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

OT47: OpenAI

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

1. There’s a new ad on the sidebar for Signal Data Science. This is a rare ad I can (sort of) testify for – I’ve known co-founder Jonah (user JonahSinick on LW) for a couple of years and he definitely knows his stuff, both in terms of mathematics and how to teach effectively. If you’re interested in data science, check it out.

2. I’ve been reading Current Affairs magazine and really enjoying it. It’s edited by Nathan Robinson of Navel Observatory and discusses issues from what for ignorance of a better name I think of as “the Freddie deBoer perspective” – ie pretty far leftist/socialist, but especially interested in criticizing other leftists – especially those who prefer wet dreams about gulags and guillotines, or analyzing how Rihanna lyrics can teach us about mansplaining, to actually fighting for justice. Although the articles are pretty good, what I really love is the sense of humor: for example, instead of real ads, they have beautifully designed fake ads for “companies” and “products” like Tony Blair’s Dictatorship Counseling (“no human rights violation too egregious to euphemize”) and Big Pharma-style socialism pills (“occasional side effects include…accidentally becoming the very embodiment of the thing you are attempting to eliminate”). There are also interviews “conducted nonconsensually and transcribed entirely from the results of public Twitter harassment” and fun childrens’ activities like Color The Flint Water Supply. They say that they’re going to need a lot of subscriptions to stay afloat effectively, so if this sounds interesting, consider sampling some of their work on their website, read their pitch, purchasing a single sample issue pretty cheaply, or subscribing here. Warning: they are not very nice or charitable and you might find them a bit abrasive if you do not 100% agree with them about everything.

3. Thanks to the very many people who made exceptionally generous donations the last time I linked a GoFundMe campaign on here. To the people who were critical of it, I ask that you remember that the people involved may read this blog, that they are down on their luck and in an emotionally fragile state, and that having strangers publicly debating your life choices can be pretty traumatic. If you don’t think a campaign involving such a person is a worthy use of your money, I would prefer you just quietly not donate to it (exceptions if you have constructive criticism about why it is not effective, or want to share novel information about why it might be a scam, or something like that). Thank you for your cooperation.

4. Speaking of which – a few months ago, I linked to a GoFundMe for Esther (Multiheaded in the comments here), who is a trans woman trying to emigrate from Russia. You were very helpful and donated quite a bit of money; unfortunately, the plan failed as Canada rejected the immigration visa. Now Multi is trying again with the help of Promethea (socialjusticemunchkin on Tumblr) who has a plan to get Multi into Europe, details currently secret. I don’t know Promethea well and can’t vouch directly, but other people I can vouch for do vouch for them; you will have to decide whether three degrees of social proof is sufficient. There’s a new GoFundMe up if you’re interested in helping (some clarifications here)

5. And a very different kind of campaign – computer science conference LambdaConf uses a blind review process to select topics for presentation. This year one of their selections was a talk on weird-namespace-software Urbit by Curtis Yarvin (aka Mencius Moldbug). A group of Twitter activists demanded that he be excluded from the conference for his political views. When the conference refused to capitulate, the activists started pressuring sponsors to pull out of the conference in the hopes of making the conference financially unviable. After some preliminary success, anti-censorship blog Status 451 launched a counter-campaign to get people concerned about freedom of opinion in tech to donate to LambdaConf and help make up the difference. This is usually where I’d ask you to donate, except that they reached their $15,000 goal within the first day of their campaign, they’re now 146% funded, and the only reason to give any more at this point is to give an even louder FUCK YOU to the people involved. Since that actually sounds pretty good, you can take a look at the campaign here. See also ESR’s take.

6. Some free CFAR summer programs in Oxford and the SF Bay Area, mostly for math people interested in AI risk. Some travel assistance available if you qualify.

7. I’m in California right now – I’ll be taking the next few days to visit my family down south, but I’ll be back in the Bay Area on Thursday and I’d like to get some SSC meetups in. The current plans are:

— 2 PM on Sunday April 17 at the CFAR office, 2030 Addison, 7th floor, Berkeley
— 7 PM on Monday April 18 at 3806 Williams Rd, San Jose
— Afternoon of Tuesday April 19 at the Googleplex, time and exact location tbd
— 5:30 PM April 19 with Stanford EA at Tressider Food Court, Stanford

I’ll make a separate post confirming this information and giving more specifics sometime later this week. Remember the usual advice: if you’re debating whether or not you should come, especially if you’re worried because you don’t fit the usual SSC demographic or you don’t think you have anything to contribute or you’re not sure you’ll fit in or whatever – just come and it will probably be fine.

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2,201 Responses to OT47: OpenAI

  1. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    SSC SF Story of the Week #13
    This week we are discussing “I” by Philip Goetz.
    Next time we will discuss “Second Variety” by Philip K. Dick.

    • Dirdle says:

      Clever ideas like calling your protagonist “I” to make a later point should be weighed against the constant sense of being thrown out of immersion with the work in order to regain track of what the narration is doing.

      The piece itself I think needs more clever formatting than LessWrong allows, especially for the divided-stream-of-consciousness bits. The programmatic Moby Dick part just didn’t seem like a good thing in any way. The overall message, well, standard technolibertarian stuff as far as I could tell. You either agree with it already or disagree with it already; seriously doubt I will change any minds on the matter. Heh.

      • Loquat says:

        Calling him “I” and then writing in the third person was a terrible choice. I had to mentally pronounce it “E” just to get through the damn thing.

    • Deiseach says:

      Not hugely impressed by “I”, as the ending was a little too sentimental for my tastes. I’m probably simply in a very cynical, depressive mood, but I’d have preferred “And I’s fears were realised and the last shreds of individuality were gobbled up and turned into computronium” than the “Oh we are learning so much from the inspiring memories and insights!”

      Seeing as how I was not able to sell his memories and insights on the market in order to keep paying for what permitted him to keep his individual existence afloat, either they really were of no interest to the group-entity’s sub-entities and the ending is A LIE, or more nastily – they did see value in them but didn’t want to pay for them and so forced I into poverty so that they could get access to the memories and insights for free.

      And sorry to offend any who are sighing for requited love in their lives, but the “It was all about love” reveal is much too overdone as a motivating factor in stories. Yeah, blame women again for making men do crazy stuff. She hurt him so bad he couldn’t bear to remember! And that pain made him hold out from joining the group entity where he would have flourished!

      • Nita says:

        I agree that the trope of Romantic Love as the Ultimate Motivating Force kind of veered into cliche. How about a beloved friend or sister, for a change? Or how about some hints at individual personality traits beyond Generic Girlfriend with Correct Taste in Music?

        Bonus nitpick: I thought calling Smetana “Czechoslovakian” was a bit odd.

        But on the whole, the story does manage to get its point across and be generally thought-provoking, which is nice.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          I agree that the trope of Romantic Love as the Ultimate Motivating Force kind of veered into cliche.

          This feels like complaining that revenge as a motivation is an overdone cliche? The reason certain motivations tend to get use over and over and over again in fiction is because they are powerful, fundamental, universal human emotions.

          • Nita says:

            Right, popular tropes are popular for a reason. But an unfortunate side-effect of their popularity is that readers become accustomed to them, and writers have to put in more effort to make their iteration effective.

            I’m not against romantic love as such. But romantic love with dried rose petals, the sweet smell of her perfume, and the art-inspiring curve of her neck? That’s so generic that it made me think about tropes instead of the story.

            My second objection is about the lost potential in a sci-fi story. Fans often proudly declare that it’s a “literature of ideas”, but sometimes writers don’t treat the ideas with any amount of respect. Do the protagonist’s ostensible principles matter, could they matter, or is all the talk about the radically new, terrifying and awesome transhuman experience just a colorful backdrop, and ‘I’ could just as well be deliberating whether or not to join a megachurch or megacorp like everyone else in his town?

      • switchnode says:

        either they really were of no interest to the group-entity’s sub-entities and the ending is A LIE, or more nastily – they did see value in them but didn’t want to pay for them and so forced I into poverty so that they could get access to the memories and insights for free.

        Or they were only valuable before transportation costs—I was not articulate enough to communicate, or it is not always possible to communicate, the significance of personal memories or insights without full access to the mind that stored them. (I suspect this was intended but do not necessarily endorse it; the second reading interests me more.)

        • Deiseach says:

          Well, the story has the group entity saying to I more or less “Your insights aren’t interesting to us, we find no value in them” and then after I caves in and joins up, suddenly there’s all this thrilling wonder available?

          “For two centuries, I, you have tried to communicate to us concepts, patterns, and modes of thought that are engendered by a sense of identity. You have failed to explain satisfactorily what these concepts are. You have failed to explain why they are important. Most agents are losing interest in you. Your market niche is disappearing. You are no longer cost-effective.”

          Now granted, I may be really crappy at communication, but the group entity is pressuring I all along to give up and join in, both by indirect blackmail (exerting financial pressure by refusing to buy I’s data) and by direct threat:

          Some of us wish only to impress upon you the seriousness of your situation before you diminish yourself further. Some would take you by any method possible. Some believe it would be for your own good. Most do not care one way or the other. We will apply our resources in whatever manner our internal vote dictates.

          Why do some of the subagents want to take I by force (and that phrase “take you by any method possible”, combined with “So I at last opened his virginal mind to us” really do evoke unpleasant connotations of rape)? What is the value there?

          My opinion is that I was correct to fear the group entity. It’s hungry for new data but it’s also impatient and greedy – it doesn’t want to pay and it doesn’t want to wait for I to sell it things in dribs and drabs. It wants to consume I now and gobble up all that sweet new sensation that I represents.

          It was a difficult marriage.

          Yes, I bet it was – I kicking and screaming as resisting as he was absorbed and digested by the sub-agents of the group entity tearing off rich gobbets of I’s mind-scape and chewing them for the last drop of experience!

          I think the most fitting ending is to give I (and not the group entity) the last word here, and it is to simply quote the ending (slightly altered) of Harlan Ellison’s short story:

          I has no mouth. And I must scream.

          🙂

          • Loquat says:

            I’m going to agree with switchnode that the intended reading is “I is a shitty communicator” – his memories and insights are great if you can dig right into them directly, but he sucks at putting them into words.

            The whole society does seem designed to grind down anyone who isn’t part of or sponsored by a collective, though – not only do you have to pay to move around outside your house, you have to pay extra to see traffic signals!

    • switchnode says:

      I surprised myself by enjoying this, very much actually—until “Who was Julia?”, at which point it was abruptly awful.

      Rather liked the divided dialogue, although Haldeman did it first (and with better formatting) in “Anniversary Project”. OOP Melville was not well done but I appreciated the effort; fully prose description of a conversation between AIs would be chauvinistically prosaic. (Convincing machine thought processes are so rare that I could count them on one hand with enough fingers left over for rude gestures.) In this case self-imposed human-emulating “rules” serve a Doylist as well as Watsonian perspective: restricting protagonist’s sensory input to that easily imagined by human author. I’d be contemptuous, but the correspondence is too pleasing.

  2. Scared says:

    I’m debating whether or not I should come, because I work in tech and I live in SF. If it became known that I am the sort of person who reads this blog (which is the sort of blog that supports LambdaConf, in addition to everything else), I would risk professional and social ruin.

    How can I attend without being identified?

    • Matthias says:

      Try a trenchcoat and sunglasses?

    • eh says:

      The clear and obvious solution is for every SSC meetup to be a masquerade.

    • Shion Arita says:

      As someone not in tech and nowhere near SF, what part of the content here would your peers find objectionable?

      As an aside, I really never understood the whole attitude of “I can’t be friends with/work with people I disagree with politically.”. Well, I think it’s ultimately a tribalism thing, but I don’t understand it from the inside at all.

      • Rowan says:

        I suspect the content they find objectionable is that one out-of-context quote about voldemort, which for some feminist-leaning people who’ve only heard of the blog is the only bit of the content they even know.

        • Deiseach says:

          I don’t know anything about Moldbug or whatever it is he says or espouses that is so vile it requires public shunning, but given that this blog mentions the dreaded name, mentions the conference, and does not call for all to be burned at the stake for their sins, that is probably sufficient context to demand a purge as this site is obviously a fellow-traveller and makes people feel unsafe and the host plainly holds all kinds of bad, wrong, unsavoury and incorrect opinions on all kinds of things.

          You read a blog by a person who is A Bad Person, then you must agree with and condone what they think and say. This makes you A Bad Person, too, and the Brave New World of Tolerance! Acceptance! Love! has no place in it for Bad People.

          Look at this story: it jumped straight off from “Guys I think I saw a Klansman walking around” to accusing the administration of not protecting students from the KKK.

          Turns out the “Klansman with a whip” was a Dominican in his habit. Alleged grown adults who demand the rights of adults to self-determination and make their own decisions about their sex, drinking, drug and other decisions lives, wetting themselves over third-hand rumour mongering.

          Not the worst/best example. More alleged grown adults (if you’re old enough to go to college, you’re in the age range 18-22 and that’s not a kid anymore) terrified by the monstrous appearance of…

          … a stick of chalk on the floor.

          Accompanying message: “We just showed up at the meeting room and this was on the floor. Intentionally obv. Lots of pretty shaken up folk.”

          I’m trying my best to give this the benefit of the doubt; that there are minority ethnicity students who do feel threatened by Trump’s politics and his statements about immigrants as rapists and criminals and the rest of it.

          But then I think of a bunch of 20-somethings “shaken up” by the sight of a stick of chalk, and I wonder to myself how the hell are they going to function in the Real World? Yeah, it was intentional – by some prankster who is killing themselves laughing at you all running around like Chicken Little panicking and fearful!

          In my day we had fake IRA bomb threats and we had to be evacuated by the police force, and none of us were in need of a fainting couch to swoon on for fear of our lives, we mostly stood around on the lawn outside and groused about the inconvenience. These kids are so scared of a stick of chalk they have to tweet it as a dreadful menacing deliberate threat to make them run away? Worse yet, it succeeded because they did run away feeling “shaken up”?

          • Jiro says:

            Because of how harassment policies and Title IX work, claiming that you feel unsafe has power. This will lead to people claiming they feel unsafe because if you reward something, you get more of it. It has nothing to do with college-age people being unusually easy to terrify.

          • Randy M says:

            This is most of it, I expect, but I wonder what being trained to claim to be easily traumatized does for one’s actual fortitude? Eventually the fainting couch might actually be necessary.

          • Elizabeth C. says:

            The students freaking out over the stick of chalk on the floor is from a parody Twitter account, it’s not real. If you read the most recent messages, that will be apparent.

            https://twitter.com/NoTrumpAtEmory

            Of course you could have used many real, non-parody examples to convey the same point; it’s hard to tell satire from reality anymore.

          • Deiseach says:

            I had no idea it was a parody, and that either speaks to my gullibility or the avalanche of “we demand safe spaces!” stories I’m seeing.

            I am trying to be charitable in my interpretations, as what is an innocuous matter to one person really can bring up all kinds of harmful memories to another, so I’m glad that (as yet) colleges are safe from the menace of chalk 🙂

            But the one about the “Klansman” had me shaking my head; one person does a rather alarmist “i think there’s someone dodgy on campus” and immediately there are “blame the administration!” responses.

            I will forgive not being able to distinguish a Dominican from a member of the KKK (white robes with hoods, easily done!) but the immediate belief that this was indeed so, with no “are you sure? could you be mistaken?” was exasperating.

          • EyeballFrog says:

            OK, so obviously they’re scared of what the chalk supposedly represents. The problem is I can’t for the life of me figure out what that is. Does anyone here know?

          • Theo Jones says:

            @Eyeball
            Trump supporters. At one campus a Trump supporter chalked “Trump 2016” on a sidewalk and it created a controversy.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            It’s a reference to #TheChalkening.

          • EyeballFrog says:

            So I’m not one of those people who assumes Breitbart is always lying. But in this case I have to ask. Is their description of the event accurate? All that outrage over a few words on the sidewalk that could simply be washed away without incident?

          • suntzuanime says:

            Would you feel the same way about a chalked swastika? The students would.

          • John Schilling says:

            If the Nazis are winning local elections without killing people, whining about how you are frightened and confused and want to live in an enforced bubble where some nebulous authority excludes swastikas, makes you look at least one of weak, foolish, or evil. In any case, mockery is appropriate.

            Particularly if you don’t want Nazis running your society.

          • Justin says:

            Dominicans make campuses unsafe for Albigensians and other religious minorities.

          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            So I’m not one of those people who assumes Breitbart is always lying. But in this case I have to ask. Is their description of the event accurate? All that outrage over a few words on the sidewalk that could simply be washed away without incident?

            Here is the Washington Post on the event (I haven’t read the Breitbart version and don’t know how it compares).

          • Tibor says:

            I don’t get it. What does chalk have to do with Trump anyway?

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            That’s a bit like asking what baldness has to do with nazism.

          • Tibor says:

            @Stefan:

            Ok, a lot of skinheads are neonazis. I still don’t see the connection between Trump and a piece of chalk. I guess there was some kind of an “incident” involving Trump and chalk or something but I don’t watch Trump that closely so I wonder what the connection is.

          • Creutzer says:

            @Tibor: I think you might have missed this incident.

          • Tibor says:

            @Creutzer: Uff…I am so glad this stuff does not happen in Europe. Some American university students seem to behave like small children.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Tibor, if “Europe” includes the UK, I think you might be in for some disappointment.

          • Creutzer says:

            Yes, but there are certain factors that hinder such developments in continental Europe. First, the absence of tuition, which means that universities don’t have a reason to put up with too much bullshit; and second, students are not infantilised by the wider culture to the same degree as in the Anglosphere.

          • JBeshir says:

            The UK is a lot better than the outrage porn distributors make it sound; pretty much all the complaints there relate to student unions saying stupid things. Student unions are very much not a part of the university administration and have no actual power over anything and are largely ignored (and often regarded with contempt) most of the time by most of the students.

            They are basically where people who want to play politics go, and they always want to be proposing things so they can feel actively involved, which means proposing and saying a lot of stupid interventions.

            Their main involvement in student life is maybe running one or more on campus stores, restaurants, or other venues, as well as maybe a campus paper or radio that no one listens to, which they can be safely permitted to do as incompetently as they like because no one has any actual need to use them.

            They’re a lot like fictional micronations that happen to run a small set of things and get to play with how they run them; always been saying stupid things, prone to start censoring and filtering their own publications and venues and stuff in pursuit of stupid goals as part of the political debating game that they actually are. The people making a fuss about them no-platforming people honestly strike me as kind of sad; oh no, a bunch of students playing micronations with a shitty store and conference room might decide to not include you, how terrifying.

            The only new thing is that people are suddenly concerned that the stuff they say might matter to the outside world, because of the events elsewhere drawing attention to the idea. But it doesn’t even matter to actually attending the university.

            (Edit: And the NUS is even more trivial; it’s like a UN for student unions, and has little power over even them, who have little power over anything else.)

          • Nornagest says:

            Student unions have much the same role in the US.

          • John Schilling says:

            However, Title IX (of the United States Education Amendments of 1972, but everybody just says “Title IX”) give US college students, particularly including organized bodies of students, the ability to call down the wrath of the executive and judicial branches of government on University adminstration if they can frame an argument of the form “This makes some women(*) feel afraid so they might drop out of / not go to college and it’s illegal to hinder women in their pursuit of a college education in any way so Make It Stop By Any Means Necessary Or Else”.

            * Never Ask That Question

          • Tibor says:

            @creutzer: I think it is even more important that campus-centered universities are much less common in (continental) Europe. You have a city or a town and the university there consists of a couple of buildings around it. There might be a “campus” where a big chunk of the university buildings are but even then the students only go there for the lectures and then spend their free time around the town. A lot of them also live in private flats and even the accommodation provided by the university (which is not supposed to be in sufficient quantity for all the students) tends to be spread around.

            I don’t think the tuition is a deciding factor here. Sure, if education is largely paid from tuition and not taxes, the students theoretically have a bigger say. But there has to be something else which drives this behaviour since probably a majority of students at the US/UK universities are not drama queens and crybabies (and future politicians) and would prefer this not to happen.

      • Urstoff says:

        I don’t think I could be friends with a person whose whole world was their political views, as they would be insufferable, and I think it’s that type of person who doesn’t befriend people who might hold opposing views.

      • “I really never understood the whole attitude of “I can’t be friends with/work with people I disagree with politically.””

        The theory, if I correctly understand it, is that you punish people who express or act on the wrong views in order to discourage them and others from doing so. Not inviting someone to participate in a conference imposes a cost on him, getting him fired a much larger cost.

        How many people actually act on that theory I have no idea.

        • Zorgon says:

          When they spend their time working yourself into a frenzy around the idea that anyone who does not agree with their politics is an imminent danger to their personal safety, it’s not exactly surprising that some people feel that the place they spend numerous hours every day should be cleansed of said imminent dangers.

          The theory is merely there to explain the practice, it’s not the origin of it.

          • Nita says:

            they believe that she is the True Messiah, who will usher in the Final Transformation Of Society and begin the Golden Age in which cismales will be used as a fuel source

            they spend their time working yourself into a frenzy around the idea that anyone who does not agree with their politics is an imminent danger to their personal safety

            🙁

          • Zorgon says:

            I would use a rolling eyes smiley in return but I don’t think the world contains one large enough.

      • Viliam says:

        As someone not from USA, how frequent is really the attitude of “I can’t be friends with/work with people I disagree with politically” in USA? Is it mostly a SJW thing, or is everyone doing it?

        On the programming team in my workplace, we have mostly atheists, but also a few religious Christians; mostly pro-Western-civilization, but also one fan of Putin; and other than sometimes discussing the topic at lunch, it doesn’t make any problem. Certainly no one is going to make the other guy fired.

        Also, when I see “if someone believes X or uses the word Y, please unfriend me immediately” on my Facebook, it is mostly my American friends. Especially the unfriendings over someone’s use of the word “cuck” of “friendzone” seem really… exotic. I would use the same kind of reaction against someone sharing e.g. literally Nazi propaganda.

        (It makes me think these people either don’t have more serious problems — the saying “first-world problems” exists for a reason — or they have really weird priorities, or they simply have already filtered their social circles so much that all remaining people are pretty much their clones, so now they have to indulge in the narcissism of small differences.)

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Villiam – “As someone not from USA, how frequent is really the attitude of “I can’t be friends with/work with people I disagree with politically” in USA? Is it mostly a SJW thing, or is everyone doing it?”

          It’s mostly just an SJW thing, but it’s pretty hard to tell who the SJWs are until it’s too late, and they receive tacit support from a lot of people on the left. Most people won’t start the hate train rolling, but they won’t do anything to stop it, either.

          My introduction to it was when a friend I’d had for more than a decade cut off all contact over GG and an argument over “listen and believe”. Up until that point, I thought *I* was part of Social Justice.

          • Butts Kapinsky says:

            I don’t think it’s any more or any less an SJW thing. Any in-group which draws identity from it’s politics shows similar behaviour.

          • Viliam says:

            @ FacelessCraven, Butts Kapinsky

            After reading both your comments, I suspect the lesson is something like this:

            There is a bit of this behavior in any political group. And then randomly you get burned and you realize, too late, that the version of SJWs is much stronger that in the average political group.

        • Chalid says:

          I’m pretty sure that the SSC commentariat is *heavily* selected for having been exposed to this sort of thing, both because of rationalist demographics generally (young nerdy people who live near Seattle/San Francisco, and their online friends) and because some of Scott’s most well-known writings were probably very satisfying to read for people who have had bad experiences with SJ.

        • eccdogg says:

          In my world it is pretty rare. In social cirlcles folks rarely talk politics, but I have expressed my libertarian views to folks who say canvassed for Obama or even define themselves as socialist without any impact on friendship. Of course this is a group of early 40 somethings in a community that tends to be center leftish in politics and center rightish in personal morality with a lot of general tolerance mixed in.

          At work the group leans right/libertarian, but extreme views abound and no one has any fear expressing/discussing/debating them.

          I’d say for most Americans you are pretty safe, but it is a real danger in some subsets dominated by SJW types and it is always pretty wise not to leave a paper/electron trail when discussing controversial views. As Elliot Spitzer said, “Never speak when you can nod, never write when you can speak, and never ever ever put anything in an e-mail.”

          • Viliam says:

            This reminds me of a saying we had during the communist regime:

            Don’t think.
            If you think, then don’t talk.
            If you talk, then don’t write.
            If you write, then don’t sign it.
            If you sign it, then don’t be surprised.

            The similarities are eerie. In theory, living in the communist regime should have given me skills, which would now become useful when dealing with SJWs. But the fact is that I didn’t get those skills, so I was quite lucky that the communist regime ended before I become an adult; otherwise there would be a chance I would be in prison right now. Sigh.

          • Matt M says:

            “In my world it is pretty rare. In social cirlcles folks rarely talk politics, but I have expressed my libertarian views to folks who say canvassed for Obama or even define themselves as socialist without any impact on friendship. ”

            Part of this may be due to the fact that many of the most contentious issues in our society are all social issues, which is a dimension on which libertarians and socialists are often relatively aligned.

            I grew up in an incredibly blue-tribe dominated environment. Coming out as a libertarian (even as an anarcho-capitalist) was no big deal. But someone who came out as a Ted Cruz-style red-state social conservative would be shunned out of the community almost instantly. Even though that person’s overall beliefs on the proper structure of political power in society is more closely aligned with theirs than mine are.

        • Anonymous says:

          Try not to get a skewed picture of the whole United States based on a tiny corner of the English language internet. I’ve never met a single one of these so-called social justice warriors. I’d be willing to be the same is true of the majority of Americans, maybe even the vast majority of Americans.

          I also can’t think of any time anyone used the word or prefix “cuck” in my presence. I don’t know that I’d deliberately shun such a person, but I doubt we’d ever have become friends to begin with.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            I’ve never met an alt-right person, but I’ve had several friends from college defriend me for being insufficiently dedicated to social justice. My head of department at this school is extremely SJ-inclined. I’ve never spoken about my own politics (middle school isn’t really the place for that, I feel, in any case), and it’s possible that I’m misjudging her, but someone else is welcome to take that gamble with their own job, not mine.

          • Zorgon says:

            Now multiply that last sentence by about 2000 times, given the general ideological balance of academia, and the problem becomes pretty clear.

          • Anonymous says:

            Zorgon you are kind-of making my point for me. There’s 3.1 million school teachers and another 1.1 million college instructors. That’s 4.2 million people, and I highly doubt they are all so-called SJW. Or even most. Meanwhile, there are 320 million Americans.

        • Theo Jones says:

          Its more an ideological extremist thing. I’ve seen that behavior from both left-wingers (“SJWs”) and right-wingers.

          The personalized nature of politics, though, seems to be a new thing. Vox had an article a few months ago that talked about how bias on the level of political affiliation has soared recently.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            I blame Hanisch and Alinsky for that. Declaring that The personal is political! and Go after people and not institutions because people hurt faster than institutions seem like multipolar traps that deliver short-term political success at the expense of long-term trust and cohesion.

        • Liskantope says:

          I’ve only heard the “I can’t be friends with someone who disagrees with me politically” thing from those with staunchly left-wing views, though not necessarily of an SJ flavor. But to be fair, the vast majority of people that I’ve known for the past 7 or 8 years have been left-wing.

          The “if somebody believes X or uses the word Y, please defriend me immediately” thing is something I see frequently and exclusively from SJ types. I can think of at least one instance where an not-very-SJ-oriented Democrat on my newsfeed made this request of all those who supported a particular Republican candidate.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Pew found that liberals are more likely (44% liberals vs 31% conservatives vs 26% overall) to unfriend somebody on Facebook because of their politics.

            Curiously, conservatives are more likely to have Facebook friends who agree with them, which seems in tension with the previous statistic.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Curiously, conservatives are more likely to have Facebook friends who agree with them, which seems in tension with the previous statistic.

            Conservatives could be more naturally clustered, such that they don’t have to unfriend people in order to have all their friends be conservatives, too.

            Which goes against the rhetoric of “liberals are out of touch don’t know anybody who voted for Nixon”, but I don’t know if I believe that.

          • suntzuanime says:

            It’s a “have you ever” question, so maybe liberals just have more friends. c.f. the terrifying unspeakable elder god inviting you to join its cuddle pile.

          • Viliam says:

            Curiously, conservatives are more likely to have Facebook friends who agree with them, which seems in tension with the previous statistic.

            Maybe conservatives are more, ahem, conservative about adding new Facebook friends, so they don’t have to remove them afterwards.

            So an average conservative would add 10 or 20 friends (half of them family members), and keep most of them. And an average SJW would add 1000 friends, and then block 500 of them for wrongthinking.

          • Zorgon says:

            The “if somebody believes X or uses the word Y, please defriend me immediately” thing is something I see frequently and exclusively from SJ types.

            There is a small but meaningful difference between “I can’t be friends with people who believe X” and “If you believe X then defriend me”. One is a positional statement, the other is a demand.

            This pretty much fits the SJW pattern, doesn’t it?

          • anonymous says:

            Just keep driving that point home.
            Never shut up about it.

        • Nicholas says:

          Allow me to share a story.
          My family has always been the kind of homophobic that is mostly imitating unflattering stereotypes as a mocking joke, and saying hurtful things. Other than the one time my father told me he would be a failure as a parent if I wasn’t straight (I’m bi) they were mostly jokes, mostly funny, and thus, I figured, mostly harmless.
          Then one day, when I was about 22, I went drinking with my uncles at a bar they frequented. The conversation turned to the disgustingness of gays, and my uncle said that he knew for sure he didn’t know any homosexuals, because if he did he would murder them. This idea was widely celebrated, and a plan was hatched to travel to a nearby gay bar, find a patron outside, and murder him. Luckily, because they were very drunk, my aunt fired a pistol into a flat screen tv during an unrelated argument before plans could be finalized, and they all got distracted and forgot.
          That night I learned two things:
          1. That my family are sociopaths and I should avoid going out with them.
          2. My model of how homophobes works was completely worthless, and when I saw someone acting as my family had (making hurtful jokes, engaging in mocking stereotypes) I should assign a 50% chance that they would also, in a fit of drunken boredom, kill me.
          Every political community in the united states passes around horror stories about how they thought X was a cool guy “and five minutes after telling X what I thought about [thing] he got 18 guys from 4chan driving past my house every hour threatening to rape me/got me fired from Mozilla/got off a bus wearing a shirt that says down with Cis.” So now everyone is terrified that Ted, who seems like a reasonable member of [out-group] could suddenly go American Psycho in the middle of an otherwise unassuming discussion of Huey Lewis and the News, upon discovering you’re paisley tribe.

          • Nornagest says:

            1. That my family are sociopaths and I should avoid going out with them.
            2. My model of how homophobes works was completely worthless, and when I saw someone acting as my family had (making hurtful jokes, engaging in mocking stereotypes) I should assign a 50% chance that they would also, in a fit of drunken boredom, kill me.

            1 is probably accurate. 2 is probably not. We see a lot of hurtful jokes; we do not see a lot of murders. Even if that chance was 1% instead of 50, there would no longer be any gay bars (or other publicly known LGBT spaces), because they would all have been burned down and their patrons killed by drunken yahoos.

            Now, rephrase as “claim to be willing to murder you, as a bad joke or out of misplaced bravado”… that I could believe. 50% still sounds high to me, but that might be optimistic.

          • Shion Arita says:

            Not to come in as someone who wasn’t there and doesn’t know the people involved but:

            fired a pistol into a flat screen tv during an unrelated argument

            I feel like this is the key part to understanding this story. The fact that this also happened at the same time, apparently for independent reasons tells me that the way these people handle anything is dangerous, rather than just their soical/political views.

            To give my anecdotal evidence, I’ve been present for quite a lot of hurtful jokes against various groups, but something like the pistol thing was a lot rarer.

            I guess ultimately to answer my own question in part, I do refuse to interact with certain people, but that’s if I see direct evidence that they are likely to do physical harm to people or commit theft and stuff like that. And your uncle would definitely fit those criteria.

            It may be my background talking too, but since I’ve had to deal with and interact with truly violent and dangerous people, someone who doesn’t believe in evolution, or has different preferences about immigration laws than me or whatever, is going to be infinitely better than people who you’re hanging out with and they decide it’s a good idea to try to jump someone or drive their car all over people’s lawns and knock off their mailboxes with a golf club out the window.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            Shion Arita says:

            I feel like this is the key part to understanding this story

            Yes that jumped out at me too.

            If true, it demonstrates that the individuals being discussed are extreme outliers. You could tell that story to the bitterest of “Bitter Clingers” and the most likely response would be something along the lines of “WTF?” or “what a bunch of dangerous idiots”.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Since this is apparently the place to talk about anecdotes..

            I live in a country that’s generally very good for gay people to live in. It was the first place to nationally legalise gay marriage, and this decision is very uncontroversial today; it’s come to the point where our far-right parties are more prominently pro-gay than the leftists are, because immigrants aren’t known for their tolerant values. All in all, a good place to be into people your own sex.

            Now, two summers ago, I took on a job to earn some extra money and worked at a warehouse for flower auctions. It was the kind of job you can let a student with no prior experience do fairly easily, and in doing so I met a bunch of people who are very far removed from university life. A conversation on a friday lunch break went something like this:

            Me: “Yeah, I’m just going to head to bed early and sleep in, I’ve been getting up way too early for July.”
            Coworker: “Yeah, fair. Me and Adam here are gonna go punch fags for a bit.”
            Me: “Er, what?”
            Coworker: “It’s fun! You just head over to (gay club)’s parking lot, drink some beers and wait. Then when some guy walks out on his own you just beat the shit out of him, it’s easy, just gotta make sure they’re not too close to the doors so security won’t notice.”

            All of this said with the complete casual attitude of someone who might have told me they were going out to a concert or play some pool that evening, mind you.

            Now, I’m not saying this is representative, or that such people are even common, but they exist. SJ-style the-world-must-burn-if-it-means-gays-feel-safe solutions aren’t something I believe in, and there may not be a good way of reaching a society where this kind of thing doesn’t happen, but ever since I’ve updated in favor of believing gay folks when they claim to feel unsafe in some environments.

          • Nicholas says:

            The problem with pointing out the problem with safe spaces, it occurs to me, is basically Pascal’s Mugging. You fuck up and trust the wrong people, you die. There can be odds of 999:1, 9,999:1, and the fact that if you fuck up you die means that people are going to overlook how low the odds are because the payout is so bad. For example, the reason I assign a 50% value to the murder flag on people who act homophobic is because I assign no predictive strength to my model, and when you have a worthless model you assign properties in its domain 50% until the model improves.

        • Shion Arita says:

          In person I’ve seen a couple of instances of it and heard a bunch of anecdotes about it. For the most part people are thankfully pretty OK about things though.

    • Consider the lesson of Brendan Eich. Perhaps in a few years the wheels will turn as completely on this as they have on gay marriage. Perhaps it will be that failure to this set will be viewed as enabling, and having no public record of protest of these kinds of tactics means you risk professional and social ruin.

      You can’t live your life in fear of what a mob of well-connected Twitterati will do, because the Internet is forever, and what is acceptable changes wildly from decade to decade.

      I say just do what you think is right. (And start saving and reinvesting aggressively, so if you do lose your job, you can shrug, move out of the city, and have a nice long runway to let the media storm around you die down.)

      • Seth says:

        One certainly can live life in fear of a hate-mob. People have done it throughout history. It’s standard operating procedure in many countries at times. The basis for survival is: “Watch what you say”. Never express political opinions. Never tweet, blog, write comments, take controversial stands, etc.

        The fact that shifting social norms mean there will always be some risk, is not a good argument to assume any more risk than absolute minimum (car accidents can always happen, but it would be nonsense to say one should therefore drive drunk).

        It’s a heavy cost to lose your job, move out of town, be targeted by a hate-storm – even if you manage to survive it all.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        It is extremely unlikely that there will be a blacklist of bystanders, simply because there are too many bystanders to blacklist. 90% of people who deal with software for a living have no idea what’s going on with LambdaConf.

        So while I wish we would all stand up against the no-platformers, I have to say that it’s the quacking duck that is most likely to get shot.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Functional programming is weird, but supporting it is hardly going to cause professional and social ruin.

    • akarlin says:

      Is this for real?

      • Zorgon says:

        When entirely surrounded and employed by Tribe A, even attending events vaguely connected to Tribe B is risking unpersoning.

        • noone says:

          I’m confused…I thought tech+sf is very much the kind of people interested in lambdas/read this blog? or am I missing the sarcasm

        • merzbot says:

          That seems hyperbolic. I’d prefer to see evidence of people being shunned from non-activist, just majority “Blue Tribe” communities for associating with people as innocent as Scott before drawing that conclusion.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You probably aren’t in that part of the tech world. It’s gotten really, really bad. Follow the LambdaConf mess in this thread and elsewhere if you want a taste; there are threats of shunning of anyone who merely attends a conference where a person the SJW tribe doesn’t like is speaking. I still don’t think association with SSC would qualify you for shunning yet, but it’s well within the realm of possibility, if not now, then in the near future.

          • Zorgon says:

            Data point in support of SSC as Unpersoning Crimethink – I’ve seen no less than three people in my circle of acquaintances respond to me linking this blog with “isn’t that the guy who said feminism is ‘literally Voldemort’?”

            Glory fades, scars heal, entropy will eventually overtake the universe… only grudges last forever.

          • Nita says:

            An unperson is a person who has been “vaporised”; who has not only been killed by the state, but effectively erased from existence. Such a person would be written out of existing books, photographs, and articles and the original copies destroyed, so that no trace of their existence could be found in the historical record.

            Yup, your acquaintances saying “hey, didn’t that guy write a mean thing once?” sounds like exactly the same thing. Corollary: literally everyone quoted unfavorably by at least three different people is a vaporised unperson.

            On the other hand, comparing your opponents to Voldemort — an irredeemably evil being who has only 1/8 of a soul left in his magically synthesized body — is a perfectly benign rhetorical move that only an irrational grudge-holder might hold against you.

          • Zorgon says:

            Yes, Nita. That’s exactly what I’m saying. Well done you.

          • Jesse M. says:

            @The Nybbler: “there are threats of shunning of anyone who merely attends a conference where a person the SJW tribe doesn’t like is speaking.”

            Can you link to some examples of such threats, so we can check that your summary is a fair one?

      • Scared says:

        Yes.

    • Maia says:

      What, is there someone tailing you and tallying what in-person events you go to?

      The advantage of doing things in person is that Twitter mobs don’t exist there. “Word getting around” is a lot harder when it comes to who went to what events – SF is a big city, and even the small bubble we move in isn’t *that* connected. I wouldn’t worry about it.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think so people like being worried about this sort of thing, odd as that seems.

        • anonymous says:

          Yep. Persecution fantasies.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            One of the worst ways to break someone of a persecution fantasy is to tell them they are fantasizing it.

          • Anonymous says:

            One of the goals of a shaming campaign is to send a message to bystanders that they’ll be punished if they do the same, hopefully deterring many more people than you actually have the resources to pursue. It’s not surprising people believe it, and not always wrong either. If XCOM has taught me anything its that a small-chance risk should still be accounted for if the penalty for failing the check is big enough.

