters and shame the creepy male nerds who drool over them, but otherwise they are ugly weirdos to keep at arm length.

      • Does this comment meet the standard of at least two of true, kind, and necessary?

        To my mind, the stigma against fat people is, at best, wildly disproportionate.

        • I took the comment as being not about fat people, pro or con, but about feminists.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            As did I, specifically their “true” perception of the fat people amongst their number.

          • Yeah, me as well. I think vV_Vv is saying that these people are using fat activists for political purposes. I assume s/he has a good-faith believe that this statement is true and necessary.

        • I think “ugly weirdos” refers to fat activists as seen by feminists. How do you parse the sentence?

          Also, vV-_Vv isn’t engaging with fat activism on its merits– all he’s saying is that it isn’t respected by people he doesn’t respect– as though that matters.

          It’s like a religious person saying that efforts to create an FAI are ridiculous– even other atheists think MIRI is a bunch of crazy weirdos. That kind of statement is just an effort at status-lowering.

          • Also, vV_Vv isn’t engaging with fat activism on its merits– all he’s saying is that it isn’t respected by people he doesn’t respect– as though that matters.

            My comment got lost somehow, but I think he’s factually wrong about that anyway. Feminists are not hypocrites about body shaming women.

            Of course, when it comes to body shaming of men, that’s a whole battle that has barely even started.

          • I took it that it applied to very fat people in general–that “activist” only came in because those were the fat people feminists purported to approve of when convenient. I thought it was a put down of feminists as hypocrites with no implications positive or negative for fat activists.

          • vV_Vv says:

            I think “ugly weirdos” refers to fat activists as seen by feminists.

            “Ugly” referred to fat people in general as perceived by virtually anyone. This is unkind but true.

            “Weirdos” referred to fat activists as perceived by feminists, in particular the kind of fat activists that promote unhealthy lifestyles and question medical science for self-serving reasons, that is, the kind of fat activists that Rebecca Watson was criticizing in the linked post.

            Also, vV-_Vv isn’t engaging with fat activism on its merits– all he’s saying is that it isn’t respected by people he doesn’t respect– as though that matters.

            My comment was directed at SJW/Atheism+ feminists, not at fat activism, though of course I have little respect for the kind of fat activists who deny the health risks of obesity or insist that obese people should be seen as beautiful.

          • Yushatak says:

            Keep your personal beauty standards out of this sort of conversation! There are plenty of people who find overweight/obese people attractive and/or conventionally attractive people repulsive or just uninteresting sexually and aesthetically. Personally I find most “supermodels” about as attractive as a rock or a tree with few exceptions. That doesn’t mean I call them ugly, though, so cut that shit out when you talk about what others may like – it’s insulting/offensive (and it is worse for the actual members of the group you deride).

            The health risks are another matter (I don’t deny that there are some, for the record), but they don’t dictate what others should see as beauty.

            Beauty and attraction is all opinion, preference, and social/cultural norms.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Yushatak:

            While it is possible to use social norming to override biological preference to a large degree – or at least make people agree that you have – there are definitely traits that human beings are hardwired to find attractive. It is not completely arbitrary and it’s definitely not something that’s entirely externally imposed on some sort of “attractiveness parameters go here” tabula rasa.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Marc Whipple:
            You really think we are hardwired to find “fat” unattractive?

            Desmond Morris wants to have a word with you.

          • onyomi says:

            It would probably be more defensible to say we are hard-wired to find “health” attractive. In ancient times, a fat, healthy person would have seemed much more attractive to most than someone dying of malnutrition and/or disease. But in developed countries today we rarely encounter the latter sort of unhealth, but frequently encounter a level of fat which is obviously compromising to health. This also affects aesthetic standards, of course: fashion tends to favor that which is not easy to achieve: in olden days fatness was not easy to achieve. Today being in shape while still having a job is not easy to achieve.

            But, of course, fashion is more fickle than attraction, I’d say, and we are probably hard-wired to find “health” attractive. But the signals of health can change with the time and place.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            “Fat” in this context is subjective. “Morbidly obese” is one end of the spectrum, “a little too hippy to walk the runway at Fashion Week” is the other. The latter is well within the hardwired preferences of most heterosexual human males. “Morbidly obese” is not.

            Incidentally, this is one of those “statistically speaking” things. Any random individual will have tastes which are, well, random. But statistically, they will prefer certain body types to other body types, and those preferences cluster around a particular set of body types across most cultures.

            ETA – onyomi’s observation on what is really being selected for is reasonable and consistent with my understanding of the topic.

          • Yushatak says:

            @Marc
            There is some biological component, but this obviously still varies from person to person depending on whatever factors shaped their tastes. Either way, it doesn’t justify insults.

          • Nero tol Scaeva says:

            “Beauty and attraction is all opinion, preference, and social/cultural norms.”

            The general things that men find attractive about women are correlated with fertility. E.g., obesity lowers fertility in women and is linked to earlier menopause. Though I think this is in the realm of “morbidly obese”.

            On the flip side, what women find attractive (the nebulous “status”) is socially constructed sort of by definition. Therefore, I find that when people say that beauty/attraction is all opinion etc. they are flirting with the typical mind fallacy of the average woman.

            Case in prediction: If attraction were overwhelmingly socially constructed, then hetero/homosexuality would be fluid. As it stands, it seems this mostly holds true more for women and not men.

          • Tibor says:

            @Nero: I dunno if there is something wrong on my side or if your link is broken, but I get redirected to an empty website which offers me to buy the domain.

          • NN says:

            Case in prediction: If attraction were overwhelmingly socially constructed, then hetero/homosexuality would be fluid. As it stands, it seems this mostly holds true more for women and not men.

            It does in our society. In Ancient Greece or Modern Afghanistan, things were/are a little different.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @Yushatak

            There are plenty of people who find overweight/obese people attractive and/or conventionally attractive people repulsive or just uninteresting sexually and aesthetically.

            Yes, fat fetishism exists. It doesn’t change the fact that the vast majority of people find obese people unattractive.

            Personally I find most “supermodels” about as attractive as a rock or a tree with few exceptions.

            That’s not unusual, as most supermodels are relatively androgynous. After all, their job is to sell women clothes designed by gay men. Male heterosexual attraction hardly enters the picture of that business.

            Typical “female lead” actresses such as Scarlett Johansson or Jennifer Lawrence are more representative of the modern Western beauty standard, which may be actually quite universal in many important aspects (e.g. the waist-to-hip ratio of about 0.7 which seems to be preferred across different cultures and it’s also observed in ancient artistic depictions of female beauty).

            . That doesn’t mean I call them ugly, though, so cut that shit out when you talk about what others may like – it’s insulting/offensive (and it is worse for the actual members of the group you deride).

            I did not mean “ugly” as an insult, but as a statement of fact.

          • Yushatak says:

            In support of it being a heavily socially/culturally-influencable thing, take the case of Mauritania (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mauritania).

            In this nation obese women are the beauty ideal for most of the population and women strive to
            meet it. I’ve seen documentaries about it on Youtube, but the mention of this part
            of
            their culture on Wikipedia is brief.

            If we are so hardwired against finding fat attractive, how do you explain this if there is no strong external societal component?

            Also, the word “ugly” has very negative connotations, which is why I interpreted it as insult – I felt insulted. :p

          • vV_Vv says:

            In support of it being a heavily socially/culturally-influencable thing, take the case of Mauritania (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mauritania).

            One of the poorest countries in the world, where lots of people were probably literally starving until recently.

            Also, probably the most regressive country in the world, where Islamic fundamentalism is nearly ubiquitous and it was legal to own slaves until 2007 (and still unofficially allowed). I bet that all marriages there are arranged between families and clans, with women being considered chattel and sexual attraction being hardly relevant. The weight of a bride is probably just a signal for the wealth of her family.

          • John Schilling says:

            Obvious questions: What sort of women are depicted in Mauritanian pornography? Are successful Mauritanian prostitutes generally obese or heavyset?

            Granted both of these things are almost certainly illegal in Mauritania, but the also almost certainly occur regardless. And they would go a long way towards revealing what Mauritanian men, at least, privately prefer when they aren’t trying to signal wealth or fashionable status.

          • Yushatak says:

            Valid counterpoints – I don’t think we’ll get our hands on that data any time soon though (if ever).

            I’d suspect that baseline attractiveness derives from biology, but epigenetics, environment, and culture all play some part in the puzzle on a per-individual basis. I don’t know if we’ll ever see the scale of research needed to determine that evidentially, though.

          • Leit says:

            By which you mean you don’t think actual research is ever going to get the result you want, but you’re going to keep making the same assertions and pointing to edge cases. Got it.

          • grendelkhan says:

            There’s an interesting theme in fat-acceptance where memes will show that being fat isn’t bad by showing fat women being loved on by fitness-model-looking dudes. See here.

            The charitable version is that the memes are speaking the mainstream language of attractiveness while trying to change the standards, but that feels like a stretch. (Outlined here; I am unconvinced.)

          • Marc Whipple says:

            Also, let’s not confuse attractiveness with desirability. You can desire something for reasons other than your personal aesthetic preferences. “This woman is from a high status clan/has a large dowry/has huge tracts of land/will make me look prosperous” are all great reasons to desire a woman’s hand in marriage, but have zero to do with “she makes me feel funny in my pants.”

            The gray zone is to be found in Heinlein’s observation that a man will not insist on beauty in a woman who builds up his morale: after a while, he’ll realize she is beautiful, he just hadn’t noticed it at first.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @grendelkhan:

            I used to dislike this music video for similar reasons.

            Then I came around to the “speaking the mainstream language of attractiveness while trying to change the standards” interpretation.

            Well…sort of. Because yeah, I do think the “mainstream language” use is not entirely a conscious and deliberate choice.

            But for me it’s enough to just point it out, without going out of my way to overly embarrass or shame those doing so, since we’re, you know, already on the same side and stuff. 😉 “Yeah, they’re still using the mainstream language in some areas, and of course really we eventually want to change it in all areas. Now, moving on…”

      • dndnrsn says:

        This doesn’t sound right to me. As far as I know, fat activism and feminism have a huge overlap. While the “there is absolutely nothing unhealthy about being 400lbs” types are definitely a small minority, the “stop saying people are less attractive for being 40lbs overweight” seem to be pretty common.

        Additionally, fat activism seems mostly to be a feminist-focused, female-focused thing – there’s far more about unrealistic depictions of bodies when it’s airbrushed women who work out and diet for a living than when it’s airbrushed guys who work out and diet for a living. Beyond this, guys complaining of how they are treated (especially by those they hope to be potential partners) for how they look tend to both dislike and be disliked by feminists.

        So, if what vV_Vv is saying is that feminists are using fat activists as a catspaw, I don’t think that’s correct.

        • vV_Vv says:

          This doesn’t sound right to me. As far as I know, fat activism and feminism have a huge overlap. While the “there is absolutely nothing unhealthy about being 400lbs” types are definitely a small minority, the “stop saying people are less attractive for being 40lbs overweight” seem to be pretty common.

          I was referring to the first kind of fat activists, the one that Rebecca Watson was criticizing in the linked post.

          Anyway, I think that modern mainstream feminism in general mostly cares about the interests of average-looking, middle-class/upper-middle-class white women. People like Jessica Valenti, Anita Sarkeesian, or indeed Rebecca Watson.

          Everybody else on the “intersectionality” bandwagon: blacks, fat people, trans, disabled, etc., are second-class allies. Cannon fodder to be used for political battles but not really respected.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I still think that you are incorrect in separating fat activism and feminism, and in stating that feminism treats fat activists as cannon fodder.

            First, what is a “fat person”? By most standards, people have gotten fatter in a lot of countries (and not just developed countries) over the past several decades. I would go so far as to say that the average person now is kind of fat by the standards of the fairly recent past. Statistically or anecdotally speaking, people are fatter, and more people are really fat.

            The extreme fat activists are a fringe. However, mainstream fat activism is a part of mainstream feminism: “mainstream” being “we should stop judging [people, often specifically or implicitly women] for being 20lbs overweight”. 20 pounds, though, will bump the average 5’5″ woman from ideal to overweight and another 20 to obese.

            Body positivity is a big part of modern popular feminism, and fat positivity a big part of that – articles vociferously proclaiming the author to be completely happy, no need to doubt that, 100% happy, OK about her weight are a dime a dozen.

          • Jiro says:

            First, what is a “fat person”?

            In this context, it clearly means “person about whom discrimination based on being too fat is claimed.”

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Jiro:

            As I understand it, body positivity types, of whom fat activists are a subset, claim increasing discrimination based on how far someone moves away from a supposed ideal – which would include anyone overweight.

            My point is that a group of which a majority of members are fat (which, these days, in North America at least, probably includes every group other than fitness junkies and the underweight) can’t be said to be using fat people as cannon fodder, unless that group is itself a catspaw of a sub-group of normal-weight people.

      • Fibs says:

        Alternatively, fat activism is just activites by some amount of the 31% of Americans over 20 who are obese. And that’s only counting americans ( ie; lots of people have reason to want fat acceptance )

        As for the hypothesis that feminists are rallying against perfect digital breasts by deceiving some large subset of people whoose support they somehow need to fight this onslaught of virtual women… Somehow ( high body fat causes electronic failures? Proximity puts on digital weight? ) I find your theory severely lacking in explanatory power.

        Actually what did you even mean by that?

      • anonymous says:

        >> I suppose that fat activism is a fringe movement within the SJWs.

        So a small part of a small group of people. Thank god there are people out there making sure people understand how terrible they are.

  11. keranih says:

    I am considering nominating the cactus person piece (and by extension the rest of Scott’s work) for the Sad Puppy basket 2016 for best fan author. Opinions are solicited but are not to be considered definitive for this action.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Scott isn’t a fan and this isn’t a fanzine. Go for the short story category instead.

    • ddreytes says:

      If you think his work is good, you should nominate it for the Hugo Award in the appropriate category.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thank you, but I’m worried that if I get nominated for Sad Puppy something once, that will classify me as “on the Sad Puppies’ side”, that it will be hard for me to credibly distance myself from them given that I’ve argued against some social justice things before, that then it will be impossible for me to deal with the non-Sad-Puppy part of SFF without being viewed as an enemy, and that will come back to bite me later.

      I acknowledge that the opposite problem exists if I don’t deal with the Sad Puppies, but I’d rather spend some time figuring out how this all actually works and make my own decision rather than have it made for me.

      Does anyone who knows more about SFF know if this is a reasonable worry?

      • This is a totally reasonable fear. I’m personally acquainted with two people who were on the original SP 2015 slate, and who received truly mind-boggling amounts of hate from the anti-Puppies, despite the fact that they, individually, were perfectly progressive and had no interest in the political elements of the SP platform at all. They both requested to be taken off of the slate in order to have their lives back. (Brad Torgerson, who I don’t know but who is by all reports a stand-up guy, agreed to take them off.)

        (This is your regular reminder that Vox thinks you should make your browser auto-change “political correctness” to “treating people with respect”.)

        • Scott Alexander says:

          My understanding is that last year the anti-Puppies deliberately buried the Puppy slate, which makes it sound like given what you’re saying the best bet is to just try to do things the old fashioned way without a slate. Is that true? Are there any resources for people trying to figure this out?

          • Assuming that you want a Hugo (a dubious honor at this stage), I think the best move is just to campaign among your own. The biggest lesson that I took from the controversy is that it’s possible to get a nomination with a surprisingly small number of nominations, and it only costs $40 to get to vote. You probably have enough pull among rationalists and SFF fans that you have a decent chance just by running a traditional campaign, without any slate.

          • Bugmaster says:

            The whole Puppy affair has been an eye-opener for me. I used to think that the Hugos were sort of like the Pulitzers, or maybe the ACM Turing Awards, only for SF. But it turns out that the Hugos are given out by a small community of WorldCon fans, who all know each other — and this community is so small that it’s very easy to essentially DDoS it. Since I’ve never been to WorldCon, and I have zero interest in going there, I’m no longer interested in the Hugos.

          • There have been efforts to publicize voting for the Hugos– I expect more people will be voting in coming years.

            There are people who’d not just been reading sf, but who’d been going to worldcons for years who had no idea that the Hugos were voted on by worldcon members (and also that it wasn’t necessary to attend the worldcon to nominate and vote).

            I don’t know how or whether this will affect how the awards turn out, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it makes some difference.

      • Randy M says:

        There were people who declined the awards after being nominated by this group. There were others who were nominated by them, at least in part, who neither claimed allegiance nor declined the nomination (such as Jim Butcher) and I do not think there will be any lasting association among the broader readership.

        In all honesty, I think if you were nominated by them it would be proof of your being a closet reactionary by those seeking it, but to most, it’d be simply proof of a wide appeal.

      • It’s hard to say– I’m not expecting the upcoming Hugo situation to look exactly like last year’s, and I’m hoping that a campaign for HPMOR will add a third force which is neither puppy nor anti-puppy.

        As for the rest, the more I thought about it, the less certain I am.

        • Echo says:

          Ahh, that will be wonderful. I wonder what slurs they’ll come up with for people who like HPMOR?
          Just kidding–they always use the same ones.

      • keranih says:

        To be clear, my question was whether to suggest your work for inclusion in the Sad Puppy bin, so as to have it be in the stack of SP “for your consideration” works. If you would prefer to not be considered for that, I shan’t. (It will be a shame, esp for the heckler’s veto explanation you give, but I don’t have to live in your shoes, and will abide by your choice.)

        I can and will make my own nomination, for what it’s worth, and you don’t get a say in that. Sorry-not-sorry.

        More about SP4 here: http://sadpuppies4.org/about-sp4/

        (Lower down, Scott, you asked about 2017…there have been nominating counting changes proposed which can not take effect until they’ve been re-approved in 2016. Some of the suggestions are more intuitive than others – the “everyone can suggest up to 4, the top 6 make the final list” recommendation has wide approval, while some of the others are…well.)

    • Slow Learner says:

      Sad Puppies slate was ineffective; Rabid Puppies slate got the nominations where the two disagreed, and Rabid Puppies nominations got largely buried in the final voting, including by No Award.

      If you want Scott to get a nomination, run a GOTV campaign around nomination time getting people to vote. He might have a worse chance of getting nominated, but he’ll have a much better shot at the actual award. Hugos voters were not impressed with Puppy antics, and are unlikely to be any more impressed next year.

      • Anonymous says:

        >Hugos voters were not impressed with Puppy antics

        You mean the anti-Puppy slate-voters, as opposed to the pro-Puppy slate-voters.

        • Slow Learner says:

          The Puppy slates managed to get ~10% of the Hugo votes for their nominations.
          This is not a 50:50 pro-anti issue. There are the ~10% Puppies, the ~5% semi-organised anti-Puppies, and the whole-of-the-rest-of-Hugo-voting mass of fans.
          Yeah, the anti-Puppies would be out to vote down the Puppies regardless, due to things like Vox Day being a raving theofascist *and* a crap writer, but the mass of Hugo voters wouldn’t give a stuff about the Puppies if they’d kept to nominating 1-2 works per category. Puppies only got voted down so hard because they tried to take over the whole nomination process*.
          I expect the Puppies to get a bunch of nominations in 2016, but if they lock up any categories they’ll get a spanking at the hands of No Award and people will wait for 2017 when – guess what – the rules change to make slates a lot harder to run.
          *And because a lot of their stuff is crap, to be fair, but they did manage to co-opt some decent works onto the slate.

          • Anonymous says:

            This is not a 50:50 pro-anti issue. There are the ~10% Puppies, the ~5% semi-organised anti-Puppies, and the whole-of-the-rest-of-Hugo-voting mass of fans.

            According to Chaos Horizon:

            Core Rabid Puppies: 550-525
            Core Sad Puppies: 500-400
            Sad Puppy leaning Neutrals: 800-400 (capable of voting a Puppy pick #1)
            True Neutrals: 1000-600 (may have voted one or two Puppies; didn’t vote in all categories; No Awarded all picks, Puppy and Non-Alike)
            Primarily No Awarders But Considered a Puppy Pick above No Award: 1000
            Absolute No Awarders: 2500

            5653 total votes (assuming I have the right number here), so that makes it:
            ~10% rabid puppies,
            ~8% sad puppies,
            ~7-15% sad puppy-leaning neutrals,
            ~10-18% true neutrals,
            ~18% mostly no awarders,
            ~44% absolute no awarders.

            The last two groups are the anti-puppies, so you were off by an order of magnitude.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Any link to what’s going to happen in 2017?

          • Slow Learner says:

            @Scott the proposed amendment to the voting is here: http://sasquan.org/business-meeting/agenda/
            under the name E Pluribus Hugo.
            Assuming it passes at the next WorldCon in Helsinki, that’ll be the voting system for 2017.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          >You mean the anti-Puppy slate-voters, as opposed to the pro-Puppy slate-voters.

          You mean the anti-Puppy-slate voters not the anti-Puppy slate-voters.

          Voting against a slate, even to the point of placing no-award above any entry from the slate, is not slate voting. Many of those who did so were opposed to the existence of slates.

          • Anonymous says:

            The impression I got was that anti-puppies were all about the puppy slates being endorsed by the wrong tribe, and the “slates in general are evil” being the motte to that bailey.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Yes, the problem is that mottes usually work because there are actual people who are in them.

          • Anonymous says:

            I concede that there are, there must be, those who consider slate voting a greater evil than the wrong tribe winning. This is not the impression I got from the anti-puppy crowd in general.

          • For what it’s worth, the anti-puppy side could have put it’s own slate or slates together, but didn’t. And put a lot of work into changing the rules to weaken the influence of slates.

            I believe there was strong anti-slate sentiment as well as tribal issues.

          • Anatoly says:

            I suggest that if the anti-puppies’ main problem was with “the the puppy slates being endorsed by the wrong tribe”, they would have lobbied their own slate rather than urge people to vote against slates. Even if only a sizable proportion of anti-puppies felt this way, there would still have been visible *attempts*, even if unsuccessful, to promote a competing slate. But in fact I remember no such visible attempt.