            Though in this case I think the chance is too small.

      • Scared says:

        Well, the meeting location that is most convenient to me would have lots of people around that could recognize me. I guess it may be worth going to an inconvenient one.

        • I don’t know whether this will help, but in general, it seems like high status people are more likely to be attacked than low and medium status people.

    • Mammon says:

      Your job seems to be at odds with your convictions. I know which one I’d pick.

      (Software engineer in Seattle here.)

      • TheAltar says:

        I would be careful to avoid thinking in terms of a Fool’s Choice in these situation. Sometimes it seems like you have to choose A or choose B, even though there are ways to get both A and B. You can only notice these after asking your self, “How can I both do well at my job AND continue acting according to my convictions?” and brainstorming for a bit.

    • Moshe Zadka says:

      I work in tech in SF (and live not far from here). Commenting here for a few years and going to meet-ups has not ruined my professional life.

      But in any case — if you do not give a name, or give only an alias, people are usually happy to go along. People don’t take pictures of the meet-up that much, and you can ask not to be in the frame.

    • But if they know SSC well enough to realize it supports LambdaConf, they must read it. And if they read SSC, they’re in on the conspiracy.

    • Nornagest says:

      As someone that works in tech and lives near SF, I think you’re seriously overstating the danger here. You are probably not a Brendan Eich.

      • Agronomous says:

        Brendan Eich wasn’t a Brendan Eich either, until a year later.

        You’re not paranoid if they’re going to be out to get you.

        • Nornagest says:

          I don’t have a crystal ball, and neither do you. But base rates say this isn’t worth worrying about — and I say that as someone that’s no fan of social justice. There’s one Brendan Eich and how many C-level executives in the Valley?

    • vV_Vv says:

      You could consider dressing up as a ghost. Oh wait, maybe this isn’t a good idea… 🙂

    • anon says:

      Fortunately, the kind of people who will notice you coming to an SSC meetup are…. SSC readers. I don’t think you need to worry.

      More generally, I think that the second that we start losing our jobs because of something like this, we have a bigger problems. I don’t think the hysteria gets that bad.

    • Would the risk be less if you attended the San Jose meetup, where there are likely to be at least somewhat fewer people from SF?

    • BBA says:

      Vox founder Ezra Klein reads this blog and nobody’s calling for his head or demanding Vox be boycotted for giving a platform to those who’d give a platform to those who’d etc. You’ll be fine.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Ezra Klein has power.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Ezra also has considerable progressive cred.

        • BBA says:

          So did Brendan Eich. His views were known but didn’t lead to anything more than snide comments on techie blogs until he was appointed CEO, so if anything power made him more vulnerable.

          You know who didn’t have power? Another Mozilla employee by the name of Gerv Markham. He has loudly and actively expressed his sincere belief that Christianity forbids same-sex marriage and so should the law – unlike Eich, who tiptoed around the subject whenever it arose. And Markham still works at Mozilla.

          • Tibor says:

            It feels to me that the kind of SJW internet bullying only works in public institutions (which are obviously susceptible to any kind of politicking) and on those people who let themselves be bullied. I remember the guy with the “problematic shirt” from the ESA who was bullied because of that. If, instead of crying and apologizing, he responded by saying something like “I have about 50-60 more years on this planet and I will not waste my time arguing with people who obviously have a lot of personal problems. If you don’t like my shirt, too bad!”, what could the bullies do? They would go even more berserk about it on twitter…but since he declared that he does not really care and since the ESA is not going to fire a top engineer because of a mob of confused college students, that would be all that they could do about it.

            Generally, I think that actual useful skills are a good way to make yourself bully-proof. The more useful you are for your employers for your skills (and not for your public image), the weaker the effect of outrage mobs on you. And if they still do fire you, there will be many of those who are interested in your skills, so it is more a loss to your employer than to you.

            And if they threaten you with actual violence or stalk you or something, you call the police.

          • Jiro says:

            since the ESA is not going to fire a top engineer because of a mob of confused college students, that would be all that they could do about it.

            What makes you think the ESA wouldn’t fire him, or at least do something bad to him like put a black mark on his record that is one step towards being fired? Bureaucrats are insulated from the consequences of such things as actually losing skilled personnel and may think of appeasing the mob as cost-free.

            Generally, I think that actual useful skills are a good way to make yourself bully-proof.

            Yarvin has actual skills. It doesn’t help much.

          • Tibor says:

            @Jiro:

            I guess it is my pro-space bias speaking 🙂 ESA is basically a government organization so what I said about government organizations should apply to it as well. But a part of me likes to think that NASA or ESA are going to be much more meritocratic than most GOs, since they are full of these cool people who actually know something useful and who come from a culture (natural sciences) which values merit over everything else. But perhaps I am idealizing it.

            With Yarvin, I dunno, does he have a problem to find a good job in his field?

          • anonymous says:

            It feels to me that the kind of SJW internet bullying only works in public institutions (which are obviously susceptible to any kind of politicking) and on those people who let themselves be bullied. I remember the guy with the “problematic shirt” from the ESA who was bullied because of that. If, instead of crying and apologizing, he responded by saying something like “I have about 50-60 more years on this planet and I will not waste my time arguing with people who obviously have a lot of personal problems. If you don’t like my shirt, too bad!”, what could the bullies do? They would go even more berserk about it on twitter…but since he declared that he does not really care and since the ESA is not going to fire a top engineer because of a mob of confused college students, that would be all that they could do about it.

            Yes, but that would mean disagreeing with someone on the left. That’s the worst possible thing you can do.

            There are only two positions you can take if you want to be a good person:

            1) Be an SJW
            2) Be understanding of SJWs motives but disagree mildly with their methods
            Corollary to (2)
            2a) Even if you disagree with SJW motives never, under any circumstances use those same methods against them (or any tactic other than polite disagreement, actually – the important part though is to always agree that the SJWs are more holy for being more dedicated to leftism even if you cringe at the necessity of doing what they do) . See discussion earlier in this thread around the SJW blacklist.

            Also never – under any circumstances – question the premises of progressivism.

    • Eggoeggo says:

      Is it really that bad? What’s the attitude on the ground there?

      Also the last time I hung out with nerds in San Francisco, like half of them used their screen names as IRL nicknames. You’d probably be fine calling yourself Mr. Scared Incognito.

      • Viliam says:

        A cynical explanation could be that using your real name online is costly signalling that your political opinions are progressive. (Or that you are independently wealthy.)

        • John Schilling says:

          Interesting hypothesis. I’d very much like it to be true, for obvious reasons, but evidence so far suggests otherwise.

          • Viliam says:

            Yeah, besides political correctness and independent wealth, another option — actually most likely of these three — is: unaware of the risk, and so far lucky to avoid anyone’s attention.

    • Is it really that professionally dangerous for you?

  3. treth says:

    I’m not sure how much the audience is interested in parenting but here it goes.
    I’m a parent of a toddler for the first time and this is a very challenging time for me. My position of parent is being tested, and it raises questions about what being a parent is.

    I’ve been reading posts about nature vs nurture, school, growth mindset etc, and I’m left with the impression that parenting doesn’t really matter overall. It’s mostly genes and luck, it seems.

    On the other hand, I do wake up in the middle of the night to comfort my crying child, because I’ve read and been told that it’s Bad for them to let them cry alone for long periods. And, I read her books, and do a million other things Good Parents should do. And I have some anecdotal evidence of adults who’ve been fucked-up presumably by bad parenting. As far as I know, abused children have it harder later in life. So good parenting doesn’t do anything but bad parenting does?

    Or is there so much changing at puberty that traumatized kids are able to flip their life upside down, to the point where early childhood experiences become irrelevant? A sort of butterfly effect of the mind, such as a 10 seconds anecdotal experience can end-up having more effect down the line than 5 years of evil parenting?

    Also, I’m here reading this blog, and I’ve read Eliezer, and kept reading because I had the impression of improving as a person. If I can update my beliefs and become a better person by reading, why can’t parents do the same with their kids by teaching them how to win at life? Is it just that most parents and schools are doing it wrong, rather than it being impossible?

    • daronson says:

      Every field has an optimal quotient of intuition to hack. In CS you can hack your way into making things work better. Music is intuitive. Childrearing is even more intuitive than music. We just don’t have very much data, and aside from basic things (take them seriously, teach them to play an instrument, try to follow approximately the usual advice of “don’t be too lenient or too strict”, etc.), most things you can do are case-by-case and can’t be easily generalized or revolutionized. Don’t let a blog of predominantly single people who optimize everything dictate your parenting techniques. Your kids will not be happy. While it’s good to process advice from here and everywhere and bits of it can be good, it is better to base your ultimate decisions on a subjective understanding of the parenting styles of friends and relatives who you consider successful parents rather than on any collection of principles and meta-principles you can learn from a somewhat speculation-heavy community.

      • Randy M says:

        Are you saying every child needs to play an instrument? It reads like you intend this to be established and/or obvious, I’m just curious why.
        None of mine seem terribly musical, which isn’t surprising since I can’t clap three beats without watching someone.

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          John August (Screenwriter who worked on adapting one of his movies as a musical) mused that teaching children to play a concert instrument is largely a waste of time for people who don’t plan on continuing on. What he says is more useful would be to learn guitar or piano which allow you to play chords / write music.

          (Caveat, I know nothing about music)

          • rob says:

            I’ve taken music courses for most of my early life, and I can personally attest that it is worth it. It might not be the thing for you kids, but in general I find that most people are less musical than they should be. It’s an entire form of communication that you’re not exposed to, it’s like learning how read but not learning how to write.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The ability to play relatively simple guitar stuff is actually pretty useful.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m sure it is appreciated by those who liked it well enough to stick with it, I just doubt it is life changing for everyone exposed. (One of my embarrassing childhood memories is spending about two weeks in music class unable to get the flute to make a single sound).
            I’ll just assume the mean “expose them to opportunities like learning an instrument” unless otherwise specified.

          • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

            Anecdata.

            I learned clarinet in band class. This foundation helped me transition to guitar-as-hobby later in life. Since I had a more-formal background, I recognize chords and scales more readily than my peers who self-taught themselves guitar by ear or tablature. (practice your scales, kids.)

            I generally agree with John Jay. Concert Instruments are generally less fun to play alone than {singing, guitar, piano}. Periodically I’ll hear something on the radio I like and start strumming to it. It’s not as natural to do likewise with a concert instrument. On the other hand, I don’t know if my peers could figure out the chord progression as easily without tablature. And sometimes they don’t know how to improvise without the pentatonic scale. Sometimes they don’t know what a scale is (oi!).

            I know a friend whose parents made him take piano lessons in his youth. He hated it at the time. But after his parents decided he was old enough to quit, he enjoyed piano a lot more and was grateful for his skill. He also taught himself guitar, and is currently learning the banjo.

            In highschool, I had gym teachers who held the philosophy that they should teach relevant life-skills. Yes, we played things like basketball. But they also offered beginner lessons in things like archery, badminton, pilates, etc. Personally, I was on the swim team. And when I shared this with other adults, they would often rationalize that I’d be grateful for this later in life, because swimming is a life-skill that will pay-off more than if I had been on the football team. Concert instruments are analogous to {basketball, football}, and {guitar, chorus, piano} are analogous to the swimming.

          • For what it’s worth, I took piano lessons for a while as a child and got nothing much out of it. I find some music beautiful but mostly boring, unless it is supporting words—I like poetry.

            And I cannot carry a tune.

            I think the right policy is to encourage your children in things they find interesting, whether that’s playing an instrument or programming a computer.

          • Chalid says:

            I’ve never been remotely convinced that music was a worthwhile thing for a child to do, unless they really like it. You have to think about opportunity cost here. What else might the child have done with the many, many hours required to learn an instrument properly?

          • When I was a kid, my mother told me that if I chose to learn an instrument, she would support me, and I could pick any instrument. I eventually picked harp, coincidentally a very good choice – I recommend it to anyone who loves music but has a bad ear for it, since like a piano it stays tuned, and it’s a bit easier to transport/IMO prettier (though obviously that depends on personal taste). That was a wonderful thing for her to do and I am very glad she did it, and was able to do it.

            I very very very luckily did not pick violin, which was my mother’s instrument; it would have been a nightmare. I did try to learn to sing, which has been overall worth it but often incredibly frustrating, and I suspect the only reason the balance has been that positive is that I was doing it of my own free will. How rewarding people find music depends a lot on innate talent. If you are low in talent and don’t terribly enjoy music to start out with, it will potentially be extremely frustrating and not very rewarding. Yes, do it long enough and you learn to hear things you never did before – actually properly hearing harmonies is the Universal Human Experience I was missing most of my life. But that took most of a decade of work. And I enjoyed music.

            I absolutely think giving kids the option is a wonderful thing. It will be life-transforming for some of them. But I don’t think “every kid needs to” almost anything (exceptions for stuff like, you know. Eat, drink, breathe…) and I am absolutely sure that music is not on the very select list of exceptions.

            For whatever help that may be!

          • Liskantope says:

            I don’t think learning a musical instrument is right for every child, but I do believe in the importance of children taking up pastimes that require daily discipline. I feel like I benefited a lot from at least this aspect of learning musical instruments. Whenever I hear criticism of my parents for not bringing me up with church (or of non-church-going parents in general) on the basis of “church is an important source of weekly structure for children!”, my response is always, “Have you ever had to practice two instruments a day?”

          • Tibor says:

            I’d say it’s definitely not a good idea to force a child to play a musical instrument, play a sport or anything that you’d want the child to do. It is also quite likely a good way to make your child hate that if you’re too pushy. But if you’d really like your kids to like the things you do, well, you can show those things to them and show them why you like them. The chances are they might like them too. Probably not all of them, but some. Generally, I’d say it is a good idea to expose kids to a lot of stuff and then let them pick what they actually like.

            People sometimes say something like “I wish me parents made me practice the piano more when I was a kid, then I could play today”…but to me it sounds like “I wish I could magically play the piano today without any effort”. It is a bit different for people who “rediscover” their instrument later in life and actually practice, but even then the chances are that parental nudging and pushing would have made them hate the instrument and they would never have started playing it again in the first place.

            It’s true that a lot of us (me included) have problems with willpower and I often find myself in a paradoxical situation when I really want to do something “practice the drums or the guitar for example” but a different part of me says “no, let’s do the thing that is mildly satisfying and requires as little effort as possible”. The solution is to set things up in such a way that you actually need a considerable effort to get over the obstacles to do the simple things (for me, it sometimes means something as simple as leaving the laptop in my bag when I come home instead of putting it on a desk and turning it on). As a kid, you are usually even worse at coping with this and so there might be cases when it actually makes sense to force the child to do something if you as a parent have a feeling that the child actually really likes say playing the piano but has problems with self-discipline. But one should be careful with that (and it also assumes that the kid decided to play it in the first place as opposed to you deciding for the kid).

          • Urstoff says:

            I am glad that I was forced to take seven years of piano lessons when I was a child simply because as a non-piano playing adult, I can still read music and have a greater working knowledge of musical concepts than the average Joe. However, that assumes that the alternative was no musical instruction at all; a similar musical understanding could probably have been accomplished somewhat easier than seven years of piano lessons from age 5 – 11, but I’m not aware of too many “music appreciation for kids” classes out there. Perhaps some sort of multi-instrumental music class for kids where they get exposed to lots of instruments and the rudiments of music would be a general positive for most kids.

    • lurkers guide says:

      The very little I have heard on this subject is that actual abuse or neglect can have negative effects, as one might expect, but that otherwise parents have very little influence over the development of their child’s personality. Which is to say, basically none beyond what they impart through their genes.

      From memory, comparing adopted children’s personality traits and those of their adoptive parents, along whatever axes people quantify these things by, however it is done exactly, apparently shows correlations that are reasonably large for, say, pre-teen children, and decay away to essentially nothing as the child approaches adulthood.

      The non-genetic component of people’s personality profiles is thought to be received through their social interaction with their peers through adolescence. Interestingly, it is believed by (at least some, I guess) evolutionary psychology people working in this area that this is a very natural state of affairs to arrive at in evolutionary terms, as it is much more robust than inheriting the parents’ personality traits both genetically and through socialization.

      So it may be that your children will be neurogenetically incapable of actually taking your how-to-win-at-life wisdom onboard no matter how hard you attempt to (directly) impart it. Not sure what one would do then. Perhaps try and immerse the child in a peer group that is genetically biased to have favourable traits?

      Of course, I don’t know how accurate or well-supported any of this actually is, beyond the fact that I heard it in a talk given by a (clinical) psychiatry professor (Russell Barkley) and that I no doubt remembered it less than perfectly well.

      (I also just recalled that in an interview on Sam Harris’ podcast, psychologist Paul Bloom also says something to the effect that as far as contemporary psychology can tell, what you do as a parent really just doesn’t matter much at all. Up to the absence of actual neglect, or abuse, presumably – and of course, what exactly constitutes neglect or abuse is then a question of some import…)

      • rob says:

        As someone approaching the end of my own teenage years, I can personally attest that my parents had very little influence on my personality – at least, anecdotally – and the few pieces that I seem to share in common seem to be temporary environmental attributes, like inside jokes or family traditions. My parents are not role models, they are my parents.

        My question is this: what would happen if we took two groups of children and assigned one of them special tutors, but had the others tutored in the same curriculum by their parents? My hunch is that we’d see more influence from the teachers.

        • Julian R. says:

          Huh. As someone in Rob’s situation, I have the opposite experience. My parents aren’t just my parents, they are role models.

          I can’t think of a single teacher who I would say had an influence on my personality.

          As far as parenting goes, I’d say the number of books in your house matters a lot.
          I don’t know how valid or confounded it is, but I recall a chapter in Freakonomics about how it correlated better with test scores than how many books the kid actually read.

          A piece of advice, for what it’s worth. Make sure that they know (ie, tell them explicitly) that your love for them is not conditional on anything they achieve or do not do. It’s something to clutch in the darkness.
          I live in India, where parents generally don’t show affection much, and two of my friends have told me that they have extremely tangled relationships with parents who feel worth is tied to academic achievement.

      • Mary says:

        Eh, if your peer group is so unconnected to your parents that adopted kids have no traces of their parents’ influence — I think it’s a consequence, not a cause, of the personality.

      • Chalid says:

        Perhaps try and immerse the child in a peer group that is genetically biased to have favourable traits?

        I have been wondering about this. Most parenting advice tells us not to worry too much. But peer group effects seem to suggest that to get the best outcomes, you should spend a ton of money on a selective private school and/or on moving to the fanciest neighborhood you can afford. So the intervention that I find most plausible is the most expensive by multiple orders of magnitude – which I guess shouldn’t be surprising.

        • lurkers guide says:

          Yeah, that was me attempting to be humorous. The joke being that immersing the child in such a genetically biased peer group is, of course, precisely what wealthy parents are doing in sending their children to private schools, etc.

        • Alternatively, let your children interact white a lot with sensible grownups. There is no reason why the peers who influence someone have to be age peers.

          Easiest online, where nobody knows your age. For all any of us can tell, Deiseach could be an extraordinarily well read sixteen year old.

          • Deiseach says:

            Mentally more like six, sometimes, and even when I was really sixteen I wasn’t really sixteen 🙂

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          A nice private school isn’t a break the bank expense if your child is smart enough to get a scholarship.

          I have also heard of parents converting to either Catholicism or Judaism (In Israel, no less) to get their children into nice religious schools.

          • Julie K says:

            I’ve heard that Catholic schools in neighborhoods with bad public schools have a lot of non-Catholic families sending their kids there.

    • Urstoff says:

      Ideally, you do the Good Parenting things out of empathy: you comfort your child because it makes you upset when they’re upset (there are exceptions, obviously, like the fake tantrums toddlers throw all the time); you read to your child because your child likes to have stories read to them, and you like to make your child happy. For similar reasons, you avoid the bad parenting stuff: you don’t abuse them, you don’t emotionally belittle them, etc. Basically, if you think you’re a pretty decent person, then don’t worry about parenting too much.

      • treth says:

        I do many things out of empathy.
        But I’ve been sleep deprived for 2 years, and when a friend of mine says he successfully implemented the cry-it-out method in just a few weeks, by leaving his daughter cry alone for hours, it makes me think.

        The real reason I didn’t use this “technique” is because idea of my child crying alone in the dark for several hours really horrifies me, not because I necessarily believe it makes a difference.

        • Chalid says:

          I find cry-it-out to be kind of horrifying too. But there are intermediate methods between cry-it-out and indefinite sleep deprivation – do some research and you might find one that works for you.

        • Emily says:

          If cry-it-out results in the kid being able to self-soothe, it’s a service both to the parents and to the kid, who winds up much better-rested at the end of the process. But we found that the important part was not doing intermittent reinforcement: I think there were several strategies that would have worked with our kid, but the important part was making clear a set of expectations and sticking to them. Another benefit of this has been that we are better able to figure out when something is legitimately wrong (ear infection, teething).

        • Randy M says:

          How do you feed your child, and where do they sleep?

        • 57dimensions says:

          The cry it out method doesn’t specifically promote just leaving your child to cry for hours, just letting them cry for longer and longer intervals, starting at only a few minutes. It shouldn’t have to get to leaving them to cry for hours. My mother is extremely sensitive to children suffering, but she said this method worked very well for her, and didn’t require leaving me to cry for hours by myself.

        • Deiseach says:

          Cry-it-out is a bit tricky, it’s going back to the Really Old Days of “let the baby cry, it’s only looking for attention”.

          Now, a newborn infant is not merely looking for attention, it’s cold or hungry or wet and has no other means of communicating other than crying. Leaving it alone to cry until it suits your schedule (or rather the schedule the parenting theory imposes) is not ideal.

          However, once the child does get older (and from 3 onwards certainly), there is the ability to cry when “looking for attention”. Still, there is generally a reason. Is the child afraid of the dark? Is there something about the room? Does it have night terrors (my younger brother did as a small child) or nightmares which it can’t tell you very clearly about? Does it just want to sleep in the bed with the parent?

          If you can work out why the child is crying, then solving that rather than “cry it out” may work. Or you may find that yes, you have to leave them alone to cry for a few nights until they work out that it’s not working anymore to get them the attention.

        • Randy M says:

          I’ll back up Deiseach. Babies and toddlers are definitely different in relevant ways.

        • baconbacon says:

          The method we used for our kids was let them cry for 1 min on night 1, 2 on night 2, 3 on night 3. We never even got to 5 mins of crying. They still wake up sometimes (and the oldest gets out of bed and wakes us up when he needs the bathroom) so its not a miracle cure, but we still get 4-5 nights uninterrupted sleep most weeks.

        • Agronomous says:

          But I’ve been sleep deprived for 2 years…

          Yeah, that’s not good for anybody. It’s like working perpetual overtime.

          We taught our first couple of kids to get to sleep themselves; for various reasons, we didn’t with our youngest, and she’s paying for it along with us.

          This may or may not count as Ferberization, but the basic scheme is:

          * Do bedtimey stuff with the child (bath, story) and tell her she’s going to go to bed and fall asleep.

          * Give her a big hug, tell her you love her, put her in the crib, say goodnight, leave the room. (Turn the light out before all this.)

          * The first night, let her cry for five minutes without going back in the room, then go get her and put her to sleep however you’ve been doing it: co-sleeping, nursing, whatever. This shows her that, yeah, you went away for a bit, but then you came back.

          * The second night, give it ten minutes. The third night, twenty minutes. The fourth night, more. I don’t think we’ve ever gone to six nights, but your baby may vary. Knowing you’ll eventually come back seems to make them secure enough to give up and sleep.

          * If you just can’t take hearing the baby cry, leave the house and let your spouse do it. Also, quit watching Mad About You re-runs; those characters are neurotic.

          * One point we missed with our first: when they wake up in the middle of the night during this process, just go grab them immediately. You’re teaching them to go to sleep in the evening; they’ll catch on how to fall back asleep in the middle of the night later on. Also, sometimes babies stand up in their crib and can’t figure out how to get back down, so they need rescuing.

          Does this involve a lot of crying? Yes, but only for 5 + 10 + 20 + 30 + … call it three hours, over the space of a week. And it means a lot less crying forevermore after that. Think of your goal as minimizing Total Crying Time over the next few years. You’re teaching your child a skill that pays off quickly.

          And (as someone else pointed out) when your child cries in the middle of the night, you’ll know there’s some reason for it, not just, “Waaah! I can’t get back to sleep!”

          If your toddler can already climb out of her crib, this may not work. I would not recommend restraining her, though locking the bedroom door might be enough.

          If this takes more than a couple of weeks, give up and try something else; kids are all different.

          Leaving a child alone to cry for literally hours sounds pointless and counterproductive to me. Clearly your friend’s daughter’s not getting the whole get-yourself-to-sleep bit on such a night. Are you sure she was crying the whole time? Or did she cry, quiet down, cry again, sleep some, cry some more…?

          • DES3264 says:

            Our problem was/is the getting back to sleep, not the going to sleep. (One almost 5 year old, one 6 month old.) In both cases, we saw the same pattern show up at around 4 months — the kids would fall asleep fine for 3-4 hours, but would then require 30-60 minutes of cuddles and nursing to go back to sleep, and would wake every 1.5 hours or so after that with similar requirements. They’d seem super happy and quiet in our arms, but as soon we tried to put them down the screaming would begin.

            We did a similar system of phasing out returns, but for us it was go in after 5 minutes of crying, then again after 10, 15, and hypothetically 20, 20, 20 after that. The main point was that we went in to tell them we were there and that we loved them, and check if anything was clearly wrong, but not to begin the old cuddle routine. Quite often, before 5 minutes passed, they’d already gotten themselves back to bed. It is also good that this is a job either gender can do, so the burden doesn’t fall as hard on the nursing parent.

            The first night was awful in each case, with many repeats of the 20 minute cycle, but after that they slept much better and we almost never needed more than the one 5 minute check in.

            Of course now, if our older girl cries out in the night, we go right away, because we know that it means something is actually wrong. As others have said, this is a huge benefit.

            Not trying to tell you what to do, but getting rid of chronic sleep deprivation is great for you and your kids, and improvement is surprisingly fast.

      • Chalid says:

        This. Also, remember that parenting makes a ton of difference to how much your children will like you, both as children and after they’ve grown up.

        • Zorgon says:

          This is actually quite contradictory to my experiences. Kids tend to simultaneously dislike and like their parents pretty much regardless of the quality of their parenting, assuming it’s not actively abusive. Being the primary agent of constraint for a human is not conducive to being well-liked.

          And most adults with non-abusive parents shed the “dislike” part once their teens are over.

          • Chalid says:

            I feel like I see tremendous variation in how much people different people get along with their parents, at all ages.

          • During my teenage years, I had three best friends. One was my mother. Through my teens and well into adulthood (at least, as far into adulthood as I presently am) she remained one of my favorite people to talk with, one of the first people I went to when I needed advice, etc etc.

            I’m not typical. All else aside, my mother and I share multiple hobbies and have very similar personalities – I would probably like her if she weren’t my mother, too. But I am not sure I can remember resenting her at any point since… maybe the age of five? And if that’s not parenting I’m not sure what it is. Maybe I just have strange genes?

            (I get mildly annoyed at Dad sometimes, and vice versa, but I don’t think I particularly resent him, nor did as a teen, and in general we get on extremely well. Same potential explanations as above, I suppose?)

    • Deiseach says:

      Obligatory disclaimer: have no kids myself, only going by experiences of being eldest of four, aunt of two, and once having been a child myself, coupled with working in a school environment and observing the little darlings in the wild outside their parents’ influence. Take all advice with a sackful of salt.

      If you’re an average parent, which means you feed and shelter your kids and don’t beat them into a coma by way of putting them to bed every night, all the bumpf about “enrichment” and “quality time” and home-growing your own little Renaissance Man or Woman by age six really means nothing.

      Don’t be neglectful or abusive and the kid will turn out mostly fine, even if you’re not hand-rearing them like a bottle-fed lamb according to the latest trendy theory.

      Toddlerdom is a great preparation for puberty, from what I’ve observed. The same meltdowns and sobbing themselves to sleep and “But Susie’s parents let her do it!” Though your 12-14 year old will do a lot more door-slamming and “I hate you! I didn’t ask to be born!”

      If you can refrain from murder, things get better after that. I think the best child-raising advice I ever heard came from the TV show of “Alien Nation”: “All you can do is love them, teach them right from wrong, and hope they don’t grow up to be an axe-murderer” 🙂

      • murphy says:

        I dunno, you do get some differences. Looking at my peers there was quite a difference between my parents who, fortunately for me, I could actually talk with and whom I could reason with and who’s first approach would be to try to reason with me and the parents of some of my peers….

        One friend, her parents had decided she would be a doctor and while she did end up a doctor she also had a wee bit of a mental breakdown at age 24 and eventually decided to stop being a doctor and let her registration lapse because she didn’t actually want to be a doctor very much. It made me grateful that my parents hadn’t pushed me too hard into things without reference to what I actually wanted.

        Little things don’t make much difference but over 20 years you can have some effects.

        Keep your promises to them, don’t abuse them and try not to push them to the point where they have breakdowns and they’ll probably be fine.

    • Some Troll's Legitimate Discussion Alt says:

      The way I read it, its not “good parenting doesn’t mean anything” so much as it is “good parenting means ‘keeping your kid whole, healthy, and reasonably happy’ and not ‘raising them in keeping with the latest trends'”. As long as you actually are comitted to doing a good job, just do what feels natural without worrying so much about exactly how strict is too strict or exactly how much classical music they should be exposed to or whatever else. The space of ‘good parenting’ is big enough that that commitment will be enough to hit it.

      Full disclosure: Don’t have any kids, so I can’t be said to have put my money where my mouth is on this topic or to know from experience. It’s just what I took away from the apparent nature/nurture results.

    • Shmi Nux says:

      My main advice is to not sweat the small stuff. Be there for them when they need comfort (whether they are a toddler, a teen or an adult), encourage and give them a chance to play and learn, and have a good time. Your goal as a parent is for them to be Safe, Healthy and Happy, and you can only do that effectively if you are in a good shape yourself. So, Selfcare is as important as childcare. Self-sacrifice does not improve the outcome.

      That point is worth emphasizing again: your goal is not to teach them how to “win at life”, it is to give them a chance to grow safe, happy and healthy. Leading by example. Any kind of optimizing is worse than satisficing, because it puts unnecessary external pressure on the kid. Don’t be a human paperclip maximizer 🙂

      And trust your intuition if you have it, over any books or advice, including this one, and the one I just gave about trusting your intuition (recurse 3 levels deep if necessary 🙂 ).

      And yes, abusive parenting can screw up a kid royally and forever, I see a lot of it, but you are not that kind of a parent. Be supportive, compassionate, empathetic and in good spirits yourself, and you will do better than 99% of the parents out there.

      TL;DR: Support, encouragement and selfcare: good. Abuse and pressure: bad.

    • Princess Stargirl says:

      I would personally suggest testing your child for Lead. Even better would be to test the paint, water and soil in your house. If the tests come out problematic you should take measures and move quickly. Lead exposue is not uncommon even in the USA. Especially if you live in a city.

      Here is a chart that I cannot vouch for the accuracy of: http://www.vox.com/a/lead-exposure-risk-map

      • Yrro says:

        Yeah, but if you find anything good luck doing a damn thing about it.

        Our house has some lead paint on the trim. Like good parents, we got estimates to abate the house properly, by a professional.

        $15k was the lowest we got. Just for abatement — it’ll still be there under the new paint. And that’s just the interior.

        So we’re bad parents, and get the lead tested every year instead and mop and don’t open the windows instead… and the tests on the kids have all come back within safe levels. But man, it sucks how hard it is to do the right thing on that.

    • ksdale says:

      Parent of two toddlers with another baby on the way here. I’ve read a lot of the same literature about how little parenting matters and my takeaway is that I’ll have more of an impact on their lives when they get old enough to be reasoned with, which may not be until they are quite a lot older.

      I think the way a lot of people parent is that they try to control every aspect of their children’s behavior to the point that the kids rebel and the parents lose credibility. Sometime after the kids become adults, the parents regain credibility (hopefully) but by that time the kids have already made several ill-advised and far-reaching decisions.

      If I have to choose between controlling them when they’re 5 and having them actually listen to me when they’re 20, the literature would suggest that I’m better off going for influence 20. I know I can’t guarantee that, but the mistakes a 2 year old or even a 12 year old can make are generally trivial compared to the mistakes a 20 year old can make, so I figure if I allow my kids to make what I believe are mistakes when they’re younger and can actually convince them that I will honor their agency and that I want them to be happy, then perhaps they will trust that I’m not trying to sabotage them when they’re at that rebellious age.

      It seems like there’s not really any cost to letting them have their freedom at a young age, as long as we meet their needs and provide them with material and emotional support, whereas having some influence on their lives when they’re capable of making far more permanent decisions seems important. So that’s our game plan… I’m also aware it may fail miserably and I’m trying to enjoy the ride.

      We’ve tried to err on the side of letting our kids push their boundaries physically and mentally, and we speak with them like they are allowed to make their own decisions (and we try to offer them an acceptable subset of options so that it doesn’t matter what decision they make) and at least so far, we have some well behaved kids who seem to be able to sense when it is important to listen to us. Probably just genetics…

    • bja009 says:

      I’m a parent of a 4.5-year-old and a 9-month-old. Your kids are gonna be who they’re gonna be, and you’ll start seeing startlingly familiar personality traits soon if you haven’t already. Which is both cool and terrifying. Don’t abuse them and that’s all you can really do on the not-screwing-them-up front.

      BUT.

      What you CAN do that will make a difference is to teach them things. There are adult humans out there who don’t know how to make a budget, clean a carburetor, or open a bank account. You are uniquely positioned to convey skills – not in the sense of shaping their long-term personalities or proclivities, or increasing their IQ, but of providing actual data, algorithms and heuristics to help them function wherever you’re raising them.

      This is really fun, because you get to vicariously experience the joy of learning something new and awesome. For example, until last night, my eldest thought pirates were totally fictional. His mind was BLOWN.

      Also neat: Receiving the gift of flavor. Not just an album by The Urge.

      tl;dr: Don’t let rationalist optimization interfere too much with sharing joie de vivre with your child(ren). You only get one life, after all.

      ETA: ‘screwing up’ isn’t the same as ‘abusing’. The fact that you’re seeking advice on how to best raise your child is a strong indicator that you’re unlikely to do permanent damage.

      • Urstoff says:

        What percentage of cars on the road even have a carburetor? Do lawn mowers even use them these days?

        • Deiseach says:

          What percentage of cars on the road even have a carburetor? Do lawn mowers even use them these days?

          Okay, I take your point, but small things like “how to wire a plug”, “what if the tap is dripping, do I really need to call a plumber”, “how to do some basic cooking”, “how to put on a load of laundry” and minor things like that – whether they’re boys or girls or whatever point of the non-binary gender spectrum they fall on 🙂

        • bja009 says:

          Basically no cars, actually most lawn mowers. At least, all the lawn mowers I have used to any extent. First time I tried to troubleshoot a mower was a really interesting experience, it demystified internal combustion systems for me. (It was a clogged fuel line, which taught me to always try the simplest thing first when troubleshooting.)

      • ” For example, until last night, my eldest thought pirates were totally fictional. His mind was BLOWN.”

        Get him The Invisible Hook by Peter Leeson. Or point him at the short version:

        http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Academic/Legal_Systems_Draft/Systems/PirateLaw.htm

    • 57dimensions says:

      Don’t worry that much. You are doing fine. You’re actually trying and you care and that counts more than anything. Really. I guess just don’t care too much and become a helicopter parent, make sure you let your kids try and fail and learn. I enjoyed Lenore Skenazy’s blog as a kid myself–she’s one of the big “Free Range Parenting” promoters.

    • Tom Scharf says:

      Your first child: He’s crying, oh my God, what am I doing wrong!
      Your second child: He’s crying, check the diaper, yawn. If he keeps it up for 30 minutes then I’ll investigate.

      Just like bigger humans, sometimes they just need to get it out. The first time you let your child just cry it out is absolute torture….for the parent. Turns out they never hold it against you. I would try to avoid the “who’s nurtures the best and longest” competitions in the play group.

    • baconbacon says:

      Stay at home dad of a 3 year old and a 1 year, so I fancy myself an expert, and a few years from now I will fancy myself as an idiot.

      My interpretation of the data (I’m a fan of Bryan Capalan’s approach) is that good parenting matters a lot, but hard parenting doesn’t do squat. I would bet/guess that exposure to music and instruments is a gross good for children. The ones that take to it might see a real effect over their lives, but if you have to fight that kid to get them to practice every day, to be nice to their teacher or get home on time for lessons then that benefit generally gets cancelled out by all those negative interactions. This works in the opposite direction as well, I would bet/guess that TV is a net harm to small kids, and that if you could isolate the effect of 1/2 an hour a day it would be a clear negative. BUT parents that give their kids a half hour a day basically get a half hour break to relax or catch up on chores or reply to comments online. The rest of the day they are probably a little more patient and a little more attentive than they would be without that time, and so TV (in moderate amounts) ends up a wash.

      In general I think its best to make parenting easy. Sleep training (to follow some of your responses), good nutrition/eating habits and avoiding long periods of sitting down (long car rides, movies) are the most important focal points. Everything else falls into place when you have taken care of the basics.

      Lastly anytime someone reasonably trustworthy offers to babysit- take that offer ASAP. If they didn’t mean it they will weasel out or never do it again, but taking help is good for you and your kid, and toughing it out on your own is detrimental.

      • eccdogg says:

        Father of 9 yo and 6 yo here. I also take a lot from Bryan Caplan, particularly his rule that if they don’t like it and I don’t like it don’t do it. Also how dicipline is about making kids tolerable to live with, not molding them into someting 20 years from now. Since outside of being abusive, parenting style probably does not matter that much you may as well enjoy things an take it easy. Your intuition is proably right most of the time for your situation and personality.

        We did not do the cry it out, but not because I think it would have damaged the child but because we did not like listening to them cry and we liked comforting them. We took it even farther and had them sleep in our room while they were nursing. Mainly because that made it easier for us.

        It is funny, my family travels in a circle of pretty hovering parents. There are lots of stay at home moms with MD, PhD, Law degrees etc that have no other outlet for their considerable talents other than optimizing the lives of their children and the dads are generally pretty involved as well. My wife and I both work and are much more laid back. So far I have not seen any real difference between kids of active or more laid back parents.

      • One thing you might want to consider is whether there are situations where giving in to the kid’s demands is costless, hence he should have his way.

        When our kids were little, one of the rules was that they didn’t have to eat what we were having for dinner if they didn’t want to–provided that there was something else they could have that was adequately nutritious and no extra trouble for us. That’s one example of a more general point–rules should have reasons that you are prepared to explain to the kid. If it turns out that you lose the argument, that there is not an adequate reason, concede.

        • Deiseach says:

          they didn’t have to eat what we were having for dinner if they didn’t want to–provided that there was something else they could have that was adequately nutritious and no extra trouble for us

          That reminds me of something that happened when I was four or five. I was never a picky eater and generally ate whatever was put before me, but this day for whatever reason I didn’t eat a portion of vegetables: I can’t remember if it was because I didn’t like them or I just wasn’t hungry enough to eat everything.

          My mother, of course, wanted me to eat my healthy veggies so it was “Finish what’s on your plate” “No” “You’ll stay sitting at the table until you eat that” “Fine”.

          I imagine she thought that I’d get bored, want to go play, and would give in, but no – table was cleared, plate was left before me, I was left sitting there, and there I sat for three or four hours, and when it was plain that I was not going to give in on this, she gave in and took the plate away and said “Okay, you can get up now”.

          Small children can be surprisingly stubborn 🙂

          • FacelessCraven says:

            I had an experience like this; my mother gave me some zucchini dish that I nibbled at and then refused to eat. She was run ragged at the time, got annoyed at my stubbornness, and told me I would eat it or not leave the table. Several hours later, she finally tasted the dish herself, and realized it was freezer burned.

            I got an unprecedented amount of chocolate by way of apology, and life was good.

        • baconbacon says:

          I’ve found meal times to be very interesting. For one it seems like my kids are ordinal rankers when it comes to food. Put a plate with chicken, peas and mashed potatoes in front of the 3 year old and he will often ask for something else. Put Chicken, peas and mash on the table and offer him each one and it usually goes like this

          “chicken?”
          “no”
          “Peas?”
          “no”
          “potatoes?”
          “no”
          “Chicken/peas?”
          “Yes”

          This has worked for one fussy eater I know when I told her mom about it. She used to refuse all dinner food and then go through half the pantry saying “no”, no matter what was offered or what order it was offered.

        • Randy M says:

          I don’t provide alternate meal options, and usually don’t allow access to snacks if the prepared dinner isn’t eaten, but the most I’ll require being eaten is a bite of everything, encouraging them to obey their hunger feeling rather than the arbitrary portions I ladle onto the plates.
          We let them eat whatever’s available outside mealtimes. That whatever is rather more strict than their peers, but conversely they now enjoy meat, vegetables, fruit, etc., and aren’t deprived from not knowing the pleasures of open access to soda, chips, cookies, etc. like some of their silver mouthed friends.

          That was a tangent to David’s point, I know, and I agree with the larger point. Children should be taught consideration and self-discipline, but probably aren’t going to appreciate the lesson if they see the rules as arbitrary.

          • Cadie says:

            When I was a nanny I’d enforce the big rule and give the kids choices on the littler stuff. Like when it was bedtime, it was bedtime, but I’d let the younger boy pick out any of his pajamas or clean T-shirts to sleep in. Or if I was making dinner for them, I’d say “ok, we’re having chicken, rice, and a vegetable – would you rather have green beans or salad?” so they could pick the vegetable between two or three options given. That helped minimize conflict because while I was either making the rules or enforcing their parents’ rules, they also got to exercise a bit of control of their own and make choices. Occasionally it didn’t work, but it cut down on their arguing by quite a bit.

          • Seth says:

            @Cadie – does giving meaningless choices really work? (I don’t have kids). It’s always struck me as condescending, and that a kid would pick up on that very fast. I know that when people try that technique on me as an adult, I’ve always found it extremely irritating (“When I tell you to jump, would you like to glance left, right, up, or down, as you immediately jump?”). It strikes me as some sort of crazy neurolinguistic programming idea, that if they embed a trivial choice in big command, the trivial choice means I won’t notice the big command, or will somehow react as if it were a choice and not a command. Maybe if it ever works, it’s for the social fiction involved that it’s not actually an order.

          • smocc says:

            @Seth With my two-year-old boy, yes, definitely (But it’s not magic.)

            My interpretations of most of the tantrums that he throws is that he is upset simply because he is not getting to decide what he does. The particular thing that he desired to do is rarely important, and can flip completely in an instant. All that seems to matter at this stage is whether or not he feels like he’s making choices. I expect this is part of his age, and it will not be true when he is older.

            Also, when he is upset about something offering options without changing the big thing redirects his attention and gives him something to focus on besides the fact that he is upset.

            I guess I see it less as manipulation, and more as helping him. His mind is not particularly well-trained or developed and has a tendency to get stuck in a self-reinforcing tantrum state that works against his own interests. For example, sometimes as we get ready to go to grandma’s house (which he loves) he will get distracted by some other fun thing and then tell us that he doesn’t want to go to grandma’s house (he really does – he’s always happy about it afterwards). He is learning agency but he hasn’t yet learned how to weigh his preferences and so we help him along.

            Finally, we do give him meaningful choices. There are a few non-negotiable things that we season with options (bedtime, meal times, “please stop”, etc.) but most days he gets to choose whether to play outside or inside, what park to go to, what clothes he gets to wear, what to eat for breakfast, what books to get from the library, etc. I imagine this is what Cadie meant too.

          • Seth says:

            @smocc – My eye was caught by “Like when it was bedtime, it was bedtime, but I’d let the younger boy pick out any of his pajamas or clean T-shirts to sleep in”. I’d wonder about how much that mattered if a kid didn’t want to go to bed. Along the lines of “Now it’s time to go to bed, but I’ll let you pick out any pajamas or clean T-shirt to sleep in”, getting a reply of “I don’t want to pick out anything because I don’t want to go to bed”. Maybe not at two years old. But it struck me as an obvious reply sometime. There’s a difference between offering real choices about an activity, and something along the lines of: you’re going to do what I tell you to do, even though you don’t want to do it, but let’s both pretend some insignificant aspect means you have meaningful control.

          • Dahlen says:

            @smocc:

            All that seems to matter at this stage is whether or not he feels like he’s making choices. I expect this is part of his age, and it will not be true when he is older.

            ???

            This is true at any age, especially for people chronically deprived of the ability to choose. The only difference is that, as people get older and wiser, their “bad choices” will tend to be less stupidly self-destructive and more akin to minor lapses in conscientiousness, so the trade-off between “making the good choice” and not surrendering their autonomy starts tipping in the other direction, and so of course we recognise that and allow more freedom with age. There are many things even adults do just out of the impulse of “fuck it, I am free”, and you’d feel stifled too if you were nannied into living responsibly every day, for every single choice to be made.

          • smocc says:

            @ Seth

            I agree that there’s a real difference, and that you or I would probably notice and care. My point is that a two-year-old really doesn’t seem to notice or care. At this point he seems pretty satisfied to be making choices, period. As he ages I expect to change strategies as he gains the ability to reason about choices and their consequences (though some rules will remain inviolable.)

          • Cadie says:

            Seth – in my experience (which is as a nanny, babysitter, and non-parent relative of children and adolescents) the constrained choices thing helps a lot with younger children, only occasionally failing if they really don’t want to go to bed or whatever and put up a fight, and as they get older they do get more resistant but it can still be modified and used as part of compromise techniques. A 12-year-old girl won’t be fooled by “do you want cherry or strawberry chapstick?” when she’s asking for makeup and you’re not keen on her using much yet. But chances are good she’ll be OK with getting a makeover at a makeup counter at the mall, wherein you tell the salesperson ahead to use light, subtle colors, and then she can choose whether she wants peach or pink lip color and brown or charcoal mascara and maybe something a little bolder and brighter for special occasions. You’re still making part of the choice – she doesn’t get free run of the Cover Girl section yet – but she’s allowed some choices of her own.

          • I’ve wondered whether offering a lot of fake choices results in adults who don’t know what they want, but this is only a guess.

          • smocc says:

            Another thought on this:

            I don’t think I am offering my son fake choices to trick him. Rather, I’m trying to help him learn an important mental discipline that he can use the rest of his life. (Well, most of the time anyway.)

            Everyone’s actions are constrained all the time. I mean, on some level I could act to satisfy all my immediate desires, but many of those options come with heavy, unavoidable consequences. I can stay up to 4 am playing video games, and sometimes I do, but I also know the short- and long-term effects of that choice and so most of the time

            As an adult I’ve (mostly) learned how to deal with the disappointment of being constrained by consequences. One technique is to always be looking for ways to turn unpleasant things into pleasant things: I hate doing dishes, but I can watch a youtube video while I do them. Another is to offer deals to myself: if I finish this report now, I can play videogames later.

            Two-year-olds are bad at predicting consquences (if I keep playing at home I can’t go to grandma’s house) and they don’t have practice mitigating disappointment. Most of the time when I offer “fake choices” I’m trying to teach him this sort of thing, and I think it kind of works, though slowly.

    • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

      [disclaimer: no experience]

      I’ve read that parents can be divided into two groups: those who ask “how do I avoid ruining this kids’s life”; and those who ask “how do I avoid having this inconvenient poop-machine ruin my nightlife”. The former type generally raises their kids well. They also worry excessively, even though they have nothing to worry about. The latter type generally makes their child’s life miserable and doesn’t give a shit. Given you’re thinking about your child’s well-being at all, you’re probably in a good spot.

      My personal model of parenting compares it to eating. If you’re child is emaciated, then they’re not going to grow up Big & Strong (and probably not do well in class). But if you overstuff them like a stereotypical Italian mother, that won’t have any effect beyond the point at which the child feels satisfied. (I could have alternatively drawn an analogy to health or wealth.)

      #everything is a sigmoid

      Regarding the sleep-deprivation problem. I believe Attachment Theory says making the kid feel safe is generally better than letting them rough it out themselves. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to solve the problem on your end.

    • 27chaos says:

      If there’s insufficient variation in parenting style then when you look at the empirical effects of different styles it may artificially seem like parenting does not matter when really the issue is that your sample doesn’t represent all possible types of parenting. I think most people raise their children in essentially similar common sense ways. Also, parenting styles correlate with genes, which might hide some of parenting’s effect.

      When you look at extreme outliers, like abusive parents, effects can clearly be seen even though these effects are small relative to the overall population and can not be detected by looking at summary statistics. If it is possible to be an outlier on the other end of the parenting quality spectrum, to be as good a good parent as abusive parents are bad parents, then you will be able to greatly improve your child’s life.

    • Buckyballas says:

      Hi treth,

      I am also a parent (of two young children) and am also confused by this apparent conflict between the Judith Rich Harris (and I think Scott Alexander) point of view which says that parenting style, other than outright abuse, has limited demonstrable impact on long term outcomes and the other point of of view (held by most people) that how you parent has significant lifelong impacts. One way I try to integrate these points of view is to consider the possibility that parenting styles have significant short term effects, but limited long term ones. For example, cry-it-out, which my wife and I have employed to some degree, has some short term impact on the child (positives: they end up sleeping longer; negatives: higher temporary stress hormone levels), possibly some medium-term attachment impacts (but I haven’t found any good literature on this), and probably minimal long-term impacts. And you should also take into account the long and short term benefits to the parents which are pretty obvious. As well as the fact that every child is different and it’s always possible (although with a low prior probability) that your child is on the tail of the curve where typical techniques don’t work that well. And in your specific case, where you have a two year old, I don’t know how effective cry-it-out is (given the well known two-year old qualities of loudness and stubbornness).

      Another reason I try to be a “good” parent, despite its apparent lack of long-term impact, is that these outcome studies typically measure things like income, criminality, etc. and not “how much you hate your dad”. It’s well within the realm of possibility to be a successful person and still have a terrible relationship with your parents. My wife and I are trying to avoid this outcome.

      Finally, great question on the “so I should probably teach my kid rationality right?” I know I’m going to try. I guess I have a high prior for rationality being useful? Although I think that’s more of a rationalization than a rational decision.

      Best of luck to you.

      Re: Princess Stargirl’s Vox map. I think that map is based on factors which are typically correlated with lead risk like poverty, age of housing, etc. not really on actual measurement data. So usual grains of salt should be applied.

    • I think that good parenting gives your children a happier childhood. It probably has some longer run effects as well. But I gather the evidence is that, within the normal range, parenting does not have a large effect on the adult personality.

    • Asterix says:

      I suffered a lot from childhood wounds. I know many, many other people that speak of things in the childhood and wince. Even pretty functional people have pain from their childhoods that affect their lives as adult. It’s just too common and pervasive for me to ignore as I raise my own.

      What are the bounds? I don’t think we can measure a difference in adult happiness from somebody who got yelled at very little and someone who never got yelled at all. At the other end, we can see results from horrific child abuse: they can be overcome, but sometimes they are not. How much abuse has how much affect won’t be predictable, because people differ. But I know that I don’t want my children to be test cases. 🙂 So I protect them. Some of the most important ways I intervene on their behalf is:

      * I defend them. When one of them was serially and severely bullied in K, when I found out, I talked to the principal and we got a plan to keep the two children separated
      * I listen to them. They know it’s OK to be angry and it’s OK to tell me if they’re upset
      * I check, when I (say) want them to not do something: is this because I can’t bear to see or hear it, or because it’s a bad thing for them? If it’s about me, I try to go with their needs instead. Except that it’s OK for me to say, Sorry, I need a break from talking about Pokemon

      I think most parents are less aware. Some do what comes naturally and it’s pretty good as it is (my spouse, for example). For the rest of us, awareness is essential.

    • Hummingbird says:

      It seems that you’ve gotten quite a few replies, both from those who have a lot of personal experience, and those who do not, but probably have a good head on their shoulders and have read some on the subject.
      If my experience is of import, I have a ton of experience working with children ages 10-15 as a summer camp counselor and coordinator (outdoorsy, backpacking, campers stay for a month at a time), and the caliber was high enough that I am comfortable with using the phrase “youth development professional” to refer to many of those who work there.

      I guess first things first. It may seem like I’m setting the bar low, but it sounds like you are already asking questions and reading a lot, and you care. That’s honestly really good, and takes a lot of time and work.
      You of course cannot ignore genes and luck, but on a daily parenting basis, it can probably be left aside. Good parenting is the facilitation of the actualization of a capable, and hopefully good, human being. And hopefully one who can create, evaluate, and pursue goals that lead to their happiness and the happiness of those around them. This includes skills (emotional, social, life, intellectual), but also developing certain mindsets, such as the confidence that they are able to learn, or that they should “try new things”. Puberty is a significant turning point, as it coincides with independence and deviation from previous attitudes, but it is far from making childhood experiences irrelevant.

      I don’t really think there was a specific, main question you asked, or if there was, that I am capable of answering it well. But if you’re wondering if that you trying hard, becoming informed, and taking a deliberate approach matters, it does.

    • One of my friends asked a bunch of his friends for advice about parenting when he was an incipient parent.

      I wish I’d asked about what the other friends said, but I said “Try to like your kid”.

      I never did have children, but one of my questions was “What if I got a kid I didn’t like?”.

      I assume sometimes there’s a kid who’s just a bad personality match for one or both parents. Am I right? If so, is there anything to be done about this?

      • God Damn John Jay says:

        I mentioned before that a local family (Both parents were doctors, so not white trash) adopted a girl and then gave her back when she turned out poorly (Not that poorly AFAICT). So that is always a possibility.

    • Elephant says:

      I had to stifle a laugh reading your post, because often when I read comments on this blog I think “you clearly don’t have children!” In other words, this isn’t really the set of people I’d be asking for parenting tips. However, many of the comments people have been written are pretty good. My two cents (two elementary-school kids):
      — conveying skills / habits / activities is both enjoyable and worthwhile. We’d read a lot to our kids, and they both developed a real love of reading. Art/drawing was similar. Perhaps relatedly: we strictly limit screen time. I am really struck by kids I encounter who seem lost without some sort of electronic device — it’s sad to see.
      — I agree, especially after having the second kid, that you can’t really mold temperament. You can, however, model and teach manners and general “good behavior.”

      • “I am really struck by kids I encounter who seem lost without some sort of electronic device ”

        There are different sorts of electronic devices. Our kids didn’t have access to television (nor did we–if there was one it was kept in a closet). They had access to computers and gameboys. As best I could tell, the effect of both was positive. They were doing interesting things because they wanted to, not because someone was making them, interacting with people who might be considerably older, even from a different country.

      • eccdogg says:

        I really don’t sweat the screen time thing as long as the kids are getting exercise and other forms of mental stimulation. Maybe it is because I watched a ton of TV as a kid as did several highly competent coworkers. I would often watch something on TV on a Saturday, then get curious about something I did not understand and then go research that topic in the encyclopedia. Actually that is not to different than what I do online today.

        Also some TV shows are pretty good for learning. PBS shows like Odd Squad, Cyberchase, Electric Company and others do alot of teaching and are amazingly not terrible to watch as an adult. And even non educational shows can be fun to watch as a family as a shared experience and the stories sometimes create a jumping off point for imaginative play.

        The downside to screen time is that kids might not get exercise, but the same could be said for reading or playing with dolls/blocks etc. And at least with games like minecraft the kids seem to be exercising an important part of the brain. I guess TV time is passive time for the brain, but they get lots of active time with school and other things sometimes they just want to veg same as I do.

        My wife (an engineer) once complained that our daughter did not like to read and I pointed out to her that she did not like to read either.

    • Innocent Bystander says:

      If you read carefully, you will see that parenting does not much affect IQ in full adulthood and it doesn’t much affect the big 5 personality dimensions. That leaves a lot up for grabs

      * You can make a big difference to the start a child gets in life.

      * You can provide them with opportunities. I had a friend whose parents couldn’t afford to send him to college. In the end he made it, studying part time while in a low income job, but it was a huge struggle.

      * Being in a place where they can find good friends. We changed our daughter’s school and suddenly you weren’t considered a freak to be interested in learning. She made many long term friends there.

      * Generally allowing them to enjoy their 20’s rather than spending those years getting over the trauma of a dysfunctional childhood.

      Can I make two suggestions:

      1. A great book on parenting is “Parent Effectiveness Training” (PET). I found it life-changing and several friends report the same. It answers the question “how to balance the need for the child to learn from their mistakes, with the alleged fact that you know better than they do”. I say ‘alleged’ because it is not always true eg would your mother do a better job of dressing you for a party at 16 than you would? Parents tend to veer between authoritarianism and permissiveness – there is a better way!

      2. Robert Kegan’s framework of development phases can help you to understand what your child is thinking and what they are capable of. A summary and links here https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_hpownP1A4PdERFVXJDVE5SRnc/view?usp=sharing

    • Jason K. says:

      Not a parent, but speaking as someone that has spent a few years teaching children (so I got to see the after effects):

      1: If it isn’t likely to seriously harm them, let them do it.

      2: It is probably less likely to seriously harm them than you think.

      3: Into every life a little rain must fall, including theirs. People learn by the consequences of their actions. Err on the side of doing less to mitigate the impact of bad decisions.

      As for what you can directly do:

      1: They need to learn a skill that requires significant practice to master. Preferably several. Which skill(s) aren’t terribly relevant, so let it be something they enjoy doing. It is not about what they learn, but about learning how to improve and overcome challenges.

      2: Teaching people skills is a way underrated practice.

      3: As others have mentioned, try to impart basic maintenance and life management skills.

      4: The most important thing that you can impart that is likely to stick are good habits. Be careful though, they are likely to learn your bad ones as well.

      5: A safety helmet while learning to walk works wonders, both in minimizing knocks to the head and for your peace of mind.

    • Julie K says:

      Not only is this audience interested in parenting, you’ve succeeded in bringing the lurkers out of the shadows. I would not have guessed that this blog’s readers include so many people with kids.

    • Anthony says:

      Your kids’ adult outcomes won’t depend terribly much on your parenting (or your spouse’s parenting), provided you don’t malnourish them or abuse them. The outcome that will be different will be the relationship you and your kid(s) have. If you ignore their emotional distress a lot, they’ll hate you later.

      (It’s late, so I’m not going to write more now. But I could.)

    • Viliam says:

      Father of 13-months old here; some random opinions:

      Sometimes modifying your home is easier in long term than worrying about something every day. For example, there is this cheap plastic stuff you can put in the electric sockets, so you don’t have to worry whether your child will get hurt experimenting with them. (By the way, if you are building or reconstructing a house, put your electric sockets at least 1m high, not directly above the floor. Easier to use, out of reach of a toddler, safer in case of flood.)

      By similar logic, we decided to use a mattress directly on the floor as a bed for the baby. (I know, appropriating Japanese culture.) Zero risk of falling out of the bed. When the baby wakes up, she can just walk out from her bed, no need to call us in frustration. Now she uses the bed as a training ground for standing; it might be slightly more difficult, but it doesn’t hurt when she falls.

      Listen to your instincts; they do exist for a reason. Of course, reflect on them; don’t always follow them blindly. But please consider “acting on your instinct” to be a reasonable default action, with the burden of proof laying on the side of things you read on internet; or even expert advice, which quite frequently is the opposite of the expert advice from ten years ago. (Remember all those studies that failed to replicate.)

      Babies usually cry for a reason; typical reasons are hunger, thirst, exhaustion, frustration, wet diaper; occassionally growing teeth. (Maybe I forgot something important here.) Fix these problems and the baby is generally happy (albeit sometimes annoying and requiring your almost constant attention). The exhaustion is tricky, you need to remember how long was the baby’s recent sleep and how much time has passed since then.

      When you leave the baby alone at night, of course it is going to cry. Think about the evolutionary reasons in the ancient environment. When the baby was abandoned by the parents, it usually meant death, literally, unless the baby succeeded to call them back. When the baby failed to call back parents soon enough, the most likely explanation was that the parents walked too far away, so they didn’t hear. In which case the backup plan is a “freeze mode”, which means becoming completely quiet to avoid attracting predators, and slowing down metabolism to conserve resources, in hope that maybe later at unspecified time the parents would return. This “freeze mode” is taxing to the child’s health, including mental health, when done repeatedly. People who interact with children from orphanages recognize the symptoms easily; in institutional care this sadly happens quite often. Children who have spent too much time in the “freeze mode” become generally apathetic; they reduce their interaction with people and exploration of environment when awake, and they also do cry less at night, because they generally do less of everything. (Not forever; but it may take a few months to revert the condition, after a child from orphanage was adopted.) — So, whenever you hear some kind of “just let them cry themselves to sleep; they will cry less later” advice, please also consider this. (On the other hand, when the child is already asleep, just turn on some listening device, and leave the room. Come back quickly when the child wakes up.)

      Buy a baby carrier. (Actually buy two, one for each parent, so you don’t have to adjust them every time.) It will allow you to walk with free hands, on any terrain. With a newborn, you can use it at home, and get some things done. Outside, it becomes much easier to make sure the baby isn’t too cold or too hot. At evening, you can use it to cradle the baby to sleep. You can take a walk, and before returning home do some quick shopping. With some practice, you can move the sleeping baby from the carrier to the bed without waking it up. (Our strategy is to do this cca 30 minutes after the baby fell asleep, because then the sleep seems deepest. Probably depends on age. I slowly lay on my back on the mattress on the floor; wait a minute or two; remove the straps of the carrier; gently rotate and lay the baby on the mattress. Even if the baby wakes up for a moment, she usually falls back to sleep quickly. Cover the baby if necessary; then walk away.)

      Here is a useful training for future parents: try to learn doing as many things as you can using only one hand. You will thank me later.

      Maybe what you are doing now doesn’t make a big difference ten years later, but it still makes a difference today. If you optimize for something like “the integral of happiness over the lifetime”, then things matter even if they are later forgotten.

      When I try to teach my child something, I often find that the child is not ready (biologically, mentally), so I give up, and don’t try again for a month or two. But sometimes the child happens to be ready, and then dramatic progress can happen. As an example, I was bored once and didn’t know what to do, so I put my daughter in the carrier and walked outside, trying to find the nearest dog or a bird, and showing her “this is a dog”, “this is a bird”; repeating this for an hour. After that day, her behavior changed visibly. She wakes up, looks out of the window and says “dog!” and “bird!” (well, within her abilities of pronounciation, which means that unfamiliar people would probably not recognize what she meant), and when we are outside, she keeps scanning the environment. — But that’s probably a lucky coincidence that I did it on the right day. Many other attempts at teaching things have failed; e.g. she has Lego Duplo for many months, but can’t do anything with it. But once I showed her how to put a ball in a cup, and then shake the cup, and she liked it. In general, I believe the more attempts you make, the more lucky outcomes you get. Just keep the lessons short and be ready to give up.

      Sometimes non-toys are the best toys. As a few months old, she loved playing with an empty plastic bottle. (Tried to put it in her mouth, but holding the bottle perpendicular to her mouth. No idea why, but she enjoyed doing that.) Today the most favorite toy is a bunch of keys. I also let her play on my old portable keyboard (similar to this).

      Among toys I recommend this baby gym: at first, you can put this above the baby, so the baby can play with the hanging stuff, later the toddler can use it as a help for standing up. For the smallest baby, this octopus is great thing to hang above the baby’s chest: different colors and shapes, interesting to touch, flexible to pull. (If you are not a parent, these two are great gifts to new parents.) — This chair is high but safe, and comes with a separable tray; great for eating (you can separate the tray and wash it afterwards).

      I find it weird that in USA there seems to be a huge cultural opposition against breastfeeding. Human milk is literally optimized by evolution as a baby food; it is easiest for the baby to digest (which means less digestion problems for the baby, which means more sleep for you). It contains white blood cells, so your baby’s immune system gets regular updates from the mother. It has always the right temperature, it never spoils, and it is almost always ready. (The artificial baby formulas were supposed to be an inferior replacement in case of mother’s health problems.) If you can breastfeed long enough, you can skip the entire baby-food industry; when the baby grows teeth, start feeding them with what you eat (only without sugar, salt, and spices), blended at the beginning. (You have to avoid some foods up to some age, consult the literature for details.)

      If you had a habit of doing many things together with your partner, you may want to break that habit. Otherwise there is a risk that both of you e.g. spend three hours taking care of the baby together, and then at the same moment both of you say “okay, now I’m exhausted, I need a break”. My advice is that when one takes care of the baby, the other should do something else (maybe staying in the same room and keeping conversation, but not playing with the baby directly); so that you can switch later. When you eat together, only one of you at a time tries to feed the baby, so the other can eat freely; you may switch roles when the other is finished.

      This is sometimes difficult to explain to people, but insist: When strangers come to visit (and yes, even your own parents are strangers for the baby if this is their first visit after the baby was born), spend about 10 minutes with baby on the other side of them room, letting the baby observe them. Only then gradually attempt close contact. (The exact values may depend on the specific baby.)

      That’s all I can think about now.

      • Randy M says:

        This is all good advice, although don’t think that you need to have a baby in it’s own crib or bed, you’ll all sleep better if the infant is close at hand, especially in conjunction with breastfeeding.

        • Viliam says:

          We didn’t know how to solve this: you want the infant (1) close at hand for the purposes of breastfeeding, but (2) prevented from falling down from the bed, but (3) with a convenient option for you to leave the bed.

          I may be missing something obvious, but the place where you can leave the bed is the place where the infant can leave the bed, too. So, our solution is the mattress on the floor, so leaving the bed is not dangerous for anyone.

          • DES3264 says:

            They’re expensive, but if you search for “sidecar bassinet” you’ll find what is basically a minicrib with three walls and an adjustable height, meant to be placed next to your own bed with the mattresses at the same height. This solves all criteria until the child is coordinates enough to crawl out, and was very useful to us.

      • Murphy says:

        “hunger, thirst, exhaustion, frustration, wet diaper; occassionally growing teeth”

        Don’t forget “someone I don’t know is holding me”

        though they’re surprisingly bad at recognizing exact people if the shape of the face and movements are about right. I could substitute for my brother when his kids were infants and hadn’t met me before and they’d happily sleep in my arms. Others holding them and they’d realise something was up and cry.

    • TheAltar says:

      The one thing that I think I’ve seen Good Parents do that I haven’t heard elsewhere is develop emotional maturity yourself. Learn how to deal with stressful situations while you are tired, groggy, and annoyed without taking it out on your kid. The majority of the time when I see parents upset at children is because the parent is tired and stressed out. A parent who can notice they themselves are upset, can take a minute to take some deep breaths and cool down, and then can react to their children’s antics in a mature manner seem like they’d be much better parents.

    • Steve says:

      Not sure how much you like reading, but my wife recently read Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids and shared some bits of it with me. Mostly, parenting doesn’t matter. However, there are a couple of areas where you do have long-lasting effects. Given how hard it is to do randomized controlled trials, I think you want to err on the side of good parenting just in case it has a bigger effect than we think.

      In my limited experience (parent of 4 but the oldest is only 9) parenting does have an effect on short-term behavior, which in turn has an effect on opportunities later in life. Teaching your kids to not interrupt constantly, to occasionally sit still for an age-appropriate amount of time, and to be comfortable with being wrong, not knowing the answer, and asking questions are all skills that make school into something actually useful for them. One of my kids does a lot of that naturally, but the other required a bit of parenting to get to a point where she can learn effectively both at home and at school (the other two are still too young to say).

      • Elephant says:

        “Teaching your kids to not interrupt constantly, to occasionally sit still for an age-appropriate amount of time, and to be comfortable with being wrong, not knowing the answer, and asking questions are all skills that make school into something actually useful for them.”
        Yes, this is great, and these are habits that *can* be reinforced.

    • pneumatik says:

      I’m a parent of two elementary school age kids. Advice I would give you:

      – The fact that you care at all puts you ahead of ~50% of all parents. So you’ll probably do fine.
      – Your number one job is to keep them physically safe. Your number two job is to support them in whatever they’re interested in so that they grow up feeling good about themselves. That’s really all that matters.
      – Don’t make anything mandatory unless you’re willing to do whatever it takes to enforce it. If it’s not worth making a big deal out of, don’t worry about it.
      – IME putting kids in timeout works.
      – Read thelastpsychiatrist.com in reverse order. Stop when all the posts are about medicine. Pay attention to when he talks about parenting.
      – Enjoy them. They’re magic.

    • JB says:

      Father of 3 and 6 year old here. As some others have mentioned, parenting can probably not influence personality traits, temperament and innate ability, but it is going to determine what your child actually experiences, how it sees itself and others, what goals/situations it associates with its needs, and how much debugging it will need later in life to become basically functional.

      I do not know if this metaphor helps you, but small children are mostly in a psychedelic state, and you are tripsitting them. Their experience is immediate and unbroken by reflection, they are ready to follow arbitrary narrative trajectories to explain the world, they are emotionally extremely engaged, and they retain an incredible amount of memories. Like adults, they are living in a dream world, but theirs is more vivid, mutable and impractical. Much of our disagreements with children stem from their inability to join our particular dream (like my dream of having family dinner instead of their dream of attacking space aliens with mashed potatoes). If I manage to let go of my dream and join theirs, I can usually direct it in a useful direction, avoid unpleasantness, and everybody has much more fun. (And even toddlers can help in cleaning up afterwards.)

      Personally, I do not care that my children receive exceptional skillsets to put them ahead of other children, since I am not convinced that this will translate in more life satisfaction for them. But I care that they enjoy life; who knows how long it lasts. (Of course we offer all educational opportunity we can muster, but my wife and me extracted our skills from environments that left us basically alone, and we do not believe into shoving stuff down their throats.)

      I often wish that I had been more content when my first child was anti-social or otherwise problematic. There was not just the difficulty of handling the situation at hand, but the fear of being a horrible parent by not effectively intervening. Later I learned that most of the difficult things were either normal developmental phases (at 2, the start being goal-oriented but are often still unable to let go of goals, even if these are logically impossible to achieve, which may lead to tantrums), or they were the result of immutable quirks (a few Aspie things). Most things resolved entirely on their own, and those that did not found workarounds when the kid got older and more of its cognitive layers came online.

      I wish there was more data-based parenting research, since it is ridiculous that we are still resorting to tradition and intuition, when both vary so wildly. Most parenting styles seem to be based on philosophies developed by charismatic individuals. I like Jesper Juul’s ideas a lot, for instance, and he emphasizes respect, self-respect, and trust in the intentions of the child. I also have very strong memories of having been a child, and think about how I wish I would have been treated, and what that would have caused in me. I also think that a fair balance between the interests of parents and children has to be found: parents need their time and autonomy, too, and while the night time terror of a child waking from a bad dream is certainly more important than me reading a book or spending time with my spouse, boredom is not.

      One of our children used to wake frequently and needed cuddling, it got better with age (not through gradual weaning from cuddling). Initially, we let the child sleep in our bed when it wanted to, but that turned out to feel wrong, because parents need their refuges, too. Instead, we got a larger bed for the child, so one of us could join it when it did not want to sleep alone. We never let any of our children cry. Perhaps we are making too many compromises against our own interests here, but we also remember having been alone as children, and suffering immensely back then.

  4. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    Does anybody else confuse Peter Singer and Steven Pinker?

    Now I know what regular people feel when they confuse Anne Frank and Helen Keller.

    • that has never happened to me

    • zmil says:

      Yes, all the time. For years. And most of the time I’m trying to remember Stephen Pinker’s name, but only coming up with Peter Singer, and getting very confused when I google him…

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Ironic, since you are the one who regularly cites XKCD: https://xkcd.com/1529/

      And we all have our little trip-ups in the brain of two unrelated things we learned at the same time that end up forever confused.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I confuse Peter Singer and Steven Pinker. It’s probably because their initials are similar (PS vs SP), both have two syllables in their first and last name, and both have a last name that ends “er”. So they sound a bit similar and look a bit similar on the page.

      I had never heard of people confusing Anne Frank and Helen Keller.

      • Creutzer says:

        No, but there is a danger of confusing Anne Frank and the linguist Anette Frank. Unfortunately, the latter has not had the good taste to populate her writings with example sentences or scenarios from the writings of the first.

    • Rainmount says:

      Up until a few months ago, yes. Throw Steve Sailor into that mix too. I had to consciously train myself to get them straight even after reading Steven Pinker’s book.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Never had that particular problem, though I remember an episode of Only Connect (a UK-based fairly highbrow quiz show) in which the answer involved knowing the difference between skateboarder Tony Hawk and comedian Tony Hawks, model Kate Moss and novelist Kate Mosse, and two other pairs of people (I forget who) where one had the same name as the other plus one extra letter on the end.

    • alkatyn says:

      Yes

      I also thought Hilary Putnam (RIP) was female for a very long time,

      • Evan Þ says:

        He only died this year? Wow.

        I thought Putnam was female for a while, too; I even referred to him as “she” in the first draft of an essay I wrote in college. The TA responded with a grin, “I know you don’t see many female names in philosophy – but no, Putnam’s male.”

    • I’m much more familiar with Pinker than Singer, and I’ve never confused them. I have Pinker’s book Better Angels here on my desk because I was just referring to it.

      But for some reason, I used to confuse Andy Warhol and David Bowie. Perhaps it was because they had a similar “look”.

      I did not know until this very moment that David Bowie did a song about Andy Warhol.

    • Liskantope says:

      I’ve never had this confusion; I’m very familiar with Peter Singer but don’t think I’ve ever heard of Steven Pinker outside this forum and am not sure what he does.

      My main celebrity-name-confusions that I can think of (mostly when I was younger) are Bob Dole / Bob Dillan, Michael Jordan / Michael Jackson, and Steven Spielberg / Steve Spurrier.

    • Anonymous says:

      I do this with all names that are even remotely similar. Examples mostly escape me at the moment, but I had trouble with Orson Welles and Oscar Wilde for years. And I can never remember which is raggedjackscarlet and which is reddragdiva…

    • BBA says:

      If that’s not confusing enough, sometimes you run into pairs of people with the same name. Like the two unrelated drummers in British rock bands active during the 1980s, both named Roger Taylor.

  5. FishFinger says:

    What’s this bias called?

    “If homosexuality is evil, then it should not be promoted.”
    “If God does not exist, then prayer and going to church are largely pointless.”
    “Assuming that abortion is murder, it should be banned.”
    “If you are a unicorn, you should go live in the pixie forest.”

    All these statements are obviously true (or will be true with a little tweaking) because they are almost tautological conclusions from those conditions. Yet when I see them and I disagree with the condition, a part of me feels reluctant to agree with the whole statement, or at least I have to quickly add “yes, but God DOES exist, so you should go to church”.
    Is this a thing and is there a name for it?

    • eh says:

      Begging the question? False equivalence? Some combination of the two?

      • J says:

        As far as I can tell, “false equivalence” is almost entirely bullshit. Jon Stewart called for decreased political polarization in his famous address at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. Keith Olbermann and a bunch of other left-wing pundits said he was saying they were exactly as bad as Fox News, calling it a “false equivalency” (sic).

        It’s a bizarre accusation; how often does an argument require that two things be *exactly* equal, and how could two different things even ever *be* exactly equal?

        The epithet caught on, and you can see on Google Trends that it’s been on the rise ever since that fateful day in 2010. (The wikipedia article on the “fallacy” doesn’t even appear until more than a year later in 2011.)

        Its fundamental oddity makes it a great way to derail an argument, and I see it all the time: if I say, “as we see in both cats and supernovas…”, you can say “False equivalency! How can you possibly say that cats are comparable to supernovas?” and it’s not at all obvious how I should respond to that. It’s also a great derailment because “comparable” can mean either “possible to be compared”, or “similar”, and the ambiguity fuels further confusion.

        It took me a long time to work it out, and it rarely does much good, but you can point out that to compare two things, they *have* to be different, and why should there be any limit on how different the two things are? Lots of very different things have attributes in common, and pointing out the common attributes can be quite useful. And since arguments don’t typically require things to be equivalent (but rather, that they have some attribute in common), it’s irrelevant to point out that they are unequal. But of course that sounds quite pedantic, which usually just makes things worse.

        It really is a fiendishly clever little propaganda tool.

        • Not Robin Hanson says:

          As commonly employed, “false equivalency” is the complement of “double standard”:

          When they condemn us people who are clearly not us for heinous actions yet commit the same actions themselves, clearly that’s a double standard. But when they accuse us of having a double standard—i.e. condemning them for heinous actions and yet committing the same actions ourselves—clearly they are drawing a false equivalency between our actions and their actions.

          Does this sound a little hypocritical to you, perhaps like some sort of double standard regarding double standards? Well, you’re just drawing another false equivalency.

    • Rowan says:

      Apart from the fourth, those statements are to varying degrees political, and regardless of what’s logically true it’s strategically bad in a politicised debate to concede points like that without raising such an objection. Do you actually feel the same urge wrt that fourth statement involving unicorns?

      • onyomi says:

        Yes, this may not be what you’re getting at, but it reminds me of another bias: the “if it’s wrong/bad, it should be illegal” bias and its corollary, “the fact that it’s illegal is sufficient evidence that it’s wrong.”

        • Julie K says:

          Alternate corollaries:
          If it’s legal, that means it’s not wrong.
          If you say something is wrong, you want it to be illegal.

          • onyomi says:

            Yes, I think these corollaries can be a vicious cycle:

            Business: it’s just business! I’ve got to employ any means at my disposal to get ahead or my competitors will! We’ll do whatever we can within the law. You can’t blame us for our frivolous patent lawsuit! We’re within our rights…

            Public/Legislators: see, businesses will do anything to make money so long as it’s not technically illegal. Therefore we need more strict, explicit laws governing their behavior.