            Certainly there were anti-puppies who felt very strong ideological aversion to the puppy side. But substantial conversations on the anti-puppy side, from what I’ve seen, tended to be dominated by very strong rejection of slate voting as an idea. In that respect, it seemed to me, there was striking asymmetry between the anti-puppy and the puppy sides.

            Notably, the most authoritative arguments coming from the anti-puppy side – e.g. GRRM’s series of posts – displayed good understanding of the puppy side’s claims and attitudes (while disagreeing with them); while the most authoritative arguments coming from the puppy side – e.g. Brad Torgerson’s and Larry Correia’s missives – accused the anti-puppies of being ideologically driven SJWs, and didn’t seem to understand, or to take seriously, the aforementioned rejection of slate voting of any kind. This is another kind of asymmetry between the sides I found important; I’ll be happy to consider corrections to this claim of asymmetry, but that’s how it appeared to me when I was spending much time reading arguments from both sides.

          • Slow Learner says:

            I find it notable that even those like Sandifer who hate the Rabid Puppies with the fire of a thousand suns were not advising a counter slate *or* (that I recall) telling others to vote No Award.

          • John Schilling says:

            I suggest that if the anti-puppies’ main problem was with “the the puppy slates being endorsed by the wrong tribe”, they would have lobbied their own slate rather than urge people to vote against slates.

            The anti-puppies main problem, tactically, was that they did not realize that the sad/rabid puppies were a force that needed to be effectively opposed (rather than just mocked) until after the 2015 nominations were in and the Puppy slate had swept most of the fiction categories. At that point it was too late to propose a counter-slate for 2015. It is also, obviously, tactically ineffective to counter with “Slates are Bad, we should all no-award the Puppy Slate in 2015 because they are Evil Slate Voters, meanwhile here’s the slate we are going to support in 2016”

            Given a choice between ceding the 2015 Hugos to the Puppies to focus on their own 2016 Slate, and opposing the Puppies in 2015 by way of a “slate nominees should be no-awarded on principle” campaign, the anti-Puppies chose the latter. This was tactically effective, but it is consistent with both opposition to slates and opposition to non-SJ science fiction and so gives us little insight into the motives of the anti-Puppies. Which, as noted, was probably a mix of the two.

          • Anatoly says:

            What’s the name of the bias where you think of your own side as composed by individuals making their own choices, while the enemy side is assumed (usually tacitly, without fully understanding it) to act in concert under a single will? There’s got to be a name, but I can’t find it. It’s a very very very common bias.

            Anyway, John Schilling, you’re doing *that*, all over the place. Please don’t, it makes for a depressingly low level of discourse. The anti-puppies were and are many people acting independently and choosing different strategies all over the place. While the Puppygate awareness got a huge boost after the nominations were in, there were quite a few anti-puppies criticizing them before that, too, and those *did not* propose their counter-slate even though it wasn’t too late. Moreover, if a substantial number of anti-puppies were pro-“slates of the right kind”, they were completely free to go with the “here’s the slate we’ll win with in 2016” message, while *other* anti-puppies could stress the “slates are bad, period” message. There was no cabal enforcing the correct opinion (in fact, the most popular anti-puppy activists continually stressed that while they propose e.g. noawarding, others should feel free voting individually for whatever they prefer; there was no pressure to converge on the single correct response to puppies; there was anti-pressure!).

            But that didn’t happen. The reason the anti-puppies activists did not propose their own slate, this year or in 2016, is not that they made some kind of uniformly enforced tactical decision that would mask, for the PR purposes, their terrible ideological dogmatism. The reason was that they overwhelmingly truly were and are against slate voting, and the loudest and most authoritative voices in that camp were even *more* against slate voting than the average.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Anatoly:

            What part of “… gives us little insight into the motives of the anti-Puppies. Which, as noted, was probably a mix of the two” did you not understand? Or did you not bother to read to the end of my post, but decide to pen your screed as soon as the beginning of my post disagreed with yours?

            My point was, and I emphasis was, that the anti-puppy coalition represented a diversity of views that we cannot fully understand, including both people who oppose slates on principle and straight-up SJWs. But it is possible to persuade me that one, particularly hateful, viewpoint dominates the whole, and people like you go a long way towards convincing me of that.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz:

            I agree that there was a lot of anti-slate feeling in general, but I disagree that the anti-Puppy side, at least the core SJW elements, could have put together a counter-slate. It would immediately have fallen into squabbling chaos. Everything is Problematic.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >What’s the name of the bias where you think of your own side as composed by individuals making their own choices, while the enemy side is assumed (usually tacitly, without fully understanding it) to act in concert under a single will? There’s got to be a name, but I can’t find it. It’s a very very very common bias.

            Seems like a variety of Fundamental Attribution Error, but maybe you’re thinking about something else.

          • I don’t know a lot about the whole puppies controversy, but I would think the simplest test of whether the objection was to slates or a particular slate would be behavior prior to this controversy. Did people ever propose slates? Was there the sort of widespread opposition to slates that the Puppies experienced?

            If the answer is “yes and no,” that suggests that what is really going on is not opposition to slates.

            Is it?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @Anatoly

            Sounds like the outgroup homogeneity bias.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @David Friedman:

            There was the occasional hint at it, and the occasional discussion that gosh, it would be easy to subvert the Hugos via slate voting so it’s a good thing we fans are Above All That, but the Puppies were really, AFAICT, the first serious slate or slate-like-thing that was implemented with a large fan base. The closest that had come before was a large group of arguable non-fans would get behind a specific single work because of the author. The most notorious example of this was a work by L. Ron Hubbard that Scientologists tried to get picked. It failed rather spectacularly, IIRC.

            The Puppy argument is that basically the last twenty years or so was slate voting, the slates just weren’t formally announced. *shrug*

          • NL says:

            @David Friedman

            This in itself is controversial. The puppy supporters believe that there has been a secret slate for a few years. The anti-puppies either say there have never been slates before or point to the defeat of Black Genesis (which the Scientologists where probably responsible for getting on the ballot.)

          • Mary says:

            “For what it’s worth, the anti-puppy side could have put it’s own slate or slates together, but didn’t. ”

            When?

            If they didn’t believe it was a serious threat before the nominations were announced, no, they couldn’t have — all slates had to be before then.

          • Mary says:

            “I suggest that if the anti-puppies’ main problem was with “the the puppy slates being endorsed by the wrong tribe”, they would have lobbied their own slate rather than urge people to vote against slates.”

            I repeat, when would they have done this? Remember they could not have done it after nominations were announced.

            I note that the anti-Puppy forces were discussing the strong Puppy representation on the ballot BEFORE the ballot was announced. Either they had gotten the ballot — against the rules — before the announcement, or they knew who the real candidates were (the secret slate NL mentioned), and that the only conceivable competition came from the puppies.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            Furthermore, after the nominations were announced, several prominent fans/authors released anti-Puppy slates of suggested winning votes, including both “utilize No Award to stop Puppy wins” and “here’s how to vote for non-Puppy candidates.” Those slates were enormously successful.

            To the anti-Puppy side, that is merely a coincidence, and True Fandom would have won the day regardless of such actions. And that may in fact be the case. But it cannot be denied that they were created and published widely.

            As Mary notes, there is nearly indisputable circumstantial evidence that the results of the nominations were made available to anti-Puppy activists before the nominations were announced. The only possible way in which this could not be true is that the anti-Puppy side was already so heavily invested in coordinated anti-Puppy maneuvers that they knew who had been nominated because every single non-Puppy potential nominee was reporting whether or not they had been nominated (which is, by the way, considered very bad form) to some central information holder.

          • John Beshir says:

            I think a major confounding factor is that it’s surely way easier to build a coalition around “people we don’t like are making a slate, let’s block all slates” than “people we don’t like are making a slate, let’s make our own” if you’re at all internally fractious about what that slate should be. It also makes a moral high ground easier.

            It’d be nice to believe that the politically motivated were a fringe group, but I don’t think the lack of a counter slate was good evidence for it.

          • Anatoly says:

            @Earthly Knight, “outgroup homogeneity bias” it is, or at least close enough, thanks!

            @John Schilling, you describe the anti-puppies as a mix of two motives at the end of your post, but you also describe them as acting as one body throughout. Anti-puppies “did not realize” something. Then it was “tactically ineffective” for them “to counter” with something else. Then they “chose” another thing. I’m sorry that you don’t even realize how silly it all sounds. There was no opportunity for anti-puppies to “choose” any strategy collectively at any given point. As I already wrote, if different anti-puppies had different motives, nothing prevented them from executing different strategies. There was no push towards deciding on a single strategy, in fact there was an anti-push.

            My point was, and I emphasis was, that the anti-puppy coalition represented a diversity of views that we cannot fully understand, including both people who oppose slates on principle and straight-up SJWs.

            Now this is just bizarre. FFS just read the blog posts and the discussions on the anti-puppy side and you’ll understand the “diversity of views” just fine. I don’t know what’s supposed to be so difficult about that. Both sides have been pretty open about what they want and what they believe.

            Certainly there were “straight-up SJWs” on the anti-puppy side, but my impression was that they were a minority. And even they did not, anywhere that I saw, endorse straight-up slate voting. SJWs would talk a lot about how it’s important to nominate works by women, POC, etc. They often suggested some works they thought deserved to be nominated on the basis of their ideological/racial/gender conformity. But even they did not make up slates and call for slate-voting. Rejection of slates was well-nigh universal on the anti-puppy side.

            @Mary, it’s weird to talk in terms of “If they didn’t believe it was a serious threat before the nominations were announced”. “they” didn’t have one belief about that. As I tried to explain to John Schilling already, there was no single opinion about that. Some anti-puppies raved and warned about puppy slates way before the nominations were in. *They* could have tried to organize an anti-puppy slate, if they were actually really pro slates, just their own kind. There was no serious attempt to do that.

            I note that the anti-Puppy forces were discussing the strong Puppy representation on the ballot BEFORE the ballot was announced. Either they had gotten the ballot — against the rules — before the announcement, or they knew who the real candidates were (the secret slate NL mentioned), and that the only conceivable competition came from the puppies.

            I don’t know why this is supposed to be such a huge thing. If I remember correctly, Nilsen Haydens hinted that a storm was coming a few days before the announcement. It seems likely that someone from the organizing committee leaked to them the fact that the puppies are taking the nominations by storm, or even the entire list. If so, that was very wrong, but there seems to be little actual (or potential) harm, and it’s not like such a leak tarnishes the entire anti-puppy side.

            The secret slate thing is straight-up conspiracy theory nuttery.

          • Anonymous says:

            “Secret slates” are fairly ridiculous.

            Decentralized distribution of socially accepted voting patterns within an in-group bubble is not. There doesn’t need to be any conspiracy of the strict sort for it to work, just a bunch of people interconnected on social networks (both meatspace and cyberspace), liking each others’ posts and indicating which options are socially acceptable to pick, and which are heinous travesties against right-thought.

          • Mary says:

            “f I remember correctly, Nilsen Haydens hinted that a storm was coming a few days before the announcement. ”

            One explicitly and openly said that Puppies had taken as many slots as they did.

            ” If so, that was very wrong, but there seems to be little actual (or potential) harm,”

            It would be explicitly and openly against the rules.

            (Unlikely the puppies, who scrupulously obeyed every rules and were abused as if they had violated them.)

            So you are saying those who followed the rules are the bad guys, and those who broke them* are the good guys.

            *In your scenario. It is worth noting that they, unlike you, deny it. Unfortunately for you, the only alternative is their knowing the only possible other candidates.

    • Anatoly says:

      The puppy slates were repugnant, and even though Scott would not of course be responsible for someone else nominating his work, it’ll still be an association best avoided. My opinion is that you really shouldn’t.

      • Anonymous says:

        >The puppy slates were repugnant

        What? No, they weren’t.

      • I don’t know what Anatoly had in mind when they said “repugnant”, but I what I read of puppy nominiees struck my as boring or worse, and I don’t get the impression that there’s much being written now which is both good and is what the puppies say they want.

        Unfortunately, one that that was good, plotty, and heroic was Marko Kloos trilogy (I don’t remember which one was up for a Hugo), but he withdrew it, and I’m entirely willing to believe he didn’t like *either* side or being in the middle of the quarrel between them.

        The main thing I learned from the recent Hugo difficulties is how much people are apt to underestimate the effect of the hostility from their own side.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          @Nancy Lebovitz:

          Just curious: Did you read Big Boys Don’t Cry?

          • Marc Whipple says:

            If I were asked what the best example of a nominee which was both good and what the Puppies want was, that would be my answer. I thought it was eminently Hugo-worthy. Its category got no-awarded.

          • keranih says:

            Because Krautman can write, and you may like what he writes. Give it a try.

            (Not all of the puppy-nominated stuff was of a quality I would have voted for…but neither was much that had made it onto the final ballot in the past few years.)

            (There has been some really good stuff – both that which was nominated and that which was ignored.)

            If the whole puppy kerfluffle has only the result of getting more people to read and vote for what they like, I think it will be worth all the electrons that have died for it.

          • I thought that the villainy of all the people in Big Boys Don’t Cry was just a bit too mustache twirling for me. There were certainly some Puppy entries that I voted for over No Award. Skin Games, In the Stone House, Totaled, The Parliament of Beasts and Birds (I do love Wright’s wordsmithing), The Hot Equations. But I thought there was also a lot of very low quality stuff. I mostly get involved with the Hugos as a chance to read good short fiction for cheap but this year it was mostly just a slog to give everything a fair shake.

        • Anatoly says:

          I meant of course that the idea of the slates, and the execution, were repugnant, not the actual works. I read few of the nominees, slate or no slate.

          But since we’re talking about it, I remembered last year opening Vox Day’s blog and reading a post – I found it now – about how there’s this great military SF story that “SJW critics” are panning because they hate the actual science fiction we love. We have no interest in or regard for their SJW, non-SF, “science fiction”. We appreciate a genuine sense of wonder. They refer in snarky contempt to “sensawunda”… etc.

          I got curious. Here was a short story Vox Day was actually holding up as a worthy representative of the Puppy side. The story was “Turncoat” by Steve Rzasa. I read it. It was very, very bad. It was awful. The cloyingly preachy descriptions. The characters weren’t even cardboard, they were cigarette paper thin. And the main plot switch, nevermind that it was predictable (not really a flaw) was just such a painfully unconvincing cliche. If this is what Rabid Puppies held up as the best they had to offer, they were safe to ignore as far as quality goes, I thought.

          (I do know of at least one exception: I think John C. Wright is very talented. “Guest Law” is a little gem of a story I would recommend to anyone. Haven’t read his latest. I suspect though that it isn’t the quality of his prose that makes him a Puppy favorite).

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I think John Wright is a Sad Puppy, not a Rabid Puppy, isn’t he? Admittedly though I haven’t been following the affair all that closely.

          • Anatoly says:

            Both puppy lists featured Wright, but the Rabid Puppies one was positively saturated with him.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            Wright is most definitely a Rabid Puppy, although he is not the I-Just-Want-To-Watch-The-World-Burn kind exemplified by Vox Day.

          • John Schilling says:

            Wright is mostly Rabid Puppy, getting two nods (one for non-fiction) on the 2015 Sad Puppy slate and six with the Rabid Puppies. Sad Puppies was sincerely trying to nominate what they thought were good works, constrained by their narrow taste and their rejection of their opponents’ tastes. Rabid Puppies was about nominating the works most likely to cause the Hugos to go down in flames.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            I would distinguish between being a $PUPPY and having one’s works nominated by/being seen as good by a $PUPPY. Wright is definitely a Rabid Puppy in both categories. Many people are Sad Puppies (or not Puppies at all) by personal inclination but have produced work which appeals to Rabid Puppies.

          • Mary says:

            “Wright is most definitely a Rabid Puppy”

            This is exactly the guilt by association that the Puppies complained of. The Puppies were the voters and proposers of nominees, not the nominees.

          • Mary says:

            “Many people are Sad Puppies (or not Puppies at all) by personal inclination but have produced work which appeals to Rabid Puppies.”

            How true.

            There is a review on Amazon of Jim Butcher’s latest that gives it one-star and says it’s because the Puppies liked his other work.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Mary:

            I don’t know how active, if at all, Wright was in the leadup to the actual SP/RP nomination process, but there is no question, out of his own mouth, that he agrees with the Rabid Puppy position on pretty much every point. Technically, he may not have been a Rabid Puppy during the nomination process, but he most definitely is one in spirit. This is not guilt by association, which many other authors who were “merely” Sad Puppies, or not Puppies at all, suffered. This is guilt by enthusiastic agreement.

          • Mary says:

            ” but there is no question, out of his own mouth, that he agrees with the Rabid Puppy ”

            quote him, then.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Mary:

            http://www.scifiwright.com/

            Just click the puppy topic flag, or search for the terms.

          • Mary says:

            Quote him. Do not throw his extremely extensive blog — which I follow — at me and claim it’s in there somewhere.

          • Luke Somers says:

            Mary, the directions were pretty explicit. After roughly 5 seconds of link-following I found this:

            http://www.scifiwright.com/2016/01/the-stormbunnies-and-crybullies/

            http://www.scifiwright.com/2015/12/peace-on-mars-good-will-toward-puppies/

            When people criticize puppies or make overtures to them, he responds as one of them.

          • Mary says:

            “the directions were pretty explicit.”

            They were so vague as to be unusable, because you provided not the slightest hint about what you meant to qualify.

            “he responds as one of them.”

            What is that supposed to mean?

            You’re saying to be qualify as a Sad Puppy a person can’t object to being lied about?

          • @Mary:

            I think “we Sad Puppies” is pretty clear.

          • Jon Gunnarsson says:

            But the claim was that Wright was a Rabid Puppy.

          • Luke Somers says:

            @Mary: Who are you talking to? I followed those directions; I didn’t write them.

            @Jon: Oh right. Hmm. Would need to poke around a bit more to figure out where he falls on that distinction. Meh.

          • Addict says:

            @Mary

            He is unavoidably a rabid puppy. A cursory examination of any of his blog posts, essays, or forum debates railing against social justice warriors and atheists will demonstrate that without a doubt. The reason Marc’s instructions were not vague is that it did not matter what you clicked on, because his entire website is a dedication to rabid puppy values.

            I was tremendously heartbroken when I found out; I adore the Golden Age trilogy and am eagerly awaiting the conclusion of his Count to a Trillion series.

    • Urstoff says:

      The Hugo’s have been a joke for over ten years. If you’re not trying to make it as a full-time SFF author (and thus just want the exposure), I don’t see why you’d want to have anything to do with them.

      • Anatoly says:

        The Hugo’s have been a joke for over ten years

        What does it mean to say that? What are you actually saying?

        That getting a Hugo doesn’t translate to celebrity status or financial success? But that has been the case forever, the last 10 years aren’t different.

        That particular awards given in the last 10 years are much worse in judgement quality than before? If so, what’s the evidence – where are the utterly brilliant SF novels ignored by the Best Novel Hugo (for instance), and even more importantly, where’s the evidence that the last 10+ years are worse in that respect than before? There are many forgotten novels from the 60s and 70s that got Hugo’s in their time.

        • Urstoff says:

          That the Hugo’s lately have been much more about status than than quality. The only other book award that sees so much hand-wringing is the Man Booker Prize, and for much the same reasons as the Hugo. Maybe the Hugo’s have always been like this; after all, middling novels from Asimov won it over much more deserving books in the 70’s and 80’s. But if a truly awful book like Redshirts can win, then I see no reason to ever pay attention to the Hugo’s. As a somewhat experienced reader of SFF, I have much better ways to find books/stories that are likely to be good than looking at who wins or is nominated for a Hugo.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Awful? I thought it was entertaining enough, in a fairly light way. It was good bus reading. Not “this is good enough for an award”, definitely.

          • Andrew says:

            Agree with dndnrsn- it didn’t seem like award-quality, but was definitely a fun, enjoyable read for Trek-fans (of which there are gigantic quantities in SF-fandom).

          • Urstoff says:

            It was the nadir of Scalzi sarcasm-humor, dialed to 11 and completely awful. The characters were paper thin (which, given the main conceit of the book [redshirts are people, too], you’d think they wouldn’t be). The codas were by far the best part of the book, and shows that Scalzi can actually write something decent if he’s not trying for wall-to-wall yuks.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I guess you don’t like Scalzi’s other stuff, then?

            I’ve found everything I’ve read by him to be entertaining, if lightweight. None of it came even close to passing my test for “this is especially good, or even great”, namely, whether I would read it again knowing the plot twists and such.

          • Urstoff says:

            I enjoyed Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades for what they were. Redshirts just took the worst parts of those books and amplified them.

            Being John Scalzi with his blog is what won him the award, just like being Isaac Asimov is what won Foundation’s Edge the Hugo, so I guess this isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. It just seems that Hugo’s from the 50’s through the 80’s more reliably tracked quality than in more recent decades; that perception could be due to me simply being much more familiar with the wide range of contemporary releases, though.

          • Anatoly says:

            That the Hugo’s lately have been much more about status than than quality.

            I think that’s always been the case. You want a focus on quality, look to the Nebula. Gene Wolfe has never gotten a Hugo, talk about quality.

            But if a truly awful book like Redshirts can win, then I see no reason to ever pay attention to the Hugo’s. As a somewhat experienced reader of SFF, I have much better ways to find books/stories that are likely to be good than looking at who wins or is nominated for a Hugo.

            I agree with this, mostly. Personally I’ve got little to no use for the Hugo’s. The average quality of Best Novel nominees is below my expectations. But I still think the Puppygate is a fascinating story: a crowd of stupid people armed with conspiracy theories and chanting “SJWs! SJWs!” destroying the reputation of an award, just because they could. It didn’t hurt me, but I kinda feel for those it did hurt.