            Business: these rules are so strict and I spend so much money on compliance! You can’t blame me if I do everything legally permissible to recoup/get around all this. Also, considering how strict the rules are, it would clearly be illegal if it were wrong…

          • Theo Jones says:

            If it’s legal, that means it’s not wrong.

            The XKCD cartoon version of free speech is probably a good example of this. Censorship by private actors does not violate the First Amendment — therefore, censorship by private actors is morally acceptable.

          • Wency says:

            Onyomi — Well observed. I’ve worked in an industry where I saw both sides of a dynamic very similar to this.

            Though I’m inclined to think this is mostly an exercise in rationalization anyway. People who are ruthless and cutthroat (but not quite sociopathic) will find a way to rationalize their actions regardless of how constrained they are by law or other factors.

            Whenever I hear the expression, “It’s just business,” I think of the Godfather, where there are decidedly fewer constraints on action than in a typical business, and not terribly happy results.

            Other people will try to find ways to constrain them, perhaps sometimes for reasons of the public good , though I think some people just like to constrain those they perceive as undeservedly rich or powerful for its own sake.

          • anonymous says:

            The “it’s just business” in the Godfather is meant to be ironic.

            It was used by characters rationalizing to other characters when it was personal. This is explicitly stated in the novel version but is clearly implied when Michael makes the case for killing the men who tried to assassinate his father.

          • Wency says:

            I’d agree with you in some instances, but I think the scene that most comes to mind for me is where Tessio is hauled away. I don’t think it was personal with Tessio — he just thought backing Barzini against the Corleones was the smart move (which Vito even agreed with), despite the fact that it meant betraying a decades-long relationship with Vito and his family.

            I’ll admit I haven’t read the book, though I think the films stand on their own.

    • JBeshir says:

      “A basic sense of social tactics oriented around how others think, sufficient to avoid making really bad moves in the game of Ethnic Tension accidentally.”

      It’s a thing, most people are intuitively capable of it, and I don’t know if there’s a name beyond the very general “common sense” or maybe “tact” (although “tact” isn’t quite right; it’s more a cousin of tact than tact itself).

    • Nita says:

      It seems that logical implication is somewhat counterintuitive to human minds. I’ve even seen math undergrads confused by problems like: Does the set {-5, -7} have the property “each of its positive elements is a multiple of 3”? (“How can it be true? It doesn’t even have any positive elements!”)

      • Alex says:

        There is only one way to cure that, which is to fully appreciate that A => B is shorthand for B or not A. (Of course you know that, my audience is said undergrads).

        Would the same undergrads have a problem to understand that “x is a multiple of 3 or x is not a positive element of the given set” is true?

        I think this is a more general problem with the notion of counterintuitiveness. Once you know how to think about so-called counterintuitive problems, it vanishes. E. g. Monty Hall, maybe the most famous conterintuitive problem of them all, is counterintuitive only if you don’t know how to think about such problems.

        So I guess what I’m saying is, don’t honor lack of knowledge by calling things counterintuitive.

        • Tor Klingberg says:

          Can this extended to logically impossible hypotheticals?
          * If the last digit of pi is divisible by 4, is it also divisible by 2?
          * Is the circumference of a circle shaped triangle 2*pi*r?

          • Alex says:

            The standard example is something like

            “The moon is made of cheese => I am a girl with blonde hair”

            is a true statement.

            (Ex falso quodlibet)

          • The first sentence (more precisely, the noun phrase “the last digit of pi” within the first sentence) has a false presupposition, namely that pi has a last digit, so it’s neither true nor false; it lacks a truth value. The rephrased sentence “The last digit of pi is divisible by 2, or the last digit of pi is not divisible by 4” still has the same false presupposition, and therefore still lacks a truth value.

            As for the second sentence, it depends on your definition of “circumference”. If no triangles have circumferences then the sentence has a false presupposition. If circle-shaped triangles have circumferences then the sentence has a truth value, but its truth value depends on the definition of the circumference of a circle-shaped triangle. You could also, I guess, say that the sentence lacks a truth value due to the inclusion of an undefined term, although in that case it lacks a truth value in a slightly different way than the first sentence does.

          • switchnode says:

            The House Carpenter’s explanation is only true for the Fregean analysis; there are other ways of constructing predicate logic. Research Descriptions, or google “the present king of France is bald”.

        • Nita says:

          Hey, at least I didn’t call it a “paradox” 😛

          My broader point is that most discussions run on “folk logic”, not formal logic, so most people using those implications probably do intend them to be more persuasive than pure logic would merit.

          Of course, there are common responses — “that’s a big IF”, “yeah, IF God did not exist…” — that would be hard to express in formal logic, but help folks remind each other how implication works.

          Sometimes these seemingly tautological folk implications manage to sneak in some unstated premises. E.g., “If God does not exist, then prayer and going to church are largely pointless” sneaks in “There are hardly any secular benefits to prayer and church attendance”.

          But a much worse and more common thing I’ve seen is leaving even the implication itself implicit, like this: “How can you support the murder of unborn children?!” or “Theorems in mathematical economics prove that you should support libertarian policies.”

          (My personal mind trick for formal implication is “A=>B is true, UNLESS A is true AND B is false”.)

      • The Nybbler says:

        These aren’t logical implications, though. They are counterfactual conditionals. As Trump found out, the hard way you can meaningfully talk about them even if the if-clause is false.

        • Alex says:

          Huh?

          A => B (read “A implies B”) is a logial implication. A logical implication where A is neccesarily false has a counterfactual condition. (Does that make it a “counterfactual conditional”?) Logical implications with this property are true propositions regardless the truth-value of the consequence. Some people find that confusing.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If you treat A => B as a logical implication, and you know A is false, there’s nothing meaningful to be said about it; it’s vacuously true. However, there is a difference between

            “Assuming that abortion is murder, it should be banned.”

            and

            “Assuming that abortion is murder, it should be promoted.”

            even if you don’t believe abortion is murder.

            A counterfactual conditional like this is asserting something about your belief system. Logically, it’s “Assume A. B”

          • Alex says:

            The difference is that the truth-value of the condition is controversial?!

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        I was always one of those annoying argumentative people who didn’t like material implication.

        Calling “If the moon is made of green cheese, then Columbus sailed to Mars” true is, at best, a preposterously misleading use of English words. Also, the principle of explosion, that any statement is deducible from a contradiction.

        I understand the reasoning behind them, but they irritate me.

        • Randy M says:

          Calling “If the moon is made of green cheese, then Columbus sailed to Mars” true is, at best, a preposterously misleading use of English words.

          Is that true in formal logic? Because that doesn’t seem right to me; if-then statements imply a causal relationship, and even when the first is false, declaring the statement true seems to assert that there would be a causal link, and that there is some connection in the domains of the events being discussed, which is a bit of anti-truth in the example.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Yeah, it doesn’t seem right to me either, but it is how formal logic is taught.

            The rule is called material implication, and it says that “if p, then q” is identical in meaning to “~p or q”.

            Thus, a “truth table” is constructed, with four possible states:

            p and q = true
            ~p and q = true
            ~p and ~q= true
            p and ~q = false

            Therefore, “If the moon is made of green cheese, then Columbus sailed to Mars” is true because it represents ~p and ~q. If we check the table, that form comes out as true.

            In simpler terms, “if p, then q” is interpreted to mean “it is not the case that the antecedent is true and the consequent false” or “~(p and ~q)”, which simplifies to “the antecedent is false and/or the consequent is true”, thus “~p or q”. The point is to take out the suggestion of causality.

          • Randy M says:

            But isn’t the point of logic causality? Or at least dependence.
            “The moon is not made of cheese” and “Columbus did not go to Mars” are empirical claims. Whether true or not they aren’t really the domain of logic. This is the sort of thing colloquial language developed the expression “not even wrong” for, it’s a shame formal logic obfuscates by changing the meaning of the word “if”.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Randy M:

            But isn’t the point of logic causality? Or at least dependence.
            “The moon is not made of cheese” and “Columbus did not go to Mars” are empirical claims.

            The moon and Columbus thing is just an example.

            The kind of logic here isn’t concerned with (meta)physical causality; it’s concerned with saying which statements are logically equivalent to other statements, purely in virtue of their form.

            This is not necessarily easy. Here is a straightforward one I found online that is easy to get wrong:

            Every revolution is a trade disruption.
            Some trade disruptions cause financial anxiety.
            So ???
            { 1 } – All trade disruptions cause financial anxiety.
            { 2 } – Some revolutions cause financial anxiety.
            { 3 } – Some revolutions don’t cause financial anxiety.
            { 4 } – None of these validly follows.

            Let alone complicated formal proofs that may be hundreds of lines in length.

            Or even a Sudoku puzzle, which is a an exercise in pure formal logic.

            Now, do I think twenty-step proofs have much relevance to everyday life? No, not really.

            It probably has the most relevance to computer science. Especially rules like material implication, since computers can’t really do causal logic.

            But for some reason, in order to get into a good law school, you have to be really good at quickly solving problems like this one:

            An advertising executive must schedule the advertising during a particular television show. Seven different consecutive time slots are available for advertisements during a commercial break, and are numbered one through seven in the order that they will be aired. Seven different advertisements – B, C, D, F, H, J, and K – must be aired during the show. Only one advertisement can occupy each time slot. The assignment of the advertisements to the slots is subject to the following restrictions:
            B and D must occupy consecutive time slots.
            B must be aired during an earlier time slot than K.
            D must be aired during a later time slot than H.
            If H does not occupy the fourth time slot, then F must occupy the fourth time slot.
            K and J cannot occupy consecutively numbered time slots.

            1.Which of the following could be a possible list of the
            advertisements in the order that they are aired?
            (A) BDFHJCK
            (B) CJBHDKF
            (C) HBDFJCK
            (D) HDBFKJC
            (E) HJDBFKC

            2. If advertisement B is assigned to the third time slot, then which
            of the following must be true?
            (A) C is assigned to the sixth time slot.
            (B) D is assigned to the first time slot.
            (C) H is assigned to the fourth time slot.
            (D) J is assigned to the fifth time slot.
            (E) K is assigned to the seventh time slot.

            3. Which of the following could be true?
            (A) B is assigned to the first time slot.
            (B) D is assigned to the fifth time slot.
            (C) H is assigned to the seventh time slot.
            (D) J is assigned to the sixth time slot.
            (E) K is assigned to the third time slot.

            4. If C is assigned to the third time slot, then each of the
            following could be true EXCEPT:
            (A) B is assigned to the fifth time slot.
            (B) D is assigned to the sixth time slot.
            (C) F is assigned to the fourth time slot.
            (D) J is assigned to the first time slot.
            (E) K is assigned to the second time slot.

            5. If H is assigned to the first time slot, then which of the
            following is a complete and accurate list of all the time slots
            to which C could be assigned?
            (A) second, fifth, sixth, seventh
            (B) second, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh
            (C) second, fourth, sixth
            (D) second, third, fifth, sixth, seventh
            (E) second, third, sixth

            6. If J is assigned to the seventh slot, then which of the
            following must be assigned to the fifth slot?
            (A) B
            (B) C
            (C) D
            (D) F
            (E) K

          • Randy M says:

            For your first example, I’d say 2 is the only necessarily true one, while 3 is implied by the choice of some but not logically required; I think some can be “any part great than 0 and less than or equal to all” even if it is strange to use it as all. I might be wrong about that denotationally, though.
            The longer example I’m not going to try but expect I could get it right given enough patience and care, but both I at least recognize as being the domain of logic, versus the earlier example I objected to, of “if counterfactual, then unrelated counterfactual” being valid.
            Typically using the if…then construction is not trying to declare the clauses to be factual but dependent.

          • Every revolution is a trade disruption.
            Some trade disruptions cause financial anxiety.
            So ???
            { 1 } – All trade disruptions cause financial anxiety.
            { 2 } – Some revolutions cause financial anxiety.
            { 3 } – Some revolutions don’t cause financial anxiety.
            { 4 } – None of these validly follows.

            Number 1 contradicts the premises, numbers 2 and 3 assume facts not in evidence, so 4 is the only possible answer.

          • lvlln says:

            @Larry Kestenbaum

            Wait, how does 1 contradict the premises? “Some trade disruptions cause financial anxiety” doesn’t logically imply “Some trade disruptions don’t cause financial anxiety,” so “All trade disruptions cause financial anxiety” would be consistent with the statement “Some trade disruptions cause financial anxiety.”

            I agree that 4 is the correct answer, since the premises don’t imply 1 (or 2 or 3), but I don’t think 1 is contradicted by the premises.

          • Randy M says:

            Guess I read #2 too fast, right, the subset of disruptions that cause anxiety may not include those that are revolutions (implausible as that sounds in reality). Thanks for the correction.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I should have clarified:

            4 is the correct answer.

            1 is not contradicted by the premises because, in formal/Aristotelian logic, “some” means “at least one”; it does not carry the additional implication of “not all”.

          • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

            @ Randy M

            But isn’t the point of logic causality?

            Logic doesn’t encode causality; it encodes correlation.

            “The moon is not made of cheese” and “Columbus did not go to Mars” are empirical claims. Whether true or not they aren’t really the domain of logic.

            I think you’re mistaking the “Antecedent P” for the “Proposition P”. I.e. the antecedent “IF the moon is made of cheese…” is distinct from the proposition “(it is true that) the moon is made of cheese.” The former is merely a variable within a larger proposition (where the proposition conveys a relationship between two variables). The the latter is a proposition per se which asserts the truth-value of a single variable. From the diagram below, you can see that “if P” is distinct from “P”.

            0) if P, then Q
            1) P
            —————–
            2) Q

            The domain of logic is syntax, rather than semantics. You are correct that the empirical truth-value of whether “the moon is made of cheese” is not the domain of logic. You are correct that the empirical truth-value of a conditional is not the domain of logic. Logic is concerned with syntactic transformations, i.e. deriving the truth-value of one proposition from other propositions.

            We can think of material conditionals as mathematical functions. Consider the a graph of hours vs miles jogged “m(h) = sqrt(h)”. “m(h) = sqrt(h)” is analogous to “if P then Q”. The numerical value of “h” for today’s run might be for example, 4 hours. THEREFORE the numerical value of “m(4)” is “2”. If we were to encode this in logic, it might look like

            0) m(h) = sqrt(h)
            1) h := 4
            ——————–
            2) m(4) == 2

            (the equal sign is overloaded. I’m using = to assert an abstract relationship, := to signify substitution, and == to signify computation.)

            Mathematicians aren’t concerned with “the numerical value of h” or “the numerical value of m” on a particular jog, they’re mostly concerned with the equation “m(h) = sqrt(h)”. Likewise, logicians aren’t concerned with “the actual truth-value of P” or “the actual truth-value of Q”, they’re concerned with the relationship “if P then Q”. The value is distinct from the relationship.

          • Randy M says:

            Logic doesn’t encode causality; it encodes correlation.

            This is something that I instinctively reject, I think because I associate correlation with probability or merely likelihood and logic with binding axioms.
            But I get what you are saying, and am convinced. What feels like a causal relationship is actually a shared dependence on an identity/definition.

            Thinking about the example Vox raised, then, I think it arises via syntax as well? Since [True fact 1] is always correlated with [True fact 2], the inverse is logically true, as they are mutually exclusive? Assuming Columbus didn’t go both to the New World and to another world, at least.

            I haven’t had formal logic training outside of Phil 101, [but have some math and very amateur programming] so I’m trying to square these examples with my intuitions and common usage.

          • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

            This is something that I instinctively reject, I think because I associate correlation with probability or merely likelihood and logic with binding axioms.

            Propositional Logic is what happens when Probability is only allowed values of 100% or 0%. We’ve essentially replaced digital with analog.

            What feels like a causal relationship is actually a shared dependence on an identity/definition.

            Yeah. Logic is basically just Accounting. E.g. logicians have invented weird systems that use truth-values beyond just True and False. But it’s mostly used for things like when Alice tells the database “P” but Bob tells the database “NOT P”, so the database has to invent composite-values to keep track of all the fudge and spaghetti. (n.b. this is related to why Aristotle decided not to include the Principle of Bivalence in his Laws of Logic.)

            Thinking about the example Vox raised,

            Vox raised several examples. idk which example you’re referring to. I skipped the lawyer ones because they looked long and tedious. :/

            then, I think it arises via syntax as well?

            The conceptual-relationships between variables are notationally-expressed via syntax. AND, OR, IF, NOT are all syntax. PLUS, MINUS, TIMES, DIVIDED-BY are also all syntax. RELATIONAL-OPERATORS (equality, greater than, less than), FUNCTION-APPLICATION, SYNTATIC-CONSEQUENCE are also all syntax.

            Since [True fact 1] is always correlated with [True fact 2], the inverse is logically true, as they are mutually exclusive?

            Not quite, partner. It’s the contrapositive which is logically true (by virtue of Modus Tollens). Asserting that the inverse is true is a fallacy known as Denying The Antecedent, while asserting that the converse is true is a fallacy known as Affirming The Consequent.

            In the material conditional “P -> Q”, we’re certain that Q is true if P is true. But if all we know is P is false, Q might be true anyway. Or for all we know, Q might indeed be false. We simply don’t know. The best we can do is say is that deriving the truth-value of Q from “P -> Q, ~P” is fallacious. (n.b. never say “fallacious” aloud.)

            Instead, what you’re describing isn’t the Material Conditional, but the Biconditional. The material conditional is “P -> Q” and is read as “if P, then Q”. The biconditional is “P <–> Q" and is read as "P if and only if Q" ("P iff Q" as a shorthand). In a biconditional, P and Q always have identical truth values. (for more information, here's wikipedia pages A and B (which should be merged) for binary operators.)

            Probability says that P(A|B) is not necessarily the same as P(B|A). E.g. given I have cancer, it’s very likely I don’t have hair. But given I don’t have hair, it’s unlikely that I have cancer (I believe Scott shaves his head). It’s kinda like saying cancer is correlated with hair loss, but hair loss isn’t correlated with cancer. (n.b. this is an abuse of the word “correlation”.)

            (p.s. in programming, substitution is also known as assignment.)

          • Lightman says:

            No, causality is not part of formal logic.

          • JB says:

            @Randy M: I suspect part of the strangeness is caused by the inability of our philosophical traditions to understand the nature of causality before Church/Turing came around. Having grown up with computers, it seems intuitive to us that causal systems can be described as computational, i.e. state spaces with conditional transitions between the states. An IF p THEN q should describe under which conditions p we will execute q.
            Formal logic is part of a mathematical tradition, not of a computational one, i.e. it does not focus on properties of the implementation but on the specification. “IF the moon is made of green cheese THEN Columbus sailed to Mars” does not describe how the universe goes from the cheese moon state to the Mars sailing state. Instead, the cheese condition insulates the universe from the counterfactual Mars sailing condition, so it cannot cause inconsistencies, and hence the statement is true.
            Our cognition (at least among English speakers) seems to be closer to the newfangled computational formalization than to the one of the old logicians.

          • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

            To expand on JB.

            Formal-Logic::IF (which takes two arguments) is very different from Programming::IF (which takes three arguments). Programming::IF has an antecedent, an consequent, but also an Else-clause. Formal-Logic::IF doesn’t have an Else-clause. The fact that Programming::IF accepts three arguments is why Programming::IF is sometimes called the “Ternary Operator” (p ? q : r).

            IF is something logicians have never truly understood either. The Stoics (who invented Truth-Functional Logic, which is where the Material Conditional comes from) also constantly bickered about the nature of IF. Vox Imperatoris continues that tradition by complaining that “if moon is cheese, then Columbus went to mars” doesn’t make any sense.

            Today, logicians recognize various types of IF. Few of which I feel qualified to explain in detail.

        • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

          This is probably why modal logic was invented. I think it reflects the inability of propositional logic to appropriately describe “relationships between counterfactual parameters” rather than a failure of human intuition.

        • BBA says:

          In one of Raymond Smullyan’s books there was a proof of the proposition “If 2+2=5, then I am the Pope” that actually made sense. After seeing it I was more receptive to the logician’s definition of truth.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            That’s the principle of explosion (or in Latin, ex contradictione sequitur quodlibet).

            The way it works (as you know) is like this:

            1. 2 + 2 = 5 [Premise]
            2. ~(2 + 2 = 5) [Can be proved]
            3. (2 + 2 = 5) or (I am the Pope) [Disjunction introduction: you can always tack an “or” statement onto anything]
            4. ~(2 + 2 = 5) [2]
            5. I am the Pope [Disjunctive syllogism: if p or q, then ~p implies q]

            It’s called explosion because a single contradiction causes you to be able to “prove” anything this way.

            The controversy is in “disjunction introduction”: it doesn’t seem like you ought to be able to introduce any random “or” statement that’s not relevant. It does make sense in context, but there are “paraconsistent logics” developed to avoid this.

          • Jiro says:

            The way it actually worked was showing that 1=2, then the Pope and I are two, therefore the Pope and I are one. I believe it was atrributed to Bertrand Russell.

          • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

            He probably used the inference rule called Material Implication:

            (P -> Q) => (~P or Q)

            Which reads:

            (if 2 + 2 = 5, then I am the pope) implies (either 2 + 2 != 5 or I am the pope)

            [oops i’m late]

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Jiro:

            That’s misleading because the “one” and “two” parallelism makes it sound like there’s more of a connection between the three statements. There isn’t. You can do it with anything.

            It may be a good joke, though.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Out of curiosity, have you tried rendering them in the subjunctive and seeing if your reaction changes? – “If homosexuality were evil, then it would be bad to promote it” etc?

      • FishFinger says:

        It changes in the opposite direction – it now makes me reluctant to agree with statements with whose antecedents I DO agree. For example:

        “If homosexuality weren’t evil, then it would be harmless to promote.”
        (inner voice) “What do you mean, ‘if it weren’t evil’? Do you dare suggesting that it is evil?”

        I, of course, still agree with the statement, but only reluctantly.

        (needless to say these examples are examples and may or may not reflect my actual views on God, homosexuality etc.)

        • Nita says:

          Hmm, it sounds like you determine which “side” the author of the statement is on, and then agree or disagree with their entire (implicit) stance, instead of the statement alone. (I seem to be in agreement with Rowan, Fj and Jiro.)

          Arguments as soldiers“, perhaps?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Yeah, it’s definitely the soldiers thing.

            Imagine the following statement:

            “If torture were an effective means of acquiring information vital to national security, then it would sometimes be justified.”

            Even if you don’t believe that it’s an effective means, you’ve left the door open a lot wider than if you say “Torture is inherently wrong no matter what.” Now it’s a factual question of whether torture is an effective means.

            It’s the same with all these statements, so long as you don’t interpret the antecedent to be semantically identical to the consequent.

            “If God does not exist, then prayer and going to church are largely pointless.”

            That’s at least somewhat of a point in favor of prayer and going to church. Opposition is conditional upon God’s not existing. The truly unconditional opponent of prayer and going to church would argue that they don’t make sense even if God does exist.

            Unconditional opposition is always stronger than conditional opposition. That doesn’t mean unconditional opposition makes sense, but it’s clear why people present themselves as more unconditionally opposed than they really are.

    • Fj says:

      You expect such statements to exist in context of some argument (or logical proof), then they will be used later in the argument (unless the person presenting it is wasting everyone’s time, with nefarious purposes no doubt), and the only way they can be used* is by proving the consequent by combining with a proof of the antecedent, which you disagree with in advance.

      [*] because interpreting them in a way that would be usable to prove the negation of the antecedent if you somehow managed to prove the negation of the consequent would make them actually wrong. Like, “… and so having proven that we should promote homosexuality (via some other argument) we conclude that therefore homosexuality is not evil”, or even more obviously, “… and so having proven that going to church is very socially beneficial we conclude that therefore God exists”.

      • Virbie says:

        > You expect such statements to exist in context of some argument (or logical proof), then they will be used later in the argument (unless the person presenting it is wasting everyone’s time, with nefarious purposes no doubt), and the only way they can be used* is by proving the consequent by combining with a proof of the antecedent, which you disagree with in advance.

        I don’t think this is correct. Hypotheticals are useful because they’re sometimes illuminating in the context of other scenarios. This doesn’t require the antecedent to be true. Before the simple minded turned it into a parlor game of “you said Hitler, you ‘lose’ the discussion”, Godwin’s law was just observing the usefulness of using an uncontroversial bad (Hitler) to point out something about an unrelated topic.

        For a concrete example, if I’m trying to show someone the limits of “always vote for your party, no matter who the candidate is”, a particularly facile[1] way to do so is “if the candidate was Hitler, you wouldn’t vote GOP/Dem, right?”. The fact that it’s impossible for him to be a political candidate seventy years after his death (an antecedent guaranteed to be false) doesn’t mean I’m trying to use this for any nefarious purposes, and it certainly doesn’t mean you should expect a proof of the antecedent. It just opens the possibility that there is in fact a line past which the low quality of the candidate overwhelms party loyalty. This is a pretty bog standard example, but I guess it’s become a bit topical as people I know who justified a bush 04 vote on the grounds of “I don’t like him but I always vote my party” are now vociferously anti trump (who himself has gotten a fair few Hitler comparisons).

        [1] given how widespread Godwin’s law is, I avoid using this particular example

        • Aegeus says:

          Before the simple minded turned it into a parlor game of “you said Hitler, you ‘lose’ the discussion”, Godwin’s law was just observing the usefulness of using an uncontroversial bad (Hitler) to point out something about an unrelated topic.

          No. Not at all. Godwin invented the law because he was sick of Nazi analogies. He said “I wanted folks who glibly compared someone else to Hitler or to Nazis to think a bit harder about the Holocaust” (Wikipedia)

          It only “observes the usefulness” of Nazi analogies in that it observes that they’re usually unhelpful.

          • Virbie says:

            > It only “observes the usefulness” of Nazi analogies in that it observes that they’re usually unhelpful.

            This is not what the link you posted says it all (nor the source that the quote comes from). Godwin’s objection to Hitler comparisons was their trivialization of the Holocaust and Nazis, not their “unhelpfulness”.

            That being said, my original point was a poor paraphrase of my memory of Godwin’s initial intention in creating the law; thanks for pointing that out. When I said

            > Before the simple minded turned it into a parlor game of “you said Hitler, you ‘lose’ the discussion”, Godwin’s law was just observing the usefulness of using an uncontroversial bad (Hitler) to point out something about an unrelated topic.

            the point I was trying to make was that its morphing into a well-known “fallacy” has no relation to its origins. As the Wikipedia article states:

            “Godwin’s law does not claim to articulate a fallacy”

            Godwin’s objection to it does not contradict the fact that it’s useful (indeed, this is part of why it’s so universal). My understanding is that his point was that whatever usefulness it has doesn’t justify using it in every possible scenario (due to the aforementioned trivialization).

    • excluded middle / False dilemma?

    • TheAncientGeek says:

      After invading southern Greece and receiving the submission of other key city-states, Philip II of Macedon sent a message to Sparta: “If I invade Laconia you will be destroyed, never to rise again.” The Spartan ephors replied with a single word: “If” (αἴκα).[28] Subsequently neither Philip nor his son Alexander the Great attempted to capture the city.

      • Julie K says:

        Alice: If I really am a Queen-
        Red Queen: What right have you to call yourself so? You can’t be a Queen, you know, till you’ve passed the proper examination.
        Alice: I only said “if”!
        (Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll)

      • Julie K says:

        Alice: If I really am a Queen, I shall be able to manage it quite well in time.
        Red Queen: What right have you to call yourself so? You can’t be a Queen, you know, till you’ve passed the proper examination.
        Alice: I only said “if”!
        (Through the Looking-Glass)

    • vivarium says:

      https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/137890/why-is-it-sensical-for-a-proposition-with-a-false-antecedent-to-validate-to-true

      It reminds me of this joke from one of Hofstadter’s books: “If wishes were horses, the antecedent of this conditional would be true.”

    • Jiro says:

      These statements make people upset because of implicature. They are literally true, but (unless they’re deliberately being said to make a point), people would say them only in a context where they are relevant, and the context in which such statements are relevant implies some bad things about the person saying them. Someone who doesn’t believe in unicorns would normally have no reason to say “if you are a unicorn, you should…” so saying that implies that they believe in unicorns.

      I’m not sure this goes under geek social fallacies or geek linguistic fallacies, but the Internet is full of lack of understanding of implicature, some deliberate and some not.

      • JBeshir says:

        One of my pet peeves is people kind of deliberately trying to be ignorant of implicature, as well as connotation and evidence-derived-from-assumed-common-knowledge-and-behaviour more broadly, out of some attitude that this is virtuous rationality or something.

        I mean, pretending those communication channels don’t exist might work in a group where all agreed to that rule, like Crocker’s Rules, to permit more explicit communication, but reading connotation and being cautious about what connotations you make is no more a fallacy than reading body language and being cautious about what your body language says. It’s just an alternative channel, and it’s neither virtuous nor reasonable to expect everyone else to ignore what they receive on it in broader life.

      • Peter says:

        You could use Gricean implicature, and some maxim-flouting, to come up with a sarcastic response.

        “Assuming that abortion is murder, it should be banned.” could be responded to with:
        “Assuming, hypothetically, that we were in some weird parallel universe where abortion was murder, then therefore, in such a situation, it should be banned. But we’re not, and it shouldn’t.”

    • Creutzer says:

      Jiro is on the right track, but not quite. Indicative conditionals presuppose that it’s considered possible that the antecedent is true. (I can explain why it’s not an implicature, ask if interested.) And they presuppose that not only of the speaker, but of the participants of the conversation as a whole. So if you accept such a conditional, you go on record as entertaining the possibility that the antecedent might be true. You don’t want to go on record as accepting that homosexuality might be evil because you are quite certain that it is not. You do not actually believe these conditionals are true – you believe that they have failed presuppositions and that their counterfactual versions are true.

      The counterfactual does not presuppose the possibility of the antecedent (and implicates its falsity – in this case it’s not a presupposition), so that you will probably be less hesitant to agree that “if homosexuality were evil, it should be punished”, since by uttering that counterfactual, your interlocutor suggests that he also doesn’t think homosexuality is evil.

    • MugaSofer says:

      I don’t see how those are tautologically true. Church/praying brings so many benefits that rationalists are constantly trying to invent secular versions, people dispute whether banning abortion lowers the abortion rate (much as they dispute whether banning drugs lowers the rate of drug use), we deliberately tolerate a certain amount of Wrong Things being promoted as part of the free market of ideas, etc.

      • Anonymous says:

        I agree, they aren’t. The one that comes closest to being a tautology is “Assuming that abortion is murder, it should be banned” because murder, by definition, is killing that is banned by law. I would have changed it to “Assuming that abortion is killing, it should be banned.”

    • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

      They’re just conditionals. I happen to agree that “if X is evil, then it should not be promoted”. Good thing homosexuality isn’t evil!

      What’s actually happening here is that your hypothetical-debate-partner (let’s call her Alice) is making an enthymic argument. An Enthymeme is when “Alice hasn’t explicitly stated the entirety of her argument, but the missing parts are implied”. E.g. regarding the homosexuality statement, Alice’s full argument is

      0) IF homosexuality is evil, THEN homosexuality should not be promoted. (explicit)
      1) Homosexuality is evil. (implicit since we agree this is obviously true)
      ===============================
      2) THEREFORE homosexuality should not be promoted. (easily inferred if you’re not a dimwit)

      In colloquial conversation, Alice often explicates only the conditional (Proposition 0 in this case) and expects the rest to be inferred. I can see how you might consider it a bias, but it’s more often classified as a rhetorical tactic. One might argue that it takes advantage of what Lesswrong calls Positive Bias. I.e. the bias towards consideration of an affirmative proposition but not its negation.

    • EyeballFrog says:

      This isn’t necessarily a wrong response. If a person asserts A -> B, then by asserting ~A you are saying that A -> B is true, but irrelevant. So, for example

      “If God does not exist, then going to church is pointless.”
      “Sure, but God does exist, so your point is moot.”

      Now that said, the response you gave was more along the lines of

      “If God does not exist, then going to church is pointless.”
      “But God does exist, so going to church is a good idea.”

      Now you’re asserting ~A -> ~B, which doesn’t follow from A -> B. So I guess you’re falling into Denying the Antecedent?

    • Asterix says:

      These at least are closely related (to those statements, “If [something dubious] then [dubious conclusion]”):

      Thinking past the sale. “You can easily do your painting in this room,” says the home seller, so in your mind you own that house. Now you just have to do the paperwork!

      Recentering. I’ve seen several of those on FB recently. “If you oppose abortion and think it’s cool for children to starve, you are not pro-child” is not meant to convey the obvious truth that being cool with children starving is not pro-child !). It’s meant associate opposition to abortion with thinking it’s cool for children to starve, so your revulsion at child starvation will make you revolted at abortion opponents as well — without the bother of checking whether abortion opponents are really like that. It short-circuits reason. Credit to Scott for his post that made me start thinking this way.

      What you’re disagreeing with isn’t the logic. It’s how you’re being manipulated. And you are right to be reluctant to go along with it.

    • HrToll says:

      It’s not exactly the same thing but it does remind me of if-by-whiskey.

  6. Dan Peverley says:

    Somewhat interested in the Signal data-science boot-camp, but I’m unsure what level of prior knowledge they expect out of students. Some of the example showcase people have PhDs in relevant fields, or managed the finances of a monastery, or are actuaries, and so on. How choosy is the process? If I’m a poor schlub with good standardized test scores and a fistful of programming knowledge that I’ve grabbed out of the air while it was blowing around near my work, am I even in the target market?

    Second, from the page I have no idea whether this is an online course or one that happens in person. I assume it’s online, but there’s very little direct evidence to back me up on the site itself. More concrete knowledge on the site would probably be good for marketing purposes. The 10% first year salary thing is a nice way of doing things I hadn’t known about before, it seems like a very proper incentive structure for an educational institution.

    • Daniel says:

      Does the bootcamp include databases/SQL? How to use python?
      How to use neural networks/machine learning?

      • Absolutely yes on databases/SQL. We mostly use R instead of python; they fill similar roles in the toolkit.

        Machine learning yes, neural networks are optional.

    • tinduck says:

      I’m interested as well. I’m finishing a Master’s program in Machine Learning. I’m more interested in the interview prep, and portfolio building. After my undergrad, I struggled getting the type of work that I felt was worthwhile from a career stand point. I worry now that since I’ve worked as .NET developer for the past five years I’m pigeonholed into those type of jobs. I can’t take a internship in a data science type role since I go to school part time.

      • Tinduck: we take a very practical approach to data science, so I suspect even with your background you’ll get a great deal out of the course.

        In terms of soft skills, we teach resume writing, interview prep, and negotiation training. Priors say that you’re almost certainly grossly under-optimized in at least one of these areas. There’s a big difference in the quality of jobs under the catchall “data science,” and we could easily increase your expected salary by 50% or so.

        Easy application link https://goo.gl/forms/ld8UUw8az7

    • expjpi says:

      I found this post of theirs by googling: http://lesswrong.com/lw/n3i/announcing_the_signal_data_science_intensive/ It seems like it might answer your questions.

      I went to a data science bootcamp (Galvanize/Zipfian). I really like the incentive structure of bootcamps and had a great experience. AMA if you want.

    • Yehoshua Kahan says:

      I can’t answer your other questions, but I contacted them, and they told me it’s an in-person boot camp in Berkeley, California.

    • Tim C says:

      There is an old Lesswrong post about it when it first started, I believe. From that, they stated that it was in the Bay Area for their first session. That session also was aimed at a bit of a higher level and would be shorter, to test out the program, and later sessions would be longer and have more introductory material. That is the likely explanation for the high prior quality of the alumni. I too would like to know if its branching out from Cali, but I dont think you need to worry about your level.

    • Ryan Beren says:

      I’d encourage skepticism about all these new data science workshops popping up in every city. The market for actual data scientists seems to have been much smaller than the hype suggested and to be nearly saturated already. My main evidence for this assertion is that, while the initial cohorts of Insight Data Science fellows were hired quickly, the recent cohorts have a dramatically lower/slower placement rate.

      So if you get accepted, be very pointed and specific in asking about the recent trends in placement, and not trust any figures that lump in successes from even >1 year ago.

    • Hi Dan,

      I’m Robert, the founder @ Signal who isn’t Jonah. To answer your questions:

      For the cohort that just finished, our PhD startup founders to college dropouts with near-zero technical expertise. That’s not a super-informative answer, so here’s a more complete one: as far as we can tell, success is roughly an OR function. A working developer who’s reading this probably has what it takes, knowing statistics is a big plus but being able to think in a mathematically correct way is more important, and inexperienced but smart and dedicated students can and have powered their way through. That’s not to say that we’re not selective–more that peoples’ self-assessments are bad and as soon as I say “you have to have X, Y, and Z” a lot of good students won’t apply.

      Write an application and we’ll give you a test. It’s the only way to be sure
      https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1DFGGaKhB5IumIHm73cnrurzrz3_40_CZj-XrsATuM1o/viewform

      We also teach people how to write their resumes, so what you see has already been optimized for impressiveness-to-employers and doesn’t represent.

      It’s a full-time, in-person program based in Berkeley CA. We have some low-cost housing available to students who are coming in from outside the Bay Area.

      Having a % basis. We offer a cash option for candidates who either 1) are already making enough that 10% of their future salary is more than the competition or 2) want to do something other than looking for work. You’re not the only person who appreciates the value alignment–the last cohort was 25% present cash, 75% future salary.

  7. Daniel says:

    Does anyone on here have any experience studying the Talmud? I’m a secular Jew, but I am looking to learn more about Talmud study.

    Is it intellectually stimulating? Does it require you to believe anything? Are the debates real and vigorous? Will I learn something applicable to things other than Talmudic study?

    • Jacob says:

      I have studied talmud for a number of years. It is very intellectually stimulating (at least for people with a ‘yiddishe kop’ which likely includes you since you are attending law school).
      Technically you can study it without believing anything, but the authors warn against studying without practice and ‘yirat shamayim’ (which has a more pragmatic sense than its current connotation, as can be seen, for example, in the book of Proverbs). I don’t know what you mean by ‘real’ but the debates are vigorous. It does teach conceptual and analytical skills applicable to other areas.
      It is best done with a teacher since much is conveyed through oral tradition which does not lend itself to independent study from a book.
      What is prompting your interest?

    • arathir2 says:

      Here’s how I explained it recently to a friend:

      Talmudic analysis is a brilliant thinking game where you have lots of moving parts and the goal is to try to get everything working together in such a way that there are as few loose ends as possible. Completely divorced from reality, but a fantastic thinking game.

      Here’s how it works: The Bible is always correct and self-consistent, even when it (apparently) contradicts itself. Also, there are never any extra words or even extra letters. The sages gave the comprehensive authoritative interpretation of the Bible (+ all previous rabbinic tradition) in the Talmud. The sages are also never wrong (at least in most areas, and at least according to most traditional commentators), and they’re also completely self-consistent. According to some, the sages also never say any extra words.

      The early medieval commentators tried to resolve all the apparent contradictions in the Talmud, as well as all sorts of logical problems that arise from thinking about the implications of things in the Talmud. The commentators brilliantly tied together all the vast areas of the Talmud (it’s one of the largest books from antiquity) and came up with ingenious explanations for everything, at least to their own satisfaction.

      Next step: Because of Decline of the Generations, we assume that the medieval commentators were ALSO never wrong (at least not in ways that we lowly beings are likely to catch). Now, the commentators all came up with these ingenious theories and explanations, but each commentator did it in a different way and attacked the theories of their contemporaries. However, from our vantage point we must assume that every commentator had a satisfactory response to every attack that his contemporaries leveled against him.

      So the job of the later commentators was to answer all the attacks of each earlier commentator, along with all sorts of logical questions that arose from thinking about the implications of what the earlier commentators said. Also, although the early commentators weren’t quite as precise in the language as the Sages, they too mostly didn’t use extra words.

      In other words, the later commentators do to the early ones what the early ones did to the Talmud, which is more or less what the Talmud did to the Bible.

      But we are even later than the later commentators, and from our vantage point they are ALSO probably also right, have answers to any questions we or any of their contemporaries thought up, etc.

      End result: Your job as a student of Talmud is to weave together all the moving parts into as unified and elegant an approach as you can, while minimizing loose ends and unanswered questions.

      I was never all that great at it (although I was probably in the upper percentiles), since I can’t hold more than a few moving parts in my head at once. But it’s really cool to watch how these incredibly brilliant people do it. I have never seen people as brilliant as the people I know from yeshiva. To be a top rabbi in a yeshiva you need to be absolutely freakin’ brilliant.

      • akarlin says:

        So basically a superintelligence explosion in slowmo? 🙂

      • Daniel says:

        Thanks for you for your great responses; makes it seem really fascinating.

        So if I understand you correctly, we are not questioning the original source anymore, but the commentaries?

        Is each Talmud tractates, or unit of study, self-contained, or do you have to take into account everything else in the rest of the talmud to engage with it?

        How would you compare daf yomi to just studying selected sugyot?

        Is Talmud study through Steinsaltz + podcasts sufficient, or would it pale in comparison to going to a synagogue class?

        Thanks for your time and assistance.

        • Yehoshua Kahan says:

          Each tractate more or less discusses a discrete area of law; however, there is a lot of overlap, so it’s very hard to understand this tractate unless you have at least a basic idea of what’s going on in that tractate. I strongly suggest that you find someone that can teach you directly, rather than trying to work it out from canned materials; a live teacher can help you with your particular questions and difficulties in a way that canned materials never can.

          My experience is that trying to study daf yomi is very unsatisfying, because it just moves too fast. It doesn’t give me time to delve into the topic and master it. That seems to be a commonplace amongst men with yeshiva experience.

        • arathir2 says:

          > So if I understand you correctly, we are not questioning the original source anymore, but the commentaries?

          We’re not even questioning the commentaries, we’re trying to understand them, since we assume they’re almost certainly correct, or at least that we won’t catch them at it if they’re wrong.

          > Is each Talmud tractates, or unit of study, self-contained, or do you have to take into account everything else in the rest of the talmud to engage with it?

          They’re only partially self-contained. You can engage with them at a lower level individually, but for the higher levels you need to know a LOT.

          > How would you compare daf yomi to just studying selected sugyot?

          Standard yeshiva practice in many yeshivas is to go quicker for part of the day (though usually slower than one daf per day) and much, much slower for the rest of the day. Many yeshivas will learn a single tractate over the course of half a year or a year – but that’s in the quick part of the day. In the slow part of the day they’ll maybe study 20 daf or so over the course of an entire year.

          The reason for this is that breadth is important, but the real thinking game is in the depth.

          > Is Talmud study through Steinsaltz + podcasts sufficient, or would it pale in comparison to going to a synagogue class?

          Steinzaltz or Artscroll are very low-level as far as the thinking game part goes. Whether a synagogue class would be any better probably depends on the synagogue and the particular class. There are some higher-level podcasts available online, but you probably need a decent background to understand them.

          If you can read Hebrew and Aramaic well then I’d recommend the Oz Vehadar Metivta edition, or to find a study partner from your local yeshiva.

          I’ll also mention that there are several different approaches to Talmud study. What I’ve been describing is the traditional yeshiva approach. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the secular academic approach, which treats the Talmud as the fallible composite historical document that it is. This approach takes a lot of the thinking game out of it, I think, but it’s historically accurate and replaces the thinking game with a different type of analysis that tries to pry apart the different layers within the text. Steinsaltz has a drop of academic in it, but it’s still much more towards the traditional approach.

          If you want to take a look at the academic approach, there are several decent books available. For a comprehensive analysis of several Talmudic chapters, you can look at Igud Hatalmud; under the “Sugyot” tab on their website they have several whole books for free (in modern Hebrew).

        • jacob says:

          Questioning happens at the level of commentaries and the original sources (though many of the problems in the primary sources have been raised by later sources so the two are linked) (also by questioning we usually mean trying to rigorously understand based on internal consistency rather than based on external factors)

          Most analysis happens at the level of the sugia (topic) since the tractates are long and deal with a wide variety of topics and aren’t amenable to initial analysis. Sugyot are somewhat independent and the most important/obvious parallel topics are referenced by the primary commentators so mastery of many topics isn’t necessary to start analyzing in depth.

          I would strongly suggest against doing daf yomi, since that moves very fast and loses much understanding of the depth. It has many disadvantages of trying to study a math book a page a day which often leaves you in the middle of a topic and doesn’t account for the varying difficulty of different pages.

          If you decide to do this I would recommend finding a chavruta (study partner) which allows for the full working through of the ideas. If there isn’t a possibility of doing it locally you can also study long distance (e.g. through skype)

          Also bear in mind that most of these comments are referring to the legal parts of the talmud, which is the part mostly studied in yeshivot. There is also extensive aggadic literature which deals with ethics/philosophy etc and usually is studied with somewhat different methods.

      • jewish common law says:

        It’s a lot like stare decisis.

      • Jesse M. says:

        Sounds kind of like fans of Star Trek or Star Wars (or any other big franchise) trying to come up with “fanwanks” to explain away apparent contradictions in continuity, how technologies have been portrayed, and so forth, and get a consistent picture of the universe that fits with all the onscreen information they’ve agreed to label “canonical”.

      • NWO or bust says:

        A standard (straw) atheist refrain used to go something like this (to put it eloquently and charitably): HURR RELIGION CONTRADICTS ITSELF FUCKING STUPID RELIGIOUS NOT REALIZING THIS!

        The amazing thing is that Jews managed to turn this notion on its head and use religious contradiction to become smarter. Truly the circle is squared.

    • arathir2 says:

      Regarding whether it’s worth doing yourself:

      1) If you like thinking puzzles you might like it. But be aware that to really get into the game takes years and years of training. Like, you’d probably need to study for several years just to be able to follow the comments of the Vilna Gaon (one of the great masters of the game, and probably one of the highest-IQ people ever).
      2) On the other hand, it’s entirely a game of rationalization, so beware the rationality dark arts.
      3) I don’t know how well the skills transfer. I myself was brought up in the culture (I started learning Talmud in 4th grade, and I continued it until about a year or two ago), so I can’t really tell you how much of my thinking processes are from Talmudic thinking vs. what I would have gotten in a university context.

    • Yehoshua Kahan says:

      I have spent a number of years in yeshivos and kollelim–Talmudic academies for unmarried and married men, respectively–and have a fair acquaintance with it.

      Is the Talmud intellectually stimulating? That is a question that each individual must answer for himself. Certainly it has depth and complexity, as evidenced by the literally thousands of Talmudic commentaries and derivative works that have been created over the centuries, and as evidenced by the fact that in every generation since the creation of the Talmud, it has absorbed the intellectual energies of thousands of men, including many outright geniuses.

      Does it require you to believe anything? Yes and no. The Talmud is unambiguously a religious work; it takes the existence of God, the reality of prophecy, and specifically the authority of Scripture for granted. If you study Talmud without those beliefs, you will find yourself often having to wrestle with a mindset which is, to a greater or lesser extent, alien to you. However, it is possible to study and understand the Talmud without personally accepting its priors, particularly the volumes dealing with civil law, which tend to more heavily emphasize human reason than Scriptural derivation.

      Will you learn something applicable to things other than Talmud study? In my opinion, the Talmud is an excellent source of moral insight, for someone capable of reading between the lines, as it were, in the study of legal principles.

      I regret that my filter tends to block threads on Slate Star Codex eventually, so it is possible that I will not be able to see or respond to your comments here. However, if there is anything else that I can help you with, please feel free to email me at yeshoshua.kahan.training@gmail.com

      • Daniel says:

        Thank you for all of your kind and thoughtful responses.

        OK — so if I am looking for something with a low barrier to entry, not a huge commitment, and is the most intellectually stimulating, what course of study/sections/etc do you recommend I look into?

        I like learning more about Judaism – thinking about things from many different angles — understanding — rationality — debating ideas.

        • Yehoshua Kahan says:

          Ok, third try. (My first two tries don’t seem to have uploaded.)

          If you live in a city with a significant Jewish community, I suggest you look for an outreach-type synagogue/yeshiva. Aish Hatorah and Ohr Sameach (google them if unfamiliar) are well known for this, but there are other.

          Alternatively, you could contact Partners in Torah (again, google it), which will try to set you up with an over-the-phone study partner (at no cost to you). Along similar lines, if you like, you and I could try studying together on the phone.

          In any event, the main thing is to find a teacher that will explain the basic concepts to you, help you get past the learning curve. Without that, you will get lost very quickly.

          As far as what area of Talmud to start with, I suggest that you try perek Ailu Metzios, the second chapter of tractate Bava Metzia. It deals mainly with the laws of returning found property, and leans much more towards the human logic side, as versus Scriptural derivation–it’s more meaty, in that sense.

          By the way, a few minutes ago I posted a very similar comment, and it seems to have gotten lost. If it does show up in the end, please forgive me for the repetition.

          • arathir2 says:

            Note that all of those organizations will actively try to convert you to their belief system, possibly using questionable methods. Same for any outreach-oriented rabbis or even laypeople. I have nothing against ba’alei teshuva (people who “return” to a religious Jewish way of life), and in fact I keep to the lifestyle myself despite not believing in it. Just go in with your eyes open.

          • Yehoshua Kahan says:

            Yes, Ohr Sameach, Aish Hatorah, and Partners in Torah hope to encourage secular Jews to become religious Jews. I thought that I made that clear by referring to them as “outreach-type synagogues/yeshivos.”

            I don’t know what arathir2 means by “questionable methods.” What methods do any of them use other than answering questions, disseminating information, and praying?

    • Anonymous says:

      I think it’s near impossible to do in English. Even the names of the basic conceptual tools you need don’t translate well and your teacher will tend to just say them in Hebrew and expect you to pick it up. Then, even if you had an ear for languages and managed to pick up a decent level of Hebrew and Aramaic, there’s still a wealth of cultural background that you’d also need to pick up. Modern Hebrew uses a lot of allusions, but Rabbinical texts are far worse.

      It’s hard for me to imagine an adult persevering in such an enormously difficult process without the motivation of being ba’al teshuva.

    • Frog Do says:

      I’m doing in off and on (in English, so not really doing it, I know, I know), and speaking for myself:

      Yes. No. Yes, but that seems like kind of a loaded question, there are current ongoing debates if that’s what you mean. And it loosely, loosely translates to greater understanding of law and literature.

    • Karaite says:

      Skip the Talmud! Go straight to the source material.

      • Daniel says:

        Wait — there are followers of Karaite Judaism on SSC?
        Where are you from? I thought all of the Karaite’s in the world today live either in Turkey or Israel…?

        • Anonymous says:

          I thought my father made up Karaism until I was fourteen years old. (It’s the sort of thing he would do.)

        • Karaite says:

          Yup. I don’t know if there are others (doubt it) but I’m Karaite Jewish on my mom’s side, going back at least 5 or 6 generations that I know of. Possibly more.

          I didn’t learn any of that until I was in my late 20s though.

  8. Anon. says:

    There are more writers in the world today than there were men in England in 1600.

    • Rowan says:

      This seems like it’s supposed to inspire some awe at the scale of things (or dismissal of the importance of individual modern-day writers?), but seems to me just trivially, boringly true. Yes, the world population today is vastly larger than that of England in 1600. Yes, a world where almost everyone can read and write and the internet lets basically anyone publish whatever they want (cf. Baboon Fart Story) and thus at least technically be a writer will have quite a lot of writers in it.

    • Landshill says:

      Now, what can we do about that?

    • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

      You’re also comparing the whole freaking world to a tiny ass country.

      England comprised approximately 1/140 of the world population in 1600. If only 1/280 of the population was a writer, then it would have been true in 1600 as well. I don’t find it implausible as most of that population was packed into high density, literate societies; and our definition of “writer” has expanded considerably. If we include not only those published in books and periodicals, but “prolific correspondents” (read: bloggers) you’re pretty much there.

      Soo… What Rowan said.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Are you making a point about the lack of Shakespeares?

      • Anon. says:

        Of course he has already written about it. Scott is the new Simpsons.

        Some comments on that post:

        “Low hanging fruit” is certainly an explanation for some fields, solving Fermat’s Last Theorem is way harder than figuring out the Pythagorean theorem. But for the artistic/humanities fields, not so much.

        “Ancients weren’t really that great” is just stupid, Shakespeare is dazzling compared to Ben Johnson let alone the “5th best playwright” of the time. Even good old Ben knew it: “He was not of an age, but for all time!” This also downplays the challenge of innovation. Thucydides was an excellent historian. He was also the second person to ever be a historian. A fresh historian PhD today has spent ~8 years studying history, historiographical methods, etc. taught by highly experienced people. There should be absolutely no competition against autodidacts, and yet…

        “Limited Demand”, or in other words winner-take-all markets is actually a plausible mechanism. The winner isn’t necessarily the best but the most popular, and the combination of popular appeal/linguistic skill/intellectual depth of Shakespeare is highly improbable. Pure popular appeal wins every time. But surely if there is a niche for Pynchon to sell millions of books there is a niche for another Shakespeare…

        “Perceived arrogance” basically concedes the argument.

        The reason we don’t see a thousand obviously Plato-caliber intellects running around is a combination of low-hanging fruit and the fact that we judge people by fame. That leads us to overestimate Plato, who was a big fish in a small pond, and underestimate moderns who don’t get famous simply because there aren’t enough easy big problems or enough fame to go around.

        Obviously there are Plato-caliber intellects running around (Population + nutrition + Flynn effect means we have more than sufficient raw brain power), the issue is to what use are these intellects being put.

        And I don’t think we overestimate Plato at all, his project had scope, ambition, impact of the kind that simply don’t exist today. Scott gets caught up nitpicking stuff (a “scholarly” pursuit, as Nietzsche would deridingly say) and misses the forest.

        • Selerax says:

          Ben Johnson’s famous “eulogy” of Shakespeare (“this side idolatry”) is short, sweet, and a masterpiece of backhanded compliments and faint-praise damning:

          http://www.bartleby.com/27/2.html

          Also, if you click “next” on that page, you get Johnson’s eulogy of Francis Bacon which is twice as long and much more deferential. Bonus mention of the Novum Organum.

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        Aaaaugh, not ANOTHER misinterpretation of Plato!

        His political theory was “What if we just give philosophers control of everything, that’ll work out, right?”

        That is not what the Republic was about! Politaea, or “Governance”, was not about states but about the human soul. The bit of context that everyone leaves out is “Hey, it’s easier to examine larger things than smaller things, right? So let’s compare the human soul to a state, how would we want that state governed?” Here, I shall provide the relevant section (from Book II):

        Glaucon and the rest entreated me by all means not to let the question drop, but to proceed in the investigation. They wanted to arrive at the truth, first, about the nature of justice and injustice, and secondly, about their relative advantages. I told them, what I –really thought, that the enquiry would be of a serious nature, and would require very good eyes. Seeing then, I said, that we are no great wits, I think that we had better adopt a method which I may illustrate thus; suppose that a short-sighted person had been asked by some one to read small letters from a distance; and it occurred to some one else that they might be found in another place which was larger and in which the letters were larger –if they were the same and he could read the larger letters first, and then proceed to the lesser –this would have been thought a rare piece of good fortune.

        Very true, said Adeimantus; but how does the illustration apply to our enquiry?

        I will tell you, I replied; justice, which is the subject of our enquiry, is, as you know, sometimes spoken of as the virtue of an individual, and sometimes as the virtue of a State.

        True, he replied.
        And is not a State larger than an individual?
        It is.
        Then in the larger the quantity of justice is likely to be larger and more easily discernible. I propose therefore that we enquire into the nature of justice and injustice, first as they appear in the State, and secondly in the individual, proceeding from the greater to the lesser and comparing them.

        That, he said, is an excellent proposal.
        And if we imagine the State in process of creation, we shall see the justice and injustice of the State in process of creation also.

        I dare say.
        When the State is completed there may be a hope that the object of our search will be more easily discovered.

        The Republic was never about some mythical ideal republic that Plato wanted to set up. The entire Republic is simply a metaphor for each individual human. The philosopher kings are who’s meant to be in charge of you. It’s not a practical manual on ancient political theory, it’s instead rather similar to what the original rationalists were trying to do: How can we make ourselves less wrong?

        So, rather than giving over governorship of yourself to your base impulses, your passions, your greed, or your courage, you should instead be governed by your reason. I’ve always found The Republic to be quite a noble and uplifting work.

        Instead, people just absorb the pop-culture view of it, which roughly simplifies to “philosopher says philosophers should be in charge of everything.” Urgh.

        • Nita says:

          Wait, but doesn’t everything they end up concluding about the ideal State still need to be correct for the argument about the individual to work? The argument goes: this would be good/just in a state, therefore it’s good/just in an individual.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Yes.

            The argument that Plato didn’t really intend to set up a philosopher-kingdom is very dubious, but beloved of Strauss and his followers. There’s every indication in the text that he meant it literally, and in the Laws, he goes into more explicit detail—which is less popular because it’s more obviously bad.

            From what I remember, the historical record appears to show that he tried to create such a society, not by turning philosophers into kings but by turning a king (was it the king of Crete?) into a philosopher. It didn’t work.

          • Protagoras says:

            Syracuse. However, I disagree completely about Republic; there are clear indications in the text that the “ideal” society was not intended literally (or intended to be ideal). Not that Strauss is right in the details of his interpretation (I disagree with him on many points), but he’s right that trying to read it completely straightforwardly will miss the point (and require ignoring some fairly huge and blatant chunks of text that clearly oppose a straightforward reading).

            That’s not true for Laws, which seems to have been intended literally, but Laws also describes a very different society than Republic (admittedly a horrible one; I like to think he was getting senile when he wrote that, as it was his last work).

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Protagoras:

            Thank you, Syracuse.

            I agree that there are many parts in the text where he says something on the order of, “I don’t know if it should be exactly like this, but it should be something like this,” but it seems to me that he did believe in the general idea that there should be a class of guardians, a class of warriors, and a class of laborers; that power should not lie in the hands of the military or those concerned with production and commerce but rather with a class of thinkers; and that the guardian class should live simply and communistically, without private wealth or families.

            This fits with e.g. Aristotle’s criticisms of his proposals for communism and lack of individual families, where he basically says it wouldn’t work in practice.

            And it fits with the whole general nature of his epistemological system, where true knowledge is only attained by a few through a sort of mystic vision—and thus they have to compel everyone else by means of force and “noble lies” to go along with it, being unable to provide them rational arguments.

            On the individual details like whether he wanted to ban inappropriate art, I think you can make a case either way. Though given his influence on totalitarian movements throughout history and their policies toward art, I’m inclined to take him at face value.

            But it seems wrong to me to argue that he didn’t mean for any of it to be carried into practice.

          • Viliam says:

            If I remember correctly, there are specific details in the Republic, like the exact number of citizens the perfect state should have, so they can be easily split into groups by 2, 3, 5, 7 and 11, or something like that.

            Makes me less likely to believe that it was a metaphor for mind.

        • “I propose therefore that we enquire into the nature of justice and injustice, first as they appear in the State, and secondly in the individual, ”

          That certainly sounds as though the first step is about the state, and only the second about the individual. Does he at any point say that he is using the state as a metaphor rather than as something easier to understand than the individual–big letters instead of small?

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            In Book VIII and the first part of Book IX they again return to the metaphor, concluding that the perfect State must perfectly correspond with the character of a perfect man. He then tackles the non-ideal characters of people:

            Then let us now proceed to describe the inferior sort of natures, being the contentious and ambitious, who answer to the Spartan polity; also the oligarchical, democratical, and tyrannical. Let us place the most just by the side of the most unjust, and when we see them we shall be able to compare the relative happiness or unhappiness of him who leads a life of pure justice or pure injustice. The enquiry will then be completed. And we shall know whether we ought to pursue injustice, as Thrasymachus advises, or in accordance with the conclusions of the argument to prefer justice.

            Certainly, he replied, we must do as you say.
            Shall we follow our old plan, which we adopted with a view to clearness, of taking the State first and then proceeding to the individual, and begin with the government of honour? –I know of no name for such a government other than timocracy, or perhaps timarchy. We will compare with this the like character in the individual; and, after that, consider oligarchical man; and then again we will turn our attention to democracy and the democratical man; and lastly, we will go and view the city of tyranny, and once more take a look into the tyrant’s soul, and try to arrive at a satisfactory decision.

            Book IX moves directly from the examination of the tyrannical government to the tyrannical soul, and Plato concludes by calculating how much happier a just man is than an unjust one.

            Now, I think Nita’s objection is mostly right – if Plato’s inferences about what makes a perfect government are invalid, then his proscription for proper self-government must likewise be invalid. However, a lot of the objections to the Republic he imagines are objections of practicality and human fallibility – whereas with your own soul you don’t need to worry about maintaining your rational self in power, or of its being corrupted and tyrannical, unless you want to really stretch the metaphor.

            As for Vox’s objection, I can’t speak to Laws, but I don’t want to come across as arguing that Plato didn’t have some rather naive political views. However, those views I maintain are not the central thrust of Politeia, which generally is focused on ethics – is it desirable to be just? What does it mean to be a just man? For the description of the beautiful city to be meant as a literal political treatise, you’d have to assume a jarring break in theme and emphasis from the rest of the work. The Republic-as-metaphor school I think is on much firmer ground.

          • If all you examine is maximizing justice and minimizing justice, haven’t you left out the possibility that there’s a right amount of justice somewhere in the middle of the range?

  9. Writtenblade says:

    Re #5: “We can counter a tactic that costs our opponents nothing by spending thousands of dollars” doesn’t seem like a sustainable position. Does anyone have an idea for dealing with donor fatigue when campaigns of this type continue to be necessary?

    • Vitor says:

      Spending those thousands costs our opponents their credibility, bit by bit. It unmasks them as the bullies they are, and it displays the values the donors stand behind.

      Curling into a ball and hoping the bullies get bored and find someone else to pick on is basically defecting in the prisoner’s dilemma. If you want to live in a civilized society, you need to be prepared to defend its core values, even at a personal cost to you.

      • Writtenblade says:

        Yes, but they also think they’re unmasking bullies and defending values, and since it isn’t costing them money to do so, by default they can do it longer. The next campaign won’t get funded in a day, and the Nth won’t get funded at all, but social media can always hold an N+1th purge du jour.

        I’m not asking for solutions to imply that none exist and you should give up; I’m asking for solutions because I can’t think of any and maybe someone else can.

        • Vitor says:

          It doesn’t cost them money to keep campaigning, but their ability to keep doing so depends on the positive disposition (or fear) third parties have towards them. Every time such an attack happens and people unite behind the victims, pointing out the injustice of the matter and putting their money where their mouth is, the attackers look more and more like rampaging children.

          IMO the solution is to think of the money as well spent rather than wasted. I expect that the amount of money that will need to be spent this way is finite, but perhaps I have too much faith in humanity.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        @Vitor: “Spending those thousands costs our opponents their credibility, bit by bit. It unmasks them as the bullies they are, and it displays the values the donors stand behind.”

        Only if the media reports it in such a fashion. Which, based on recent experience, is not guaranteed, or even likely.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The media aren’t the only source. It’s those directly following the controversy who see them unmasked. But as important, when their no-platforming fails, it demonstrates their lack of power. So the next conference organizer faced with this might say “This same group threatened LambdaConf, and that turned out all right”.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            > It’s those directly following the controversy who see them unmasked

            But how many people is that, exactly? I could imagine that even someone running their own conference in another programming field might not be following this situation in detail. All they’re going to hear is what the media and the Twitter screamers with the most reach say.

            And heck, even for those who have been following this personally, in a way the no-platformers have already won by demonstrating they’ll cause a huge stink and make a giant mess. Who wants that in the middle of their tech conference, when instead you could quietly peek at the double-blind talk proposals and bin any of them whose authors may have perpetrated wrongthink in the past?

    • I think this isn’t for the activists as it is the sponsors.

      This is saying “Hey, sponsors. Some unknown number of those people over there are willing to send you angry emails about this conference taking sides on this political issue. We, conversely, are willing to pay cash money to oppose them. And while we’ve been too classy so far to bring up a list of everyone who pulled out of LambdaConf, and suggest that donors might not want to spend more money with you lot, well…”

      • I’d say this hits the nail on the head. The relevant signal is to the sponsors/advertisers/whatever. They fear losing brand equity, but a vigorous counter-campaign shows a large portion of the population actively disagrees with this kind of Twitter Mobbing and won’t stop buying sponsor’s products.

        Also, more generally, Toxoplasma is GREAT for certain brands. You don’t need to sell to 100% of the world. If your product has a cult, awesome! If Toxoplasma turns 5% of the population into a rabid customer base, you have a viable company.

        • Forlorn Hopes says:

          For an example of this, just look at Protein World’s beach body ad campaign.

          I’m not sure if they did it intentionally or stumbled onto a winning formula, buck mocking the outgroup can become a ad hit.

    • Alex Godofsky says:

      The hope is that if we do this once or twice they’ll give up on the no-platforming on conferences. (Especially once the world doesn’t end after Yarvin talks about Urbit.) The idea is not to spend $15k per conference in perpetuity.

    • Chalid says:

      If the group “techies who feel under attack by SJ” has trouble pulling together a few tens of thousands of dollars in a year, then you should revise in the direction of this issue not being very important. If donor fatigue is a problem at this level then you just don’t have many people who care – especially when you think about the income level of the typical person affected.)

      (Not that it is right that they have to pay anything, of course, and I really doubt that this sort of thing will have trouble being funded in a world where a potato salad kickstarter can get $55k.)

    • suntzuanime says:

      It doesn’t cost them nothing, it costs them their attention. If the negative effects of a weeks-long SJW flareup can be mitigated for $15,000, that’s probably a pretty good deal. It’s cheaper than undoing a lot of the other forms of damage they can do.

    • Simon Penner says:

      Honestly we didn’t think through that far. We just tried to do some marginal good in the world.

      Having watched this unfold, I get the feeling that there is a large group of people who don’t care and just want to go to conferences. I get the feeling that there is another large group of people who are uncomfortable with the excessive toxicity but go along to get along. I can’t speak for the rest of S451 but it’s my hope that this functions as a rallying point. By showing people that the world won’t end if they don’t go along with the harassers, we’ll give them more confidence to stand up and say “no. Don’t bring your politics here. This is a space about technology”.

      • Clark says:

        Well, I thought about it a bit.

        My answer to the question is “10 people are rushing me, I have only three bullets. I make a credible commitment to shoot the first three.”

        End result: 0 people rush me.

        Maybe we can only fund 5 conferences.

        But if the first three attempts at no platforming fail bc we step up, who’s gonna go for #4, given that – as someone said above – each attempt hurts their reputation capital.

        Also, I expect that each failed attempt helps our reputation capital, which increases the amount we can raise.

    • Ryan Beren says:

      Retribution is the efficient strategy for this type of situation. Unfortunately it inevitably gets terribly ugly.

    • Frog Do says:

      If you don’t have the power to fund conferences without appealing to rich sponsors, you’re always going to be at the mercy of rich sponsors. Pretty much a direct application of Money Is The Unit Of Caring.

    • Sastan says:

      Sure, I have a suggestion. If/when there is donor fatigue, just start doing the same thing to them. No platform anyone who has ever signed one of these petitions, or sent an e-mail. This has several good effects. First, it brings similar consequences home to those who think it’s fun and games to twitter-mob. Second, it shows to companies that they aren’t going to lessen the pressure by giving in to either group. And third, it increases the possibility of a truce in the future. When one side is all attack and the other all defense, there is no possible solution. Both sides must stalemate, or one must win. Stalemate is the preferable outcome for freedom of speech. But we’re going to have to get a few thousand SJWs fired and no-platformed for that to happen.

      And the longer we wait, the more it’s going to take.

      • Nita says:

        Vox Day and ESR are way ahead of you. I guess that means the truce must be right around the corner. Remember when Vox Day got involved in the Hugos controversy, and everyone decided to be friends? 🙂

        • Hernan Guerra says:

          Remember when Vox Day got involved in the Hugos controversy, and everyone decided to be friends?

          The Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies have been the best thing to happen to the Hugo Awards since Campbell started editing Astounding. I have read more well written actually thoughtful and enjoyable SF in the last two ballots than I have since I exhausted the backlist of the old Masters. And I discovered about a dozen authors who I then went back and bought their entire backlist.

          Any penny-a-word pay-the-rent tossoff by early Bradbury was better than anything on the ballot 4 years ago.

          • walpolo says:

            >Any penny-a-word pay-the-rent tossoff by early Bradbury was better than anything on the ballot 4 years ago.

            I can understand thinking that, although I don’t agree with it. But surely you don’t think that whatever garbage Kevin J. Anderson shat out last year, and Torgersen put on the list without even reading, was better than the noms from four years ago. Better than Embassytown and Leviathan Wakes?

            I guess I can’t prove you wrong, since I quit Anderson after the Jedi Academy Trilogy, but something makes me doubt it.

            I say this as someone who can’t stand SJ and supports some of the goals of the Sad (but not Rabid) Puppies. But the works they nominated were bad enough that there was a noticeable dip in quality on the ballot this past year.

        • Sastan says:

          I do remember.

          What I don’t remember is any of the SJWs losing their jobs and becoming permanently unemployable. As I said, the consequences have to come home for it to work. And that’s gonna take a whole hell of a lot more than a sci-fi fan campaign run by a nethernet megalomaniac. But hey, if he’s slagging off the SJWs, he can play Stalin to my Churchill.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m not sure if that’s a historical parallel you want … winning WWII was pretty rough on Britain, as it turned out. Churchill got to see Poland, which he had gone to war over, fall into the hands of a different dictator. And what if you’re not Churchill? What if you’re the Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, etc?

            The people who are most frightened by the social justice set (I really need a term that doesn’t have certain connotations like “SJW” has) are, actually, on the left. To continue the analogy: the farther west of the Soviet border in 1939, the safer from falling into Stalin’s hands in 1945.

            Sometimes it’s people who would be identified by outsiders as being part of that set: a majority of people I know in real life who have used the term “SJW” in earnest are themselves people who have been involved in activism, but who have had bad experiences with others in activist circles.

            Vox Day does not look kindly on these sorts of people, even though they are not the sort to Twitter-mob someone for having the wrong opinions, or having friends who have the wrong opinions.

            Other times, it’s people like there are a lot of here, or the sort who have been writing a lot of articles for the Atlantic lately: broadly left-wing, socially quite left-wing, but not fond of the moral/epistemological/discourse norms popular among the social justice types. Perhaps a bit too willing to entertain unacceptable thoughts, or read unacceptable things, or pal around with unacceptable people.

            Vox Day is not a fan of that other group, either. He doesn’t oppose stuff like Yarvin getting blacklisted because of some high principle about individual freedom of thought and right dealing.

          • Sastan says:

            The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy. No more, no less. And I think my example was on point. Your disagreement only raises more likely parallels.

            I don’t have to like Putin to think that his bombing of various jihadi groups is fantastic. We take what we can get. I could cluck my tongue and make disapproving noises if I were the sort of prat who cared more for the opinion of people who would gladly see me hang than the actual game being played. But I’m not.

            My interactions with Vox have been limited, and contentious. But I’m not going to play the “of course he’s awful” game. If he slags the SJWs, if he can damage them in any way at all, I am in favor of that. If people want to take that as my endorsement of Day and his brand, so be it, I can’t stop people being stupid.

          • dndnrsn says:

            If this is hard-headed realpolitik: which is more likely, Vox Day actually somehow takes down those he is going up against (considering that the weight of popular opinion is far more on their side than on his), or he becomes another source of guilt by association, having accomplished nothing other than maybe some Twitter harassment?

            Vox Day as major player in the culture wars seems mostly to be in the mind of Vox Day.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Sastan:

            I don’t have to like Putin to think that his bombing of various jihadi groups is fantastic. We take what we can get. I could cluck my tongue and make disapproving noises if I were the sort of prat who cared more for the opinion of people who would gladly see me hang than the actual game being played. But I’m not.

            You don’t have to say Putin is just as bad as the jihadists in order to (properly) condemn him. Indeed, if you’re going to praise his attacks on jihadists, you have a rational obligation to do condemn him so as not to be confused by reasonable people with a uncritical supporter of Putin.

            It’s entirely reasonable for someone to assume, that, if all you ever have to say about Putin is good, you don’t find any major flaws in him worth speaking about.

            When the US allied with Stalin to face the greater threat of Hitler, does that mean they were obligated to sweep his crimes under the rug and politely not mention them? No: I believe that’s a cowardly policy.

            My interactions with Vox have been limited, and contentious. But I’m not going to play the “of course he’s awful” game. If he slags the SJWs, if he can damage them in any way at all, I am in favor of that. If people want to take that as my endorsement of Day and his brand, so be it, I can’t stop people being stupid.

            This is absurd. You don’t have to like it, but bad arguments for your own position are often more harmful to it than enemy action.

            If the likes of Vox Day are perceived as a major force behind opposition to “SJWs”, then it behooves any pragmatic allies of convenience working alongside Vox Day to denounce him and point out exactly why opposition to SJWs doesn’t mean agreeing with him.

            It’s not incumbent upon other people to find out the nuances of your position. It’s incumbent upon you to make your position clear.

            To take another example, if you’re going to oppose the 1964 Civil Rights Act because you have principled reasons for supporting freedom of association, it’s incumbent upon you to emphasize that you’re not racist. Why? Because, as a historical fact, the vast majority of the opposition to that act was motivated by racism.

            This is not surrendering to the opinions of idiots. This is not shooting yourself in the foot by making your position seem reprehensible. That is, if you intend to reach out to anyone and not just cheerlead for your coalition.

          • Nornagest says:

            When the US allied with Stalin to face the greater threat of Hitler, does that mean they were obligated to sweep his crimes under the rug and politely not mention them?

            This man is your FRIEND
            He fights for FREEDOM

          • Hlynkacg says:

            @ Vox Imperatoris,

            I disagree.

            In an ideal spherical cow universe it might be true but here in monkey-space saying something to the effect of “I’m not racist but…” will get you branded as a racist quicker and more firmly in people’s minds than if you had said nothing at all.

            The rational, self-interested thing to do is keep quiet, and let them fight.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Hlynkacg:

            In an ideal spherical cow universe it might be true but here in monkey-space saying something to the effect of “I’m not racist but…” will get you branded as a racist quicker and more firmly in people’s minds than if you had said nothing at all.

            Well, yes, flatly saying “I’m not racist, but…” is not very convincing. If you want to be believed, you’ve got to have some more rhetorically convincing way of showing that you really mean it.

            You’ve got to actually point to some issues where you can show that you have some common ground with left-wing anti-racists, on matters they care about. For instance, you could point to the abuse of civil asset forfeiture, or the War on Drugs at large, indicating that you agree with them that these result in disproportionate harm to minorities.

            You should probably not phrase things in verbiage that is often code for racist sentiments, e.g. “We’ve got to do something about all these thugs in the inner city.”

            The natural reflex when you hear something you deeply believe in challenged is that the person also disagrees with everything else you stand for. If you can show that this isn’t so, you can calm things down. If you do that, there will be some dishonest, closed-minded people who smear you no matter what, but you will seem reasonable to most.

            Of course, it is possible not to take a position at all on controversial issues. What I am recommending is what you should do if you do choose to take a position.

            “I’m not racist, but I’m opposed to affirmative action” is going to come off as bad, but not any worse than “Affirmative action is reverse racism motivated by white guilt.”

            ***

            This is not a hypothetical spherical cow issue. This is the precise means by which e.g. libertarian groups forge links with progressive groups that disagree with them on economics but support them on civil liberties issues.

            And it’s what separates libertarian groups like the Cato Institute from places like the Mises Institute. Even little things count, like whether you say: “Damn, look how much freer we were in 1790” versus “Wait a second, maybe not everyone has seen such a decline in their freedom.”

          • keranih says:

            @ dndnrsn

            Vox Day as major player in the culture wars seems mostly to be in the mind of Vox Day.

            *snort* Not in the SFF subset of those culture wars he isn’t. Or else I myself have been braced by multiple SJWs to denounce and firmly resolve to avoid all near occasions of a figment of VD’s imagination – instead of the man himself.

            The man has no need to “hide out” in Europe, as he lives rent free in the minds of many many people.

            @ Vox Imperatoris says:

            If the likes of Vox Day are perceived as a major force behind opposition to “SJWs”, then it behooves any pragmatic allies of convenience working alongside Vox Day to denounce him and point out exactly why opposition to SJWs doesn’t mean agreeing with him.

            NO.

            I can express things that are counter to what VD says – here, listen to me speak – without going through the formalist BS of “denouncing” the unclean one. All it requires for the listener is to open their damn ears and apply a bit of rationality, and LO! AND BEHOLD! it becomes apparent to all that – guess what I am not VD and I don’t agree with him.

            The SJWs don’t want people to disagree with VD or find issues with his methods or otherwise be at odds with him – they want people to signal that they are in allegiance with the SJWs in finding VD abhorrent and worthy of being burned at the stake. And after they get enough people burning VD – in effigy or otherwise – they’ll find someone else – John Wright, most likely, and then Larry Corriea or Kate Paulev – and demand that this one be burned, too.

            No. Not happening. If refusing to denounce VD means that idiots confuse me with VD, then a) they’re outright morons and b) I’ve been called far, far worse by much better, and still sleep well at night.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ keranih:

            The SJWs don’t want people to disagree with VD or find issues with his methods or otherwise be at odds with him – they want people to signal that they are in allegiance with the SJWs in finding VD abhorrent and worthy of being burned at the stake. And after they get enough people burning VD – in effigy or otherwise – they’ll find someone else – John Wright, most likely, and then Larry Corriea or Kate Paulev – and demand that this one be burned, too.

            No. Not happening. If refusing to denounce VD means that idiots confuse me with VD, then a) they’re outright morons and b) I’ve been called far, far worse by much better, and still sleep well at night.

            If you don’t think he’s worthy of being denounced, I think it’s useful to point out exactly where your assessment of him differs from the “SJW” assessment.