          • DrBeat says:

            a crowd of stupid people armed with conspiracy theories and chanting “SJWs! SJWs!” destroying the reputation of an award, just because they could. It didn’t hurt me, but I kinda feel for those it did hurt.

            That… That isn’t just not what happened, it’s almost the opposite of what happened.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @DrBeat:

            Seconded. We’re definitely in “Not Even Wrong” territory here.

          • Anatoly says:

            @DrBeat, you want to elaborate? My description may be somewhat flippant, but I’m not seeing how it could be “almost the opposite of what happened”. By “conspiracy theories” I meant things like “the secret slate” already mentioned above.

            (Among the descriptions of how Hugos functioned before the puppies, how political/factional/SJWy/etc. they were, I found GRRM’s long posts in his back-and-forth with Larry Correia to be the most convincing. Having carefully read both sides, my conclusion was that Correia had nothing substantial to offer against GRRM’s claims).

          • keranih says:

            @ Anatoly

            If you read the GRRM/LC exchange, and came away with the impression that the Hugos were wrecked, this year by a group of people whose primary effect was to shout “You’re an SJW!” at their opponents, then I am not sure that anyone here could convince you otherwise.

            However, in my impression, this is what happened:

            1) Starting back in the early oughts, $study majors – who had grown up in a world where consuming SFF wasn’t just something nerds did – became a larger and more visible contingent in both professional and fannish SFF.

            2) These progressive writer-advocates attempted – as most humans do – to create a place in SFF-dom more to their liking. This group was more tech-savy than the older generation of fan/writers, and had the support of literary academia and mainstream publishers, as previous generations had not.

            (It is a mistake to think of these influences as either absolute or completely one thing. I speak of tendencies and comparative advantages.)

            3) While publishing space in either the big houses nor the various magazines were not and have not been a zero sum game, the rising influence of progressive writer-advocates meant far less space for conservative/technical/old-style-space-yarn/religiously observant writer-advocates.

            4) While it is arguably true that older SFF failed a segment of the potential readership in being too conservative/technical/old-style-space-yarny/religiously observant, the newer progressive writer-advocates have, imo, over-estimated the appeal of their identity-oriented works.

            5) Worldcon participants (both writers and fans) became increasingly distinct from the main run of SFF fans – being fans with enough money and free time to attend a con that moved all over the country – and the Sorts of Things that appealed to WC participants increasingly did not match the Sorts of Things that appealed to the larger run of SFF fans. The increasing influence of progressive writer-advocates in WC and similar circles only expanded this disconnect.

            6) Fans of a conservative bent became increasingly aware of a distinct anti-conservative leaning in Fandom, and among the more vocal writer-advocates. Note: GRRM says he wasn’t aware of this sort of thing, which imo undercuts GRRM’s ability to speak with authority on this.

            7) An increasingly nasty set of disagreements occurred in the SFF writers organization, SFWA. To call it a purge of conservative writers would be a monumental overstatement, but there were hard feelings and people flouncing off into the night, and other people saying they didn’t want to be part of that mess, and SFWA became distinctly more progressive and more anti-conservative than it had been.

            So, three years back – long before Gamergate – Larry Corriea started a campaign to get the Sort of Things he liked on the Hugo ballot. (A reminder for those just tuning in – there are two sets of SFF awards. The Nebulas are voted on by the SFWA, and are the equivalent of the Oscars. The Hugos, which we are talking about here, are the People’s Choice Awards.) His goals were two fold – to investigate the possibility of overt vote tampering, and to investigate the possibility of social manipulation. The first year, there were only a few categories that had a SP entry, and none did exceptionally well – but it did infuriate the right sorts of people. (LC was able to discredit the idea of overt vote tampering to his satisfaction, and the charge has not been seriously raised since.)

            Year Two, the SP list had 1 to 3 (iirc) entries for each category (well, for most of them) and a few got on the final ballot. This lead to even more infuriation on the part of the right sorts of people, and active campaigns to “no award” anything listed by the SPs. Having watched various heads explode, LC declared himself satisfied and turned SP3 over to Brad Torgensun (sp?) who is by all accounts a decent guy. (Except when he’s a secret racist who is so dedicated to the White Supremacist cause that he actually married a black woman in order to oppress her in person 24/7.)

            (No, not kidding. People actually said that about Brad.)

            In order to expand the SP entries beyond “the Sort of Thing LC likes”, BT solicited opinions, constructed a list of five (ish) entries for each category, and set it out for the consideration of the SP peps. This list included a variety of works by people of various gender and political orientations.

            …and here is where it gets complicated.

            Remember the SFWA “purge”? One of the most colorful participants of that mess was a writer/editor by the name of Vox Day, about whom nearly everyone has an opinion. VD is Not Nice. He does not tolerate fools, suffer suffragettes, or agree to respectably disagree, nor does he let bygones be bygones, and he specializes in the sort of internet debates that most closely resembles the conduct of your eight year old brother in the back seat of your parent’s car on a five hour trip to your grandparents. He makes the progressive writer-advocates insane, and has ongoing feuds with several of the most SJW of the SJWs.

            One of his works was nominated by LC in SP2 (because he liked the story, and in order to make people’s heads explode. In retrospect, this might not have been the wisest long term strategy choice on LC’s part.) In SP3, one of the stipulations that several SP nominated authors had was that VD not be involved. BT shrugged and agreed, LC shrugged and agreed, VD shrugged and agreed.

            A few days after the SP list was suggested, VD produced a similar but not identical list, which he dubbed the “Rabid Puppy” List.

            Both lists were largely ignored – and when not ignored, mocked – by the progressive writer-advocates and their fans. Until the nominations were tallied, and the authors whose works had been on the short lists of various progressive writer-advocates did NOT get contacted with news of their (all-but-assured) nominations. Instead, people on the SP/RP lists got contacted.

            When the final short lists came out, on Easter weekend, the SP/RP lists had succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. In more than one category, there had been a complete lock out.

            And then All Fandom Went To War.

            IMO, all the ink spilled in the months there after was just clean up after this EW article (archived versions here: https://archive.is/http://www.ew.com/article/2015/04/06/hugo-award-nominations-fall-victim-misogynistic-and-racist-voting) went live the Monday after the awards were announced. The progressive writer-advocates (to include snubbed authors who penned anti-puppy opinion pieces in which they failed to note their own conflicts of interest) seized the media spotlight, conflated SP with GamerGate, and proposed countless “revisions” to the nomination process to ensure that this sort of grassroots revolt “never happened again”. (Again, seriously, this happened, although GRRM did note that this attempted rules-gamemanship was both 1) happening and 2) not helpful.)

            So.

            If there were armies marching in the night with pitchforks, it wasn’t just SP. There was and continues to be a lot of personal bad blood on all parts, and many people have staked out ground that they may come to regret dying upon. But imo one side is (still) advocating for a free market in sff fiction/media, where the reader gets to pick the stuff they like, and another side, which would like to act as a gatekeeper of the Properly Approved Sorts of Thing Which Are Consumed By Our Kind of People.

            For all their faults and excesses, I am still on the SP side – if only because I get to read works by anti-puppy writers without being cast out.

          • BBA says:

            The best anti-Puppy argument I saw is that most of the “SJW” books sold dramatically better than most of the books on either Puppy slate, to the extent that it’s completely implausible to blame some vast conspiracy of entryists, Hugo voters and publishers for “warping the fandom.” This is the fandom, like it or not.

            From my admittedly limited SF reading I think the nominees are mostly crap on both sides… Ted Sturgeon said something about that some years ago.

          • The Anonymouse says:

            Thank you, keranih. For those of us not involved in the ruckus, that was a far more helpful explanation than “a crowd of stupid people armed with conspiracy theories and chanting “SJWs! SJWs!” destroying the reputation of an award, just because they could.”

          • Held in Escrow says:

            Redshirts was pretty bad because it was Peak Scalzi. Interesting concept, solid start, completely and utter flub akin to running down mainstreet naked during rush hour halfways through the book. Old Man’s War had the decently to be a trilogy so the flub didn’t happen until the second/third book at least

          • John Schilling says:

            @ BBA:

            The best anti-Puppy argument I saw is that most of the “SJW” books sold dramatically better than most of the books on either Puppy slate,

            What do you mean by “most of the SJW books”, when by my count there were only two “SJW” books on the final ballot? Specifically, Addison’s The Goblin Emperor and Leckie’s Ancillary Sword. There were two “Puppy” books as well, Butcher’s Skin Game and Anderson’s The Dark Between the Stars. Cixin Liu’s Three-Body Problem was a dark-horse entry when a third “Puppy” book declined the nomination, and was endorsed as a book worthy of nomination by Puppy and non-Puppy alike.

            Everything else was a short work that doesn’t sell in standalone book form, and in many cases are published in magazines or digests whose subscribers don’t know what they will get until after they pay. I don’t think meaningful sales figures are to be found there.

            And among the books, I’m pretty sure that Skin Game sold more than all the others combined, as it was (successfully) marketed as a straight-up mainstream bestseller as well as a genre work.

            If you’ve got sales figures that say otherwise, and in particular if you can find something to serve as a useful sales figure for the short fiction, I’d be genuinely interested.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ John Schilling
            Cixin Liu’s Three-Body Problem was a dark-horse entry when a third “Puppy” book declined the nomination, and was endorsed as a book worthy of nomination by Puppy and non-Puppy alike.

            Yep. First the SJ side was talking it up as being “by a Chinese! translated by a Chinese!” then “Well, it’s dull but it has some cultural stuff in it”. Then someone noticed that the dull stuff was math and science and aliens, and some of the Puppies read it and said, “Hey, we should have nominated that.”

            After it won the Hugo, the author came out and denounced the Puppies. Ho hum.

          • Anatoly says:

            @keranih:

            Thanks for writing up a pretty detailed and reasonably balanced backstory to the Puppygate. It’s evident throughout that the recap is both Puppy-friendly and tries very hard to give a fair hearing to the other side, which you did very well. I’ve no factual disagreements with anything you wrote, but I do disagree with some interpretations and descriptions of people/motives. Let me try to explain how this backstory is still in pretty good agreement, as far as I’m concerned, with my
            a crowd of stupid people armed with conspiracy theories and chanting “SJWs! SJWs!” destroying the reputation of an award, just because they could.

            1) Everything you write in your 1)-7) about the progressive or anti-conservative tendencies of SF in the last ~10 years is well said. I would also add that SF fandom was actually the first battleground of the modern-style Internet SJ movement, with the Racefail’09 scandal that resembled nothing before it, but so many SJ-related scandals since. Notably, Racefail’09 fizzled out after many prominent blue-tribe authors/editors realized just how toxic things were getting, and either went silent or took mildly anti-SJ positions. The Requires Hate scandal more recently also had a moderating effect on SJ tendencies in fandom, especially among writers.

            2) As you say, the left-leaning tendencies of fandom in general, of Worldcon fans, and of Hugo picks have been both real, and, after all, tendencies rather than any sort of conspiracies/blacklists/etc. Following GRRM, I interpret this as “business as usual”. The Hugos have *always* been political. Camps of people despising each other and trying to boost their votes have always been there. The Hugos survived the cultural revolution of the late 60ies and the Vietnam war. Following the well-known tendencies in today’s colleges and Internet activism, the Fandom has been lurching left. It’s entirely possible that it’ll lurch back (or apolitical) in another few years, as happened before. GRRM was downplaying this anti-conservative bias not because he was clueless about it, but because he’s seen it all before, and more than once. He was not impressed. It wasn’t something out of the ordinary. Certainly nothing worth trashing the Hugos over.

            3) As long as LC was trying to get one or two works of “our kind” onto ballots – that was one thing. I think LC is full of unsubstantiated conspiracy-type beliefs, but, you know, whatever. Some liberal activists opposed him bitterly, but it was all a storm in a teacup. What changed this year? First, Brad Torgerson switched to large slates that had a potential to completely fill categories. Second, Vox Day happened. But staying on the first thing for a second: it’s one thing when sustained lobbying pushes a novel or a story or two into a category. It’s very different when a slate of five works pushes everything else off the list, and it’s fair and reasonable to call it “trashing of the award”. You have a list of ideologically chosen works (adding insult to injury, they’re also really bad as quality goes) not leaving any chance to any other works, whatever their merits, that are not pushed by ideologues. This isn’t business as usual anymore, and it was unprecedented in the history of Hugos. The liberal-SJ-whatever side has never done anything so sleazy. And LC with BT are very blameworthy for this, as instigators and propagandists, even if the actual votes were mostly fielded by the Rabid camp. I imagine BT, who’s to all appearances a fine upstanding guy, just sick with ressentiment and deluded by this conspiracy thinking, was shocked and dismayed when he saw the nominations; I think he tried to downplay them and walk some of his rhetoric back, but it was way too late.

            4) Vox Day. I wish you didn’t repeat the usual wink-wink-nudge-nudge “He’s not a Nice Guy, he fights dirty, SJWs hate him” sort of narrative that decent people in the Puppy camp often write about VD. It lies by omission. Vox Day is not “not a nice guy”. He’s scum, a genuine article. He’s a bona fide turd of a human being. To say that he’s “Not Nice” is to unfairly give him a pass. And it’s not like any of this is hidden. It’s easy to evaluate VD, just read his blog for a month. He’s compulsively dishonest; he WILL lie to his readers about his “enemies” and misprepresent them. He WILL go for the most sickening personal attacks possible, with nothing even remotely comparable coming from the other side. And the tone in his comments is worse yet, both in mendacity and stupidity. VD as a demagogue is big on rhetoric, but not so much on subtlety. To be a loyal reader, to actually buy into the narrative he’s peddling, a degree of stupidity is required. And as it’s well-established the the nominations fell mostly to the Rabids and not the Sads – there you go, an army of stupid people chanting “SJWs! SJWs!”. To be a loyal follower of LC or BT, you don’t need to be stupid. With VD it’s different; again, a month or two reading the blog and the comments section are instructive.

            The Sad Puppy leaders made two huge mistakes this year. First, establishing large slates which can break the Hugos – and guess what, the Hugos got broken. Second, not distancing themselves the hell away from VD when he showed up to the party – and consequently sharing the blame and the rep hit with him, deservedly. It isn’t enough to say half-heartedly “We’ve got our own thing and VD has his own thing, don’t confuse us”. When a vile asshole with this degree of toxicity shows up, you fight AGAINST him, not ALONGSIDE him, if you want decent people to think well of you. Compare with the unmasking of Requires Hate, performed by impeccably liberal SF authors.

          • suntzuanime says:

            If you want “decent people” to “think well of you”, you submit to the Blight. That’s how it works, that’s their power. If you want to survive, you have to roll your eyes at the “decent people” and what they think.

          • Anonymous says:

            >[Vox Day is] compulsively dishonest; he WILL lie to his readers about his “enemies” and misprepresent them.

            Examples? Because following his various misadventures, I got the impression that dishonesty in particular is not among his flaws.

            >He WILL go for the most sickening personal attacks possible, with nothing even remotely comparable coming from the other side.

            So far as I know, none of those were unprovoked.

            >To be a loyal reader, to actually buy into the narrative he’s peddling, a degree of stupidity is required.

            I beg to differ.

            If you want an honest write-up on VD, go here: http://therev3.blogspot.no/2015/08/killing-vox-day-part-one.html

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ keranih, anatoly

            Keranih’s account is about right, per my observation of how it all went (starting from Racefail). My sympathies are with the SPs, both in SF taste and in how they were treated in this controversy.

            Among the Rabid Puppies, Vox Day is a live-action troll (see his history re SFWA). He publishes John C. Wright, who probably did deserve a Hugo for one or another of his many RP nominations; Wright’s fiction that I’ve seen on the web is fascinating, literate, brilliant narrative pace (on small scale; I haven’t followed up on his stories, expecting no one could keep that up on a larger scale).

            Conflating the Sads with the Rabids is understandable, but very unfair on a closer look.

            Disclaimers: my info is from my mostly SJ populated Friends List on Livejournal; politically I vote Far Left but despise SJ tactics, and ad hominem on any side.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >a crowd of stupid people armed with conspiracy theories and chanting “SJWs! SJWs!” destroying the reputation of an award, just because they could.

            That doesn’t seem like a super terrible outcome if the reputation was underserved in the first place.

          • Mary says:

            “As long as LC was trying to get one or two works of “our kind” onto ballots – that was one thing.”

            At that one, one opponent publicly tweeted that she hoped that LC and all his supporters would die in a fire.

            No, the hatred doesn’t stem from “breaking” the Hugos. It stems from the very existence of such unpeople as the Puppies

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @houseboat:

            Wright does not always deliver on the promises his talent makes, but he often does. His stories set in the world of The Night Land are amazing. (One of them was the first Christian Apologia I’ve read since I finished the Narnia stories that didn’t make me want to hurl the book across the room.) The only fully original novel of his I’ve read, Count to a Trillion, was uneven in spots but I greatly enjoyed it overall.

          • stillnotking says:

            Say what you will about Vox Day (and I could say plenty bad), it’s worth noticing that he’s the only real winner in the Puppies War. He never cared about making the Hugos more “inclusive” to anyone; he wanted to burn them to the ground, destroy their prestige, and that’s exactly what happened.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Well, yes, “dumb” or “stupid” is not the kind of insults people direct at him.

          • anonymous says:

            If you want “decent people” to “think well of you”, you submit to the Blight. That’s how it works, that’s their power. If you want to survive, you have to roll your eyes at the “decent people” and what they think.

            Or maybe you are just an asshole.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            So it sounds like maybe the best move is to pull a Cixin Liu and enter as a non-puppy but with a book that Puppies can nevertheless appreciate? And if it’s good enough both sides will unite around it? Does that sound right to people who know more about this area?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Scott, are you saying that the way to win is to appeal to as many people as possible? Of course that’s the way to win.

            But that’s only once you’ve been nominated. The big problem is how to get nominated. This is a coordination problem, not just to get people have heard of and like your work, but to believe that everyone else does, so that it is worth spending a nomination on. Without a slate that would piss people off. Even choosing which of your short stories to nominate is a coordination problem.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @urstoff: what do you think were the weakest parts of those books?

            I thought them to be entertaining, if a bit bland, military sci fi with some cool little ideas but nothing really earthshaking.

          • Urstoff says:

            @dndnrsn

            The worst parts being the comic dialogue. In contrast, some of the situations were nicely absurd in a tragicomic way; for example, the main character getting deeply upset at being able to kill lots of the tiny Corvandu.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Urstoff:

            Yeah, thinking of it, he definitely writes better comic situations than comic dialogue. Honestly, the dialogue in general was often the weakest point.

          • Nornagest says:

            Wright does not always deliver on the promises his talent makes, but he often does. His stories set in the world of The Night Land are amazing.

            Wait, can you cite this? I’m always up for some Night Land fic, but it’s quite hard to find.

          • keranih says:

            @ houseboatonstyx –

            In my memory, Racefail was the “breakout” SJW viciousness, but there had been a number of “trial runs” before that.

            @ anatoly –

            I appreciate your even handed engagement here. Some quibbles/counter-interpretations/pushback to your push back, more or less in ascending order of what I actually care about:

            – Vox Day – I stand by my assessment. He is not Good People, and if I could wave a magic wand and instill in the man a measure of humility and charity towards his fellow human, I think I would, personal sovereignty be damned. But I can’t, and I’m not him, and if you have issues with what he thinks or what he has done, take it up with him. The world is full of more loathsome humans and my days are already packed.

            – Secret conspiracies – you know, I used to be pretty firmly on the “echo chamber of right-thinking people who refuse to sully their high minds by contacting the little people and their little people thoughts.” Because I’ve been there, done that – both as the solitary Little People among the High Minds, and as one of the deaf-and-blind High Minds who didn’t recognize her own biases.

            All that changed the week after last Easter, when dozens of opinion pieces and press-releases-masquerading-as-factual-accounts hit mainstream press around the world, calling Sad Puppies sexist, fascist, homophobic and racist trash. All at once. This was deliberate, this was coordinated, and this was hateful.

            Now-a-days, I’m pretty solidly in the “conspiracy of Puppy Blenders sitting in the middle of a self-confirming echo chamber of like-minded people” camp.

            – “It’s not what SP did, it’s how they did it, with slates that broke the Hugos” – NO. Stop right there. The first year, people wanted LC to die in a fire. The second year, people refused to read ANY SP nominations, even though there were 1 or 2 per category max. The third year, they handed out “ASSterisk” tokens to SP nominees. This year? When the goal is to have ten quality potential nominees per category? People are still saying that SP are nasty wrecking kulacks and we should shut up and go away and make our own “conservative” awards if we want to play in SFF. At this point, I think people have to either be actual angels or fucking morons to think that anything the SP do will ever be seen as acceptable. Fuck that noise.

            – Left shift in fandom – boyhowdy. Firstly, yes, Fandom has always been political. Being people of letters, we have always had a leftist contingent. The hard left, progressive, SJW bent is new, excessive, and bad. It’s not the politics that are a problem, it’s the unbalanced nature that is a problem. And, more to the point, people are valuing politics and identity more than story, which is bad for Fandom. Assume your $identity quality to your hero, or your hero’s struggle, and tell me a story that will keep me up all night, reading.

            – Denouncing VD. This is serious, because there are evidently cultural factors at play here. Red tribe – which is most of what SP is – we don’t do denunciations and purity tests. We try to hold to a value of judging people by what they do, not what they say, and we allow for disagreement. This sort of value is particularly evident amongst the “Western” (ie, American West – plains and rockies) sorts. Being all up in someone’s bizniz is a personal fault. (The South is different. The South is always different.)

            Blue tribe puts a lot more emphasis on visibly shunning the heretic and the non-repentant sinner, and demanding public shaming. This is deep SJW & Puritan attitude.

            I don’t know how to fix this discordant clash of povs. I know that it causes trouble again and again, as one side insists that the other is being a bunch of control freaks and that side says the first side won’t police their own.