            For instance, I did so in this very thread with Mencius Moldbug. I indicated that Moldbug does not actually hold the views that he is regarded as most reprehensible for holding. I allowed that there are some views which I would see fit to ostracize him for holding (such as being a foaming-at-the-mouth neo-Nazi), but that his actual views aren’t that bad, and that people might actually learn something from him.

            I understand the impulse to refuse to denounce people whom your enemies want you to denounce, even if you yourself also disagree with them. It’s what Scott describes here:

            I imagine might I feel like some liberal US Muslim leader, when he goes on the O’Reilly Show, and O’Reilly ambushes him and demands to know why he and other American Muslims haven’t condemned beheadings by ISIS more, demands that he criticize them right there on live TV. And you can see the wheels in the Muslim leader’s head turning, thinking something like “Okay, obviously beheadings are terrible and I hate them as much as anyone. But you don’t care even the slightest bit about the victims of beheadings. You’re just looking for a way to score points against me so you can embarass all Muslims. And I would rather personally behead every single person in the world than give a smug bigot like you a single microgram more stupid self-satisfaction than you’ve already got.”

            But that response is not a productive response. The productive response is to convincingly condemn ISIS right there on live TV. Maybe O’Reilly does just want to score points against all Muslims. But by refusing to condemn ISIS, the moderate Muslim just gives him more ammunition.

            Would it be a good strategy for moderate Muslims to start defending ISIS on the grounds of “First they came for the radical Muslims, and I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t a radical Muslim…”? No, it would be a very foolish strategy. There would be no faster way to get the average American to hate all Muslims mere respectable fronts for the radicals.

          • suntzuanime says:

            The productive response is to not go on The O’Reilly Show in the first place. Once you’ve got a forced move, you’ve got a forced move, but it’s smarter to think more than one move ahead so you don’t get forked in the first place. And that can include pushing for decent, civilized norms of discussion.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            @ Vox Imperatoris
            Firstly: I would like to echo keranih’s statement.

            Secondly:

            This is the precise means by which e.g. libertarian groups forge links with progressive groups that disagree with them on economics but support them on civil liberties issues.

            Granted, but this is a completely different question from the one being discussed. The question is “what do you do when your opponents are attacked by a 3rd party?”

            Do you defend them? do you support to this new ally of opportunity? or do you sit back and grab some popcorn?

            In the ideal spherical cow universe a morally consistent US would have declared war on both Hitler and Stalin. In the world we actually live in the US didn’t do this because fighting both of them plus Imperial Japan at the same time would have undermined the more immediate goal of defeating Hitler.

            Do you really think that denouncing Vox Day is going to convince even a marginal SJW to go “maybe we should lay off on Larry Correia?” I don’t.

          • Sastan says:

            @ vox

            You have a pretty bent view of what is “necessary”.

            Those who are going to call anyone who disagrees in the slightest with SJW dogma racists aren’t going to be dissuaded by me denouncing anyone. They fucking call Sam Harris a “white supremacist” ffs.

            So I’m not going to waste time or breath trying to butter up pathological liars. It won’t work, it has never worked. There is nothing anyone can ever say to prove they aren’t racist to these people. Might as well fly the flag, claim the title.

            If standing on the principle that all people have equal moral worth be racist, I’m Hitler. If supporting classical liberal values and freedoms be fascism, call me Pinochet. If this be racism, make the most of it.

            There is no defense, only offense. Best get your debating shoes on.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ hlynkacg:

            Do you really think that denouncing Vox Day is going to convince even a marginal SJW to go “maybe we should lay off on Larry Correia?” I don’t.

            Yes. Absolutely. The marginal “SJW”.

            That’s how it works. They’re not all the most extreme. That’s what marginal means. There are certainly many who are dishonest and never going to listen to reason; there are others who follow along and are not incarnations of Satan.

            If all you do is lump them all together, hurl unhinged invective at them, and praise uncritically anyone who criticizes them, what’s going to happen when people less involved are linked to what you’re saying? “Wow, I guess the extreme SJWs are right; these people are just hateful bastards.”

            The tenor of the conservative commentariat on this very website is itself used as ammunition “proving” that they’re right. Frankly, it’s off-putting even to me—and I’m not a “SJW”.

            In the ideal spherical cow universe a morally consistent US would have declared war on both Hitler and Stalin. In the world we actually live in the US didn’t do this because fighting both of them plus Imperial Japan at the same time would have undermined the more immediate goal of defeating Hitler.

            You can side with a lesser evil in a particular conflict without denying that they are evil.

            @ Sastan:

            The same goes for you.

            Yeah, yeah, yeah. They’re all equally evil. They are wretched creatures by nature who hate the light. They must be exterminated. Give me a break.

            It isn’t at all possible that someone could have read the kind of rhetoric you’re espousing and gotten the wrong idea.

            It’s not everyone else’s job to be familiar with you and your ideas. If you quack like a duck, they’re going to think you’re a duck.

          • Theo Jones says:

            @VI

            I think so much of the nastiness around culture war issues is that people conclude the people holding moderate versions of the ideology are fundamentally the same as the extreme versions.

            The Vox Day types assume your garden variety feminist is the same as the worst SJW to have ever walked the earth.

            The people who want to no-platform Yarvin conclude that a engineer with weird eccentric views about how absolute monarchies are great is the same as a Golden Dawn member.

            The people behind the Brendan Eich controversy assume that your typical religious conservative GOP member is fundamentally the same as the people who beat up the patrons of gay bars.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Yeah, yeah, yeah. They’re all equally evil. They are wretched creatures by nature who hate the light. They must be exterminated. Give me a break.

            But doesn’t VI’s argument a bit earlier in this subthread imply that this is the correct attitude to take? The marginal SJWs aren’t denouncing the extreme SJWs any more than Sastan is denouncing Vox Day, and therefore would seem to have no more right to complain about being lumped in with the villains from which they’ve failed to distance themselves.

          • Theo Jones says:

            @Cerbral
            There is a distinction between what people will do, and what they should do.

            If you are in the same place as a bunch of jerks, and you don’t distance yourself from them — the negative affect of the jerks will tend to rub off on you. Even if you are not one of them. So, from a strategy standpoint you should disavow your jerks.

            But, holding non-jerks accountable for their jerks is still a bad idea. Even if it is a common one.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Vox Imperatoris
            Is anyone here actually praising Vox Day? Or claiming him as anything more than the lesser of two evils?

            Weren’t you the one who was arguing in the last open thread that the only obligation you have is to your own self interest?

            Picking a fight with Vox Day, Stalin, or any other ally of convenience, when they’re already fighting a shared enemy is stupid, and not in anyone’s self interest.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Vox – “If you don’t think he’s worthy of being denounced, I think it’s useful to point out exactly where your assessment of him differs from the “SJW” assessment.”

            I am pretty sure this “denouncing” thing in general is a stupid, harmful, useless idea in the first place, and is the source of the whole problem. The more solid the overton window becomes, the more people will try to exploit it for their advantage, which makes the window more solid in a feedback loop. We may be far enough into that loop that playing along is occasionally a necessary evil, but that is no reason to embrace it if not forced.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Vox I
            It’s not everyone else’s job to be familiar with you and your ideas. If you quack like a duck, they’re going to think you’re a duck.

            Unfortunate point, but the duck is well put.

          • Sastan says:

            No Vox, they are not all the same. They are not all equally evil. But they are all on the same side. The side of censorship. Let’s go back to the analog. I’m sure there were some very nice germans who disapproved of their leader and opposed the war. But if, by their assent, apathy or ineffectiveness, they are unable to change the course of their group, they get carpet bombed just like everyone else.

            This is not about who is a better person, we’re all just people. This is not even about which side has a higher percentage of bad people. This is about the principles being fought over. The most dear at the moment is free speech. Remember that “I don’t agree with what you say….” bit? Well this is the part where we defend to the death the rights of people to say what they like, be they Harris or Vox Day.

          • Salem says:

            Vox, are you arguing this course of action as moral, or effective?

            Because I have to tell you, the one example you’ve given is awfully unconvincing. Libertarian groups have been extremely unsuccessful at forging alliances with progressives, even on issues where, on policy, they would appear to agree. And that’s because the methods you suggest come across as apologetic, and appear to argue from a position of moral weakness, whereas shouts of “glibertarian” and allegations that libertarianism is a cover for white supremacy come from a position of (presumed) moral strength.

            Ayn Rand converted far more people to libertarianism than the BHLs ever will.

            It would be nice to live in a world where your suggestions were effective, but it’s not this one. The incentives for political argument are such that giving an inch – even when correct on the merits! – is typically counterproductive. Sadly, the most effective tactic with political opponents is normally invective, mockery, shaming, and worse. You can’t persuade people who aren’t already vaguely sympathetic – so in this case, you don’t reach out to the “marginal SJW” (already far too far gone) but to the marginal anti-SJW.

          • Frank McPike says:

            @Sastan

            That’s very dramatic, but surely you realize that Vox Imperatoris is in complete agreement with you as to whether free speech should be defended. The point in contest is whether the tactics you’re advocating will actually defend it effectively. If not, then the vitality of protecting free speech is a strong point against their adoption, not in favor.

            The ACLU defended the Nazis in Skokie. No doubt some people thought that they were Nazis on that basis. But to the extent that they could, the ACLU made absolutely clear that they had no sympathy for the content of the Nazi viewpoint. It would have been extremely stupid for the ACLU, upon getting accused of being Nazi sympathizers, to respond with “Well, you’ll think that anyway, so I guess we are.” Or, at least, I think that’s obviously a useless tactic and I doubt the ACLU considered it even for a second. Are you arguing otherwise?

            I mean, think about it: the ACLU is an organization that has literally defended Nazis. Actually invested organizational resources in doing so. Many people think that was wrong. But very few of them, on either the left or the right, think that ACLU members are Nazi sympathizers. It’s entirely possible to achieve this sort of success, why not learn from the tactics of those who did?

            I know that when I encounter someone who disagrees with me, I’m a lot more interested in hearing their arguments if they’re willing to criticize obviously bad actors and flawed arguments on their side of the issue. I don’t think I’m the only one. In the last open thread (I think) David Friedman suggested that he looked at similar things in order to make an educated guess as to which side had a stronger case.

            And I certainly know that pretty much the only successes I’ve had at convincing people I’m right on controversial political issues is by making clear that I have no interest in defending the worst excesses of my side. I think this is a pretty general point about persuasion: taking on extra burdens of proof doesn’t make it any easier.

            @Salem

            As I note above, I don’t think this is a strategy unique to libertarian advocacy groups. I’d say it’s the mainstream tactic of policy-oriented advocacy groups. Being needlessly divisive may be a good way to rally a base, but getting policy passed often requires building a coalition that includes moderates from the other side.

            I’m also not sure libertarians have been as ineffective as you think. Support for drug legalization and opposition to the war on drugs have become increasingly mainstream positions in recent years (and 30 years ago, they seemed like fairly fringe views). I don’t think all of that is due to libertarian advocacy, but it’s certainly true that libertarians were the strongest advocates of those positions for a long time, and that a lot of the arguments libertarian organizations were making were framed so as to convince liberals. I think they deserve some credit.

            Many people have jobs where they are paid to be persuasive, and evaluated based on their ability to win unsympathetic people to their side. In those professions, the conventional wisdom is the opposite of what you suggest: be likeable, appear honest, don’t attack the people you’re trying to persuade, and don’t commit yourself to defending unsympathetic positions if you don’t absolutely have to. If you’re defending Timothy McVeigh at trial, arguing that the Oklahoma City Bombing didn’t happen, or that it wasn’t such a bad thing, would be good ways to quickly lose the case, even though, if true, those facts would benefit your side. Same with arguing that McVeigh’s political views were correct. Instead, the smart move is to locate the ground you actually have to defend and make your stand there (say, McVeigh’s views are unusual but don’t usually lead to violence and the government arrested the wrong guy). (McVeigh was guilty. My point is that these are the most effective tactics even when you’re on the wrong side. They should be even more effective when you have the advantage of truth on your side.)

          • keranih says:

            @ Vox

            If you don’t think [Vox Day]’s worthy of being denounced, I think it’s useful to point out exactly where your assessment of him differs from the “SJW” assessment.

            If I was interested in discussing VD, I might want to do that. But I’m not. It’s not me who keeps on bringing him up, and who insists that all discussions of inclusion (or exclusion) in SFF fandom/industry begin with saying “at least we all agree that we shouldn’t let VD be in our club.”

            And I am absolutely against that sort of signalling.

            There have been people who have done things which I find much more objectionable than what VD’s done, and yet I don’t think their works should be struck from the canon or that people should be shunned for reading them or finding them inspiring or affecting.

            This “denouncing” as part of the SFF world is – imo – engaging in a really unfortunate pattern of confusing the work with the creator. It’s one of the clearest errors in rational research, I think – to assume that because Dr Rightthink wrote the equations, the equations are always right, even with the math doesn’t work.

            Or, even worse, finding that all equations that have the answer 42 are correct, even if a third of the operators were reversed, or if the wrong values were inserted in the first place.

            So, no. Not denouncing VD. Or anyone else.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @keranih:

            Vox Day is a big deal in the fracas around sci-fi/fantasy awards, but that’s kind of inside baseball, even for people who follow SFF.

            It’s true that those who consider him a foe think he’s a bigger deal than he is – on both sides in this culture war, there seems to be a belief that the enemy is both far greater in number and far greater in power than they actually are.

            But in the wider culture, Vox Day is an unknown, with views that the public is generally hostile to. The average person might think that the university activists and so on are ridiculous, but I imagine most people would take the social justice crowd over a guy who believes women shouldn’t have the vote.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            While I’m alive to the difference between the normative and positive arguments, it doesn’t seem to me that the one is being applied any more consistently than the other here. When moderate SJ types mistake moderate conservatives for Vox Day, it’s because the moderate conservatives haven’t done enough to distance themselves from VD. When moderate conservatives mistake moderate SJ types for SJWs, it’s because they’re too stooopid to grasp the obvious differences.

          • JBeshir says:

            I’m of the strong opinion that people need to do more to separate themselves from the extreme/nasty elements of social justice, too.

            Mostly because I think this will disincentivise those nasty elements and make them stop, as they will try to retain legitimacy in the eyes of the moderates, but making the moderate’s position clearer would be a decided benefit too and be a more immediate effect.

            And I think their failure to do so is the main thing that more decent elements (e.g. a lot of media commenters who “never have a bad thing to say about Stalin”, to reference that metaphor) can be criticised for.

          • Sastan says:

            I do love this regression.

            Point
            Counterpoint
            Counter-counterpoint

            VOX DAY

            Now we have to have a forty reply thread on someone who was never part of the conversation, with multiple demands that people denounce him.

            I need to learn to do this derailing troll. I wonder who it works with?

          • Sastan says:

            Just a comparison here:

            If all you do is lump them all together, hurl unhinged invective at them, and praise uncritically anyone who criticizes them, what’s going to happen when people less involved are linked to what you’re saying?

            And here’s the statement about which this thread started:

            that’s gonna take a whole hell of a lot more than a sci-fi fan campaign run by a nethernet megalomaniac. But hey, if he’s slagging off the SJWs, he can play Stalin to my Churchill.

            That is “uncritical praise”, ladies and mentalgen.

          • dndnrsn, April 13, 2016 at 11:19 am: The people who are most frightened by the social justice set (I really need a term that doesn’t have certain connotations like “SJW” has) are, actually, on the left.

            Sources? Details?

            I’ve spent a lot of time fearing and hating Social Justice. (Has it only been 6 1/2 years since Racefail? It seems much longer.) Then I’ve read various material at Armed and Dangerous and came to the conclusion that, while I was still right to think some of SJ is correct about problems, I didn’t fear and hate it nearly as much as possible.

            I consider myself to be a liberal flavored libertarian. The folks at Armed and Dangerous strike me as various degrees of right wing, though not all of them would agree with me about that.

            The complaints I’ve seen from the left have mostly been from people who’ve been personally traumatized by SJ aggressiveness and some who don’t think SJ works.

            I don’t have a feeling for whether SJ is likely to get significant political power. Thoughts?

            I use Social Justice to distinguish it from the previous thing which called itself social justice and worked on changing laws and helping people rather than trying to force people’s emotions.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Nancy Liebovitz – “I don’t have a feeling for whether SJ is likely to get significant political power. Thoughts?”

            My assessment fluctuates from week to week. One of the things that makes it so hard to assess is that such a vast majority of the formal and informal media are pro-SJ. On the other hand, people who get hurt the worst seem to be those who submit quietly, while those who fight back seem to do pretty well. That doesn’t sound like the pattern you’d get with an actual overwhelmingly powerful movement. I think we’ll have to wait a year or so till we have a clearer picture.

          • As little as a year or two?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz – “As little as a year or two?”

            That’s my guess. I think Social Justice’s strategy is essentially a blitz; they want to get the rules changed and locked down before opposition can really get organized. Most of their tactics are selected for securing immediate compliance rather than slow conversion. The longer the fight takes, the more nasty examples of Social Justice in action inevitably accumulate, the more people turn against them and their opponents dig in and develop counters. That’s certainly what I seem to have observed over the last few years; on the other hand, the majority of the public seems unaware that a coordinated movement even exists, so communities tend to get blindsided and then either stand or fall alone. Those that fall seem to have fratricide problems that limit their viability long-term. In all, I think it’s a nasty ideology, but perhaps a self-limiting one.

            Didn’t we more or less have this same problem in the 90s?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz:

            I don’t really have any sources or anything. I’m basing it off 2 things:

            1. The only people I know in real life who have expressed much worry or fear about it – as opposed to disdain or worry about future effects – are themselves left-wing activist types. They make it sound like toxic people are really common in left-wing social justice activist circles, and internal conflict is really nasty. I have never had a straight cis white man tell me in person that they are afraid of someone they consider a “social justice warrior”. I’ve had more than one person who fits 2 of those tops express such sentiments.

            2. Who is most endangered by their activities? As far as I can tell, university administrators – who tend to be left wing – at left-wing universities (I doubt the activists have much ability to do anything at, say, Bob Jones U).

            As for whether it’s likely to get political power, I don’t think it’s liable to be able to do more than influence political power. Too much infighting – what Freddie deBoer has referred to as the “left-wing circular firing squad”. I don’t see it as able to do much more than what it can do now – get university administrators and the occasional programmer fired, Twittermob people, and extract danegeld.

            Outside of Black Lives Matter, it doesn’t look like they’ve got enough warm bodies to do much in real politics, and while BLM’s leadership seems to fall into the SJ category (lot of university kids, lot of intersectional stuff, disproportionately female), I think it’s going to just take over from the church-centred African-American lobby groups that have been strong since the Civil Rights era. It’s got the immediate and serious problem of people getting killed with impunity and it’s getting more done than the Assistant to the Assistant Dean getting fired.

            @FacelessCraven: I think we’re seeing more left-wing media sources take a more skeptical stance. Eg, the Atlantic, for a while now. Slate’s coverage of the “this is a safe space for university employees” thing might be a clue stuff will change there.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think Social Justice’s strategy is essentially a blitz; they want to get the rules changed and locked down before opposition can really get organized.

            You think they have a strategy? That would seem to imply strategists.

            I see only tactics. Rather like Vikings who have just discovered that their longships can cross the North Sea and there’s lots of undefended loot in Britain; they are going to aggressively target whatever is closest to their current strongholds because it’s fun and its easier than either A: honest work or B: implementing an optimal strategy for long-term conquest.

            Having made that analogy, I can’t help note that the Vikings were probably a net positive influence on Western civilization – but only after two or three centuries of cultural fusion.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @John Schilling – “You think they have a strategy? That would seem to imply strategists.”

            They have a fair few, I think. The Listen and Believe/affirmative consent push in mid-late 2015 seemed to have some amount of coordination behind it. A lot of that might be explainable by general group dynamics, but it does seem like there are at least a moderate number of smart people talking to each other and trying to work together.

          • BBA says:

            Unless I’m mistaken, “Listen and Believe” was never a slogan associated with the Affirmative Consent movement. It was a phrase used in a presentation by [redacted] about a different topic, and I’ve mostly seen it spread by her hatedom. People who actually support AC have different catchphrases.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @FacelessCraven:

            But is that coordination, or different people and groups seeking to implement stuff that a smaller group of theorists had come up with?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @dndnrsn – “But is that coordination, or different people and groups seeking to implement stuff that a smaller group of theorists had come up with?”

            I guess we’d have to define coordination better? My point is that it’s not just emergent toxicity in ideological communities; there appears to be broad agreement on medium- and long-term goals, and at least some degree of leadership, specialization and organization. A lot of the fights are just random skirmishing, but sometimes it does seem like they’re getting at least a little organized. Is that strategy? Tactics? Just social flocking behavior? No clue. John Schilling’s Viking metaphor doesn’t seem to match up to the ones that operate similarly to coordinated pushes.

            @BBA – “Unless I’m mistaken, “Listen and Believe” was never a slogan associated with the Affirmative Consent movement.”

            The idea featuring prominently in the #TeamHarpy, Jian Ghomeshi, Bill Cosby and Jackie’s Story accusations*, along with Vox’s writeup on California’s affirmative consent laws. Here’s the concluding summary from one of the original #TeamHarpy writeups, for instance:

            “We can and must take a stance of siding with victims. There needs to be a super clear message that whenever someone speaks up about abuse or harassment that they’ve experienced and encountered within a professional space (conference, work, whatever) that this person will be supported and believed.

            What this looks like:

            Don’t ask for ‘proof’.
            Don’t treat ‘both sides of the story’ as if they hold equal weight.
            Do not engage in any type of victim blaming behaviour.
            Listen to the victim. Do it. And don’t judge.”

            Writeups of the other incidents contained similar language, to the point that it seemed obvious that this was a settled piece of policy/ideology that had been established in the authors’ groups for some time. I’m pretty sure most or all of that was prior to the presentation in question, or even the gaming blowup in general. (blah, writing around a word filter sucks.)

            *Jackie’s story turned out to be fabricated, Jian was acquitted, and #Teamharpy retracted their claims completely in the face of a defamation suit. On the other hand, Cosby appears to be pretty damn guilty, and Vox remains terrible.

          • BBA says:

            I am familiar with the history, and I did not mean to imply the phrase is somehow unrepresentative of current feminist views. All I was saying is, the particular phrase “Listen and Believe” was only spoken once by [redacted] and is not in common use except within the [redacted] group. So mentioning it is a tell that you’ve associated with them.

            (Also, Jian has been acquitted on some but not all counts. His case is still pending.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            @FacelessCraven:

            I’m kind of spitballing here, but:

            1. If some people say “this would be good” and then various different groups start advancing whatever “this” is, is that coordination? I wouldn’t say it is.

            2. Are any of the sub-movements actually new? All I can see that is really new is the increasing impact of social media. There have been practically identical movements on many different fronts before.

            3. You mention “toxicity”, and I think a huge problem here (as in, SSC) is that “we” often fail to differentiate between goals on the one hand and norms of discourse, epistemology, methods of moral judgment, etc on the other. I personally agree with a lot of the object-level goals of the left-wing activist types, and I can be sympathetic to some of the others. In most of the cases where I disagree with them, I think that the problem is incompetence, not malice (usually a failure to actually consider reliable statistics).

            The norms of discourse (eg, enshrining of certain logical fallacies), epistemology (eg, focus on lived experience over verifiable fact, and the resultant ignoring of anything that doesn’t fit their preferred narrative) and ways of making moral judgment (especially, deciding whether something is right or wrong based on who is doing it to whom – on a larger level, treating individual as though they are instances of groups) are what I take exception to.

            These problems aren’t just threatening to outsiders – they are part of the reason that these movements can mess people inside them up so much. When a group defines “people capable of doing harm” as “not us”, that is a gigantic welcome sign to unpleasant people of many different kinds (and lots of groups do this). You end up with the ironic situation of movements dedicated to fighting oppression, abuse, etc that become a hunting ground for people who behave in an oppressive, abusive, etc fashion.

            In the case of what I’ve seen some people call “toxic SJ”, and even to some extent in the wider left, there seems to be a failure mode where the further away someone is from the archetypal cis straight white man, the harder it becomes for people who otherwise would spot power-hungry, malicious, or predatory behaviour quickly to spot it. I know someone who had been abused by someone who they described as a “social justice warrior”, and was of the opinion that nobody would believe a public accusation, because my friend checked off more “privilege” boxes, so to speak. For the broader left, notice how much more lightly Cologne’s NYE attacks were treated than cases involving stereotypical fratboys.

            So, I mean, we should do a better job of differentiating between what the left-wing activists want – much of which is entirely reasonable and just – and the messed up aspects of their movements.

            Also, Jian Ghomeshi is not a great example. He’s been acquitted of some charges, but the only people I have seen take a position beyond “he’s almost certainly guilty, but him getting away with it is the cost of innocent people not getting convicted” are certain manosphere types. I believe those women were telling the truth that he hit them without consent. It’s just too bad that they didn’t tell the whole truth to the cops and court, and that the Crown didn’t do a better job of making that happen.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @BBA: “Listen and Believe” was certainly (re)popularized by LW2, but she did not originate it; it was already a thing in sexual abuse support circles, which is likely where she got it from.

            @dndnsrn: I think Ghomeshi’s guilt with respect to the three women he’s been acquitted of assaulting is far less likely than not. The judge tore their testimony to shreds; they didn’t not just tell the whole truth, but at least one of them fabricated a story entirely (with reference to the car that Ghomeshi didn’t have at the time). Ghomeshi seems to have a kink which is legally dangerous in today’s world, but that’s a different question.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The Nybbler: I have started a new tree below because this one is too damn long.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Sastan:

            That is “uncritical praise”, ladies and mentalgen.

            No, the problem was that you followed that up with statements to the effect of: fuck it, in the future I’ll just carpet bomb the SJWs indiscriminately and not criticize people on my side because that’s undermining the war effort.

            I don’t know how you expect stuff like “If this be racism, make the most of it”, etc. to be interpreted, other than as a call to action to do just that.

            As for the point other people have raised a few times, about whether I also condemn “moderate SJWs” for not calling out the extreme ones, yes I do. They are not doing themselves any favors. If someone were here ranting about how we need to show no mercy to anyone who ever had a socially conservative thought, I would be criticizing that person.

            Indeed, I have defended in this very subthread Mencius Moldbug from being lumped in with Nazis and white nationalists.

  10. James says:

    Can anyone suggest any good part-time jobs? I’m a programmer, and quit my last job because I don’t want to work full-time (I have other projects of my own). But it seems that there are no part-time programming jobs available. (Why there are no jobs in the “serious, permanent, but part-time” niche continues to baffle me a bit.) I’m looking into finding programming work on more of freelance basis, which could work for me if/when I can get enough of it to live off, but that probably won’t happen for a while, so I’m also looking for a part-time job.

    Can anyone suggest anything that’s not too tricky to get for someone with a bit of programming experience? (Not that it has to be at all programming related!) I don’t really mind how well it’s paid, but it would be nice if it weren’t too stressful.

    • try some freelancer sites. try craigslist

      • Zorgon says:

        Freelancer sites are now mostly pointless for Westerners due to tech globalisation.

        • Eh, depends on your level of expertise. I manage to find reasonable rates for work, but I have to present myself as a plausible expert, with credentials and experience to match, in order to get expert rates.

          • Zorgon says:

            Good point. I should note I’m coming from the perspective of a programmer, which means I’m implicitly competing with some very fine programmers from places where my country’s benefit payments would buy a nice house in the suburbs with armed guards.

    • arathir2 says:

      Do you have any experience in MS Access programming (or are you the type who can quickly learn it on your own)? Are you a creative problem solver who can jump into a project without too much hand-holding, figure out what needs to be done, and do it?

      My wife is looking for someone like that for her business.

      • James says:

        I’d be very interested in this.

        I have worked a bit with Access in the past and a lot with other database systems more recently (in my last job). I would be confident of my ability to quickly get up to speed with whatever I don’t know and need to know for the project, and I’m certainly able to work without handholding.

        Note that I live in the UK, so if your wife would prefer to work with someone local (and you don’t happen to also live in the UK) then I am unlikely to be her best bet. But from my point of view, that needn’t be a problem.

        If you or your wife wish to get in touch to discuss further, then you can contact me at xmckernon@gmail.com, replacing the x with the first initial of the name I’m commenting under here.

    • Deiseach says:

      Why there are no jobs in the “serious, permanent, but part-time” niche continues to baffle me a bit

      I think one of the commenters here covered that in a thread way back, from his experience as an employer. If I am not too badly misremembering, it’s that two (or more) part-timers doing the full work week are too inconvenient and expensive for the employer, because you are spending a lot more money but getting the same (or even decreased) level of productivity.

      What you-the-employer want is to hire a good, competent employee, get them up to maximum productivity, then keep their nose at the grindstone just this side of burnout (he used the example of having a guy work sixty-hour weeks) for as long as they can handle it/they are valuable to you. This works even better if you are paying them a salary, not wages, as you don’t have to pay overtime rates. So you get more work for less money!

      • James says:

        I agree that it’s in the employer’s interests. But it seems a shame that our norms (the schelling point of the forty-hour work week) serve to reinforce this status quo so strongly that working less is pretty much untenable. I would gladly trade off some of what I want from a job (working for less pro rata, for instance) to get the kind of hours I want, but it doesn’t even seem to be on the table.

        • Maia says:

          I think the best way to do this in our field (based on advice I’ve seen from people who have successfully done it) is to become very valuable to your employer, and *then* negotiate with them for reduced hours.

        • CatCube says:

          It’s probably not just the employer’s interest. When you’ve got two people working on a project, you end up with coordination problems that one doesn’t have. In my own field (structural engineering), you also end up with the “9 women can’t have a baby in one month” issue, where there’s a limit to how much you can spread work out among people, since the output of one subproblem feeds another.

        • Tom Scharf says:

          There is a lot of overhead costs with an employee. Training them, giving them benefits, unemployment, insurance, 401K overhead, etc. It’s more efficient to have full time employees. If I have a critical problem I need you around immediately, not on your schedule.

          As Maia said, you might be able to work this after you have demonstrated you are a critical employee, but it’s going to be hard hiring in on this.

        • I’m not sure how relevant it is outside the academic world, but I’ve been a half time professor, one semester on, one semester off, for about twenty years.

        • Virbie says:

          Ugh I’ve been dealing with exactly this. I get paid way way more than I need, and would love to work much less. My solution so far has been to take long sabbaticals between jobs (I’m just finishing up nine months of travel), but this is not a perfect substitute for more distributed leisure time. Since I’ll have a fair bit of market power when I get back to work, and will be taking a hefty pay cut for sure, I’m really hoping I can negotiate for much fewer hours per week.

      • Now that’s a comment I’d like to read.

        My impression? Employers rely heavily on signals and impressions. Objective work performance for many jobs does not exist.
        Employee productivity varies massively. Especially after factoring in cooridination problems. I think the 100x employee doesn’t really exist, but even 2x is a HUGE productivity difference.
        So employers would rely on signals of diligence and work ethic. Asking to work part-time signals laziness, big time.

        Ideally, you want employees motivated by the mission, which strikes me as little different than cultish behavior. But I’m not an employer, so what do I know….

    • Chalid says:

      If anyone has suggestions for a very intelligent (MIT PhD) non-programmer that would be welcome too! I have a friend who is looking for ways to cut back to 20-30 hours in order to spend more time with her kids.

      • Urstoff says:

        I used to work for this company, and we had lots of part-time contractors with graduate degrees (which are required): http://www.aje.com/en

        Basically, it’s editing an academic manuscript in your specialization written by someone whose native language is not English. If you’re a good editor, you can make some decent money doing this part time.

        • Chalid says:

          Thanks! I will pass that along.

        • I did that job between finishing my master’s degree and starting my PhD! For a different firm, though. I hope AEJ pays better, because editing things written by Japanese speakers is MUCH harder and more time consuming than editing for English speakers, and I think the people I was working for didn’t take that into account when designing their pricing scheme.

          • Urstoff says:

            They pay pretty well, as far as I remember (I was a full-time employee, so I don’t remember the compensation scheme that well). Especially if you become a good, reliable editor that gets offered the lengthy or short-turnaround papers where the compensation is hugely increased.

    • Hlynkacg says:

      I put myself through school working as a night manager / security guard.

      Mostly the job was just answering phones and chasing off the occasional bum who’d set up camp in our loading dock. But a lot of the time I could just sit at the receptionist’s desk with my laptop and work on school assignments or my own projects.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Did you just quit, or did you try negotiating with your last employer? I know people who have cut deals. I don’t know what the odds were, but the cost of trying seems very low. Probably too late now.

      • James says:

        Yeah, I tried it, and it initially seemed like they were open to the idea, but it eventually came back to me as a no. I then wondered if they might back down and allow it if I “called their bluff”, so to speak, by handing in my notice, but that… turned out not to happen. Ho hum.

    • Elizabeth C. says:

      What about doing full time contract work for six months, then working on your projects for six months?

      • James says:

        Yeah, this would work for me, if I found it, but again, I’ve found it to be surprisingly scarce. One avenue that does seem promising is doing cover for maternity leave, which seems to be on about that timeframe.

    • Tom Scharf says:

      I’ve been doing embedded systems contracting for 15+ years. The typical customer is small businesses that don’t have in house engineering and aren’t too technical. Usually local. Posting and looking at job megasites is usually not productive. Your best customers are your past employers, then it grows through word of mouth in a chaotic fashion. Concentrate on telling them how you are going to solve their problems, not how great of a coder you are in language X, Y, Z.

      They are hiring experience, not coding ability. They are generally not interested in teaching you anything. You are providing them the value, not vice versa. They expect and demand results, not effort.

      Consulting = stress. You must learn to deal with it. Every customer wants their job done last week, and for the half the cost of what it is going to take.

      The bad news is I wouldn’t hire anyone without 10 years of experience unless it came cheap as dirt for a non-critical project. You’ll understand this statement 10 years from now. If I’m going to train someone, I would make that investment in an employee.

      OK, so I didn’t answer your question. Local. Small business. Solve their problems. And don’t tell them you quit your last job because it was too much work, ha ha.

    • Matt C says:

      You can be a part-time programmer as a freelancer. I do this now. Part of the reason I’m a freelancer is it is easier for me to set the terms of my work hours, location, etc. I have seen part time employee positions for programmers, but they’re rare.

      Craigslist was what worked best for me when I was dry and looking for work. I had to send a lot, lot of emails to get a decent gig, though. A few hundred at least. Many stages to the process and you lose prospects all along the way.

      Freelancing is often stressful. If you want less stress and don’t care about pay, I’d look for some local on-site part time work instead.

    • drethelin says:

      Our company employed a friend of mine part time for a long time as an electrical engineer doing maintenance, programming, and putting together machinery. I think there is probably a decent amount of niche jobs like this that exist, but the framework for finding and getting them doesn’t.

    • Asterix says:

      StackOverflow.com?

      Tester for something like Chrome or Opera?

    • If you like teaching contact local private schools. I’ve heard they have a hard time finding programming teachers.

    • Erich Ocean says:

      Ping me at erich.ocean@me.com. My company does software development on a regular basis and has need of part-time, remote developers. We work with brands like Nike, Google, BMW, Kellogg, etc. doing experiential marketing and also with startups. Usually pretty fun jobs, short, coding is straightforward and we’ve got a really nice internal framework for doing them developed by myself.

      We’re in Southern California.

      • Zorgon says:

        Is this an open invitation? I’m nearly always looking for new sources of decent contract work.

  11. Julie K says:

    I’m trying to track down two bits I remember reading long ago. I thought they were by Orwell but I could be wrong.
    First bit: an essay explaining why totalitarian regimes disseminate obviously false propaganda – it’s to demoralize the people. Once they have been forced to repeat what they know is a lie, they lack the strength of mind for principled opposition.
    Second bit – I remember a scene in 1984 where O’Brian tells Winston that in order to indoctrinate the youth, they’ve been lowering the age to start school until they’re practically “robbing the cradle.” Only it’s not there.
    Sound familiar?

    • James says:

      The former sounds like a very Orwellian observation, but it doesn’t ring a bell to me. I can’t say anything about the latter except to agree that it’s not in 1984.

    • J.P. says:

      EDIT: Was the first bit from Vaclav Havel’s essay “The Power of the Powerless”?

    • nyccine says:

      Your first bit is Theodore Dalrymple:

      In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is…in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.

      Your second bit sounds like Spengler; at least, that’s where I’m most familiar with the argument, others may have expressed it as well. The State* desires to use the press as a means of disseminating propaganda; in order to do so, the public must first be able to read and understand it, hence, the need for universal education. That the educational curricula actually be propaganda isn’t addressed by Spengler and isn’t necessary for the justification for universal education, but is useful.

      *this need not be “the State” as some one-party tyranny; anyone wishing to wield power over the masses in a high-scale, “modern” society will need to pursue this course of action.

      • Julie K says:

        Thank you!

        I don’t think the second bit is very recent. Possibly it was supplemental material my teacher gave out when we read 1984 in high school (20-odd years ago).

        • Carburetor says:

          I remember Steve Sailer doing a bunch of blog posts about universal pre-K that kinda sound like the second thing you mentioned.

          But I could be wrong…it was a while ago.

        • nyccine says:

          The first volume of Spengler’s The Decline of the West was published in 1918, so yeah, not very recent. I’d be (pleasantly) surprised if he was used in your English class though; Spengler’s popularity was very much a flash in the pan, with more narrowly focused (and usually, overtly partisan) views on history coming back into dominance.

      • walpolo says:

        Surely political correctness is not intended to have this effect.

  12. Alex says:

    In the “Ideology and Movement” thread, discussion on gamergate and the work of Anita Sarkeesian reached a point where I could no loger contribute anything meaningful. This is my attempt to reboot the discussion by presenting a more general interpretation of the events I’d like to get comments on. I hope that is ok.

    Let’s recap. We have identified two tribes. The “Gamers” and the “Feminists”. Note that one can be a person who likes video games without being a gamer. One can be a person who advocates equal rights for all genders without being a “Feminist”. Gamergate, among other things, was about discussing tribe membership of certain individuals and compiling lore about feats accomplished by the own tribe vs. atrocities committed by the enemy tribe.

    All of this makes sense in the light of Scott Alexander’s various theories on tribalism. And maybe that is all the explaination there is and all we need. But I still feel something is missing. I get the impression, that “Gamers” perceive a “Feminist” menace, that is more tangible than tribal dynamics. In other words: the conflict cannot be all meta, can it?

    First, credit where credit is due, I build upon ideas from
    http://palmstroem.blogspot.de/2015/10/feminism-and-social-constructionism.html
    and
    http://palmstroem.blogspot.de/2015/10/on-knowledge-and-normativity.html

    The “Feminist” tribe’s ideology, again, possibly among other things, is social constructionism and its tool of the trade is deconstruction. From a rationalist point of view, lets just say this might not be the ideal tool for assessing reality or “the truth”. However, deconstruction is great as a tool to assess art. Hilarious things have been done with it, e. g. http://playthroughline.com/about

    To me, and maybe other onlookers, what was going on other than tribalism is art critique. Sarkeesian applies the tool best known to her to games and the results are just as interesting as expected. Attractive woman makes witty observations on a medium I care for. What’s not to like? Attempts to prove her wrong are misgiuded because there is no ground truth in art. Such attempts use irrelevants proxies (e. g. sales) or worse, the game designers’ intentions as imagined by the would-be critic, ignorant of the fact that this is a non-argument. In contrast, to the “Gamers”, and I suspect to some of the “Feminists” possibly including Sarkeesian herself, it is not art critque, it it a battle for truth, going to depths were the notion of truth itself is contested.