            Me, though – I’ve seen this at work before, and I’ve listened to the SJWs who want VD’s head on a pike so they can piss on his hair. They won’t stop there. They are already calling for both VD and John Wright to be burned at the stake. If the SPs cast out those two, the next thing would be another name on their list. And then another.

            And it won’t ever stop.

            I am not VD. He does not speak for me. I don’t speak for him. If you want more than that from me, sir, I’m sorry, I can’t help you.

            I do hope people can keep on talking through this. This problem isn’t likely to go away on its own, and left to fester will only develop a nasty stink.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Nornagest:

            Just go on Amazon and search for “Awake in the Night” and “Awake in the Night Land” by Wright. The first is a novella. The second is a collection of stories (including “Awake in the Night”) which are set in the Night Land universe but range greatly through time. If you have KU you can read AITN for free.

          • Nornagest says:

            Just go on Amazon and search for “Awake in the Night” and “Awake in the Night Land” by Wright.

            Thanks!

            By many standards, “The Night Land” was not a very good book. It plot was nothing special, its characters were flat, and its clanking pseudo-Elizabethan prose was excruciating. But I haven’t read much that can match it for pure exoticism, and I think that might be why I keep coming back to it.

            Every now and then I come across someone that’s written fiction in its setting, and that’s almost always a treat. Partly, I imagine, because it’s a pretty obscure book and most of its fans are people who’re into spec-fic history and the weird fiction genre.

          • alexp says:

            ” Red tribe – which is most of what SP is – we don’t do denunciations and purity tests. ”

            If you say so…

          • DrBeat says:

            In my observation, it’s half true. They do do purity tests, but not denunciations.

            Red Tribers will not abandon someone until it’s been screamingly obvious for years to all outside observers that that someone is a total disasterpiece, whether that person is openly malicious and evil or not. Blue Tribers will abandon, then actively destroy, anyone within their tribe who shows signs of Wrongthink, and be faster to turn on someone the more loyal they are and the more respect they have. Related phenomenon: during the term of each Democratic President since FDR, he was regarded by leftist and center-leftist thinkers as a traitor to liberalism, a Republican in disguise. But even after everything Bush fucked up, most Red Tribers will defend him.

            Basically, Red Tribers are way too loyal, and Blue Tribers are way too disloyal.

          • brad says:

            They certainly do a lot of insisting that other people do denouncing or be suspect themselves. Recently Muslims, but plenty of others before that.

          • ivvenalis says:

            @ Marc Whipple
            If you enjoyed Count to a Trillion, you should read the sequels, of which 3 of a planned 5 have been published. Each one has been an improvement on the last so far IMO.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @DrBeat:
            Do you know what a RINO is? Do you know how popular a term it is inside of conservative circles?

            Seriously, these “conservatives rule, liberals drool” posts are annoying.

          • Red tribe – which is most of what SP is – we don’t do denunciations and purity tests.

            Hold on, which tribe was McCarthy again?

            Isn’t it painfully obvious to anyone else that it’s always the tribe with local power that’s doing this? Tiny, quiet minorities need to make peace with their local neighbors, lest the loud majority turn on them and denounce them for their otherness and lack of purity. And people with absolute power can enforce artificial distinctions of purity, but don’t have to.

            Where you get purity tests are groups who are not powerful in a general sphere, but do have control over a local space, and care more about signaling “Yay, my group!” in that space rather than accomplishing any actual goals with that space.

          • keranih says:

            @ alexp, brad

            They [red tribe] certainly do a lot of insisting that other people do denouncing or be suspect themselves. Recently Muslims, but plenty of others before that.

            Not saying that this hasn’t happened, but we’re talking about actions against in-group vs out-group. (and tendencies, not absolutes.) Blue tribe will turn on in-group people far faster than red. (As indicated, this can be bad in both directions.)

            In the context of Puppygate, this means, first, that the Sad Puppies saw themselves (and the TruFans) as fans, first, and political/other culture identity primarily, and were dismayed to realize that the Puppyblenders see themselves as Progressive Rightthinkers primarily, and SFF fans secondarily. I can recall more than one SJW/anti-puppy type writing in dismay about the number of conservatives in old school “hard” SFF. As if the presence of conservatives made the whole subfield unappealing.

            It also means (point 2) that the comparisons between VD and Requires Hate are not the clear-cut ying/yang that many Puppyblenders see them as. First, Puppyblenders want VD excommunicated and burnt for the same reason they wanted RH excommunicated – for the sin of causing pain and harm to Puppyblenders. (There was no outcry against RH so long as she kept her targets limited to the proper sorts of people.)

            Secondly re: shunning VD, the non-Rabids have done what they feel is appropriate – decline to participate in those actions of VD which the individual person doesn’t agree with. SP have not felt a need to reject VD’s goals when those goals are shared. The Stalin/Churchill/FDR analogy has been made before, and is apt, imo.

            As with any social/economic/cultural groupy-sort-of-thing of many decades standing, there is a lot going on here.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            >Seriously, these “conservatives rule, liberals drool” posts are annoying.

            Exaclty what I’d expect a drooler to say. Why are liberals so predictable?

          • JBeshir says:

            It doesn’t seem to me that enforcing against the outgroup in broad strokes while not enforcing against individuals in your ingroup is very good behaviour. It’s hard to see how that could end in anything but indefinite group conflict.

            I’m also pretty dubious that it accomplishes much. To get an individual to change behaviour, they need to be significantly incentivised, and generally the only people with the kind of social leverage to say “You’re being an asshole, dial it back” and have it mean anything are the people close to that person and respected in the circles they run in.

            If you let the people near you off and criticise only the distant, you’re ignoring the people you could actually affect. If everyone does that, everything is awful.

            Undirected attacks on an entire group probably do incentivise self-policing a little, but it seems like you should be willing to engage in self-policing yourself if you’re willing to use rhetorical tactics to pressure other people to do it more.

            For what it’s worth, I do not think this is a Red Tribe thing. I think failure to enforce norm violations on one’s own while attempting enforcement on the enemy is a very nasty all tribes thing. But I don’t think “my tribe behaves this way all the time” would be a reasonable justification for continuing to behave that way even if it were something exceptional about a particular tribe rather than a common failing.

            It might be nice (if troubling, in terms of strategy) if a tendency towards ideological purity did come with better pressure to adhere to communal norms, but I think if there’s a correlation it probably goes the other way. The two are different things.

            This is one of the things, I think, we should be trying to use our recognition of ingroup/outgroup effects to be better than.

          • Urstoff says:

            Isn’t the “cuckservative” meme basically a purity signal?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Urstoff:

            Yes, but “cuckservative” is completely beyond the regular conservative pale, and I’ve never even heard it except on this website.

            Libertarianism, though, is infamous for conflicts over ideological purity. You’re not a real libertarian if you’re an anarchist / support the state / are against open borders / are for open borders / are an Objectivist / are a utilitarian / support the War in Iraq / support Israel / oppose Israel / support the Federal Reserve / oppose the gold standard / support any state-backed currency etc.

            And as HeelBearCub said, “RINO” is definitely a common term of abuse among conservatives. The Tea Party movement itself—which I supported, especially in its early phase—was an attempt to throw out “fake conservatives” in the establishment wing of the party and replace them with people more consistently in favor of limited government. There was a lot of vitriol on both sides, with the Tea Party accusing the Republican leadership of betraying conservative principles and the establishment accusing the Tea Party of betraying the conservative movement by “going after their own”.

            Republicans in general are much more likely to challenge incumbents in primary elections than are Democrats.

            William F. Buckley was arguably the intellectual founder of the modern postwar conservative movement, and he deliberately carried out a systematic process of denouncing and excluding people who didn’t fit the program. That included John Birch Society types who seemed too hysterically focused on Communist infiltration, anyone who held openly racist beliefs, as well as people like Ayn Rand who were opposed to linking support for capitalism to “Judeo-Christian values”.

            The idea that the “red tribe” doesn’t engage in purity tests is absurd. Maybe they don’t on “social justice” issues, but that’s just because they don’t care about “social justice” issues.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Urstoff

            I would say it’s more a loyalty signal than a purity signal, if “loyalty signal” is a thing.

            The general message seems to be “these people say they are the ingroup, but they are playing by the rules of the outgroup and are easily cowed by the outgroup”.

          • The Anonymouse says:

            Isn’t the “cuckservative” meme basically a purity signal?

            Sort of. In a straightforward sense, “cuckservative” can (and is) used in any place where “RINO” used to be. You aren’t pure enough to The Cause, as it were; the two terms denote the same thing.

            They connote different things, though. Here, RINO is similar to blue-dog democrat. A middle-of-the-roader low on party loyalty. Cuckservative, however, reeks of self-conscious edgelordism on the part of the speaker, a willingness to amp-to-11 your insults. The “cuckold” part of the slur–properly understood–has little to do with the traditional use of the term, the “Hie thee to the courts of equity, Goodman John, your wife hast cuckolded you!” sense. It has everything to do with a reference to a particularly unpleasant form of internet pornography where a guy gets off on the idea of being subservient to a woman who allows herself to be gleefully ravaged by a bigger, more masculine, more virile man than her husband, the wife then metaphorically (and literally) rubbing it in her husband’s face.

            tl;dr: It’s a gross internet porn thing.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ The Anonymous:

            I think the term also has heavy connotations of a wimpy white man allowing his wife to be taken by a big scary black man.

          • Mary says:

            “By many standards, “The Night Land” was not a very good book. It plot was nothing special, its characters were flat, and its clanking pseudo-Elizabethan prose was excruciating. But I haven’t read much that can match it for pure exoticism, and I think that might be why I keep coming back to it. ”

            James Stoddard retold it in more modern language.

          • Urstoff says:

            Given that VD has co-written a book entitled “Cuckservative”, I’d think the RP side (though maybe not the SP) have their own purity/loyalty signals.

            Seems like a pretty stupid and gross term to me; to empathize with the SJW types, I just imagine my visceral reaction to someone using that term and multiply it by ten. I can see how such a powerful emotion can be hard to restrain.

          • stillnotking says:

            “Cuckservative” is an etymologically interesting slur, for two reasons. First, it’s explicitly sexual, something conservatives have long eschewed — either from religious sentiment, or respect for those who have it. Second, as Anonymouse pointed out above, it doesn’t refer to being cuckolded in the traditional sense, but to the enjoyment of being cuckolded. A “cuckservative” is someone who emasculates himself willingly and gleefully.

            It definitely has a distinct connotation from “RINO”, or even “traitor”. It’s much more personal, specific, and profane.

          • science says:

            DrBeat says:

            Blue Tribers will abandon, then actively destroy, anyone within their tribe who shows signs of Wrongthink, and be faster to turn on someone the more loyal they are and the more respect they have. Related phenomenon: during the term of each Democratic President since FDR, he was regarded by leftist and center-leftist thinkers as a traitor to liberalism, a Republican in disguise. But even after everything Bush fucked up, most Red Tribers will defend him.

            It’s strange to me that someone cosmopolitan enough to, well be here, can be so ignorant about huge swaths of his fellow countrymen. It’s one thing if you are what-his-name the Eastern European guy who apparently gets all his information about US culture for PUA websites, but if you are living here you shouldn’t be this far off.

            The “Blue Tribe” even narrowly defined is tens of millions of people. It’s not a few tens of thousands of teens and young twenty somethings and a few hundred internet personalities that cater to them.

            Bill Clinton can go to Manhattan, or Beverly Hills, or any other Blue Tribe stronghold and get a million dollars for a 30 minute speech and a few hours of schmoozing. Does that sound like someone who has been “destroyed” because of “wrongthink” and treated as a “traitor”?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ science:

            Well said.

            Also, “what-his-name the Eastern European guy” is TheDividualist, who I think is Scandinavian.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Whatever happened to anonymous:
            “Exaclty what I’d expect a drooler to say. Why are liberals so predictable?”

            I think I understand your intent when I say that this made me chuckle.

          • DrBeat says:

            First off, when did I say “conservatives rule, liberals drool”? I made a perfectly and explicitly symmetrical complaint, that one side was way too X and the other side was way too not X. So how is that cheerleading for one of those sides?

            And yeah, Clinton can get speaking engagements now that he isn’t President, and can represent a lost bygone age where our leaders weren’t betraying our liberal values. Barack Obama will go through exactly the same transformation for exactly the same reason, and the next time we have a Democratic president, thought leaders on the left will lament how they aren’t really a liberal at all, why couldn’t we have a real liberal like Barack — the same people who have been, all through the Obama administration, saying that Obama is nothing but an extension of Bush’s policies.

            The point there was that each Democratic president is regarded as not actually a liberal during that President’s administration. The more perceptible he is, the more they turn on him. The more perceptible a Republican is, the more they line up behind him, and it takes much more to mark them a traitor to their ideals, and much more than “actually being a traitor to their ideals”.

            I mean, I cannot be the only one who notices how every single Presidential election cycle, Blue Tribers will — completely independently and not referring to or influenced by any previous tradition because it’s a newly politically-aware generation each time — decide that we should throw this election on purpose, because the Democratic candidate isn’t actually a liberal at all, and won’t be able to do anything, and allowing the Republicans to fuck up the country with their vile conservatism for a term will get Americans to realize how terrible conservatism is, and then maybe we’ll be able to get an actual liberal candidate instead of these liars and traitors.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @DrBeat:
            You seemed to have ignored the meat of my objection. Nowhere are you addressing my point about RINOs.

            My flippant aside is merely another in my long standing objections to posts that conflate the normal human biases and tendencies that tend to manifest in any group (especially any group of large size) with uniquely conservative or liberal behaviors.

            Usually, around here, these are couched as “liberals are bad” and the “conservatives are good” is more by implication, but not always. In more liberal spaces it’s “conservatives are bad”.

          • science says:

            So when Barack Obama — now while still President — gives a speech in NYC or Berkley or so on, he gets booed off the stage like Lyndon Johnson in 1967?

            You need to calibrate better.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ DrBeat:

            That’s just the thing: every single Democratic president has been a traitor to the values of those to the left of him who expected better!

            And every Republican president has betrayed conservative / small-government values! I get really pissed off about this at every election. Everyone in the Tea Party got pissed off about it, too.

            If anything, I think the Republican politicians are worse on this. “Progressives” never get all of what they want, but they get more and more of what they want over time. The Republican base, in contrast, gets continually disappointed by politicians compromising away one value at a time.

            When’s the last time the Republicans repealed what they said they were going to repeal? In the 50s, they were going to repeal the New Deal. In the 80s, they were going to repeal the Great Society and put us back on the gold standard after Nixon went off it. What are the odds they’re going to repeal Obamacare? (Hint: not good.)

          • Nornagest says:

            James Stoddard retold it in more modern language.

            Yeah, I read “A Story Retold” sometime after I read Hodgson. It’s decent, but after I did slog through the original it didn’t have the same lightning-in-a-bottle quality.

            Dunno what a new reader would think.

          • LHN says:

            @Mark Atwood, is that exchange still in Google Groups by any chance?

            Granted, the Graydon one doesn’t strike me as entirely implausible, since he was often off in a weird direction. I remember in the runup to the first GWB Inaugural, when those in opposition were planning protests, he opined that he “would not take a bet against the use of grapeshot” by the incoming administration.

            PNH’s politics and his waspish mode of responding to disagreement with them were a major factor in my deciding rec.arts.sf.fandom wasn’t the group for me. But to his credit, the idea that even the hated, “selected not elected” Bush administration would actually fire on unarmed demonstrators was a bridge too far even for him, and he called bullshit on it in so many words. (Along with other rasffers of the same general persuasion) https://groups.google.com/d/msg/rec.arts.sf.fandom/x0flt1jlhww/JEZ8fAx57vYJ

            (I’m also not sure I’d call him Graydon an influential fan– he was a frequent Usenet poster but I didn’t get the impression that he was a big name in fannish circles the way, e.g., the Nielsen Haydens are. That said, I’m on the fringes of fandom at best and may just be insufficiently informed.)

          • Chalid says:

            Also, it needs to be pointed out that after seven years in office, Obama has approval ratings in the mid-to-high 80s among Democrats.

            I really think we’d be better off tabooing “Blue Tribe” here. There’s a constant equivocation between whether it means “the culture of the cities and coasts” or “fifteen students at Oberlin.”

          • “You’re not a real libertarian if you’re an anarchist / support the state / are against open borders / are for open borders / are an Objectivist ”

            That last is a special case. It’s the Objectivists who claim that Objectivists are not libertarians. The rest of us, at least in my experience, think Objectivists are libertarians, even if some of them have odd views in a few areas, and are amused at the attempt of hard core Objectivists to redefine “libertarian” in order to exclude themselves.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ David Friedman:

            Yes, exactly, but I didn’t want to get into that. Objectivism is not really “red tribe” (though Larry Sechrest once said that “I have often been struck by the fact that, aside from their atheism, [many] Objectivists are virtually indistinguishable from conservative Republicans.”), and I thought discussing it in addition to libertarianism would be unnecessary and too much of a deviation into grey. Objectivists have certainly been good at denouncing “traitors”, though. 🙁

            I have heard people say that Objectivists are not really libertarians, however. Mainly because of certain foreign policy stances by e.g. people at ARI. Or for instance, John Bolton was interviewed by Stossel at the International Students for Liberty Conference, and the folks from The Atlas Society (who do “self-identify” as libertarians) tended to agree with what he had to say. Some fellow attendees expressed the opinion that one could not support drone strikes (which I think Bolton was endorsing, even though by Obama) and call oneself a libertarian.

          • TheNybbler says:

            It’s not that the Red Tribe doesn’t do denunciations. They seem less prone to doing it within their own group than the Blue Tribe, but that’s not why the Sad Puppy group wouldn’t denounce Vox.

            Put simply, they’re not going to denounce Vox Day just because their opponents demand they do so. In fact, if they had any idea of denouncing Vox Day on their own, they’d probably give it up if their opponents insisted on it. This is probably good tactics on their part; denouncing Vox would not gain them one iota with the File 770 bunch, and it would make Vox their enemy. Why engage in a two-front war unnecessarily?

          • Anatoly says:

            @keranih:

            Pausing to reaffirm that I appreciate your balanced approach and awareness of the other side’s self-perception, I’ll focus on where I sharply disagree:

            It’s not what SP did, it’s how they did it, with slates that broke the Hugos” – NO. Stop right there. The first year, people wanted LC to die in a fire. The second year, people refused to read ANY SP nominations, even though there were 1 or 2 per category max. The third year, they handed out “ASSterisk” tokens to SP nominees. This year? When the goal is to have ten quality potential nominees per category? People are still saying that SP are nasty wrecking kulacks and we should shut up and go away and make our own “conservative” awards if we want to play in SFF. At this point, I think people have to either be actual angels or fucking morons to think that anything the SP do will ever be seen as acceptable. Fuck that noise.

            Now let me tell you how it looks from a perspective of someone who’s neither P nor anti-P. First year, you have a petty squabble between SP and AP which >90% of fandom doesn’t care about. Second year, you have a petty squable between SP and AP which >90% of fandom doesn’t care about. Third year, joining ranks with RP, YOU BREAK THE FUCKING HUGOS. Because of your petty squabbles and deluded conspiracy theories. Just like that. Your sordid lists of ideological puff-pieces pushed almost everything in any way connected to merit out of the award. And now the fourth year is here, and you’re STILL going at it, and your excuse is… “AP are continuing to say nasty things about us, so no matter what we do, we’ll never be seen as acceptable”.

            Wake up and smell the confirmation bias! SJWs will always dislike the SP, that is a given. That doesn’t mean you get to justify whatever you do with “SJWs continue to say nasty things about us”. That’s an incredibly intellectually dishonest thing to do, I’m sorry to say. It’s a way of giving yourself a carte blanche to do whatever. The SJW activists are a very small part of fandom, and they’re a tiny proportion of people who are mad at you this year for BREAKING THE FUCKING HUGOS. The vast majority of people who’re now mad at you are mad at you not because you’re red tribe, or that you dislike identity politics, or that you have a petty squabble with SJWs, but because you BROKE THE FUCKING HUGOS.

            So while it’s true that SJWs will always hate you, that’s also irrelevant. It is NOT true that a large part of fandom will automatically hate you; they didn’t care either way before 2015, and they hate you now because of the very specific thing that you did, viz. BREAKING THE FUCKING HUGOS. The attitude is well-deserved, because you actually did something sleazy and repugnant; please don’t do that anymore, and go back to, you know, petty squabbles with SJWs that >90% of fandom doesn’t care about. Unfortunately, it looks like you’re in full denial mode. There is ZERO soul-searching I’ve seen on the Puppy side – zero instances of someone saying “oh shit, we really shouldn’t have done that”. Again, compare with a healthy number of mea culpas on the liberal SF side following the RH report. Seems like empirically you’re so much worse than SJWs at being able to admit you were wrong. Count me very, very surprised (no sarcasm).

          • Jiro says:

            If someone tries to rob you and you fight back, nobody’s going to say that you’re “both responsible for causing trouble by getting into a conflict”. That’s why we have concepts such as “heckler’s veto”–the party who is to blame is the party that initiates the conflict, not the party who tries to defend himself, even if failure to defend himself would lead to less trouble for others than being willing to defend himself.

            So you can’t blame one side for “breaking the Hugos” unless you’ve taken a position on which side is at fault. If you’re really trying to remain neutral, you can’t do that.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @Jiro:

            True, and furthermore, the SP position is that the Hugos were already broken, and they are trying to unbreak them. You may agree, you may not. You may agree that what they are doing is the best/a good/a rational way to approach the problem, or you may not. But you don’t get to accuse them of “breaking the Hugos” unless you are an AP, because “breaking the Hugos” means you entirely reject their argument that there was anything of significance wrong in the first place.

          • DrBeat says:

            RP and SP did not “join ranks”.

            RP did what they did specifically and explicitly because the SP were trying not to break the Hugos, and the RP wanted to do that.

            Stop blaming groups for the actions of people that openly hate and oppose them, just because neither of those groups is part of the Social Justice movement.

          • TheNybbler says:

            My understanding of the relationship between Sad Puppies III and Rabid Puppies is that Vox Day wanted to break the Hugos by sending in his supporters to vote No Award in all categories. The Sad Puppies leaders talked him out of it; Vox made Rabid Puppies instead, which was a slate consisting mostly of self-promotion and promotion of his publishing house.

            And then the Puppy Kickers took up the cry of No Award, smashed the Hugos themselves, and left Vox Day laughing like Donald Sutherland in Mockingjay II. Larry Correia, who came up with Sad Puppies and ran SPI and SPII, simply responded with a blog entry which said “I told you so”

          • Held in Escrow says:

            I’m not sure if I’d call this critique drift, but good god are people using Blue Tribe wrong.

            The whole purity politics dog eat dog is not an aspect of Blue Tribers as a whole. It’s an key value of identitarian politics which are found within the Blue Tribe. They’re located within the Moralist Cluster on Auerbach’s grid (http://theamericanreader.com/jenesuispasliberal-entering-the-quagmire-of-online-leftism/) and don’t make up a plurality much less a majority of the Blue Tribe.

            Rather they’re just located within areas that nerdy web surfers such as those that browse SSC will often come up against so it seems like there’s a lot more than are actually around.

          • keranih says:

            @ Anatoly –

            I think I need to apologizing for the profanities in my most recent post in this thread. While I don’t think it seems that you took offense, you might well have, and it would have poorly served our mutual attempt at communication.

            Having said that, I profoundly disagree with your support for the feeling of justification which is felt by people who blame the SP for the whole mess.

            The people who are focusing their vindictive on the $puppies for “Breaking the Hugos” are badly mistaken, imo. This assignment of blame rests on the idea that the Hugos were just fine, thank you prior to ‘Puppygate’, and that it was through deliberate bad action on the part of $puppies that they are in the mess they are in.

            To the first point – no. Absolutely not. The Hugos completely failed in their mission to represent a fannish-oriented (rather than creator-oriented) selection of worthy works, and had so failed for most of a decade. The Hugos were broken before the Puppies got there.

            They were just broken in a direction that GRRM – along with other people – were just fine with. A similar concept is seen here at SCC, when Scott looks at the political demographics that show 9% conservative and 50+% liberal, (*) and voices the opinion that there are more conservatives now, to the point where it might be “off balance.” This is not *whole* or *right* – it’s just corrupt in a specific direction.

            Secondly, wrt the actions of the SP – dude, this was not VD’s idea, this was not his party, and there is no one in either the SP or the RP who imagines them to be one and the same the way that the Pupplyblenders do. VD & the Rabids are a different matter.

            The capture of the whole ballot (+/-) took everyone by surprise. It wasn’t planned, and the SP sure as shooting didnt think they had a shot at doing so. It wasn’t their goal. And that they were able to do so, accidentally, also refutes the idea that the Hugos were in a great place before hand. Far, far too many people were voting.

            Thirdly – the Hugos in their present form weren’t “broken” by the SPs voting. They were broken by whoever wrote up and sent in that press release to EW. They were broken by Aurthur Chu, who called Brad T a racist. They were broken by Kameron Hurley, who has laid down piece after piece of vindictive – in the Atlantic and across the media spread. They were broken by David Gerald and whoever else on the committee thought that “ASSkerets” was a good idea. The Hugos were broken by the very people who claimed to have owned them.

            The place were we might agree most is that it’s not going back to where it was before. What I’d like to see is more discussion of where to go with it from here.

            (*) numbers by memory, probably wrong

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ keranih
            demographics that show 9% conservative and 50+% liberal, (*) and voices the opinion that there are more conservatives now, to the point where it might be “off balance.”

            Try toting up not commentors but comments. And sideswipes and stuff within comments.

          • On the question of whether the Hugos were broken …

            At some point, reading some of the arguments, I saw the claim that Baen publications had for some time gotten very few Hugos, Tor a lot. Baen is the publisher SJW’s are most likely to hate. Tor is run by the Hayden’s who I gather are SJW’s and heavily involved in fandom.

            It that’s true–it might not be–it’s at least some evidence that the Hugo was already being gamed by one faction for their own personal and ideological advantage. I don’t read all that much current SF, but my impression is that a fair number of the things I like came out of Baen.

            Is the claim true? If so, are people who disagree with the “the Hugos were already broken” argument willing to claim that Baen has published almost no very good books in recent years?

          • keranih says:

            @ houseboatonstyx

            I take your point, and esp in an online forum, where physical presence and body language are largely invisible, I agree that who is posting and what they can say without pushback matters. (I think that identitarians overstate the effect of “hostile environments” but I don’t disagree that this is an actual thing.)

            But Scott gave no indications of talking about that. He was talking about percentages of response on the survey, and how *now* might be unbalanced, in contrast to *then* which (in his view) was not.

            @ David Friedman –

            I don’t have the link, but Chaos Horizon – which has been the closest thing we have got to a dispassionate numbers cruncher in the conversation – has noted that the Locus Magazine list has failed to include Baen books for multiple years. As the Locus list is one of the leading indicators for “what gets on the final ballot”, this is noteworthy. CH is worth looking at – among other things, he is capable of teasing apart causation and correlation at least on a discussion level.

        • Deiseach says:

          a crowd of stupid people armed with conspiracy theories and chanting “SJWs! SJWs!” destroying the reputation of an award, just because they could

          I don’t like what went on with the Hugos, but I think their reputation was dwindling before ever a puppy, either sad or rabid, appeared on the scene.

          Have you read some of the short story award winners? I know I’ve stomped over it on here before, but honestly – “The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere”, a 2014 winner for best short story, isn’t SFF (its Wikipedia stub covers all bases by calling it “science fiction/magic realism” and it’s very heavily tilted towards the second part of the description).

          The magic water in the story is a McGuffin, which never gets an iota of explanation and is only there to serve the main thread of the plot, which is “Chinese guy comes out to his traditional parents, finds it goes better than expected”. Now, I don’t have any particular objection to stories involving gay Chinese guys bringing their boyfriends home to meet the parents*, but by Klono’s own gadolinium guts, if I’m reading a SFF award-winning story that won a SFF award for being a SFF story, I want some SF and/or F in there in rather greater amounts than “The ‘New Yorker’ could happily publish this if I scraped off the light dusting of skiffy talk”.

          Imagine a crime-award winning story that had “Oh yeah, I guess there was a murder in there somewhere, but what I really want to talk about is how I never got on with my sister and my boyfriend is so cute and cool but by the way I’m way smarter and richer than him” and we never hear anything more about the murder, whodunnit, why they did it, or an arrest/trial/nothing.

          *I also think it would have been vastly improved by an editor going “Okay, we have the bones of a decent story here, but let’s stop turning White Boyfriend into a Marty Stu, give the sister some motivation other than being Jealous Bitch, and for crying out loud, you’re talking so much about the parents, can we at least get a word from them personally speaking to their son and/or boyfriend, rather than narrator telling us about what he assumes they’re thinking?” But then again, not alone was this gay SFF but POC gay SFF so no cis het white heteronormative impositions on it by way of telling an inclusive author what they should be saying, right?

          • Urstoff says:

            Let’s not be unfair to the New Yorker; the fiction they publish is generally much better than that story.

          • I agree that “The Water that Falls on You from Nowhere” wasn’t sf and had some failures in non-sf ways, but was it a typical Hugo winner or an outlier?

          • Marc Whipple says:

            It was an outlier which is part of a general movement making such things less outlier-y. The awards are definitely moving in that direction.

          • Deiseach says:

            nornagest, if you’re looking for Night Lands stories, I don’t know if you are aware of this website?

            I think the quality of the Night Land is partly because of the awkward prose, the pseudo-archaism suits the imagery and descriptions when it moves into the Night Land, because it puts a distance between the reader and what they’re reading, and it helps to make it sound like reading a true account of something so far from ordinary experience, it can’t be described in ordinary language.

        • nil says:

          Am I the only science-fiction lowercase-f fan who feels like he’s looking into an alternate universe when he reads these descriptions of the puppies fiasco–not in terms of the dynamics (which are obviously very familiar) but in terms of the players? Outside of Scalzi and the Three Body Problem, I hadn’t heard of ANY of these people or works (or, in the case of the people who are apparently still writing and reading pulpy military-based space operas in 2015, entire subgenres)–and, more importantly/interestingly, the people I do read, and who I assumed everyone was reading, aren’t involved or so much as mentioned. Where are Daniel Abraham/Ty Franck? Kim Stanley Robinson? Stephen Baxter? Neil Stephenson? Peter Watts? Paolo Bacigalupi? Is this what it’s like to be part of the Silent Majority? Was 2015 just a publishing interregnum?

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @nil:

            No. If you are not active in fandom, specifically online fandom, you will not have heard of a lot of these people. Many of the authors you mention are not particularly involved in the online/fan scene, so there is a lot of disconnect. I had not heard of a lot of them either before I became interested in independent publishing, which has a lot of overlap (both pro and con) with this sort of thing.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not sure how you’d get “2015 as a publishing interregnum” out of that, because the authors you cite all had new works published in 2015. But you’re right that part of the problem is a perceived disconnect between the works most fans are reading and talking and thinking about, and the works that Worldcon Fandom is honoring with the Hugo. So maybe “fannish interregnum” would be a better term, or just “Worldcon interregnum”

            But Bacigalupi was able to win as recently as 2010, and that’s post-Racefail, so maybe it’s not hopeless or irreversible.

          • nil says:

            The “publishing interregnum” thing was just me covering my ass because I didn’t want to take the time to make sure the answer wasn’t just “outside of the fun but very lightweight Long Earth books which are published every nine months, none of those authors happened to publish in that period.”

            Anyway, if the critique were just “these aren’t representative,” I’d get it. But what makes the whole thing feel Twilight-zoney to me is that the works they claim are being ignored are even more obscure.

            Really, the whole debate just seems like an extended non-sequitur. Pinkos vs. manly men, books about gay rain vs. books about space honor? Seems out of date, at best. The best book I read this year was an immaculately researched hard-SF book that convincingly argues that a longstanding SF trope constitutes a moral atrocity and ends on a practical but fatalistic pro-green message; where does that fit into in this dichotomy? Indeed, practically everything I enjoy lately runs around those lines–the Expanse books are basically space operas with tight and driven plots, but have a multicultural cast and take progressive ideas on family, militancy, race and gender as given; Seveneyes is a reasonably hard-SF space-survival drama where almost all of the important characters are women and which stresses again and again the benefits of cooperation and the harms of aggression and competition; Echopraxia is… well, Echopraxia is so orthogonal to that debate I think you’d need to break out an extra dimension to do it justice, but it definitely doesn’t strike me as anything Vox Day would read nor as something that could be credibly cast as lightweight magical realism masquerading as the real thing.

            It’d be one thing if the popular works that were being ignored by the food-fighters were just doing their own thing, but much of the best work being put out right now is a synthesis of hard-SF and social-SF. Makes it strange to see people putting so much effort into keeping the dialectic relevant.

          • Mary says:

            “Am I the only science-fiction lowercase-f fan who feels like he’s looking into an alternate universe”

            No. That was the Puppies’ root complaint: it bills itself as the fan award, it does not go to the stuff fans like except in the No True Scotsman definition of fan as Worldcon goer. (Whenever anyone complained about the small pool, he was condescendingly told to increase it then. Which the Puppies did. Behold the reaction.)

            George R.R. Martin condescendingly offered that Puppies could go off and create their own “conservative” award — without making the additional offer to relabel the Hugos the liberal or even the Worldcon award.

            Of course, you can get a supporting membership and nominate and vote yourself, if you so please.

          • nil says:

            @Mary But the Puppy slates are even more obscure, to me at least.

            Is the attitude “this is what we like, so this is what we’re promoting, and if you like other stuff, you should promote it”? That’s reasonable enough, if perhaps a tad hypocritical. Or is it “this is what the real fans really like, and this is the silent majority taking back democracy?” Because I would very much question that–I’ve never heard of any of their alternatives either, and they sound less similar to what me and my friends are reading than the original offerings.

            Of course, if you look at the Amazon lists it suggest that we’re all wrong and that movie tie-ins and Michael Crichton books should take the prize!

          • science says:

            I remember reading one post, I believe from LC, where he said one of the SP complaints was that movie tie books (i.e. star wars or star trek universe) don’t get enough respect at the Hugos. Come on.

            The ‘sff as high art’ people may well be off in their own world but so too are the ‘you people are snobs for looking down at wish fulfillment pulp’ people.

            Yes, fun should matter, but so should basic literary quality issues. Money is the reward for having the most sales, it makes no sense to use the same exact criteria for a literature award.

          • Mary says:

            “Money is the reward for having the most sales, it makes no sense to use the same exact criteria for a literature award.”

            Then there should be no fan award. Let the fans vote with their wallets.

  12. keranih says:

    After rewatching the original Star Wars trilogy this weekend (in VHS no less) this weekend I am dreadfully disappointed in TFA. Contrary opinions?

    • Publius Varinius says:

      I did the same thing over the weekend. Star Wars is a masterpiece. It has no sequels. I am still dreadfully disappointed in TFA.

      • DrBeat says:

        It has at least one sequel, unless you actually think The Empire Strikes Back is somehow worse than the original?

        • Publius Varinius says:

          SW had an incredible attention to detail both plotwise (e.g. the grappling hook micro-plot) and artwise (e.g. Falcon gunport gravity, but basically everything except for that horrible cell block matte), decently subverted melodrama and genius pacing. On the meta-level, it has a series of homages/improvements on classic movie scenes (e.g. Death Star attack is basically The Dam Busters done right).

          I think ESB is a strong regression w.r.t. all these: it’s a decent Hollywood blockbuster, but it lacks the artistic merit of the original. And then there’s the silly parts (“Tauntaun freezing to death”, “2-day Jedi Academy”, “Falcon hiding in plain sight”).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “SW had an incredible attention to detail both plotwise”

            Huh?

            The thing about Star Wars as a whole is that it doesn’t pay to think about it too much. You can Swiss Cheese the whole thing. I mean, the tractor beam alone should have made the Death Star invulnerable. Leia had no business traveling to the rebel base in the Falcon. There isn’t any reason to fly down the trench. Etc.

            And the grappling hook is not a coherent plot point. It’s an excuse for a Tarzan and Jane moment.

            I mean, I was seven when it came out. I loved it. I just made my kids watch the de-specialized edition. It’s a great movie. But a clockwork plot it ain’t.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            A Point of Order:

            The tractor beam required significant amounts of power, and we don’t know how many ships it could be applied to at once nor at what level. The fact that the Falcon, taken unawares, couldn’t escape it doesn’t mean that it would be of any use against a group of prepared attackers. Using it as a weapon could be interesting but we just don’t know enough about it to know if it would be feasible.

            This reminds me of one of the Heinlein Juveniles, Between Planets, in which a major plot point is the development of force fields to use in space warfare. When I first read it I had already seen things like Star Trek and Star Wars and assumed they would be like the deflector shields present in those and similar modern science fiction.

            However, when the force fields are actually deployed (spoiler alert, though the book is many decades old) what they do is put the fields around the enemy ships. The enemy ships are prevented from maneuvering or firing, and must surrender or face destruction by resource starvation. One rarely sees the offensive use of force fields in such a manner (though the modern superhero Invisible Woman has taken to doing similar things in the relatively recent past.)

          • Publius Varinius says:

            @HeelBearCub: “You can Swiss Cheese the whole thing.”

            Sure, but

            a.) You’re talking about consistency, which is not what I mean by attention to detail. SW has a hidden micro-story about Luke Skywalker acquiring a grappling hook. It does not add anything to the main plot. Nonetheless, it’s a cute little detail that the careful viewer can discover. Attention to detail.

            b.) Your statement is true of every single plot since Homer. The fact that you can Swiss Cheese it does not mean that it’s not more consistent than most other films,

          • Skaevola says:

            “a.) You’re talking about consistency, which is not what I mean by attention to detail. SW has a hidden micro-story about Luke Skywalker acquiring a grappling hook. It does not add anything to the main plot. Nonetheless, it’s a cute little detail that the careful viewer can discover. Attention to detail.”

            Can you elaborate on this?

          • Echo says:

            I keep hearing people mentioning the grappling hook thing. But as far as I remember it was just something he pulled off his storm trooper utility belt thingy, wasn’t it?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Marc Whipple:
            When it was convenient for the plot, the tractor beam is employed within seconds and at some great range from the death star. Far enough away that the protagonist have just realized that the death star isn’t a moon.

            The tractor beam is then conveniently forgotten and ignored when the plot requires it. No one mentions it. It is not a consideration.

            Now, there are lots of probably plausible reasons why the tractor beam might possibly not have worked on the fighters, but none of them are presented. From a “this movie is a masterwork of of plot” perspective it’s a perfectly valid example of how the movie is not.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            Not to get too far afield, but official canon seems to be that the tractor beam is difficult to target on groups of highly maneuverable ships, and technology exists that can counter its being used in such a manner. It seems reasonable that it is not usually considered a tactical asset in active combat.

            Note that this does point to what is arguably a pretty bad plot issue in the SWU – that their targeting systems are laughably incompetent. (This is not unique to the SWU – it’s also true in the STU.) But that’s a universal canon plot point, not a particular-story-sequence plot point.

            As far as its deployment “in seconds,” since Aldebaran was a known Rebel-sympathizer planet, it’s entirely possible the Death Star was loitering in Aldebaran space looking for lucky catches, or just to control information flow in and out of the system while they analyzed the results of the first test.

          • Publius Varinius says:

            In the Death Star Hangar scene you can see many stormtroopers going about their business, each one wearing a utility belt with a unique piece of equipment. One of them carries a grappling hook. There’s some visual foreshadowing/pinpointing: his belt is the only one that lacks the white cylinder that would otherwise be the most memorable visual feature.

            This same stormtrooper is seen guarding the Falcon. When he’s disarmed inside the ship, Luke ends up wearing his armor.

            After the trash compactor scene, the heroes are forced to remove their “trashed” stormtrooper armor. Luke wisely keeps the stormtrooper’s utility belt.

            By the way, did you know that every X-Wing in the Death Star Assault has distinct, unique wing markings? You can even use them to keep track of the pilots.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Publius Varinius:
            I think I am confused about what you mean about plots, then. Especially when you add:
            “And then there’s the silly parts (“Tauntaun freezing to death”, “2-day Jedi Academy”, “Falcon hiding in plain sight”).”

            I mean, there are plenty of “silly parts” in Star Wars. Like an entire squad of storm-troopers running away from two guys.

            Again, I love the original movie. It’s great. But what makes it great is how it made you feel the first time you saw it. You both had no idea what was going to happen, but everything felt exactly right. That is impossible to re-capture, so all of the sequels and prequels are necessarily doomed to fall short.

            Empire works extremely well as a sequel, even though things feel “wrong”. It’s the “wait, the empire wasn’t defeated when the death star was blown up?” moment for a whole movie.

            Then Return of the Jedi screws up what was supposed to be a moon full of wookies tearing storm-troopers limbs off. A moon full of wookies. Tearing people’s arms off. And Lando was supposed to die.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ HeelBearCub

            In all genres, travel moves at the speed of plot.

            Same for the functioning of any other technology indistinguishable from magic.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @houseboatonstyx:
            As the 20 year old “castaway” who has been living with us for the last year said (when I was aghast he had never seen any of the Star Wars movie and made him watch the “despecialized” version):

            “The force is made of plot-ium.”

          • Publius Varinius says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            Words seem to fail me, so let me try with a visual metaphor.

            This building is consistent: all the pieces fit together without contradictions or unmotivated parts.

            However, it is not detailed: there’s no point in taking a closer look, or looking at the building from a different vantage point. You won’t discover any new nuances by visiting this building multiple times.

            Now this monstrosity is definitely not consistent: most of the pieces are completely random. However, much thought went into creating it, and discovering all the details takes multiple visits. I was told that talking about this building is used as an aptitude test for local architecture students.

            Finally, an example of a consistent and detailed building. One could write an essay about each door ornament. And that’s before you notice the perspective trick with the stairs.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            @Marc

            “However, when the force fields are actually deployed (spoiler alert, though the book is many decades old) what they do is put the fields around the enemy ships. The enemy ships are prevented from maneuvering or firing, and must surrender or face destruction by resource starvation. One rarely sees the offensive use of force fields in such a manner”

            You may be interested in Vernor Vinge’s Realtime/Bobble series, which features the prominent use of “bobbles,” or forcefields which do exactly what you describe.

          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            I just made my kids watch the de-specialized edition.

            Random question: where did you get the de-specialized edition? Do you just have it left over on VHS from the Olden Days?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ ReluctantEngineer:

            The place I know to get the de-specialized edition is on the Pirate Bay. It’s an unofficial fan creation.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Reluctant Engineer:
            Google “Harmy’s despecialized edition”. You will find, among other things, a nice youtube documentary on how it was made.

            I asked my daughter to bit-torrent it for me onto her laptop and we used the HDMI output to show it on the TV.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Publius Varinius:

            I understand what you are saying now. Incidentally, I think a couple of our comments passed each other in the night, so to speak. The explication on the grappling hook made it relatively clear. The T-16 in the background when he is cleaning the droids (and that C3PO is hiding behind when Luke comes back) is, I think, another example of what you are talking about.

            I’m not sure I would call that plot, though. Minor story elements, perhaps. They are largely irrelevant to the plot and are essentially unnoticeable unless you go looking for them.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ HeelBearCub
            “The force is made of plot-ium.”

            Have you read John Myers Myers SILVERLOCK?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @houseboatonstyx:
            I have not. Should I?