    That, so goes my theory, is the reason, why Sarkeesian appears totally harmless to me and totally menacing to “Gamers”. Because if there is one thing that is a greater danger than your tribe being under attack it is your notion of truth being under attack.

    I failed to fully appreciate this until now. I was convinced that nobody _seriously_ could think that this was about e. g. the true content of a Hitman game or something, because it obviously wasn’t. Ideology vs. Movement seemed to back me up on that one by stating that it is not really about the ideology. But then sometimes it is, but not quite as one might imagine at the first glance.

    Makes sense?

    • Anon. says:

      >In contrast, to the “Gamers”, and I suspect to some of the “Feminists” possibly including Sarkeesian herself, it is not art critque, it it a battle for truth, going to depths were the notion of truth itself is contested.

      I think the fundamental difference is not “truth”, but what each group considers the purpose of art (and by extension what is “legitimate” criticism). The feminists see art as agitprop and if it’s not pushing their values it means it’s pushing antifeminist values and is by definition harmful and immoral. All art is political, even being apolitical is a political choice.

      The gamers see art as its own thing, something that can survive on aesthetics alone, and suffers from politicization. They are essentially followers of the Wilde school of criticism:

      >An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style.

      >Who can help laughing when an ordinary journalist seriously proposes to limit the subject matter at the disposal of the artist?

      Obviously there isn’t much of a middle ground here.

      To take a practical example from outside gaming: consider films like God’s Not Dead and Heaven Is For Real. Both the “gamers” and the “feminists” think they are trash. But the reason is different: the gamers think they’re bad because they are crass propaganda, the feminists think they’re bad because they are propagandizing the wrong values.

      • Alex says:

        >I think the fundamental difference is not “truth”, but what each group considers the purpose of art (and by extension what is “legitimate” criticism). The feminists see art as agitprop and if it’s not pushing their values it means it’s pushing antifeminist values and is by definition harmful and immoral. All art is political, even being apolitical is a political choice.

        Suppose that this is an accurate description of “Feminist” motives. My point is, we have to differeniate between the question if these are sensible motives stemming from an accurate conception of reality and the question of how to judge statements on games made through the lens of that motives.

        I perceive the “Gamers'” argument as being: “Feminists are misguided in their motives and therefore all they have to say about games is wrong”. This I meant, when I said it was about truth.

        But, no offense intended, to me that is nonsensical. First, because there is no ground truth on e. g. “What Hitman is all about” (there is one on the game mechanics and I understand that Sarkeesian got that wrong, but you see what I mean) and second because I can learn something meaningful about my beloved medium by looking at how a potentially misguided person perceives it. I don’t have to agree with Sarkeesian or her supposed motives to acknowledge that she put some thought worth contemplating into the subject of games. Of course I would not say that if she had choosen physics as her subject, hence my emphasis on the art-aspect.

        >The gamers see art as its own thing, something that can survive on aesthetics alone, and suffers from politicization.

        To me the first part seems to be incredibly motte in its obviousness, but then again I might be ignorant of the more extreme opinions in that debate. Anyways. What I’m trying to get a handle on is the precise nature of that “suffering”.

        >But the reason is different: the gamers think they’re bad because they are crass propaganda, the feminists think they’re bad because they are propagandizing the wrong values.

        I don’t know the film in question, but “bad because propaganda” is a long way from “surviving on aesthetics”. Aesthetics and Propaganda are not mutually exclusive (e. g. Leni Riefenstahl). Basically you are saying that “Gamers”, with respect to art, hold values other than aesthetics in high regard, which is exactly what they, according to you, criticise in “Feminists”.

        • Anon. says:

          >Aesthetics and Propaganda are not mutually exclusive

          Well, it seems to me that this is the point of contention…I don’t know how far we can take this line while remaining sane though. One could say that Pollock was a CIA lackey producing anti-Soviet propaganda, does that damage the aesthetic side of his paintings? OTOH I don’t think they are orthogonal either. Perhaps it’s not possible to come up with a good general theory of the interaction of these two concepts, which is what generates the fighting in the first place? Or perhaps we’re on the completely wrong track and gg/agg has nothing to do with art criticism attitudes at all!

          >if these are sensible motives stemming from an accurate conception of reality

          How do we find this out?

          • Alex says:

            >How do we find this out?

            We don’t. I’m criticising “Gamers” who think they did figure it out where they havn’t. But is my criticism just or am I misunderstanding “Gamers'” point?

        • Cauê says:

          First, because there is no ground truth on e. g. “What Hitman is all about” (…)

          It sure isn’t about cooking. It’s not about horse dressage. It’s not about accountancy.

          And it’s not a vehicle for enjoying violence against women, made for that purpose by developpers who knew that their audience wanted a violence-against-women simulator as an outlet for their misogyny.

          To make this last point you’d need to go out of your way to avoid mentioning almost all of the game’s content, which involves killing mostly men, and misrepresent the part you’re showing. For instance, by not mentioning that not only is it not an objective in the game, but you get penalized for violence against civilians. I do not believe it would be possible to do this without dishonesty.

          And before that you’d have to go over dozens of games where you kill millions of men to find one where it’s even possible to kill women (because it’s a sandbox that lets you kill any npc, and the devs didn’t add a female invulnerability field), to then present it not only as the point of the game but as representative of gaming and gamers. That’s not a mistake a simply “misguided” commentator would make. You need to go out of your way for that, and this is not the only time they did it.

        • Anonymous says:

          I think your point is kind of correct, but disagree with part of the explanation:. To a gamer, the reasons why God’s not dead is shit are irrelevant to their status as propaganda. “It’s shit because it’s shit” (the plot is dumb, the acting is bad, the music is bad, etc.)

      • Philosophisticat says:

        I think this is an uncharitable way to characterize feminist criticism of art and media. One can think that there are moral constraints on art, or, even more weakly, morally undesirable social effects of art that can generate reasons bearing on its production or consumption, without thinking that the purpose of art is propagandistic. Even “all art is political” slogans can be given readings that commit only to the former things.

        • Anon. says:

          Elaborate, please.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            To think that the purpose of art is propagandistic is to think that good art is art that effectively propagandizes the right values and bad art is art that fails to do so, or that propagandizes the wrong values. But I think very few feminist critics of media believe that. Rather, they believe, along with everyone else, that effective storytelling, visual beauty, good acting, and so on are among the main things that determine how good a film is (and similarly with other art forms). But they also think that there are negative effects of some of the ways women are characterized in the media, and that this gives us at least some reason to encourage art that challenges these patterns and to discourage art that reinforces them.

            They may also (but need not) think that art that reinforces those poor patterns is aesthetically worse, either directly (because of some moral content in aesthetic norms) or indirectly (because, say, relying heavily on stereotypes or cliched tropes is lazy), without thinking that this is the only, or the primary thing that matters.

            Everyone thinks that there are some moral reasons bearing on art. One shouldn’t murder innocent people in making a film. That doesn’t mean that not-murdering has anything to do with the purpose of film.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            To think that the purpose of art is propagandistic is to think that good art is art that effectively propagandizes the right values and bad art is art that fails to do so, or that propagandizes the wrong values. But I think very few feminist critics of media believe that.

            You know… the reaction to the Ghostbusters reboot might be actual evidence otherwise.

            Maybe people genuinely like it, or maybe they’re knowingly lying or unknowingly engaging in double think.

            But taking it on face value a reboot who’s only redeeming quality that I can see is having the right values is getting a lot of praise from feminist critics.

          • Vorkon says:

            I thought that even feminist critics mostly panned the trailer as being terrible.

            Admittedly, many of them quickly jumped on the bandwagon that a bad trailer doesn’t necessarily mean the movie was going to be bad, and that if you have a problem with the trailer it is obviously due to misogyny, but agreement that the trailer was bad seemed pretty universal. There may be small amount of some cognitive dissonance going on between the denouncement of the trailer’s critics and their agreement with them that, yes, it was a bad trailer, but it still shows that they’re able to tell when a work is bad, even when it has the right values.

            (Speaking of which, this is getting into tinfoil hat territory here, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find out that they purposefully released the shittiest trailer they could make, specifically to cash in on this toxoplasma effect. If so, that’s pretty brilliant marketing!)

          • Saint Fiasco says:

            Because of Halo/Horn effects, art that is morally good appears to us as aesthetically good as well. For example Christians believe that the Bible not only teaches good values, but that it’s good literature as well.

            It’s possible that Ayn Rand is an amazing writer and I will never notice because I don’t find objectivism morally or aesthetically pleasing.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not a Christian, but the Bible does have some legitimately good writing in it. (Some incredibly boring writing, too; it’s a long and uneven work.) I think older versions tend to be better; modern translations often focus on clarity and plain language at the expense of prose style.

            Rand has her moments, but she’d really benefit from a more aggressive editor.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Atlas Shrugged is a dystopia which revolves around hope, rather than despair. It’s probably much more appealing to people who have lived through the kind of dystopia she describes (which is more about how people relate to themselves and each other than it is about government – if you read the book and come away thinking it’s about government, you’ve missed the heart of what it’s about).

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            I thought that even feminist critics mostly panned the trailer as being terrible.

            I remember seeing on my Facebook wall a post entitled something like “the new Ghostbusters prove the haters wrong by being hilarious” linking to a trailer review.

            I thought it was from HuffingtonPost, I didn’t find it there when I looked but I found this:

            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ghostbusters-first-trailer_us_56d844eee4b0ffe6f8e83f6f

            So, literally the first feminist comment on the trailer I found.

            but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find out that they purposefully released the shittiest trailer they could make, specifically to cash in on this toxoplasma effect. If so, that’s pretty brilliant marketing!

            That would be evil and genius.

            I doubt it, it seems unconventional for Sony. But time will tell.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            I agree with Orphan Wilde for the most part but I’ve always felt that Atlas Shrugged was a fantastic “idea for a novel” who’s author wasn’t up to the task of executing it.

            Which isn’t to say that Ayn Rand was stupid, or a bad writer, it’s just that long-form fiction is not where her strengths lay.

          • brad says:

            It’s hard for me to imagine how anyone could really have enjoyed the hundred page speech, even if he liked the rest of Atlas Shrugged.

            Ditto for the “and the wall shall be two cubits by four cubits dressed with myrrh and frankincense” parts of the bible.

          • Frog Do says:

            People usually get bored by The Catalouge of Ships in the Iliad, also, for a less controversially literary example.

          • John Schilling says:

            I have the US Naval Institute’s translation of Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea”. It’s about twice the length of any other English translation, including footnotes, and quite a few of those footnotes might as well read “If you’re not into a differential catalogue of fish species in the Red Sea and the Eastern Med, skip this chapter”.

            Also, Moby Dick. And just about anything Neal Stephenson ever wrote. That one thing S. Morgenstern never wrote 🙂 Great writing sometimes incorporates and frequently survives lengthy digressions. The very best is still great when you skip over the properly-labeled digressive bits.

          • Nornagest says:

            Appropriate that you mention Moby-Dick in the same breath as Neal Stephenson; I’ve often thought that Moby-Dick is classic literature for Stephenson fans. (Or vice versa.) Same digressions, same experimentation with style, same willingness to get highly technical when it suits the story or just when the author feels like it. Even some of the same sense of humor: update a little of the language and the scene where Ishmael and Queequeg end up sharing a bed could have fit right into the WWII chapters of Cryptonomicon.

            I like both.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Saint Fiasco
            It’s possible that Ayn Rand is an amazing writer and I will never notice because I don’t find objectivism morally or aesthetically pleasing.

            For me it works just the opposite! I’m free to appreciate Rand’s artistry because I’m not invested in her message. (Same with John C. Wright’s somewhat opposite message.)

            It’s when I’m grooving with the message of, say, Narnia, that some little wart trips me into Pullman’s view.

          • Nornagest says:

            For all John C. Wright’s notoriety, I never got tripped up by politics reading him.

            Of course, the only stuff of his I’ve read is his Night Land fanfic, and William Hope Hodgson set a baseline there which even the preachiest modern writers would have a hard time exceeding.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ brad:

            It’s hard for me to imagine how anyone could really have enjoyed the hundred page speech, even if he liked the rest of Atlas Shrugged.

            The speeches were the best part!

            I would say that Rand’s excessively hostile and uncharitable style had a very negative influence on the Objectivist movement, though.

    • Rowan says:

      There is ground truth in art at least as far as one can make observably true or false statements about what literally happens in the actual text – things like “character X says line Y in cutscene Z”, or game-specific things like “when the player takes action A, the game world imposes consequence B” – and although I don’t remember any specific accusations so you can take this with a grain of salt, I have at least the impression that the Gamer tribe has accused her of actual lies of this sort about (some?) of the games she’s analysed.

      • Forlorn Hopes says:

        and although I don’t remember any specific accusations

        The go-to example would be when she talked about Hitman. Anita claimed that players were encouraged to kill against strippers; however the Hitman game subtracts points for killing anyone who isn’t your primary target.

        • Anonymous says:

          The whole “violence against women in videogames” issue doesn’t pass the laugh test, and sticks out in a bunch of varyingly defensible issues.

          My (conspiracy) theory is that the real problem is with violence in videogames in general, but since that’s been pushed out of the overton window, this is being used as a pivot.

          • Urstoff says:

            I think that’s partially true. Even Anita got pushback from would-be allies when she complained about how violent the first trailer for the new DOOM game was (Violence? In my DOOM? No sir!).

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            I’m not going to pretend I can see into Anita’s mind, but I’d suspect she’s after personal status or genuinely believes her line about sexism in games before I suspected it was about violence.

          • Luke Somers says:

            In one of her videos she imagined an imaginary ideal game for rounding out some particular genre. It messed around with gender roles, but IIRC, it was not a non-violent game.

        • suntzuanime says:

          It’s kind of funny because Hitman actually mechanically incentivizes you to kill men over women, because you can steal men’s clothes to use as a disguise, but not women’s. 47 may be an uber-powerful clone assassin, but he can’t pass.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Damn, now I want a Hitman game where you play a sexy androgynous assassin.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            The cloest you’ll find is probably Aerannis.

            It’s a 2d pixel art retro platformer not a stealth game. And the charachter looks feminine but she’s MtF and (I think) a government assassin

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Forlorn Hopes – Huh. Just watched the trailer, and it looks interesting. Would you recommend it?

          • Randy M says:

            “sexy androgynous”
            Definitely one of those inferential distance things.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Randy M:

            Jaye Davidson.

            Or whoever this girl is when I search Google for the term “androgynous“.

            Even the 20s flapper (e.g. Louise Brooks) or Audrey Hepburn “gamine” look are considered androgynous styles.

            I guess technically, the term “androgynous” could refer to a butch lesbian who looks like a man or something, but in practice it does not.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            @FacelessCraven

            Never played it I’m afraid.

      • Alex says:

        I admitted that point in parenthesis in my reply to Anon. above.

        But there is a debate going on about the other kind of truth, I think.

    • Forlorn Hopes says:

      I think you’re making it out to be more complex than it is.

      In other words: the conflict cannot be all meta, can it?

      It’s not.

      Consider this tweet (one of man on the subject) by Jonathan McIntosh https://twitter.com/radicalbytes/status/545136375377321984?lang=en-gb

      I’m sorry Valve but you don’t get to make hate speech widely available, profit off it, and then pretend you’re impartial in the transaction.

      (Edit: This tweet is a better example: http://archive.is/tOqeg he’s saying he’s upset that Valve re-allowed Hatred after initially saying no to it)

      The context was Steam deciding that they would allow a game called Hatred to be sold. For those who don’t know, Hatred was a mediocre twin-stick shooter game about some guy who just decides to kill as many people as possible including civilians.

      It’s debatable whether Hatred is actually good or not but it’s pretty undetectable that key figures (McIntosh is/was a writer and producer for Feminist Frequency) supported censoring games. McIntosh also said that a game called Hotline Miami is just as bad as Hatred, Hotline Miami is widely considered to be a masterpiece.

      So there’s the object level issue. Or at least one of them.

      I still haven’t fully wrapped my head around what you’re saying about truths. Though @Anon.’s point seems both clear and true to me.

      • Alex says:

        OK, we come from very different mindsets.

        Call me naive, but I simply cannot imagine Valve censoring Hotline Miami short of reasons like government interventions and even then not without an Apple vs. the FBI-like PR stunt. Because that would be burning money.

        In contrast, Valve might choose not to publish some low-profile title (i. e. not Hotline Miami) on the basis of angry people’s opinion on twitter, because they recon that the negative PR impact of publishing it would set off the money to be made. This is no more “censorship” than a publisher rejecting your book pre-internet. The driving mechanism behind this strikes me as very similar to the example of conference sponsoring as discussed above and I think the same solution applies.

        If I had to get agitated about something it would be Valves quasi-monopoly in the light of the incredibly incompetent competitor that is EA and a somewhat choicy GOG.

        But back to topic: I see no risk whatsoever that FeministFrequency supporting the ban of a game would lead to actual censorship. No freaking way. If anything it might Streisand-effect a mediocre game into success.

        Therefore I think FeministFrequency is not a threat to the propagation games. But this is were “Gamers” seem to disagree. Huh?

        I also think, from a consequentialist point of view, advocating censorship on twitter is not immoral because it is free of meaningful consequence. But I fear that both “Gamers” and “Feminists” will disagree on that one.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Feminists managed to get Grand Theft Auto V removed from the shelves of Target Australia. They did get Hatred temporarily banned. The fear is that game makers and sellers will consider the negatives of having feminists campaign against them outweigh the positive of gamers buying the games. And it seems to have some justification.

          • Alex says:

            And here was I, under the impression that GTA V was like the bestest selling game of all time or something. So censorship can’t have worked that well.

            No, I get what you’re saying. Actually I wrote basically the same thing. I just think, if A is unwilling to sell a particular game then B certainly will. And that it is not “Feminists” fault, that “B” happens to be “EA” with all that implies.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You said that Valve wouldn’t censor Hotline Miami because it would be burning money. I brought up Target Australia censoring GTA V because it shows companies are willing to burn money to appease feminists.

            One problem is that “A” and “B” are similarly situated. If “A” sees the negative publicity from a feminist attack campaign as being worth more than publishing the game, why wouldn’t “B”, “C”, and “D” all the way through “Z”? Another is that government censorship is another tactic used; not so much in the US any more, but certainly in other countries including Australia.

            Furthermore, it might not be very likely that feminists will be able to completely force games into their mold. But that’s in large part due to active opposition from those who think they just might.

          • Alex says:

            The answer is “comparative advantage”.

            Valve is in the business of selling games. Target Australia apparently is in the business of appeasing “Feminsts”.

            If this ever were to change, somewhere on “all the way through “Z”” there is someone who’s comparative advantage would allow them to sell the game in question.

          • The Nybbler says:

            We’ll have to agree to disagree, because I’m a libertarian and even I don’t have _that_ much faith in the market.

          • Protagoras says:

            I find it tiresome when these debates always say “feminists did this”; feminists aren’t that powerful, nor are they of one opinion on these issues. When things happen like the banning of GTA V in Australia, it is because an alliance (perhaps informal) of right wing moral scolds (worried about corrupting the children, probably) and left wing moral scolds (worried about objectifying women, perhaps) are exerting pressure together. Blaming it on “feminists” ignores the feminists who want nothing to do with banning anything (raises hand) and also ignores the crucial contribution of the right wing moral scolds to anything actually getting done. If, like me, you have a problem with the moral scolds, blame the moral scolds, don’t fire scattershot in the direction of “feminists.”

          • Alex says:

            Nybbler:

            Maybe.

            However, consider this: In a very practical sense the internet has made it so that every game ever made can be accessed by everyone in principle. Some people might not know (or want to know) where to look. Some means of distribution might be illegal due to intellectual property issues or outright censorship (I’m talking governments here, not companies). Yes, e. g. Google and Valve have a enormous impact on visibility (but, like I said, this I blame on their respective quasi-monopolies). But anyways the content is there to access with historically unprecedented ease, believe in the market or not.

            What we call censorship nowadays is not censorship at all but the belief that the likes of Google and Valve have a moral obligation to being neutral platforms. Maybe this is even true. But it is not very libertarian, so how does it fit your self-identification?

            Protagoras:

            Just to be sure: thats why I put both “Gamers” and “Feminists” in quotation marks.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Protagaros

            Yes, it gets tiresome. I’d prefer to use “SJWs”, but that term is pejorative and thus _also_ gets in the way of discussion. It’s also tiresome to type out “feminists aligned with Anita Sarkeesian’s views of gaming” every time, though that’s what’s meant in context. In the GTA case, this was the group pushing the ban; any help from right-wing moralists was secondary.

            @Alex:

            Libertarianism says nothing either way about whether Google or Valve should be neutral; it merely says that it’s wrong for the government to require them to be neutral.

          • Mary says:

            “there is someone who’s comparative advantage would allow them to sell the game in question.”

            There’s a finite number of people in existence.

            Perhaps a point of theoretical reasoning nowadays, but in smaller communities, you can run out of them. And one can easily imagine times when it would come back as a limit.

        • Forlorn Hopes says:

          You’re contradicting yourself.

          This

          In contrast, Valve might choose not to publish some low-profile title (i. e. not Hotline Miami) on the basis of angry people’s opinion on twitter

          is not the same as

          This is no more “censorship” than a publisher rejecting your book pre-internet.

          There fundamental difference is motivation for not publishing it.

          The pre-internet publisher does not publish because they think that the book will not sell.

          In your example, Valve would not publish because they have been threatened with harm by people (journalists and twitter activists) with the power to damage their reputation.

          If you don’t see how not publishing art because of threats is censorship; then I don’t suppose we’ll ever find any common ground.

          If I had to get agitated about something it would be Valves quasi-monopoly in the light of the incredibly incompetent competitor that is EA and a somewhat choicy GOG.

          That is an issue, but what is there to get angry about?

          Valve hasn’t done any anti-competitive and/or immoral stuff to lock down the market.

          I also think, from a consequentialist point of view, advocating censorship on twitter is not immoral because it is free of meaningful consequence.

          I would consider what happened to Brendan Eich to be definitive proof that this is wrong.

          I’m not consequentialist about censorship anyway.

          • Alex says:

            >The pre-internet publisher does not publish because they think that the book will not sell.

            >In your example, Valve would not publish because they have been threatened with harm by people (journalists and twitter activists) with the power to damage their reputation.

            The difference is artificial. “Reputation” is valuable only insofar as it translates to sales. They are the same thing.

            >If you don’t see how not publishing art because of threats is censorship; then I don’t suppose we’ll ever find any common ground.

            And what is the “threat” here exactly?

            > I would consider what happened to Brendan Eich to be definitive proof that this is wrong.

            Sadly it is only proof that Brendan Eich is a less valuable commodity than “Hotline Miami”. But still, I get your point.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            The difference is artificial.

            That’s like saying the difference between an accidental injury and a violent attack is artificial.

            And what is the “threat” here exactly?

            The threat is “if you do not comply with our wishes, we will intentionally damage your reputation”.

          • Alex says:

            > That’s like saying the difference between an accidental injury and a violent attack is artificial.

            Companies are not human beings. A campaign in the style of what happened to Eich or Sarkeesian is a tragedy. A campaign against “Valve” is just business.

            > The threat is “if you do not comply with our wishes, we will intentionally damage your reputation”.

            If that were censorship, marketing/advertisement is negative censorship, yes?

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            Companies are not human beings. A campaign in the style of what happened to Eich or Sarkeesian is a tragedy. A campaign against “Valve” is just business.

            That is not true. Libel and slander are illegal, even against a company. They’re certainly not “just business”.

            Unless you seriously think Hatred is hate speech this campaign is certainly not “just business” .

            If that were censorship, marketing is negative censorship, yes?

            What’s your point here?

          • Alex says:

            >That is not true. Libel and slander are illegal, even against a company. They’re certainly not “just business”.

            I was unaware that we are discussing a specific body of laws here. I thought this to be a forum for international audiences. For what it’s worth, I had to google, “libel and slander” and wikipedia gave me “Defamation”. From that page:

            >Defamation—also calumny, vilification, and traducement—is the communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual person, business, product …

            I read this with emphasis on “false statements”.

            So Sarkeesians false statements about Hitman game mechanics might give you a case. Sarkeesians statements about game X promoting controversial idea Y does not, because it is impossible to understand such statements as “true” or “false”. I consider it a waste of time to even discuss the latter question. “Gamers” disagree with me. That raises my curiosity. Nothing more.

            >What’s your point here?

            Finding out if you are right w.r.t us ever finding common ground.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            I was unaware that we are discussing a specific body of laws here. I thought this to be a forum for international audiences.

            I think every first world nation has some variant on those laws.

            I was unaware that we are discussing a specific body of laws here.

            We’re discussing wheather this is “business as usual”. I would think that laws against something imply that it is not.

            Sarkeesians statements about game X promoting controversial idea Y does not, because it is impossible to understand such statements as “true” or “false”.

            This argument would never fly in a court of law – which is all I need to say to argue that this is not “business as usual”

            Finding out if you are right w.r.t us ever finding common ground.

            I mean, I have no idea what point you’re trying to make by bringing up anti-censorship?

          • Cauê says:

            So Sarkeesians false statements about Hitman game mechanics might give you a case. Sarkeesians statements about game X promoting controversial idea Y does not, because it is impossible to understand such statements as “true” or “false”. I consider it a waste of time to even discuss the latter question.

            Oh, come on.

            Suppose I open a pack of M&Ms, pick the blue ones, and display them for someone else saying “M&Ms are blue, as you can see here. They’re blue because the makers know candy consumers like blue, and dislike other colors, like red”. Would you say it’s impossible to understand my message as “true” or “false”?

          • Alex says:

            Caue:

            What I’m trying to establish here is that art is unlike M&Ms. You may disagree. Occam would certainly disagree without further evidence. I tried to provide some reasoning. Care to address that reasoning rather than making assertions on M&Ms?

          • ChetC3 says:

            I think blue M&Ms are valid examples of blueness in candy-coated chocolates.

          • Cauê says:

            “Game X promotes controversial idea Y” is an assertion that depends on a factual understanding of game X and the context. To defend this assertion, they made false statements about game X, and about the context.

            When you say that only the statements about mechanics can be false, I took it to mean that only a statement like “M&Ms are made of meat” could be considered false, because it’s demonstrably false in the example given. But there’s such a thing as lying by omission and misrepresentation.

            I kinda get it if you’re saying that opinions about art can’t be true or false, but these opinions are still about things that have factual characteristics which you can lie about.

        • Anonymous says:

          They don’t have to be capable of solely censoring a game. They’re providing an incentive to censor the game which influences the decision in a way undesirable to apolitical people who want more games. Thus, those people are rational in pushing back.

          They also push the Overton window. Today we’re rallying against shitty Hatred, tomorrow we campaign on hotline.

          You think feminists have no influence. By generating unopposed writings, they gather that influence. By ridiculing their writing, by calling RPS “journlolists” when they try to present themselves as representing mainstream gamer opinion while denouncing games for not being feminist enough, that process of gathering influence is stopped. If Anita generates reviews with a lot of views then obviously she represents mainstream opinion..unless she gets a comparably high amount of public disagreement.

          Yeah, even if someone bends and bans a game, it will still be possible to purchase it from someone else. That doesn’t mean there’s no censorship going on.

    • Jiro says:

      “This game is sexist” carries the implicit threat that such games should be no-platformed, their creators ostracized, sellers of the games harassed, and possibly the games even banned. That’s why people are upset at feminist criticism of games.

      This is of course asymmetrical, despite Scott’s narrative about tribes.

    • MugaSofer says:

      >Attempts to prove her wrong are misgiuded because there is no ground truth in art. Such attempts use irrelevants proxies (e. g. sales) or worse, the game designers’ intentions as imagined by the would-be critic, ignorant of the fact that this is a non-argument. In contrast, to the “Gamers”, and I suspect to some of the “Feminists” possibly including Sarkeesian herself, it is not art critque, it it a battle for truth, going to depths were the notion of truth itself is contested.

      I don’t understand this idea that “there is no ground truth in art”.

      Art is real. Authors are real. People are real. Why, then, is it impossible to make true statements about them? You haven’t defended this position.

      Sure, death-of-the-author critiques can be interesting entertainment, but that’s clearly not what this kind of criticism is – Sarkeesian’s series is named “Tropes vs. Women”, and her thesis is clearly that these tropes are excessively widespread and harm women.

      As it happens, I’m inclined to agree with this – although I’m not a fan of her show – but it’s clearly a question of fact. What on earth makes you think art criticism is itself immune to criticism?

      • Zorgon says:

        They don’t think art criticism is immune to criticism.

        They think Anita Sarkeesian should be immune to criticism. Because they believe that she is the True Messiah, who will usher in the Final Transformation Of Society and begin the Golden Age in which cismales will be used as a fuel source and comfortable middle-class white women will at long last be free to post on the Internet without anyone disagreeing with them.

        • Nita says:

          Who is “they” here? Alex? I don’t think he’s very eager to be used as a fuel source.

          • Zorgon says:

            You’d be astonished how many people will declare their demographic to be peat-in-waiting if they think it’ll gain them some status in the short term.

        • Alex says:

          You cannot be serious.

          • Zorgon says:

            Nah, not really. I’m mostly sick to the back teeth of hearing her bloody name all the time.

          • Anonymous says:

            Who the hell do you think made her famous? No one ever heard of her until GG spread her name far and wide for no apparent reason.

            There’s a certain weird combination of grandiosity and persecution complex going on in GG. It’s one thing to want to puff up the importance of your own side but it is quite odd to make an Evil Empire out of a handful of marginal, mostly irrelevant people.

            And yes I know I’m practically inviting a recitation of the Roll of Martyrs but before furiously replying try to put the size of that list and the period of time it is over in some sort of perspective.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            Who the hell do you think made her famous? No one ever heard of her until GG spread her name far and wide for no apparent reason.

            Ok my fellow reproductively viable worker ants, back to the hive. The queen is very upset that one of us has been misusing the gamergate time machine.

            You all know that you’re not supposed to travel back before August 2014. Lets see some more ant-like mindless obedience to the hive queen!

          • Anonymous says:

            Who the hell do you think made her famous? No one ever heard of her until GG spread her name far and wide for no apparent reason.

            You do realize that the Tropes vs. Women Kickstarter, and it’s own associated kerfuffle, predates Gamergate-as-Antity (Entity, antity…heh) by several years? Ms. Sarkeesian was well on her way to fame/infamy pre-Gamergate.

          • Cauê says:

            She invoked the ants, insulted them, etc. She went on Colbert to talk about the ants, and to the god damned United Nations to ask for international government censorship against ant-like creatures.

            It might be impossible to disentagle the timeline enough to tell “who started it”, but you can’t say it’s one-sided.

            Also, Zorgon, I don’t think this kind of outburst is helping anyone.

          • Alex says:

            I have no way to prove that to you, but I was exposed to “Tropes vs. Women” without any context whatsoever (i. e. along the lines of “here is some interesting stuff you should watch”). I watched. Mind-shelved it as interesting, watched some other FeministFrequency stuff and moved on.

            This also is the sole reason I’m focusing on Sarkeesian here. Her relative fame has nothing to do with it.

            When later I learned how much hatered was going on, I simply could make no sense of it. I still couldn’t until Ideology vs. Movement.

            Now, taking the opportunity, I’m belatedly trying to figure it out. E. g. I don’t get any of the ant-related slang, sorry.

          • Anonymous says:

            You do realize that the Tropes vs. Women Kickstarter, and it’s own associated kerfuffle, predates Gamergate-as-Antity (Entity, antity…heh) by several years? Ms. Sarkeesian was well on her way to fame/infamy pre-Gamergate.

            No I didn’t realize that. As amazing as it must sound I didn’t know about the Great Tropes Versus Women Kickstarter Kerfuffle! I must have been in a coma for the last decade, right?

          • Liskantope says:

            No one ever heard of her until GG spread her name far and wide for no apparent reason.

            Like Alex, I definitely heard of her before GG. I’ve never exactly hung out in many places on the internet, especially not back then, but I did have many ardent feminists on my Facebook newsfeed.

          • suntzuanime says:

            How many women on your facebook feed would self-identify as gamers? She was relevant to people who cared about games/the perception of gaming/the effects of gaming on broader culture, she wasn’t speaking at the UN.

            (For reference – Cyan Anon mentioned in a deleted post that the vast majority of women on their facebook feed would self-identify as feminists. It’s easy to confuse “no one has heard of X” with “I, personally, have not heard of X”.)

          • Anonymous says:

            Not deliberately deleted, I don’t know what happened. Maybe I’m in the process of being banned?

          • suntzuanime says:

            Maybe you edited it to include a banned word? Links can sometimes unpredictably trip the spam filter as well.

          • Zorgon says:

            To catch up with something further up the list – I actually entirely agree that Sarkeesian’s current fame (and concomitant wealth, which she primarily makes from speaking engagements) is primarily due to her successful attempts to bait low-quality denizens into responding to her provocation.

            This was true before GG and it remains true after it. GG are idiots for continuing to obsessively follow everything she does.

            (Standard reminder – I’m not pro-GG, I find their approach short-sighted. I’m anti-anti, primarily due to the treatment of Eron Gjoni.)

          • Julie K says:

            I don’t get any of the ant-related slang, sorry.

            It’s a joke/euphemism based on the other meaning of the word, which has nothing to do with video games.
            See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamergate

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            You forgot to put the definition of the word in your comment and add:

            “Because nothing is ever a coincidence”

        • FacelessCraven says:

          true, kind, necessary?

      • Alex says:

        Contrast the following statements:

        – “Back to the Future” is about the problems of successfully operating a flux capacitor.
        – “Back to the Future” is about the value of punching people in the face to get the girl ™
        – “Back to the Future” is about the value of self-esteem.

        I hope one gets the idea. Neither of these to me seems obviously true or obviously false. The latter two are mutually exclusive to some extent. How do you ground truth here?

        I can do it with videogames, too:

        – “Deus Ex: HR” is about some vague conspiracy related to “augmenting” humans.
        – “Deus Ex: HR” (3rd Deus Ex) is an elaborate puzzle where you have to find the weakest link in an interacting chain of mutually dependent objects represented as “guards”.
        – “Deus Ex: HR” is a game where you kill people for fun.

        Same problem.

        So I guess what I’m saying is that the perception of art is a complex interaction of the artifact with the audience in a way the perception of everyday objects is not. See Forlorn Hopes “the artifact is the playthrough” below, where for once we agree.

        Is this controversial?

        I can do it with criticism, if you like, just to prove that I do not think that criticism should be immune:

        – “Tropes vs. Women” is about pointing out common patterns (“tropes”) in video games that might reveal a questionable attitude towards women.
        – “Tropes vs. Women” is a deliberate attack on the “Gamer” tribe, aiming to bully it into submission to the values of the “Feminist” tribe.

        Is one of these clearly true or false? If so that might really help.

        And as for the truth of patterns in art:

        – “Back to the future”, Deus Ex: HR” and “Tropes vs. Women” all are about the protagonists’ complicated relationship to their respective father figures.

        True or false?

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Alex – “Back to the Future” is about the value of punching people in the face to get the girl ™
          – “Back to the Future” is about the value of self-esteem.”

          just those two seem to me to be making a moral claim; the first claims that BTtF is a negative influence, and the second claims it’s a positive one. Both moral claims seem to be reducing the movie in question to its’ moral effect; the first intuitively reads as “Back to the Future is about nothing more than the value of punching people in the face to get the girl ™”. The implied framework seems to divide works into good and bad, and the obvious corollary is that bad works shouldn’t be made, promoted or consumed.

          This may be the wrong way to look at criticism, but it’s the way I react to it instinctively, and I think I’m not unusual in that respect. Further, it seems to me that a fair number of critics at least in the videogames space pretty intend their critique to be interpreted this way as well; their critiques are aimed specifically at changing what the public buys, the stores sell and the devs make. As I mentioned in the last thread, this seemed obvious to me even when I enthusiastically agreed with them.

          [EDIT] – ““Back to the future”, Deus Ex: HR” and “Tropes vs. Women” all are about the protagonists’ complicated relationship to their respective father figures.

          True or false?”

          this seems like a good example to me, as I have no bias I can think of to make me want to agree with either side of that statement… and yet it still triggers the same warning instinct as the BTtF examples. It sounds reductive and aggressive, and I immediately begin bristling for a fight.

          [EDIT EDIT] – what does it mean when a game is described as “problematic”?

          • ChetC3 says:

            That approach to criticism is inimical to free speech.

          • Cauê says:

            Back to the Future is about betting in sports. Deus Ex: HR is about wearing sunglasses at night. They are both representative of audience opinions and tastes about gambling and fashion.

          • Alex says:

            “Back to the Future is about betting in sports.”

            That’d be “Back to the Future Part II” if I’m not totally mistaken.

            “Deus Ex: HR is about wearing sunglasses at night.

            They are both representative of audience opinions and tastes about gambling and fashion.”

            I get that you are mocking me, but I’m unimpressed. In a way it actually is. “The Matrix” to a large extent, is about the aesthetics of great coats and shades. It’s not unheard of, you know.

          • Cauê says:

            “The aesthetics of great coats and shades” is a lot more important for the aesthetic component of the Matrix than the other examples. The Hitman video would be more like “the Matrix is about white coats, and here’s why”, and then you only show the couple of characters wearing white.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @ChetC3 – “That approach to criticism is inimical to free speech.”

            What they seem to be saying, or my instinctual reaction to it?

        • lvlln says:

          The issue is that the examples with Deus Ex or Back to the Future aren’t particularly analogous to the criticisms made by Anita and similar critics towards video games.

          Yes, the truth values of any of the 3 descriptions of Back to the Future are somewhat ambiguous, in a large part thanks to the somewhat ambiguous nature of the statement that “[x] is about [y].” In that sense, any criticism by Sarkeesian that some video game “is about” something can’t meaningfully be challenged as being false.

          But that’s not the entirety of Sarkeesian’s criticisms. She goes further, stating that the examples of tropes she points out “reinforces” things in real life. Now, there’s some ambiguity to that word too, but I think the reasonable and most common interpretation would be that certain content in video games causes those exposed to it to change their behaviors in some predictable ways. Not everyone who’s exposed to those video games are affected – and those that are aren’t affected uniformly or necessarily significantly – but on the margins, in net, more people will behave in certain type of way as compared to if those video games didn’t contain certain type of content or if they hadn’t been exposed to those video games.