          • alexp says:

            I read an anecdote about the filming of Star Wars:
            Mark Hammill said about the scenes in the Death Star after they escaped from the trash compactor:
            “Wait, aren’t we supposed to be wet and covered in garbage?”
            and Harrison Ford replies, “Relax, it’s not that kind of a movie.”

          • Heelbearcub, I don’t know whether you should read Sliverlock. What is “should” in these matters?

            However, I’ve had a good bit of fun reading it. It’s set on an island where all the interesting characters from fiction live (up till 1949– I don’t know whether there’s been good fanfiction set later). It’s a fast and cheerful.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ HeelBearCub
            “The force is made of plot-ium.”

            Have you read John Myers Myers SILVERLOCK?

            “I have not. Should I?”

            Probably. Your castaway should, certainly. 😉

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          The problem with The Empire Strikes Back is that it does not work as an ending. By including it, you are implicitly committing to Return of the Jedi as well, which is usually considered the weakest movie in the original trilogy. By contrast, A New Hope works perfectly well as a standalone movie.

          • stillnotking says:

            Not only does ANH work as a stand-alone movie, it’s an exceptionally well-constructed one. Its beats are damn near perfect, its characters are drawn with skill and economy, its exposition and setup are textbook how-to examples (that opening shot!). While ESB is a good, perhaps even a great, film, its greatness is in moments and ideas rather than story structure. It has quite a bit of “waste”, e.g. the Falcon asteroid-field sequence, which exists only to show off ILM and give Han and Leia some screen time. It wants to tell the story of Luke confronting Vader (and his own inner demons), but a bunch of other stuff keeps getting in the way. Even the Hoth scenes in the beginning could’ve been trimmed significantly. Heresy, I know, but bear in mind I’m talking story, not spectacle.

    • onyomi says:

      Saw TFA for second time two days ago. It’s a good movie and better the second time. We’ve been discussing this at length in the latest link thread and earlier.

      • keranih says:

        We’ve been discussing this at length in the latest link thread and earlier.

        Ah, had missed that – my bad. Will go check.

        It’s a good movie and better the second time.

        …Um. Not my experience. (I so, so wish it was.) I actually wish I hadn’t seen it the second time, because an element that had made me go o_0 the first time now has me actively seething. /grumpy mcgrumpypants

        • The original Mr. X says:

          What element was that, out of interest?

          • keranih says:

            Fin’s characterization, motivation, and actions. (+/- the casting – I can think of half a dozen people I’d rather have played that character, including Oscar Issac, but the writing & plotting of that element was so bad I’m not sure even Idris Elba could have saved that role.)

            Considering that they already had Aeryn Sun’s arc to draw upon as a reference, the way TFA handled that character was, imo, inexcusable.

    • Urstoff says:

      I liked it. Good dialogue, good characters (Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren were all great), callbacks generally worked (in contrast with Star Trek Into Darkness); major weakness was the central conflict, but that bothered me less the second time I saw it. Obviously much better than the prequels. Wish there were other fighters besides the X-wing in it, though.

      • Luke Somers says:

        No B-wings? /me loses interest

        (not entirely, but some. I have really wanted to see what one of those things could do since RotJ)

        • LHN says:

          You’ll want to check out the recent Star Wars Rebels episode “Wings of the Master”, if you haven’t already.

    • Black Mountain Radio says:

      I wasn’t disappointed by TFA. It just seems to me that it’s not for SW fans anymore. My parent’s are old-school SW fans, they’ve seen the movies, but never any of the books. They liked it fine and I suppose that’s who the movie is for. The casual fans.

      That being said, I don’t like Rey.

      • Marc Whipple says:

        Is this why you don’t like Rey? Just curious. (Warning: Spoilers.)

        http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-12-29/-the-force-awakens-has-a-perfection-problem

        • DrBeat says:

          It’s part of why I didn’t like her. Also, she just had less personality than Finn and Kylo and even Poe, who wasn’t even a main character. Finn (contrary to what taht article claimed) had loads of personality, and showed off relatable emotions and fears and vulnerability. I cheered for him because I cared about him because there was enough of a “him” to care about, and he opened up enough for me to see it. Rey… had no “there” there. There’s no narrative thread with any of her flaws; she’s afraid of the vision she gets from Skywalker’s lightsaber, but that’s one scene and that’s it. She mentions going back home to wait for her parents, but none of her other actions seem focused on or influenced by that goal. It doesn’t get her into trouble and she never has cause to regret it.

          Finn, on the other hand, has consistent characterization informed by his flaws, the things he does because of or to escape them follow from scene to scene, and they get him into bad situations we can identify with. We can point at things Finn does and say “Man, I’ve been there!”, but can’t say the same of Rey.

          Also, Rey Jedi Mind Controls a stormtrooper, exhibiting way more power with it than anyone previously had, while having no training whatsoever or even familiarity with the concept. But to me that was less “Mary Sue” and more “J.J. Abrams doesn’t realize he’s handed out an ability so powerful it breaks everything in the universe.” See also: ST2009 making starships obsolete, and Into Darkness curing death.

          • Deiseach says:

            J.J. Abrams doesn’t realize he’s handed out an ability so powerful it breaks everything in the universe.

            He tends to do that, as you’ve pointed out. I think he’s not so much interested in “Does this make sense when you stop to think about it for five minutes?” as he is in “Will it look amazing cool on the big screen with the pow! and the pew! pew! pew! and the kaboom! swoosh! zzzzzzing!!!! ?”

          • keranih says:

            she just had less personality than Finn and Kylo and even Poe

            The character I related to best was Kylo Ren. IMO, this is a sign of a seriously flawed film. I should not be hoping for Darth Emo to win.

          • stillnotking says:

            What you have to understand is that Abrams doesn’t do science fiction. By his own admission, he doesn’t even like science fiction. He does slick action tales chock full of hot-blooded young protagonists and shiny special effects, ‘cuz that’s where the money is. In our particular cultural moment, it’s popular for those tales to be set in Outer Space rather than, say, the Wild West or World War II, but that’s mere backdrop.

          • onyomi says:

            Rey will be revealed to have had previous Jedi training from her father, Luke. Her memory was suppressed or altered when Ren went rogue. Touching her father’s lightsaber and/or having her mind invaded helped reawaken her latent abilities.

          • Anonymous says:

            Is there an open source project for rewriting the prequels from scratch to make actual sense when prepended to the original trilogy?

          • stillnotking says:

            I once took a whack at an outline for Revenge of the Sith that gave Anakin a semi-plausible reason for turning to the dark side; it was more or less a retelling of Othello, with Palpatine as a Brabantio/Iago hybrid and Obi-Wan as Cassio. Never actually wrote the thing, though.

            The first two prequels don’t fall under the category “should be rewritten” so much as “should never have existed”.

          • Anonymous says:

            >The first two prequels don’t fall under the category “should be rewritten” so much as “should never have existed”.

            I don’t disagree, but what do you do with Episode IV being IV?

          • stillnotking says:

            Hmm, well, it was “Episode IV” without a “I-III” for twenty years, so I guess just kick the can down the road? Maybe someone could come up with a story worth telling, one that didn’t revolve around tax codes, or whatever the fuck that movie I drank assiduously to forget was about.

          • brad says:

            I don’t see any problem with a movie being labeled “episode IV” and no prequels ever being made. There are many books that use similar literary devices to set the present story within a larger imagined framework.

          • Urstoff says:

            Accept “Episode IV” as a nod to old serials. That’s what it was, after all, until 1999.

          • Luke Somers says:

            My take on redoing the prequels would be to leave the Clone wars in pretty much the same shape but have them start earlier. Have Anakin be recruited during them, as the Jedi Order very patiently and slowly managing a war that persistently killed billions of people over and over again, yet they were under strain from losses that were not so easy to replace. Anakin had been passed over for training at a younger age due to psychological issues, but when they needed numbers, they took him on. And he was very effective.

            Have Palpatine take notice of him. Have him tell him how this is because of their rules of engagement. Too restrained to be effective. (partially true, but largely Palpatine is sabotaging them) Send him on a secret assassination mission under the codename, Darth Vader. As Darth Vader he wears the mask and armor from the beginning. He takes out a few enemy generals, and Palapatine makes sure (because he controls both sides) that this makes a lasting difference.

            A while passes. Things stagnate again, and Anakin gets frustrated. He comes to Palpatine asking if there’s anything he can do to help. So Palpatine sends Anakin as Darth Vader to kill a Republic official who betrayed the Republic for money or something like that, but evaded justice on a technicality. Again, he made sure it appeared to do good.

            Then he sends him to take out a merely incompetent officer. And then a corrupt Jedi.

            And then, he’s ripe. The Darth Vader persona has killed Anakin Skywalker.

            As for the kids, the mother is a clone of the queen of Alderaan who works as her bodyguard. When the queen got pregnant, she opted to as well, and chose Anakin as the father (btw, Jedi are knights, not monks. Not required to be celibate and they sure don’t wear desert robes). Sends Luke to live with her ‘sister’ – the daughter of the parents who raised her while she was being trained as a bodyguard on Tatooine, while she stays on the bodyguard job with her daughter Leia (matching the actual princess Leia). She tells Obi-Wan about this, but not Anakin. Anakin’s from Coruscant or something, and never hears about Tatooine.

            At some point, the real Leia dies and alt-Leia is substituted.

            It’s just a skeleton, but I think it would make more sense. Fits everything, has a good reason for Anakin falling and moreover having the motivations he has later on (protracted chaos BAD, mmkay?), dramatic, lots of fight scenes – light-saber, blaster (mommy plays the badass normal scrapper role of Han Solo), and star-fighter.

            There’s enough material in there for three movies, I think.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Not open source, but What if Episode I were good? takes a good whack at it.

  13. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    SSC SF Story of the Week #5
    This week we are discussing “Allamagoosa” by Eric Frank Russell.
    Next week we will discuss “Nightfall” by Isaac Asimov.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      It always amuses me when science fiction depicts space militaries are based on navies. In the real world, military space programs are the domain of air forces, but of course Russell couldn’t have known that at the time. Some people argue that it would make sense for navies to be in charge of the kind of military space missions depicted in fiction, which involve packing together large groups of people in close quarters away from home bases for long periods of time time, but even if that was correct there is no way in hell interservice rivalry would let that happen.

      Project Rho has a great discussion in the Organization section of its “Astromilitary” page.

      • anon says:

        I think the theory is that once spaceships are bigger, navy-style organization and command structure will make more sense, and may even be inevitable.

        Also, interservice rivalry will not necessarily favor the air force. Once space is weaponized (but before we have the technology [or need] for large crewed military spacecraft) — think satellite-based lasers and possibly kinetic weapons — there is a nontrivial chance that a separate branch of the military will be organized to manage it.

        • John Schilling says:

          Agreed, but those organizations will almost certainly be split off from national Air Forces, or possibly from Armies (some nations place long-range missiles and/or missile defense under Army control). So the rank structure will almost certainly be some variation of the Generic Western Army Rank System. This, on reflection, has one clear advantage. Manned spacecraft, whether we call them “ships” or not, will need to have commanders. Commanders of ships are often referred to as “captains”. There really isn’t a third option other than the informal “skipper” or abbreviated “CO”.

          The traditional Navy rank structure has a rank called “Captain” (O6), and a rank called “Commander” (O5). Most navy officers who hold these ranks don’t command ships. Many ships are not commanded by an officer holding one of these ranks. And even if you have a ship whose skipper-Captain is also an O6-Captain, it’s possible for there to be a second O6-Captain on board. The Navy makes due, of course, but it’s still a kludge inherited from simpler times that opens the door to ambiguity about just what “Captain” means. The Air Force has a “Captain” rank down at O3, but no “Commander”. When the USAF takes over Starfleet, there will be absolutely no ambiguity who is in command, because Colonel James Kirk only gets called “Commander Kirk” when he’s commanding a ship.

          Likewise, the naval vessel classification scheme that was in force from roughly 1910-1970, with frigates and destroyers and light and heavy cruisers and battlecruisers and battleships and maybe dreadnaughts, in roughly that order, isn’t going to make it into space. It hasn’t even made it into the 21st century on the high seas, and the mission requirements and operational capabilities of spaceships aren’t going match anything in the 1910-1970 scheme.

          None of which counts against Russell and Allamagoosa, which is a delightful tale grandfathered in under the old rules. But it grates a bit when I see someone like Weber using it today.

          • anon says:

            Why do you think “those organizations will almost certainly be split off from national Air Forces, or possibly from Armies”? It seems conceivable — maybe even likely — that Starfleets will be organized around large capital ships capable of competing for “command of the void”. Certainly most science fictions conceives of them in this manner.

            This should just be a matter of economics and physics: a spacecraft capable of carrying (i.e. repositioning in orbit in an efficient and timely manner) and powering weaponry up to the task of destroying land targets as well as other manned and unmanned spacecraft, will be sufficiently massive that it is staggeringly expensive to build and fuel. So there will be very few of them. This paradigm of using a few large but very powerful (and hard to kill) ships (“Star Destroyers”) to control large expanses of territory is something only navies have experience with.

            It’s likely to be a pretty long way off, though, so maybe path dependence will mean you’re right. In the next 50 years we are probably more likely to see heavy space weaponry installed in “fixed” orbital battlestations with little or no ability to change their orbits , maybe something like the ISS. In that scenario, the stations themselves become important military targets (as well as exercising control of them during the crucial windows when their targets are visible, i.e. not beyond the horizon). So light, maneuverable spacecraft (“X-wings” [or “Vipers” ;)]) for assaulting and/or defending these stations would be the focus of an effective Starfleet. And managing pilots and maintenance for large fleets of warplanes is squarely within the domain of Air Force expertise (although the Navy is also pretty good at it, I think?).

          • John Schilling says:

            Why do you think “those organizations will almost certainly be split off from national Air Forces, or possibly from Armies”? It seems conceivable — maybe even likely — that Starfleets will be organized around large capital ships capable of competing for “command of the void”

            “Capital ship” is needlessly specific, and carries implications that aren’t likely to apply in space warfare. Large ships, maybe. But capital or otherwise, large military spaceships will evolve from less-large military spaceships which will evolve from small military spacecraft, and we know where that chain starts. They will not evolve, outside a particular manga/anime series, from lofting large seafaring vessels into space.

            There is a hundred-kilometer wall between the navies of the earth and the void of space. In military terms, that wall (and everything beyond it) is owned by various Air Forces. It will be their majors and colonels, not the commanders and captains of the navy, who will be running any large military spacecraft of the future. Them, or something completely unpredictable after some complete break in military continuity.

            Hmm, did Niven or his collaborators ever describe the organization of the space fleets humanity had to put together to face the Kzin after a couple centuries of absolute pacifism among humans?

          • anon says:

            “There is a hundred-kilometer wall between the navies of the earth and the void of space. In military terms, that wall (and everything beyond it) is owned by various Air Forces. ”

            How is this true? The concept of “No-Fly Zone”, according to the Book of Knowledge, dates only to the 1990s. During large scale 20th century conflicts, no major power attempted to completely ground a formidable adversary, and I doubt they could have realistically expected to do so. Do you think that — in a hypothetical war between Russia, China, and the US in 2048, in which all three parties have satellite-based weapon systems — any one of the belligerents could expect to use air power to prevent its adversaries from launching missions to repair or replace their space weapons?

            I think that is extremely far-fetched, and the wall you speak of is a phantasm. Sure, the Air Force will need to defend the national airspace to ensure that Starfleet’s launch operations can proceed. But that doesn’t mean the Air Force “owns” Low Earth Orbit any more than it “owns” the high seas (the dominance of which depends upon the integrity of airspace above Naval bases and carrier fleets).

          • John Schilling says:

            The relevant phrase is not “No-Fly Zone” but “Key West Agreement“. And its counterparts of varying legal status in other countries. Navies are only allowed to have things that fly if they directly support maritime operations on Earth. If, in the future, some nation’s Navy decides to launch a vast Argosy or Galleon or Cruiser into the void, what stops them will not be the nefarious Air Force of some other nation shooting down their great ship, but their own nation’s Air Force saying “That’s our turf! Keep Out, and hand over the nifty spaceship, er, craft!”

            Navies, like Armies, tend to be military forces, and military forces can occasionally prevail against their counterparts in battle. Air Forces tend to be civil service bureaucracies first and military forces second, and nobody beats a civil-service bureaucracy on its own turf.

            Nor is there, in this case, any reason why they should. You may argue that Russel’s “Bustler”, or Roddenberry’s “Enterprise”, is far more like a modern Navy ship than anything the contemporary USAF operates, but no such vessel will be built by the contemporary USAF. By the time anyone launches anything comparable to even a maritime frigate, the descendants of the USAF will already be operating spacecraft a decent fraction of the size and crew of a frigate, called “Space Supremacy Platforms” or some such and commanded by Majors rather than Lieutenant Commanders but nonetheless far closer in overall concept and operation to a sky-frigate than is any water-frigate (if such things still exist).

            There will be no point at which it would make sense to fight the bureaucratic battle that would be needed to take the N+1th generation of military spacecraft away from the Air Forces or AF-descended Space Forces that have successfully operated the 1…Nth generation spacecraft so far, no reason to suggest that a maritime service that has never flown anything bigger or higher than a communications satellite should take over, and no reason to insist that changing the CO’s rank from “O5 – Lieutenant Colonel” to “O5 – Commander” is going to be any help.

            In the real world, NCC-1701 will be a Large Space Supremacy Platform commanded by Colonel James Kirk, with “Enterprise” being probably a semiformal nickname. Not to worry, of course, because the real world already has a Captain James Kirk, who commands one of the most powerful and sophisticated warships in the fleet. Due to an unfortunate conflict in namespace, “USS Enterprise” was unavailable for use at this time 🙁

          • bean says:

            I can think of one scenario that would lead to ‘navalization’ of the space forces, directly related to the bureaucratic infighting you describe. If the split between the Air Force and the Space Force is vitriolic enough, then it’s possible that the new USSF (or its equivalent elsewhere) will go hunting for ways to distinguish itself from the USAF. Stealing some naval traditions will be an obvious way to do so, particularly as the Navy itself isn’t really a threat to them, and the Air Force is.
            Even without that, I expect that there will be some ‘navalization’ as time goes on, simply because a deep-space warcraft is much more like a ship in operational environment. This doesn’t mean we’ll see the BSG ‘USN IN SPACE’ approach, but official ship names are very likely. If nothing else, they’re a good way to suck up to whoever is giving you funding.

            “Not to worry, of course, because the real world already has a Captain James Kirk, who commands one of the most powerful and sophisticated warships in the fleet.”
            Only so long as it’s upright.

          • John Schilling says:

            If the split between the Air Force and the Space Force is vitriolic enough, then it’s possible that the new USSF (or its equivalent elsewhere) will go hunting for ways to distinguish itself from the USAF

            That’s a very good point. Of course, the USAF wanted to distinguish itself from the Army right from the start but didn’t go about inventing AF-specific ranks or the like even though their buddies in the RAF had some perfectly good ones they could borrow (complete with recent glory and status). But I could see some movement along those lines.

          • bean says:

            Of course, the USAF wanted to distinguish itself from the Army right from the start but didn’t go about inventing AF-specific ranks or the like even though their buddies in the RAF had some perfectly good ones they could borrow (complete with recent glory and status). But I could see some movement along those lines.
            I can think of several reasons why they didn’t do so, which may or may not apply in the future. (I should acknowledge that I don’t know much about the RAF, so some of these may be wrong.) First, the USAF had a much longer history than the RAF (at creation), and was significantly larger, leading to a reluctance to change ranks.
            Second, they had the political upper hand immediately after the split, unlike the RAF. They didn’t need to vigorously distinguish themselves, because Congress already knew the difference. To a large extent, the USAAF was already working as an independent air force during the war, and the split only formally recognized this.
            Third, the RAF was made of both the RFC and the RNAS. Someone was going to have to change ranks anyway, and the RNAS was a sizable component of the new RAF.
            Take away some of these, and it would be pretty easy for a new Space Force to decide it’s a Navy, not an Air Force.

          • CatCube says:

            @John Schilling

            It’s hard to say what a notional Space Force will look like, because it will depend on the situation when it is created.

            The logical place for a space force is the Navy, because if space operations are conducted by large vessels with large crews, the Navy will have the most “turn-key” culture. However, as you pointed out, supplies do have to move through the atmosphere.

            The Key West Agreement won’t be quite the slam-dunk you say it is, though. It concerns the distribution of aircraft, and the Navy will have a colorable argument that large spacecraft are *ships*; they can then conduct in-atmospheric operations IAW the Key West Agreement to supply them. If there’s political hay to be made calling spaceships “spaceships”, then contra your post below, there will be a constituency to use that name.

            Finally, not all members of the Air Force brass will want to grab space “ships” with both hands; smarter generals (though as Truman pointed out, there are an awful lot of dumb ones) will realize that a space force with large ships and large crews will be a poor cultural fit, and won’t be eager to incompetently recreate another Service’s institutions.

            None of this is to say that it won’t end up under the Air Force. After all, the Treasury Department had primary responsibility for protecting the president for 90 years, and the Army has regulatory responsibility for navigable waterways to this day, both for complex historical reasons. But the Air Force vs. Navy thing for space forces will depend entirely on the personalities in charge when (if) it happens.

            (As an aside, who decided that in SF, female officers are addressed as “Sir”? If I called a female superior officer “Sir,” I’d expect her to flip out.)

          • bean says:

            @CatCube
            The logical place for a space force is the Navy, because if space operations are conducted by large vessels with large crews, the Navy will have the most “turn-key” culture. However, as you pointed out, supplies do have to move through the atmosphere.
            It goes beyond that. Do you expect the space force to spontaneously spring into existence with large, long-range ships? I certainly don’t.
            Given that we have to start from Earth, I expect the first thing which resembles a military force will be a customs/safety force, akin to the Coast Guard. Goodness knows what ranks they’ll use, but their spacecraft will be much more akin to aircraft than to warships. A central space station, and smaller vessels for inspection and rescue missions. Eventually, they’d probably grow into a proper Space Force as operations in space continue and we discover that we need to patrol space around Mars, too.
            But even if this scenario is a little off, it’s difficult to see why we’d expect military space operations to start with large craft, which is what would be required for the Navy to be given control. The first ones will be aircraft-like in size and mission duration, and as John previously pointed out, even if generation N resembles a frigate more than a fighter, generation 1 was definitely a fighter, and it’s really hard for the Navy to make a case that just because what the Space Force does now looks more like what it does than what the atmospheric Air Force does, it should be given control.
            There are ways that a space force with naval traditions could come about. The Free Lunar Navy is set up on naval lines because the USAF was a prime instrument in the attempted suppression of the rebellion. The USAF’s fighter-based force was beaten so badly in its improvised attempts to put down the fighting between Ganymede and Callisto that the USN managed to snatch the deep-space mission. But we shouldn’t expect these to be the norm, and they’re more the sort of things you’d do as an author because you want a space navy than things I actually expect to happen.

          • John Schilling says:

            The logical place for a space force is the Navy, because if space operations are conducted by large vessels with large crews, the Navy will have the most “turn-key” culture.

            Disagree. First, Air Force culture (and the Army culture it is derived from) is not exactly unfamiliar with the issues of large crews operated in isolation and adversity for long periods. Consider e.g. the DEW line arctic radar stations, or any cavalry outpost on the Western frontier. There’s no magic to the Navy Way there, and certainly not to words like “Commander” or “Frigate”.

            But more importantly, I think you are confusing present and future. In the future, on the day the United States or whomever launches their first “large” space craft with a “large” crew, it will almost certainly have a Air and/or Space Force with extensive recent experience operating “medium-sized” space craft with “medium-sized” crews. That organization, not the maritime navy of today, will be the best fit across all dimensions for operating the larger space craft with the bigger crews.

            The Key West Agreement won’t be quite the slam-dunk you say it is, though. It concerns the distribution of aircraft, and the Navy will have a colorable argument that large spacecraft are *ships*;

            So what? The word “ships” does not appear in the text of Key West Agreement. The word “sea” and phrase “at sea” is pervasive in the agreement’s delineation of the Navy’s responsibility. Large spacecraft do not generally operate “at sea” even if you do get the owners to call them “ships”.

            And again, on the day that this is actually an issue, an Air Force-derived space service will be operating medium-sized space-almost-ships; they aren’t going to look at the bigger better version that someone just decided is a proper space ship and say “Ugh, too big, and you called it a ‘ship’, go call the navy because we’re not interested”.

            There’s no plausible evolutionary process that gives you a Navy-derived space force, and it would be difficult to contrive a revolutionary process that would cause some wholly new space military to copy the particular institutions of a maritime navy of a specific past era. There is a very obvious process by which writers of space opera would copy those traditions, and that is about it.

          • CatCube says:

            @John Schilling

            I’m not disagreeing with you outright, but I question whether anybody can say looking forward that it’s a slam dunk that a future Space force will definitely come from any particular organization. It would strain plausibility for an author to construct an evolutionary path where the US Army is the nation’s largest hydropower producer, yet here we are. The Air Force came from the US Army Air Forces, which came from the Signal Corps. It’s obvious in hindsight, but I think it’d be less so if you were trying to predict the future.

            Organizations pick up missions based on (sometimes esoteric) conditions existing at the time. A notional US Space Force could come from NASA, the Treasury Department, or the Justice Department, depending on exactly what the government thought the most important thing for the Space Force to be doing at the moment of creation, as well as which organization was forward-looking enough to be doing that thing in space. The Signal Corps was the most interested in planes in the early 1900s (I think in part because they had a few officers who had a personal interest in aviation), so it birthed the USAF.

            Personally, I like @bean’s proposal of the Coast Guard the best.

          • bean says:

            @CatCube
            I’m not disagreeing with you outright, but I question whether anybody can say looking forward that it’s a slam dunk that a future Space force will definitely come from any particular organization. It would strain plausibility for an author to construct an evolutionary path where the US Army is the nation’s largest hydropower producer, yet here we are. The Air Force came from the US Army Air Forces, which came from the Signal Corps. It’s obvious in hindsight, but I think it’d be less so if you were trying to predict the future.
            This is very true, but you seem to be equivocating between “we can’t be sure where the Space Forces will come from” and “the arguement that the Navy is a lot less likely to be the origin of space forces than the Air Force is wrong”. (I think that this blog has a term for this type of argument.) For instance, Air Forces tend to come out of the technical branches of the parent Armies. While if I’d been asked ‘which branch did the Army Air X start from?’, I wouldn’t have just said ‘Signal Corps’, I would have placed the Signal Corps and Engineers (where the RFC started from) above the Infantry in probability.

            Organizations pick up missions based on (sometimes esoteric) conditions existing at the time. A notional US Space Force could come from NASA, the Treasury Department, or the Justice Department, depending on exactly what the government thought the most important thing for the Space Force to be doing at the moment of creation, as well as which organization was forward-looking enough to be doing that thing in space. The Signal Corps was the most interested in planes in the early 1900s (I think in part because they had a few officers who had a personal interest in aviation), so it birthed the USAF.
            All true, but it breaks down into three basic options, which I rank in my order of probability:
            1. Space Force comes out of some orbital police force, run by NASA, the DoT, the DoJ, the Treasury, or whoever. Over time, the ‘cutters’ get bigger and nastier, and eventually, they get uniformed and militarized. Exactly what traditions they follow is pretty much up to the author. I mean a grab bag. Could be naval. Could be air force. Could be police.
            2. Space Force comes out of Air Force and follows Air Force traditions. This would require a need for an early military presence in space as opposed to a law-enforcement one. Try as I might, I can’t figure out why this would be needed. Sure, you could put fighters on a space station, but why would you?
            3. The Space Force comes from the Navy and follows Navy traditions. This only makes sense if they go straight from ‘basically nothing’ to ‘long-range vessels’.
            I do have to sort of disagree with John that there isn’t a sharp distinction between ‘Ship’ and ‘Not-ship’. Something for work in Earth space is not a ship. Something for going to Mars is a ship, and there’s a big enough gap between the two that you can’t just totally assume evolution will cover it.
            That said, there isn’t that big of a chance the two roles will separate. Even if the Space Guard doesn’t have interplanetary cutters, it’s still a better fit to operate them than the Navy is.

            Personally, I like @bean’s proposal of the Coast Guard the best.
            It wasn’t so much ‘Space Force comes from Coast Guard’ as ‘Space Force comes from Space Guard’. But thanks anyway.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @bean on ranks:
            The RAF didn’t go as far as they might have with inventing a rank structure- Wing Commander, Group Captain and Air Commodore make the RNAS influence clear. There was one proposal for these to instead be Reeve, Banneret and Fourth Ardian (with the Air Ranks* of Air Vice-Marshal, Air Marshal, Air Chief Marshal and Marshal of the Royal Air Force instead being Third Ardian, Second Ardian, Ardian and Air Marshal). I think the original plan was to have Air Admirals, but the Navy objected.

            Ardian, incidentally, is a neologism based on Gaelic words for “bird” and “chief”.

            As for the change of ranks in the USAF, the enlisted ranks did change, from Privates to Airmen, but only a few years after the creation of the air force. And of course one officer’s rank changed- Hap Arnold went from being General of the Army to General of the Air Force, though he had retired by then.

            *”air officer” is the RAF equivalent of a naval flag officer or an army general officer.

      • onyomi says:

        Well, they are called spaceships, not space planes.

        • John Schilling says:

          By whom, other than fiction writers and other romantics?

          Myself included, but reality check. I have never seen anyone who actually owns a space vehicle or has funding to build one, officially refer to such a vehicle as a “spaceship”. It is not obvious to me that real-world usage will in the future change to match romantic or fictional usage of the past.

          • John Schilling says:

            I had forgotten SpaceShip One, thank you. An exceedingly marginal case, but it counts.

            SpaceShip Two, unfortunately, isn’t actually a space vehicle by the generally recognized definition. So it’s the romantics who aren’t funded to build actual spacecraft, that call their lesser vehicles “Space Ships”.

            We can hope for SpaceShip Three, I suppose. But I really want something orbital for that title.

          • bean says:

            Given the trouble that Virgin Galactic has had, I’d say that their use of the term is making it less likely for the term spaceship to enter common usage.
            Add in that they’re not orbital, and that they bear about as much resemblance to a future space warcraft as a canoe does to the battleship Iowa, and I don’t see spaceship entering common parlance.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            While not in English:
            -At least some translations of Shenzhou give a sense of “ship” but I don’t speak Chinese so I don’t know how accurate this is.

            -I do, however, speak some Russian. The Soviet Union built a craft called TKS, which was flown four times (though never crewed or for its intended purpose of supplying the armed Almaz space stations). TKS stands for Транспортный корабль снабжения. The word корабль means “ship”. I can also find the phrase “космический корабль” (“Space ship”) on the website of Roscosmos, used to refer to both Progress and Soyuz craft.

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        In the Weberverse, most space navies are the indigenous creations of various star nations, with different styles of organization, training, and equipment depending upon whatever the native culture is.

        For example, the protagonist Star Kingdom of Manticore, originally a colony of various Western Europeans and North Americans, bases theirs on the Royal Navy, with appropriate nomenclature and traditions. Meanwhile, the planet Grayson, founded by Idahoan religious fundamentalists, bases theirs on the US Air Force, like you propose. And on the gripping hand you have the Andermani Empire, founded by a Chinese-descended colony led by a conquerer convinced he was Frederick the Great reborn, with appropriate Prussian customs.

        As for other sci-fi series, I haven’t delved too greatly into many. The Star Wars EU, for example, has the Imperial/New Republic navies organized basically according to the whim of the author, so there’s no clear parallels at all.

        Regarding the story itself, I really appreciated a story based around the dull routines of day-to-day shipboard life, rather than alien invasions and laser battles and whatnot (although those are good, too) – I thought the humor was good, and made a nice satire of the bureaucracy of military life.

        • John Schilling says:

          “For example, the protagonist Star Kingdom of Manticore, originally a colony of various Western Europeans and North Americans, bases theirs on the Royal Navy”

          Because the Royal Air Force is the sort of disreputable organization whose traditions nobody would want to emulate, no doubt 🙂

          But seriously, if we’re talking about what’s plausible rather than channeling the traditions of Space Opera, the proto-Manticorans will have had at least an orbital police force and emergency-response service, which will itself have been based on the military or paramilitary space forces of Earth at the time of their departure. I haven’t been reading the sequels, because another Weber series is the last thing I need in my to-read pile, but I highly doubt Weber has really put together a plausible explanation of why Manticore would decide to ignore fifteen hundred years of military and astronautical practice to resurrect the particular traditions and customary nomenclature of a military force as distant to them as the navy of the Late Roman Empire is to us.

          Hmm: “Space Triremes, Attack! Centurion, take the Liburnians into hyperdrive and harry the enemy flanks!”. Would make a refreshing change.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            Well, he’s collaborating with Timothy Zahn about the origins of the RMN, but I haven’t looked into that yet. There MAY be an explanation there, but I rather doubt it, because we all know the reason the Royal Manticoran Navy looks a lot like the Royal Navy is because it’s Hornblower IN SPACE!

      • Any thoughts about the possibility of a space military with a structure which isn’t that much like any planetary military branch? Is there any science fiction which explores this?

        • Marc Whipple says:

          To the extent we know anything about the Culture’s military, which isn’t much, it sure doesn’t seem to run along traditional military lines.

    • Deiseach says:

      “Allamagoosa” is very typical of a lot of short humorous SF of its time. It’s funny, but it’s not particularly SF; it’s the kind of story every armed force in the world could produce as part of barracks lore.

      So I’m not going to break a butterfly on a wheel this time 🙂

      “Nightfall”, now, is a very good story and I’m looking forward to that discussion.

    • switchnode says:

      “Allamagoosa” is on my short-list of Perfect SF Stories, even if (as Deiseach says) it’s mostly barracks-lore pastiche. (That said, I’d argue against any fib—and accompanying response—working quite as well for a grounded substitute.) I love it dearly, and I laughed out loud several times while re-reading, so thank you for bringing it up. It’s the AM/FM of the human element.

      • John Schilling says:

        I will agree with this and lament the fact that most of the discussion has been nitpickery about the use of nautical convention in discussing spaceflight. The story is just plain good fun, and there’s not much more to say than that. Technical nitpickery is also fun, for some of us, and there’s always more to say about that 🙂

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          As fun and lighthearted as “Allamagoosa” is, I was afraid that it would fail to provide enough material for discussion, so I almost didn’t include it. In the end, I decided to compromise by posting the comment about nautical conventions in space as a hedge, since I figured there was a good chance we could have a discussion about that if nothing else.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            I was shaking my head and marveling. It’s such a /human/ thing to furiously debate whether or not fictional space navies in fictional star nations actually would properly have naval etiquette versus air force traditions.

            And only in SSC would it be conducted with much reference to relevant historical examples, plausible future scenarios, and a vaguely disappointing lack of personal insults and questions of parentage.

    • Nom d’un chien! is an especially nice touch.

      Sixty gallons of gray paint sounds like rather little, but perhaps they’re only repainting a small part of the ship.

      Note the lack of modern information-handling– presumably a computerized system would have made it easier to track down what an offog is.

      • switchnode says:

        Yes, it’s definitely just a touch-up.

        The captain actually calls for one hundred gallons. Milspec paints are, by the data sheets, about 60% solids by volume, and applied in two or three coats totaling about 6 mils—call it 150 microns—dry thickness. This comes out to about 1500 square meters of paint.

        So what’s the surface area of a spaceship? The Bustler has 400 men on shore leave (plus half a dozen on duty); a Ticonderoga-class cruiser has just about the same complement. Wikipedia gives the length, beam, and draft (173×16.8×10.2 m); modeling it as a closed box will overestimate the SA below the waterline, which should about make up for ignoring most everything above it. Such a ship would require almost 10000 square meters of paint—six or seven times what the captain ordered.

        But wait! Are we being too slavish? It is a spaceship, after all. Well, the paint specifications explicitly apply to all agencies of the DoD, so that’s all right. But why should the spaceship be ship-shaped? Better perhaps if it were spherical.

        The volume of the Ticonderoga box is about 30000 cubic meters; fitting all the same space and equipment into a sphere would require 4500 square meters of surface area. Still three times the order. If the crew didn’t strip and re-prime, instead applying a single coat over the top, they could maybe cover about half to three-fourths of the ship (assuming it’s somewhat short of being a perfect spherical shell)… but I’d be very surprised if that were permitted by regulations.

        • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

          It’s moments like this that I’m reminded that we’re all huge nerds here.

        • bean says:

          I decided to approach this from the other side. Instead of trying to estimate the surface area of a ship, I decided to look at how much paint was actually used aboard ships. This proved slightly harder than expected, but I did find out that the USS Iowa received 20,000 gallons of paint before being towed to Los Angeles. I believe that the entire exterior of the ship was painted. The number I found for construction (during WWII) was 400,000 lbs, which apparently equates to 7,200,000 square feet. Not sure what that comes to in gallons. A Burke (similar in size to the Tico) apparently requires about 70,000 gallons during construction, but I’m sure most of that is interior.
          So we’ll use the first number, and scale by the square of the ratio of lengths. (567/888)^2 = 0.408, or about 8000 gallons for the topside of the ship. I’d guess that several coats were used during Iowa’s painting, but on the other hand, much of the deck is wood, and wasn’t painted. No matter what, we’re only seeing a few percent of the ship painted.

        • I’m such an indoors/on land sort of a person that I assumed the interior of the ship was being repainted.

          Would you use gray paint on the outside of a spaceship rather than white or reflective?

          • switchnode says:

            It depends. For a warship you would probably want matte black—cheap stealth. (Sea ships are painted gray for the same reason.) We’re not told what shade “Navy gray” is; it could be quite dark.

          • bean says:

            That’s not going to work. In space, the man means of detection is going to be picking up the IR output of the heat radiators from the reactor. Those will be black and hot/bright enough that you have no chance of stealth. I’m not particularly sure about the rest of the hull.
            There’s no reason to paint for low visibility, although I’m sure this won’t stop some people. Others might do big murals or paint their ships bright orange.

          • switchnode says:

            Obviously true wrt conventional propulsion. But IMHO interstellar (and by implication superluminal) drives afford an awful lot of freedom for energetic handwaving.

          • LHN says:

            Project Rho’s article on stealth in space claims that a spaceship the size of a submarine would be detectable with modern tech a quarter AU away with no engine activity at all, just from the heat from the life support systems. (And that’s assuming that the ship’s interior is cooled down to near-freezing to minimize detection range.)

            For SF, we could posit magic tech that could shunt IR radiation from heat to hyperspace or something. But in that case why not do the same thing with light so that hull color becomes irrelevant? Ditto if the attacker can just appear via ftl before any detectable radiation– might as well just paint a giant bird of prey on the hull, then.

          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            For SF, we could posit magic tech that could shunt IR radiation from heat to hyperspace or something.

            I don’t think it takes anything that exotic. You could, for example, posit a system that can temporarily “store” heat so that you don’t have to radiate it (for a limited amount of time — eventually your heat reservoir fills up).

            Or you could posit some sort of directed IR radiation system, so that you radiate all your heat out the back of the ship, making the ship stealthy but only from one direction.

            All that said, hyperspace exhaust vents sound pretty cool.

          • LHN says:

            The Project Rho site does talk about most of the possible objections, including “refrigerat[ing] the ship and radiate the heat from the side facing away from the enemy?” (That section includes a quote from a familiar name here.)

            It’s true I’m not seeing a specific discussion of the Mass Effect-style system of temporarily storing the heat in insulated heat sinks, then dumping it later. Whether it’s actually practical to keep a ship’s surface space-cold for any length of time in that manner is something I don’t know enough to answer, though others may. But it seems very likely that it would involve some serious energy, mass, and internal space tradeoffs that wouldn’t make sense for most ships. Especially since it also requires a magic space drive (which, happily, Mass Effect’s Normandy has) to be able to maneuver at all while you’re doing it without sending up a flare.

          • bean says:

            Whether it’s actually practical to keep a ship’s surface space-cold for any length of time in that manner is something I don’t know enough to answer, though others may.
            I happen to have the answer to this on-hand. (I’ve been interested in space warfare for quite a while. This is from the paper I’ve written on the subject. If anyone’s interested, I’ll post a link to the whole thing.)

            “Heat sinks are impractical over any long duration due to the immense size required. For example, an ice-based heat sink that warms the ice from 200K to 273K, and then melts it to water, would be able to absorb 467.6 kJ/kg of heat, although 333.7 kJ of that would be from melting the ice. If used as the cold end of a heat engine, the engine would be very efficient, due to the low temperature of the sink, but this would only delay the inevitable. For example, every kW that must be placed in the heat sink (which would include both the primary power and the waste heat from the reactor, as well as heat generated by the crew) would need 1 kg of ice every 7.8 minutes, or 184.8 kg per day. Nor can this be vented, as that would substantially increase the visual signature of the spacecraft. Ammonia is a slightly better choice for a stealthy heat sink, although it will have to be kept under pressure to keep it liquid at the upper end of the temperature range. From melting at 196K to 273K (where it will be near boiling under 430 kPa or about 4 atmospheres), ammonia will absorb 662 kJ/kg, a 40% improvement over ice. The efficiency of any heat engines using it as a sink will also be slightly improved because more of that absorption is at the lower end of the temperature range. However, even the most basic housekeeping load will demand massive heat sinks. A ship with a housekeeping load of 10 kW, a generation efficiency of 50%, and a 30-day mission will need 78.32 tons of ammonia heat sinks, with a volume of 122.567 m3. All of these are rather optimistic assumptions, and it should be kept in mind that the added mass and volume of the heat sink fluid and the associated equipment will make the ship easier to detect when under thrust or by visual or active sensors. Also, it should be noted that the above calculation neglects solar energy input, under the assumption that the ship’s exterior will be at equilibrium temperature. Solar irradiance at Earth’s orbit is 1.361 kW/m2, although it would not be necessary to sink this entire amount. If we assume that the ship is to be kept at 273K, then each square meter of ship surface would radiate 315 W/m2. If we assume that 25% of the ship is exposed to sunlight, and that the heat from that is instantly conducted across its surface, then only 101 watts of heat sink per m2 exposed is necessary. However, this translates into 13.18 kg of ammonia per m2 exposed per day, which rapidly adds up over longer missions. Making the ship reflective would of course reduce this requirement, but it would also increase the visual signature of the vessel significantly. On the other hand, making the ship reflective would also reduce the efficiency of the surface in radiating away heat, unless the covering were somehow tailored so that only the parts exposed to the sun were shiny. In that case, it is vaguely possible that the ship could get away with no heat sink at all.”

          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            The Project Rho site does talk about most of the possible objections, including “refrigerat[ing] the ship and radiate the heat from the side facing away from the enemy?”

            Eh, the technical objection they have to directional radiation is basically “the requisite radiators would be big and flimsy and heavy”, which is easily addressed by saying that the radiators are built out of some sort of magical sci-fi material such that they aren’t actually big or flimsy or heavy. Schilling’s tactical objections are harder to answer without hammering down all sorts of details like the range of the battle (are we fighting in earth orbit or are we flying all over the solar system?), how fast ships can travel, whether or not we have FTL comms, etc. I suspect, however, we could imagine SF worlds and scenarios in which being stealthy from only one direction would be useful.

            I’m not seeing a specific discussion of the Mass Effect-style system of temporarily storing the heat in insulated heat sinks, then dumping it later… it seems very likely that it would involve some serious energy, mass, and internal space tradeoffs that wouldn’t make sense for most ships.

            In the 1940s, giving a warship a limited ability to travel underwater (for short distances, at low speeds) required a ton of tradeoffs, but the Third Reich still built a lot of U-Boats (and there’s a strong case to be made that they shouldn’t have built anything else). Whether or not it makes sense to equip ships with heat-sink stealth systems is going to be heavily dependent on what the rest of your SF-universe looks like.

            My point here isn’t to argue stealth spaceships would be feasible in a very-hard-SF story, it’s that if you want to handwave away the problems that IR radiation poses to your stealth ships, you don’t have to wave your hands especially hard.

          • bean says:

            My point here isn’t to argue stealth spaceships would be feasible in a very-hard-SF story, it’s that if you want to handwave away the problems that IR radiation poses to your stealth ships, you don’t have to wave your hands especially hard.
            I would disagree, in the sense that lack of stealth is as fundamental a feature of spaceflight as is the tyranny of the rocket equation. Saying “I’m going to ignore that” (to either one) is easy, but you instantly lose all claim to being on the harder levels of SF. Most of the problems are from fairly fundamental physics. For instance, radiators run pretty close to an emissivity of 1, and are sized to be as small as possible for the conditions of the system. The only thing that can really solve this is to increase emissivity above 1, which is pure magic. The difference between ‘small handwaiving’ and ‘large handwaiving’ is how much the typical audience-member knows, not the actual physics involved.

          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            @bean, I think our only disagreement is how much handwaving counts as “a lot”.

          • LHN says:

            @bean

            Count at least one vote for a link to the whole paper– thanks!

          • bean says:

            @ReluctantEngineer
            Probably. I’m a big enough geek about this (see below) that I have really strict standards on this stuff.

            @LHN
            Here it is.
            Fair warning, it is 150 pages (yes, I’m that big of a geek). Also, I owe a thanks to John Schilling for a quote I used (with acknowledgement). Not the same one Atomic Rockets used.

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            Well, the color does not matter, because you can’t hide that way, so I would expect the choice to be dominated by aesthetics – Space warships will be whatever color their owners think look most impressive, cool, or intimidating.
            If the crew has sufficient downtime – War being long stretches of boredom punctuated by brief intervals of terror and all that – it might actually be covered in murals stem to stern, because a gunnery mate remote piloting a drone with a paint brush at least isn’t actually sleeping on her post.

          • LHN says:

            Thanks, @bean. I look forward to reading it!

          • John Schilling says:

            @Bean:

            I salute your geekery, and look forward to reading this myself. I have something very like it half-written, but working on the professional side of the business means that it would now require tedious effort to sanitize it for publication. The stuff at Project Rho was about the last I could do without having to worry about that.

            One minor nit, you seem to have misspelled my name in the “stealth” section. Not your fault, of course – when English pursues other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary, it doesn’t always preserve the spelling. Us proper Germanic Schillings just have to put up with it 🙂

          • bean says:

            @Thomas Jørgensen
            That’s probably true, because any surface coating will probably go away rather quickly when lasers get involved. That said, I did find a method to potentially reduce this, which would result in ships being shiny. (Page 57, at least in my editing copy.)

            @LHN
            You’re welcome.

            @John Schilling
            I salute your geekery, and look forward to reading this myself.
            Much appreciated, coming from one who’s written a fair bit on the subject himself. Any comments you may have would be helpful. It’s creeping closer to completion, at least so far as ‘complete’ means ‘I haven’t found any new alleys to run down in a while’.

            I have something very like it half-written, but working on the professional side of the business means that it would now require tedious effort to sanitize it for publication. The stuff at Project Rho was about the last I could do without having to worry about that.
            That’s a problem I would like to have, but don’t.

            One minor nit, you seem to have misspelled my name in the “stealth” section.
            I’ll get that fixed, although it won’t show up in the posted copy for a while.

      • LHN says:

        I’d read the story long ago. But I’d never reread it knowing the ending. I was struck by how many clues were laid in the text: not just the chef’s interjection, but the items immediately following the offog in the inventory.

    • Supposing we wanted to discuss rationality, what general advice could be able to be given to the crew and captain to enable them to do better? I think the crucial insight is that the inventory list groups related items together– if the captain and crew had thought about that, it might have occurred to them that their dog should have been in that part of the list, but doesn’t appear.

      Aside from that people sometimes just fail to think of things, the other problem is a highly punitive environment– they apparently didn’t feel safe asking anyone off the ship about what an offog might be.

      Any thoughts about identifying the right level of punishment? Regaining trust if there’s been too much punishment?

      • LHN says:

        Realizing that the dog should have been on the list at all would probably have been enough. But their thinking of Peaslake as more a crew member than equipment is both key to the story and highly plausible.

        And of course we see the Captain replicating the reason to fear asking questions, as he tries to cover his own ignorance by abusing his subordinates for the same lack of knowledge.

  14. Since it’s an open thread …

    A while back, there were claims that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal organs, denials by Planned Parenthood, lots of talk and controversy. More recently, there has been a different accusation, one that this time appears to be real—that the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the parent organization, claims in print that HIV positive people should not be required to warn their sexual partners, and should feel free to do so or not.

    While I can imagine arguments for that position, I expect most people would strongly disapprove of it. But so far I have seen no references to the controversy outside conservative sources, of which the most prominent is the publication of the Federalist Society.

    I have a blog post with links to the Federalist story and the IPPF site.

    http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2016/01/another-planned-parenthood-controversy.html

    Relevant quotes from their publication:

    Young people living with HIV have the right to decide if, when, and how to disclose their HIV status.

    and

    Some countries have laws that violate the right of young people living with HIV to decide whether to disclose. Young people living with HIV can take steps to protect themselves.

    (http://www.ippf.org/sites/default/files/healthy_happy_hot.pdf)

    This raises two questions. One, obviously, is whether their position is correct. The other, which I actually find more interesting, is why the issue is getting so little attention.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Same reason Gosnell got so little attention.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        If you’re thinking of the reason I think you are, then I would have to ask how much attention Gosnell got from conservative sources. (Most of my news comes from specialized blogs, so I honestly have no idea how much it got, if any.)

    • onyomi says:

      Wow, that is really awful. My position on the first question is that they are absolutely wrong. If you have a serious, communicable, incurable sexually transmitted disease you have a responsibility to tell your sexual partners. End of story.

      As to the second question, it’s kind of baffling, but my only guess would be that having HIV is strongly associated in the public imagination with being gay. Journalists are blue tribe and pro-gay. Of course, there’s nothing inherently “anti-gay” about my position, but HIV-positive gay people are sort of “double victims” and therefore get more consideration in our culture.

      Being morally and/or legally required to disclose one’s HIV status is slightly reminiscent of disclosing one’s criminal record on a job application: it imposes a big disadvantage in a way that intuitively feels unfair. I don’t actually think it’s unfair since I’d rather jobs go to equally qualified non-ex-cons than to ex-cons in a tough job market, but it seems kind of unfair.

      Mostly, I don’t think it feels like a “winning” issue to blue tribe journalists–they run the risk of seeming anti-gay, or worse, red tribe by reporting on it, most likely.

      • anon1 says:

        There is very little connection between whether a thing is morally required and whether it should be legally required. The moral obligation is obvious. End of story there. Whether a legal obligation is a good idea, OTOH, depends on its consequences, and there are plausible arguments that the disincentive to getting tested would cause such a law to do more harm than good. I’d need actual data to have any meaningful opinion on that.

        • onyomi says:

          I probably wouldn’t want it made illegal, as that would be something of a slippery slope to all kinds of crazy requirements (are you required to volunteer potentially embarrassing information about yourself to would-be employers even if they don’t ask, for example?) but my understanding of David’s interpretation of the position was that the organization was arguing that it should not even be viewed as immoral.

        • ivvenalis says:

          “very little connection between whether a thing is morally required and whether it should be legally required.”

          Nice assertion there. Got anything to back it up?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            It’s pretty obvious, unless you have a very restrictive idea of what morality covers, or you’re a totalitarian.

            For instance, it is immoral to cling to false beliefs about religion in a manner that willfully evades the evidence available to you. (Whether you conceive this as religion-is-a-delusion or atheism-is-man’s-sin-of-pride.) But it seems like a bad idea—with a very bad track record—to have the government enforce this.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            I don’t see why anyone would regard false belief in religion as immoral. Would belief in astrology be immoral?

            In any case, I don’t think the lack of connection between legality and morality is at all obvious. Although you could argue that the law prohibits e.g. murder not because it is immoral, but because widespread occurrence of it leads to a dysfunctional society, most people campaigning to change the law seem to be doing so because they believe that the law should reflect their morality.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ sweeneyrod:

            I don’t see why anyone would regard false belief in religion as immoral. Would belief in astrology be immoral?

            Yes? I mean, it’s one thing if it’s just an insignificant source of mild entertainment they don’t take seriously (as religion seems to be for many people). But imagine someone actually basing important decisions on astrology. Say you loan a friend $1000 because he’s had some emergency and can’t pay the rent. Then the stars tell him to invest the money in a penny stock and he loses it all. Wouldn’t you regard that as immoral and irresponsible?

            In any case, I don’t think the lack of connection between legality and morality is at all obvious. Although you could argue that the law prohibits e.g. murder not because it is immoral, but because widespread occurrence of it leads to a dysfunctional society, most people campaigning to change the law seem to be doing so because they believe that the law should reflect their morality.

            Rights are a species of moral principles.

            It’s not that morality and law are two separate spheres with nothing in common. Everything illegal is (or ought to be) immoral, or the law is unjust or at best unnecessary. But not everything immoral is (or ought to be) illegal.

            Now some people adopt a strange separation where they say “morality” only involves how you treat others, whereas whatever you do to harm yourself is merely “imprudence” (instead of treating imprudence as a type of immorality). But even there, under that restricted view, plenty of things are immoral but not illegal.

            Pretty much everyone would say it’s immoral to join the KKK and chant about how you hate black people. But it’s not illegal—and there is a principled reason why it is not illegal.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            In your astrology example, the immoral thing isn’t the belief in astrology, but the spending of money on something other than the rent. Astrology and religion are just beliefs about the state of the world – precisely what moral (or immoral) beliefs are not (they are of the form “you should” or “I can”).

            “Everything illegal is (or ought to be) immoral, or the law is unjust or at best unnecessary.” That isn’t true – take the classic question of whether there would be need for laws in heaven, where everyone is perfectly moral. Although there wouldn’t be a need for laws against murder, there might still be need for laws against parking incorrectly. Many laws exist merely to ensure society functions smoothly, not to make a moral point.

            The reason why it isn’t illegal to join the KKK despite it being immoral isn’t because of the separation between legality and morality, but because having a government that bans association in organisations as relatively harmless as the KKK is a greater moral evil than the KKK are.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            If astrology was correct, they would have been doing the correct action; if it isn’t, there were doing something stupid. Hence there is a moral obligation to have correct beliefs about reality, otherwise your actions will be based on false premises and often get harmful results. Religion is the same.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Samuel Skinner:

            My thoughts exactly.

            @ sweeneyrod:

            “Everything illegal is (or ought to be) immoral, or the law is unjust or at best unnecessary.” That isn’t true – take the classic question of whether there would be need for laws in heaven, where everyone is perfectly moral. Although there wouldn’t be a need for laws against murder, there might still be need for laws against parking incorrectly. Many laws exist merely to ensure society functions smoothly, not to make a moral point.

            I wouldn’t say heaven would have a need for laws. Laws imply a penalty for breaking them. Perhaps heaven would need standards, but these could be adopted completely by consensus. And once everyone decides to drive on the right side of the road, it certainly is immoral to drive on the left (i.e. into traffic).

            The reason why it isn’t illegal to join the KKK despite it being immoral isn’t because of the separation between legality and morality, but because having a government that bans association in organisations as relatively harmless as the KKK is a greater moral evil than the KKK are.

            If there were no bad consequences to the government’s legislating morality in every aspect of life, I would be for it. I’m against because it doesn’t work.

          • Tibor says:

            I think most people would agree that it is your moral obligation to rescue someone in a danger of death (most likely drowning) as long as it would not be an overt risk to you as well. Make it a law and let the family of the victim sue you if you don’t and you are likely to see fewer people actually saving someone. Why? Saving someone now comes at an additional cost – if you think it would be dangerous for you but the victim’s family thinks otherwise, you might end up in prison or paying a huge fine…so you do your best to avoid any situation that looks like someone in trouble. If it is left being your moral obligation only, some people may come and decide that saving you would be too much trouble but those people and then some would not come in the first place if it were a legal obligation to help you.

            This actually reminds me of an old Czech comedy film, where in one scene a family goes to the forest at the weekend to have a picnic and then when they hear a cry for help from somewhere within the forest, they pack their stuff and run back to their car as fast as they can in order to avoid getting involved.

      • John Schilling says:

        Being morally and/or legally required to disclose one’s HIV status is slightly reminiscent of disclosing one’s criminal record on a job application

        I don’t think you need to go that far afield. Being morally and/or legally required to disclose one’s HIV status is (in this context) almost synonymous with being required to out one’s self as gay or at least bisexual. Blue tribe has spent the past forty-plus years fighting for a gay-rights package whose contents have varied from time to time but has almost always included “No Pink Triangles“. So when presented with a concept that pattern-matches to making all the gays wear pink triangles, the leaders of a blue-tribe institution focused on sexual freedom don’t have to think very long or hard before saying “No, we’re against that”.

        • PDV says:

          Maybe, but there are strong practical reasons as well. HIV is, these days, very treatable, and does not spread much at all if treated. Therefore there is a need to get people informed and treated, and the risk from unknowingly having sex with an HIV-positive person is worth the benefit from encouraging people to know their status.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            These days, if you’re rich and/or have good insurance and/or live someplace that is willing to provide therapy for HIV, it’s very treatable.

            However, there is no reason in the world why we should expect that to remain the case forever, and quite a lot of reasons why we shouldn’t. Especially if it continues to spread and mutate/exchange genetic information in the wild.

          • Echo says:

            Case in point: gonorrhea was easy to treat 40 years ago.
            Now… well, there’s at least one strain that’s adapted to every single thing we had to throw at it.
            And we can thank the people who kept spreading it for that.

      • PDV says:

        To a great degree, properly treated HIV is no longer communicable. (It’s something like 0.1% transmission rate, if memory serves.) This changes the the moral calculus significantly.

        • John Schilling says:

          In what other context is it legal, moral, or ethical to subject a person to a 0.1% chance of death without their informed consent? And what is the great benefit that is being secured by this sacrifice that you propose to impose on the unknowing? Because in my line of work, the standard is 0.0001% integrated over all possible victims, and we’re just trying to open the high frontier to humanity, so this must be something really, really important you all have got going on.

          • ediguls says:

            It’s not a 0.1% chance of “death”, it’s a 0.1% chance of getting HIV, which is very treatable, etc.

            Subjecting others to such risks without their informed consent happens frequently, e.g. when driving a car, or going to work sick with the flu.

          • Urstoff says:

            A 0.1% chance of getting a disease that requires treatment for the rest of your life is still a pretty big deal.

          • Immortal Lurker says:

            I tried to get a general picture of what was implied by a 0.1% chance of HIV. What follows is some back of the envelope math using whatever the first link of a google search told me, so don’t use this to make important decisions.

            The median Amercian is 36.8 years old, and is expected to live until they are 78.7. The average american with HIV lives until they are 63… unless they are a gay male, in which case it is 77, the same as an uninfected male. (???)

            So! A 0.1% transmission rate is equivalent to shortening your partner’s life by (78.7-63)*0.001 =0.0156 years, or 5.7 days. They also have to live with the disease, so (63-36.8)*0.001 = 9.5 days of taking pills and living with any social disadvantages that come with it.

            If someone takes five days from me, and makes another ten slightly harder, I want them to ask, by telling me they are HIV positive before I give consent for sex. I can see saying yes; maybe I love them, maybe they are great at sex. Not asking me would be bad, but not unforgiveable.

            On the flip side… a few people trying to steel man mentioned the possibility of violence when disclosing that you have HIV. I have no idea what the incident rate of that would be. If the odds of being killed for disclosure are above 0.0156/(63-36.8) = 0.063%, then go right ahead and dismantle mandatory disclosure. If the odds of being attacked, regardless of lethality are ~10x that, go ahead and dismantle mandatory disclosure.

            EDIT: since all of these numbers are from the US, I am assuming that the rates for attack upon disclosure are significantly lower than either of these thresholds. I’m too lazy to find stats that confirm this, but I am willing to update my model if someone digs up an actual source.

            None of these numbers work if the uninfected partner is a gay male. They don’t seem to lose any life expectancy, and I don’t think they would be likely to attack after HIV disclosure.

          • John Schilling says:

            HIV is very treatable right up to the point where you die from the complications anyway. That you have the opportunity to spend a few decades between now and then on a constant regimen of powerful and expensive drugs righting a holding action across an embattled immune system is better than the alternative, but still nothing you can rightfully impose on others without their consent.

            And no, we don’t do that when we drive a car or go to work with the flu. Not at the 0.1% level, not within orders of magnitude of the 0.1% level, not for the sort of consequences we are talking about with an HIV infection.

            Do you live in some sort of a bubble where almost everyone has HIV, being HIV-positive is no big deal, where only the terminally unhip would express concern about contracting HIV? Fine, but understand that it is a bubble, and the very best you can hope for is to be left alone there. Which means not giving the rest of the world cause to believe that you are going to spread your “treatable” disease among their general population. If it’s truly no big deal within your bubble, then no reason not to tell all your friends – and the rest of us are going to insist you give us fair warning.

          • Jaskologist says:

            The average american with HIV lives until they are 63… unless they are a gay male, in which case it is 77, the same as an uninfected male. (???)

            I realize this was just a quick google, but no way is that correct.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            According to the CDC, 15-60 million Americans contract influenza each year, 200,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000-50,000 die.* So it’s not out of the question that going to work with the flu and infecting a couple of people increases the chance of someone dying by 0.1%.

            *Note that almost all deaths caused by influenza occur among the elderly.

          • John Schilling says:

            If I take the geometric mean of those ranges, assume 50% of (mostly mild) influenza cases are among working-age adults who then go to work while infectious for five days, but that only 5% of the fatal cases are among working-age adults who contract it at work (as you note, the fatal cases are almost all elderly), I get 0.0008% probability of killing someone by waking up with the flu one day and going in to work.

            So, eight in a million. I don’t think you can plausibly juggle those numbers to get one in a thousand.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Your calculations aren’t unreasonable for people whose coworkers are exclusively able-bodied adults, but using similar assumptions a health care worker or nursing-home employee who goes in sick with the flu could be increasing the chances of someone dying by as much as 0.3%. Do we think there should be severe moral censure or legal liabilities for nursing-home employees or health care workers who go in to work sick with the flu? How about those who merely fail to get vaccinated?

          • Jaskologist says:

            That is probably why nursing homes have much stricter rules regarding the flu. Signs instructing visitors not to enter if they have a runny nose and requirements for workers to get vaccinated are pretty standard from what I’ve seen. We tend to take 1/1000 risks pretty seriously, because over a lifetime, that amounts to “you will kill somebody.”

          • ediguls says:

            That’s what I was thinking about. It’s certainly sort of an asshole move to not tell your partner you have HIV, even if it’s being treated and you’re using protection. It’s a different story to propose you should be legally required to tell them. That’s quite problematic, if you ask me.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Mark Atwood

            Your relatives’ experience here is misleading. Flu shots are not everywhere compulsory for health care workers, and even where they are, compliance is not guaranteed. Overall, 65% end up getting vaccinated, including only 55% of those employed by long-term care facilities.

            There does seem to be an inconsistency here– failing to disclose HIV status is met with condemnation and calls for legal sanction, while health care workers failing to get flu shots or showing up to work with upper respiratory symptoms is met with increased signage and gentle nagging.

          • nonymous says:

            “Several of my very close friends and family members work in health care.

            There is, in fact, a very strong cultural and employee-handbook-rules stricture against presenteeism-while-sick, even on the managerial, back office, recordskeeping, and IT sides of the industry.”

            I wasn’t aware that nursing home aides had paid sick leave in the U.S.

      • Anaxagoras says:

        If I had to come up with an argument against mandatory HIV-disclosure…

        It is of course preferable not to infect people with an incurable disease. But it doesn’t follow that the best way to do that is to legally require people who know that they are infected with HIV to disclose this to all partners. Most obviously, if someone thinks they might be infected with HIV, mandatory disclosure might actively discourage them from getting tested. While it’s true that the people most likely to avoid testing might also be inclined to not report when reporting is optional, it’s plausible that having an actual positive test result would have a bigger effect on their behavior than just a suspicion.

        Secondly, there’s cases where disclosing that one has HIV would be more dangerous than the HIV itself! In very anti-gay environments where having HIV is strongly associated with being gay, disclosing one’s infection might put one at substantial risk of attack. In cases where someone cannot safely become not sexually active, disclosure may also pose substantial risks. In times past, when HIV was a death sentence, it still probably wouldn’t be justifiable to doom many others to save oneself (particularly if one was going to die of AIDS soon anyhow), but these days, properly treated, it doesn’t significantly reduce lifespan, and has manageable effects on quality of life. The counterargument to this is that in cases where disclosing poses substantial risk to the discloser, it’s also less likely that anyone infected will receive adequate treatment.

        It’s also worth considering whether a requirement would really be the right way to go. People’s situations can be very complex, in ways not apparent to outsiders. Requirements are one-size-fits-all solutions to problems that, particularly in the case of sexual history, tend to be intensely personal. On the other hand, disclosure is right in most cases, but without a standard, people would probably be very good at motivated-reasoning their way to believing themselves an exception. There’s also issues of how good HIV tests are, but that’s something technical I don’t know enough to really consider.

        • Maware says:

          The problem of people having to properly treat a disease for their rest of their life is a factor here. I’m glad it is no longer fatal, but the sheer cost of having it and needing to treat it isn’t inconsequential.