          And that’s clearly not a criticism of the sort “[x] is about [y].” It’s a non-trivial factual claim about reality. This is why you get people making fun of gamers with statements along the lines of “less fanservice in games is a small price to pay for less rape” – they believe that changing certain content in video games literally causes fewer real humans to be raped as compared to if that content hadn’t been changed.

          It seems to me that the ants and other gamers who challenge Sarkeesian and similar critics are challenging this factual claim about the nature of reality. Not the ambiguous criticism that “[x] is about [y]” which is so ambiguous as to be nearly meaningless.

          In my personal opinion, such a claim about the causal relationship between content in video games and behavior among those who’ve been exposed to those games isn’t obviously true or false, but based on my inspection of the evidence, it’s exceedingly obvious that no one should be very confident either way.

        • Vorkon says:

          “Back to the Future is about the problems of successfully operating a flux capacitor” is objectively true. It might not be particularly useful criticism, and someone who has never watched the movie might have no idea what a “flux capacitor” is, but there’s no doubt that is a central conflict within all three movies’ plots.

          • Jiro says:

            Noncentral fallacy. It may be literally true that the movie is about that, for some definition of “about”. Trouble is, that isn’t what people usually mean.

          • Vorkon says:

            Back to the Future is about time travel. I don’t think you’ll find anyone who would say otherwise. A Flux Capacitor is, within the context of the movie, a device which facilitates time travel. You can’t say “Back to the Future is about time travel” without also be saying “Back to the Future is about successfully operating a Flux Capacitor,” and you also can’t argue that problems do not arise due to said time travel. There is no definition of “about” for which “Back to the Future is about the problems of successfully operating a flux capacitor” is not true, unless the person defining “about” is trying to prove a point. (Well, either that, or they’re an unhinged lunatic.)

            Everyone might not describe it in exactly those terms, but I’d argue that they would describe it in terms that mean the exact same thing.

            This says nothing about any of the other statements, of course. Alex makes an interesting point here, and it’s definitely worth discussing. Pretty much every other example brought up is subject to interpretation in one way or another. That one, however, is not.

          • Alex says:

            This says nothing about any of the other statements, of course. Alex makes an interesting point here, and it’s definitely worth discussing. Pretty much every other example brought up is subject to interpretation in one way or another. That one, however, is not.

            Thank you! Please read the following with the same level of friendlyness.

            Back to the Future is about time travel. I don’t think you’ll find anyone who would say otherwise. A Flux Capacitor is, within the context of the movie, a device which facilitates time travel. You can’t say “Back to the Future is about time travel” without also be saying “Back to the Future is about successfully operating a Flux Capacitor,” and you also can’t argue that problems do not arise due to said time travel. There is no definition of “about” for which “Back to the Future is about the problems of successfully operating a flux capacitor” is not true, unless the person defining “about” is trying to prove a point. (Well, either that, or they’re an unhinged lunatic.)

            I disagree. Back to the Future is not “about” time travel in the way that say “12 monkeys” or that other Bruce Willis Film (“Looper”?) are. Back to the Future glosses over just about any problem of time travel that the Willis films try to address. Doc’s whiteboard-explaination of timelines is handwaving as hell and acutually explains nothing.

            We get to know very very little about how time travel works in Back to the Future. In contrast the films are painstakingly detailed about various features of flux capacitors. Not that these details make any sense extra-universe, but in-universe a flux capacitor is a clearly defined thing and time travel is not.

            In a nutshell, we are meant to laugh about how Doc explains time travel but to understand that a flux capacitor is serious shit.

            EDIT:

            Also re: “and you also can’t argue that problems do not arise due to said time travel. ”

            A “time travel related problem” is “what if past Marty meets future Marty” to which Back to the Future most hilariously answers “The Universe will end” or something like that and then exploit the shit out of that idea for comedic value.

            The gigawatt problem Marty is actually trying to solve has nothing to do with time travel per se. Flux Capacitors run out of fuel or break in the same way non-timetravelly things do this. You could argue that the problem is that the Flux Capacitor uses Plutonium before its discovery by I find that a weak point.

          • Jiro says:

            If X is about Y, and Y involves Z, it is not always correct to say that X involves Z. Otherwise you’d say that “Back to the Future is about that one piece of lint on the actor’s clothes in one scene”. For some definition of “about”, it is, but not for a common definition.

          • Vorkon says:

            @Jiro

            If X is about Y, and Y involves Z, it is not always correct to say that X involves Z.

            That goes without saying, but that’s not what I said. I said that X is about Y, and Y equals Z.

            Y = “Successfully operating a Flux Capacitor.”

            Z= “Time Travel.”

            A flux capacitor is an imaginary device within the Back to the Future movies whose sole purpose is to facilitate time travel. The end result of “successfully operating a flux capacitor” is always time travel. There is no reason for a person to operate a flux capacitor if one does not wish to time travel. While it’s theoretically possible that there may be some means of time travel that does not involve a flux capacitor, there is no evidence that such a method exists within the Back to the Future universe. (Unless you count the usual “60 seconds per minute” method as “time travel,” of course. :op )

            Within the context of the Back to the Future movies, saying “successfully operating a flux capacitor” is functionally identical to saying “time travel” in exactly the same way that saying “successfully operating a car” is the same as saying “driving.”

            (Well, I guess you could argue that “successfully operating a car” could also be considered “time travel” within the context of the movies, but only if the car in question has a flux capacitor, so you’re still operating a flux capacitor. :op )

            @Alex

            Back to the Future might not be about time travel in the same way as 12 Monkeys or Looper, but it’s still about time travel. Hell, 12 Monkeys isn’t about time travel in exactly the same way as Looper either, and neither of them are about time travel in the same way as, say, The Butterfly Effect or Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

            Back to the Future may not be about the mechanics of time travel, but every major conflict in the plot is driven by, caused by, exacerbated by, happens in response to, or is solved by time travel. Even the gigawatt problem you’re talking about is only a problem because Marty wants to time travel, and he’s only in the position to need to do it because he time traveled. It’s right there in the title; he wants to go back to the future.

            Trying to argue that “Back to the Future is not about time travel” is pushing it to say the least. Turning things back around to the original topic for a second, while you have a good point about most criticism being highly subjective, there are a few statements about theme and other artistic elements, like this one, which are still objectively true or false. Sure, a critic could try to argue that Back to the Future is not about time travel, but they would have no leg to stand on when people start saying they’re overthinking it, or that they’re being dishonest to prove a political point, or that they are otherwise being a bad critic. Criticism may generally be subjective, but every once in a while it can still be objectively right or wrong. Criticism like “back to the future is about time travel” may be surface level and not particularly useful, but it’s still true.

            Now, to be fair, based on what you’ve said so far, I think I may have misunderstood what you meant in your original three example statements. When I hear “Back to the Future is about the problems of successfully operating a flux capacitor” I think “Back to the Future is about problems caused by operating a flux capacitor,” which like I said, is fundamentally synonymous with “problems caused by time travel.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that what you meant was something more along the lines of “Back to the Future is about the specific mechanics of how to operate a flux capacitor,” and if that’s what you meant, then yeah, while that’s certainly an element of the plot, saying that it’s what Back to the Future is about is definitely highly subjective. I would have worded it a little differently, though. I don’t think our disagreement is over the meaning of “about,” exactly, so much as it is about the meaning of “the problems of.”

          • Jiro says:

            “The movie is about time travel. In the movie, time travel always uses a flux capacitor. Therefore the movie is about a flux capacitor” is not a legitimate deduction.

            The word “about” doesn’t work that way (at least not normally).

            “He didn’t know that Obama is the President. The president has a first name of Barack. Therefore he didn’t know that Obama has a first name of Barack.”

          • Alex says:

            Now, to be fair, based on what you’ve said so far, I think I may have misunderstood what you meant in your original three example statements. When I hear “Back to the Future is about the problems of successfully operating a flux capacitor” I think “Back to the Future is about problems caused by operating a flux capacitor,” which like I said, is fundamentally synonymous with “problems caused by time travel.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that what you meant was something more along the lines of “Back to the Future is about the specific mechanics of how to operate a flux capacitor,” and if that’s what you meant, then yeah, while that’s certainly an element of the plot, saying that it’s what Back to the Future is about is definitely highly subjective. I would have worded it a little differently, though. I don’t think our disagreement is over the meaning of “about,” exactly, so much as it is about the meaning of “the problems of.”

            Exactly.

            I will go so far to say that “Back to the Future” is _more_ about flux capacitors than it is about time travel. This, you argue, is logically impossible.

            So why is that?

            You make ontological assumptions which are sensible from an extra-universe point of view. Mostly that a flux capacitor is a member of the set of time travel devices. So therefore every problem that is caused by a flux capacitor is also caused by a time travel device etc.
            H. G. Wells’ time machine would be another example of the same set.

            My reading of in-universe “Back to the Future” is different. There is no such thing as the set of time travel devices there is only one: the flux capacitor. H. G. Wells time machine does not exist in Back to the Future universe. Time travel related problems are _caused_ by the flux capacitor, not by the fact that the flux capacitor is part of a larger set of problematic devices. Back to the Future presents the flux capacitor as the driving mechanic behind basically the entire plot and time travel related issues as incidental effects of that to be used for comedic value.

            So what I’m saying is

            a) my logic is in-universe and therefore cannot be proven correct or wrong.
            b) you are using extra-universe logic to establish “objectivity” but this is not permitted. However, extra-universe logic can be used to settle questions like “does Back to the Future include a scene with Bruce Willis” or “does Hitman include a mechanic that rewards the player for doing X”. These are extra-universe questions.

          • Vorkon says:

            @Jiro

            I never said Back to the Future was “about a flux capacitor.” I said Back to the Future was “about successfully operating a flux capacitor.” I even spelled out specifically what I intended the variables Y and Z to mean for you in my last post! I don’t see how I can get any more clear than that.

            You haven’t refuted my statement that saying “successfully operating a flux capacitor” is the same as saying “time travel.” If you accept this statement to be true, there is no reasonable definition for “about” which makes the first statement not true, unless you are trying to argue that Back to the Future is not about time travel. I suppose you could make that argument, (though it is a silly one) but if you’re not, then the definition and/or usage of “about” has nothing to do with the problem.

            Also, the example you gave has absolutely no relation to the situation at hand. A better analogy would be “The movie is about the current President. The current President is named Barrack Obama. Therefore, the movie is about Barrack Obama.” How do you expect to demonstrate that I am using “about” wrong with an analogy that doesn’t even use the word “about,” or the concept it represents, in the first place?

            @Alex

            Yeah, I think I see where our misunderstanding was, then. Thanks for putting up with my pedantry! :op

          • Jiro says:

            I never said Back to the Future was “about a flux capacitor.” I said Back to the Future was “about successfully operating a flux capacitor.”

            This is nitpicking. Pretend I added the words “successfully operating”. It doesn’t change anything.

            The problem is that “X is about Y. Y is the same as Z. Therefore X is about Z” is not logical. If time travel is, in the movie, equivalent to using a flux capacitor, “this movie is about time travel” and “this movie is about using a flux capacitor” still don’t mean the same thing, because they connote that different things are being emphasized.

    • 57dimensions says:

      I’ve only ever been peripherally aware of the whole Gamergate/Anita thing because I already have enough stuff to get angry about, but I’ll put my two cents in.

      Reading the comments in response to this one there seems to be a lot of focus on what these games are ‘about’, but I think the plot and purpose of many games is beside the point when talking about gendered tropes in video games. The purpose of games is not to dehumanize women, and that isn’t the central feature of them, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter how women are portrayed in games. The background matters, the details that fill up the peripheries of the games matter. Unnecessarily skimpy outfits and women being present in games as eye candy is not a value neutral thing when it is universal.

      I’m someone who appreciates good criticism, but I also understand the feeling of seeing something you enjoy and identify with deeply be criticized in a way you consider incorrect or unfair. I expect most people have experienced that. What I think is messed up in the whole Gamergate thing is the level of vitriol it inspired in some gamers, which just made the whole tribe look worse.

      • Cauê says:

        You’re saying someone has a point about X, when they’re being criticized for lying about Y.

        (granted, just how much of a point they have about X is also part of the dispute, only not relevant to Y)

        • 57dimensions says:

          Yes thank you for putting that so succinctly. I do feel that “how much of a point they have about X” is very much overwhelmed by “you are wrong because I don’t agree because of my tribal affiliations and preconceived notions” and the subjective nature of criticism.

        • Forlorn Hopes says:

          In this example Y is being used as evidence for X

      • birdboy2000 says:

        The thing really kicked off after a series of articles essentially calling people inferior and worthless for loving video games and protesting CoIs in the industry. Articles the sites and people in question still haven’t apologized for or backed down from, and articles which played no small part in fueling the conflict. There’s more than enough vitriol to go around – read through the hashtag and ask yourself which group of people seems nastier.

        I don’t care for Sarkeesian’s criticisms, but her criticisms are not my problem with her.

    • vV_Vv says:

      Sarkeesian applies the tool best known to her to games and the results are just as interesting as expected. Attractive woman makes witty observations on a medium I care for. What’s not to like? Attempts to prove her wrong are misgiuded because there is no ground truth in art.

      She didn’t just comment on games artistic merits, which are subjective of course. She made a number of factually false claims, and used them for political/moral advocacy, then she went around complaining about how much harassment she gets, using this to reinforce her political/moral advocacy. This is what upset gamers.

      And non-gamers as well. I play games only occasionally, I would have called myself a feminist a few years ago, but after things like Elevatorgate, Gamergate, Shirtgate, Aaronsongate, Code of conducts, and so on, I am convinced that Sarkeesian and her ilk are waging a war on white male nerds, which is the “tribe” where I belong, not by choice, but by essentially invariable characteristics.

      • Viliam says:

        I am convinced that Sarkeesian and her ilk are waging a war on white male nerds, which is the “tribe” where I belong, not by choice, but by essentially invariable characteristics.

        I would say it is war on all nerds. It is just easier for the attackers to deal with non-white and/or non-male nerds if they describe them as white and male in the media. Because for some people “white male” simply means ‘not deserving empathy’.

        Women who speak publicly against Sarkeesian generally get the same treatment. Or they get erased from media.

        Sometimes I feel like words “white” and “male” lose their literal meaning and become simply ‘SJW outgroup’. For example in the Mercedes Carrera vs Chris Kluwe debate, Chris Kluwe represents the “women and minorities”, while Mercedes Carrera represents the “white males”. That’s why it’s okay for him to interrupt her and laught when she talks, and no one will call him out, because tribe membership trumps both sex and race.

      • Faradn says:

        Code of conducts? Not familiar with that one.

        • Vorkon says:

          I’m not familiar with every argument for or against it, but the basic idea is that there is a large push from SJ-types in both the fandom/convention scene and the Open Source software scene to have organizations implement extremely broad and vague codes of conduct, ostensibly to protect against harassment, but which (according to the opponents of such codes, at least) are mostly used to punish the political opponents of the people implementing said codes.

          • Faradn says:

            Ah, ok. I have heard about that then, from the SJ side. I’ll have to look more at more specific arguments myself. I didn’t realize that there was much opposition to the efforts to standardize the codes of conduct at cons.

  13. Tony Zbaraschuk says:

    First bit sounds like Vaclav Havel.

  14. Forlorn Hopes says:

    In the “Ideology and Movement” we had some discussion about whether the “Gamer Tribe” was a consumerist. This discussion was a sideshow to a different discussion, but myself and Nancy Lebovitz agreed we should discuss it independently here.

    So my thoughts are simple. A consumerist culture is one where membership is defined by acquiring (usually via money) cultural artifacts that someone produced.

    If we were to define video games as the primary cultural artifact of Gamer Tribe this definition would fit. But my counter argument is that video games are not the primary artifact.

    The primary artifact is, for lack of a better word, a play through. The player’s input is considered as vital to the finished artifact as the video game itself. For example witness how players who find a game like Dark Souls too hard are told to practice and improve. I don’t think the idea that the end user must improve could exist in a primarily consumerist society.

    As supporting evidence: Status in gamer tribe is given out to people who demonstrate skill and people who create games/reviews/mods/lets plays etc. Not to the people who buy the most expensive hardware or the largest libraries of games. Even on somewhere like r/battlestations it’s obvious that people thing of their battlestation as their own artistic expression, and not a show of wealth.

    • Rowan says:

      Two things in gamer culture that I suppose are relevant to whether it’s consumerist, or might just be relevant to the fact that I’m not sure I understand the term:

      – Piracy. Some gaming communities are more accepting of piracy than others, possibly due to forum norms (4chan’s /v/ is on 4chan, for instance), so how many games one “owns” can be entirely unrelated to how much money one has spent on games.

      – Steam. Every summer and winter, like clockwork, people make jokes about the money being sucked straight out of their wallets, and all year round we joke about how many games are in our Steam libraries that we’re never going to actually play.

      • Nornagest says:

        all year round we joke about how many games are in our Steam libraries that we’re never going to actually play.

        I don’t get this. I do have games in my Steam library that I haven’t played and probably won’t, but only because they came as package deals or as promotional giveaways (probably dating myself here a bit, I don’t remember seeing this lately). Everything I’ve set out to buy, I’ve played, if not necessarily finished.

        Why would it be otherwise? Network speeds these days are fast enough that you can buy games in a just-in-time fashion, or close enough, without losing anything to speak of.

        • JBeshir says:

          Sales; you buy games because you think you might want to play them and they’re on sale. Inevitably you are more behind and busier than you thought and don’t.

          Steam knows what it is doing with its sales.

          • Nornagest says:

            Ah. I suppose that might work. For me, the opportunity cost of committing myself to playing some game always seemed too high to buy anything on spec, though I’ve sometimes picked up individual games on sale when I just wanted to waste time and wasn’t particular as to how.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Nornagest – most of us arrive at that point as well. It’s just that we arrive at it after we’ve got literally hundreds of games in our library.

        • Anonymous says:

          You either have a much faster connection than me or play much more lightweight games; ime they often take up to three hours to download

    • Alex says:

      I think your idea ties in nicely with a lot of well known concepts. Only a sketch: Some people have time but no money. The artifacts you name are proof of a significant investment of time. Other people have money but no time. If they pay for a game (as a means of entertainment) they expect its already paid for content to be accessible for them without an additional investment of time beyond the time it would take to experience the game’s content itself. Hence debates about “dumbed down” games “pay2win” etc. This is another (i. e. in addition to gamergate) tribal conflict, going on between two brands of gamers rather than gamers and outsiders.

      To the cynic, of course this is “Gamers” unwarrantedly lamenting their supposed birthright to have games made in their fashion wheras the money is actually to be made elsewhere and/or game makers looking for ways to covertly monetize on investments of time.

    • multiheaded says:

      Yes, thanks. This was the objection I wanted to voice about some absolutely shitty “death to le fascist imperialist gamers” articles I’ve seen around way back, during Peak Anti-GG – and even some “tabletop roleplaying is consumerist”(?!?!) nonsense I’ve seen thrown around by far-left gamer types (who ironically also sneered at stupid icky girl fanfiction).

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        Do you know if they were talking more about modern D&D, with tons of expensive minis and splats, or would something like a retroclone or indie narrative game also count as consumerist by their lights?

        I could see a case for the big-name RPGs being consumerist but OSR and a lot of the newer games seem like precisely the opposite. Then again I know much less about Marxian theory than about tabletop.

        • Zorgon says:

          You’re outta date, 5th Ed has gone back to theatre of the mind.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Ah ok. Disregard the above then.

            I quit D&D for good when 4e came out, and haven’t even played Pathfinder in a while. I’ve been kicking around older games and/or clones for the most part so not much experience with 5e.

          • Zorgon says:

            I actually like 4E, but not as a D&D game.

            I consider it a rather excellent tabletop tactics game, similar to tactics RPGs in the videogame world; not the same thing as an “RPG” in the classical sense, but still very funky when taken as itself.

          • Vorkon says:

            Yeah, I’m actually really annoyed that no good D&D 4e-based videogames ever came out. Don’t get me wrong, I hated 4e as much as the next guy; as a system for creating imaginary worlds and characters, and adjudicating what happens to them, it was terrible. But as a well-balanced tactical combat system? It was actually pretty great.

            I mean, seriously, the biggest complaint people had about 4e was that it was trying to be too much like a video game. It stands to reason, then, that if you made a video game based on that system, it would actually be pretty good! Use the systems flaws to its advantage! But instead, the few D&D-based games we got at the time were all still 3e/3.5e-based. Maybe part of that was that there was simply a dearth of good CRPGs at the time, (hence why kickstarters for things like Pillars of Eternity did so well) and there were already 3.5e-based engines out there for developers to use, but I can’t shake the feeling that part of it was simply people saying, “well, people don’t like 4e, so they obviously wouldn’t like a 4e-based video game, either.” If that had anything at all to do with it, that’s silly. People may have hated 4e as a tabletop game, but I think they would have loved a video game that used that ruleset.

            I’ve often, jokingly, said that X-Com: Enemy Within was the best D&D 4e video game we ever got. Even though it’s obviously not the same system, there’s a lot of similarities between how they work, and I think its popularity demonstrates just how well a 4e-based game might do, even among people who hate 4e.

          • Zorgon says:

            I’m still sore that we’ve never gotten an Exalted videogame.

            (Except Jade Empire, but that was an accident so it doesn’t count.)

          • I don’t know, I feel like Overwatch or Paladins use a similar style of combat, with a variety of characters with their own basic attacks, abilities with cool down, and an ultimate. To me (someone who only played WoW for the free intro period, and hasn’t LoL’d) they look the most like 4e of any video games outside of XCOM, and seem like they will be fairly popular.

            Unless you mean more in the directly tactical simulation of movement squares, then those are FPS’s and wouldn’t really apply. Maybe they are more spiritual descendants of WoW or LoL? Although, I got the impression that lots of people thought 4e was descended from those too.

          • Vorkon says:

            People complained, loudly, that they made 4e “too much like WoW,” but I wouldn’t say it was “descended” from WoW, per se. The main similarity is that, like you said, the classes in 4e are defined mostly by collection of distinct, gamey, activatable powers with cooldowns, rather than a more organic collection of skills and abilities like most pen and paper RPGs, and while that is certainly similar to WoW, it is also similar to any number other video games. It could even be compared to a card game, since you “play” your characters powers throughout a battle, much like you would cards in a hand. So I wouldn’t say WoW directly inspired 4e, or anything. I think “too much like WoW” simply became a shorthand for peoples’ problems with 4e’s mechanics because WoW was so popular at the time, and made for a convenient boogeyman.

            Also, yeah, I was looking more for a game that was a direct adaptation of the mechanics. A Baldur’s Gate-style game using the 4e rules would have been friggin’ amazing.

    • Nita says:

      Well, the original disagreement was over whether gamers are outcasts from “modern secular consumerism”.

      If gamers are such outcasts because you can’t just straight-up buy gamer cred, then movie buffs, fine dining enthusiasts, sports fans, people who love ball-jointed dolls and hundreds of other groups are also “outcasts”. I think that kind of strains the usual meaning of the word.

      (Also, expensive hardware may not be sufficient, but it does seem necessary for many modern games. And what about all those cool cases and peripherals every computer store seems to stock — surely something motivates hobbyist gamers to buy this stuff?)

      I propose this rule of thumb: if there are multiple large businesses catering specifically to your subculture, then it’s not a subculture of outcasts from secular consumerism.

      • Alex says:

        >Well, the original disagreement was over whether gamers are outcasts from “modern secular consumerism”.

        >If gamers are such outcasts because you can’t just straight-up buy gamer cred, then movie buffs, fine dining enthusiasts, sports fans, people who love ball-jointed dolls and hundreds of other groups are also “outcasts”. I think that kind of strains the usual meaning of the word.

        The idea has its merits though. Gaming is a subculture where you can aquire status without a large monetary investment (e. g. speed-run “Half-Life” or something). This is not true for e. g. fine dining. Also I’m afraid not for movie buffs. Watching “Pulp Fiction” repeatedly after the 10-th time has rapidly diminishing returns in terms of status gains. Compare this to the hours to be sunk into Half-Life in order to become a speed-runner.

        >(Also, expensive hardware may not be sufficient, but it does seem necessary for many modern games

        Yes and complaining about not being able to afford current hardware is a recurring meme on every game related outlet I know. No contradiction there. Also GPU-development cycles did get longer in recent years.

        >And what about all those cool cases and peripherals every computer store seems to stock — surely something motivates hobbyist gamers to buy this stuff?)

        Actually I own a case which did cost >100$-US. Think what you want but I bought it out of the frustration that every case I had before that “sucked” in the totally pragmatic way of not being able to house the hardware du jour after a few years. My motivation was to buy the one case that would end case buying once and for all. So far I’ve not regretted it. Cases do matter. I don’t know about “cool” though.

        >I propose this rule of thumb: if there are multiple large businesses catering specifically to your subculture, then it’s not a subculture of outcasts from secular consumerism.

        No, the complaint is that these industries cater to “not true gamers” you see. Most prominently: “filthy casuals”.

        • Nita says:

          Watching “Pulp Fiction” repeatedly after the 10-th time has rapidly diminishing returns in terms of status gains. Compare this to the hours to be sunk into Half-Life in order to become a speed-runner.

          You’re comparing apples to oranges — watching a film like a “casual” vs playing a game like an enthusiast. I’m pretty sure movie lovers get something out of re-watching (noticing new details, constructing alternative interpretations, understanding different characters, seeing connections to other works), just like gamers get skill improvements out of their replays. And they also have to spend hours watching and re-watching before they can write a really clever essay to raise their status among peers, or dazzle someone with trivia at a cocktail party.

          every case I had before that “sucked” in the totally pragmatic way of not being able to house the hardware du jour after a few years

          Yes, that sounds perfectly reasonable. You’re a normal person who upgrades their stuff when it seems necessary. But most people in our “consumerist” society are like that. Maybe some folks do think “ha, I will spend more money than Jones just to show how wealthy I am!” — but they can’t be the majority.

          • Alex says:

            Actually I was trying to answer the question why anyone would buy a fancy case. I doubt that this is conclusive proof that I’m a “normal person” whatever that is.

          • Nita says:

            Sorry, I didn’t intend to offend you 🙂

            I’m just trying to say that most consumption involves people buying things because they want to use them and consider them better than the alternatives, not for some special “consumerist” reasons.

      • Quixote says:

        I’ll note that for serious games like StarCraft, most top players play with the graphics turned down to as low as they go. So you certainly don’t need top end hardware and in some ways it anti signals. That said, people do shell out for high end mice and keyboards.

        • Vorkon says:

          They may play with graphics settings turned all the way down, but they play the game with those settings on a high end machine with dual Titans. The idea is to get as high framerate and responsiveness as they possibly can, and in order to do that, there’s still an incentive to get high end hardware, above and beyond bragging about your pretty graphics. (Bragging about your FPS, on the other hand… >_> )

      • Forlorn Hopes says:

        Well, the original disagreement was over whether gamers are outcasts from “modern secular consumerism”.

        It moved on slightly.

        Also, expensive hardware may not be sufficient, but it does seem necessary for many modern games.

        You can be a gamer and stick to old games. Retrogaming is quite popular these days. And there’s no shortage of games that will run on a fairly cheap rig; Undertale was one of last years biggest games and it will run on just about any half-modern PC.

        I propose this rule of thumb: if there are multiple large businesses catering specifically to your subculture, then it’s not a subculture of outcasts from secular consumerism.

        If you have money the Mainstream Secular Consumerism tribe will sell to you.

        But would gamers fit in if they went, e.g. golfing with the executives from Electronic Arts or Ubisoft? Or on a day out shopping with some of the women from Ubisoft’s marketing department?

        Plenty would, but plenty would not. Gaming was never a tribe that’s exclusively populated by outcasts, but it always was a tribe where people who couldn’t fit in with normies could find a place.

        Outcast doesn’t have to mean getting shoved into lockers (thankfully that’s on the way down), it can just mean not fitting in. And what capitalist would let such a small thing get in the way of selling to an unsatisfied market?

        • Nita says:

          I would be hilariously out of place on a golf course or a “recreational” shopping trip, but I don’t think that makes me an outcast. Far from rejecting me, normal consumerist culture “wants” me to participate in it more than I already do (because then I would spend more money).

          it always was a tribe where people who couldn’t fit in with normies could find a place

          My husband, in addition to being kind of awkward like me, has always spent a lot of time playing games, but he doesn’t call himself a “gamer” because he finds the modern “gamer culture” completely alienating. So — sorry, but I’m a bit skeptical.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            I would be hilariously out of place on a golf course or a “recreational” shopping trip, but I don’t think that makes me an outcast.

            The point is that “is willing to sell to Tribe” and “includes members of Tribe in social activity” have no relationship. Thus challenging your rule of thumb.

            I mean, the Caucasian run company stores who existed only to sell to extort African American sharecroppers certainly treated said African Americans like outcasts.

            So — sorry, but I’m a bit skeptical.

            I have something better than anecdotes. Data!

            3% of gamergater’s identify as transgender. Source: https://twitter.com/Brad_Glasgow/status/717421712506241024

            If we start with the (I think very reasonable) assumption that if any group is an outcast from the mainstream it’s people who are transgender.

            Now measuring the percentage of people who are transgender in the general population is hard: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/09/upshot/the-search-for-the-best-estimate-of-the-transgender-population.html?_r=0

            But some estimates put it as low as 0.1% – by that figure transgender people are highly over represented in gamergate. (I think youtube video where IronLiz and a second transgender person explain why they’re supporting gamergate – if you want to know more)

            IMO, that is evidence that gamer tribe is welcoming to people outcast from the mainstream. (It might also be evidence that being an outcast makes you extra motivated to defend gamer tribe).

            Assuming of course that we can extrapolate from gamergate to gamer tribe. I think we can (though I would, wouldn’t I).

          • Nita says:

            “is willing to sell to Tribe” and “includes members of Tribe in social activity” have no relationship

            But buying products, reading and writing reviews, attending promotional events and waiting in lines to buy new products are the social activities of the consumer tribe. Its various subtribes buy different products: Apple fans buy Apple products, fashion fans buy clothes and accessories, game fans buy games.

            I have something better than anecdotes. Data!

            That sure is data. But if that’s all you meant — that some people who “don’t fit in” can find a place in your tribe, then the SJ tribe is also a precious refuge.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Nita – “That sure is data. But if that’s all you meant — that some people who “don’t fit in” can find a place in your tribe, then the SJ tribe is also a precious refuge.”

            Isn’t it?

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            But buying products, reading and writing reviews, attending promotional events and waiting in lines to buy new products are the social activities of the consumer tribe

            Thanks for saying this. Because those are not the social activities of the gamer tribe. (apart from reviews)

            For example. I’ve never made a social activity of buying a video game, unless you count being asked what I want for a birthday. Maybe they exist in console-land, but as a PC guy I haven’t even walked into a brick and mortar game store in years.

            Promotional events are less popular than fan conventions; and when they do exist they now resemble fan conventions with things like cosplay.

            then the SJ tribe is also a precious refuge.

            Um, yes, this is true. Did anyone say it wasn’t? What’s your point?

            I point back to I Can Tolerate Everything But the Outgroup. The reason combat between social justice and various tribes of “nerddom” (atheism, comics, sci-fi/fantasy, games) is so vicious is because they’re similar enough to be each others outgroup.

            Thus it stands to reason that they’d share traits like being a refuge.

            It also means that SJ tribe should know better than to attack other people’s refuge.

          • Viliam says:

            The reason combat between social justice and various tribes of “nerddom” (atheism, comics, sci-fi/fantasy, games) is so vicious is because they’re similar enough to be each others outgroup.

            That makes a lot of sense. Both cultures agree that race or gender shouldn’t be grounds for treating people differently. But they disagree on how to solve the problem.

            The nerd solution is to focus on the things we like, and ignore everything else. Internet makes it much easier, because no one knows you are actually a dog. But it works even in meat space; not perfectly, but often way better than in the rest of the society.

            The SJW solution is to classify people into privileged and oppressed groups, create complicated rules for their interaction to help the oppressed groups, and attack every individual who disobeys.

            Obviously these two strategies are in complete contradiction. Freedom vs draconian rules; ignoring gender and race vs making everything about race and gender; spaces safe from bullying by outgroup vs “safe spaces” and bullying of outgroup; etc.

            The nerd reply to this disagreement would be something like: “be the change your want to see in the world”. Maybe with a warning that if you fight against monsters too much, sometimes you become the monster you hated.

            The SJW reply to this disagreement would be that the average of fairness (in your microcosm) and unfairness (in the rest of the society) is still unfairness, and that eradicating the unfairness in the society as a whole creates much more utility than protecting your microcosm.

          • Anonymous says:

            various tribes of “nerddom” (atheism, comics, sci-fi/fantasy, games)

            I object to the definition. None of these have to do with being especially intelligent, especially interested in math or science, or having been especially socially inept growing up. At least three of them are now a significant part of the dominant mass culture.

            From what I’ve been reading the traditional nerd went extinct in high schools across America sometime around the turn of the century. That’s fantastic. I’m glad kids these days have it easier. But you don’t need to erase the existence of those of us who grew up in more difficult times by redefining the word. Even if some of those very older folk would be happy to lend their names to whatever the latest crusade is.

          • Forlorn Hopes: “I point back to I Can Tolerate Everything But the Outgroup. The reason combat between social justice and various tribes of “nerddom” (atheism, comics, sci-fi/fantasy, games) is so vicious is because they’re similar enough to be each others outgroup.”

            Oh, God, yes. There’s something in there about being able to trance out over words and symbols.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            Isn’t trancing out over words and symbols every group ever? E.G. Religion.

            @Anonymous

            This sounds like a nerd vs geek definition question. I’ve long since given up on finding a consistent definition for them.

          • Viliam says:

            @ Forlorn Hopes

            Isn’t trancing out over words and symbols every group ever? E.G. Religion.

            In religion, priests do get nerdy about the words and symbols, but for average believers it’s just a community to belong.

          • “Isn’t trancing out over words and symbols every group ever? E.G. Religion.”

            Not exactly. Football fans watch football games. Gardeners garden. Dancers dance.

            There are hobbies where doing something that isn’t exactly words and symbols is a major part of what’s going on. I will even argue that the gaming part of gaming is qualitatively different from talking about gaming.

            Reading fiction immersively isn’t the same thing as doing criticism of fiction, and there’s a sense (at least for me) where noticing that woods are liminal space is just as distracting as thinking about how gender and status are presented in a novel.

            To my mind, criticism is also an immersive state, it’s just a different immersive state than getting involved in a story.

          • Anonymous says:

            Apparently nerdy girls are now the ultimate outgroup to nerdy boys among 20 somethings. How bizarre! Whatever happened to jocks and frat boys?

          • Jiro says:

            Nerdy girls aren’t the outgroup. Girls who call themselves nerdy, but differ from nerdy boys in ways other than their gender, are the outgroup.

          • Anonymous says:

            I doubt frat boys would consent to take the opposite side in melodramatic online “wars”.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Well, there’s still Chris Kluwe if you’re looking for jocks.

            I don’t know how it is now, but it used to be a typical encounter between a male nerd and a non-nerdy girl trying to act nerdy would be basically that the girl would come up to the (male) nerd and say something which made the nerd think she spoke his language, perhaps asking about his current activity. The nerd would be overjoyed at this and start saying nerdy things right back, perhaps explaining his current activity. The girl would then react as many people do when spoken to in nerd-speak — with a combination of confusion and revulsion. She’d go away, and the nerd would feel dejected and go back to playing computer games or coding or whatever he was doing.

            Nowadays this activity is termed “nerd-checking” and is a horrible evil thing male nerds use to exclude women from the nerd in-group. Yeah. Whatever.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            Football fans watch football games.

            Just using this example. Wouldn’t a football fan who reacts strongly (physical violence has been known) to seeing another bloke on the street wearing his team’s shirt or team’s rival’s shirt qualify a “trancing out” over a symbol?

            Nerdy girls aren’t the outgroup. Girls who call themselves nerdy, but differ from nerdy boys in ways other than their gender, are the outgroup.

            Lets be more specific about it.

            I would say that authoritarian moralistic nerds are the outgroup to socially/culturally liberal nerds. (Feel free to rephrase that in a way that’s more flattering than “authoritarian moralist” if you can think of one).

          • The Nybbler says:

            Oh, anon@gmail, it’s so cute the way you didn’t bother to read my post.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            There’s more straw here than in a Midwestern pillowfort (I’ve never been to the Midwest).

            It’s “socially/culturally liberal” to incessantly demand that she”show us your tits” over teamspeak every time a woman dares open her mouth?

            Yes? I mean, it’s super rude, but that’s besides the point.

          • Theo Jones says:

            I’m really starting to think that allowing pure anons wasn’t a good idea.

          • I obviously used unduly vague language when I wrote about trancing out over words and symbols.

            Maybe I’m just talking about nerdishness– really liking abstractions which aren’t at all close to system one experience. (Tentative definition.) It does seem to me that there’s a difference between an argument which makes careful distinctions and doing tai chi.

            Maybe the overarching connection between SJW and SFF fandom is that SFF fandom includes both immersive fiction reading and thinking about various implications of the SFF material (not all fans have a taste for the latter, but the ones who like it *really* like it), and that supplied an entry point for SJW. (Not the only entry point– lack of representation really is/was something real.)

            Have a minor experience: I was at a book club discussion of City of Stairs. One of the things that I evaluate books on is what I call quality of invention. Has the author come up with things that I find emotionally satisfying. In CoS, there’s a wall which looks solid if you look at it but transparent (translucent?) if you look along it.

            I mentioned that, and people started talking about what the wall implied about the current powers of the gods, which wasn’t what I meant at all. What I had in mind was that it was an intriguing dreamlike image.

            I can see a case that one of the traits of SFF is supplying more or less rationalized dream images.

            I’m going to draw a distinction here– a sports fan who picks a fight with a sports fan of a different team is trancing out about a symbol, not over a symbol. The fan isn’t actually interested in the details of a symbol, they’re just looking for an indicator that someone is on the other side.

            Now that I think about it, why aren’t there fights between people because of liking different sports? Instead it’s all about teams playing the same sport. I suppose it’s one of those I can stand anyone but the outgroup things.

            *****

            I thought the prototype fake geek girl problem was a young woman shows up at a convention in a costume. Men interrogate her to see whether she knows enough of the sort of sf they like for them to want her around.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        @Nita – “If gamers are such outcasts because you can’t just straight-up buy gamer cred, then movie buffs, fine dining enthusiasts, sports fans, people who love ball-jointed dolls and hundreds of other groups are also “outcasts”.”

        That’s part of it. Another part of it is that unlike film buffs, foodies, etc, gamers a) have a high likelihood of being literal outcasts, ie few or no friends, serious social problems throughout their formative years, and b) have had their activity actively attacked as dangerous and antisocial for most of their lives. Some of the examples you listed could claim one of those; I don’t think any of them can claim both.

        My original objection, though, was to the claim that gamers were part of “mainstream consumerist Culture” (I think that was the term).

        “Mainstream” seems like an odd label for a group that was, until quite recently, synonymous in the public mind with school shooters, that required a recent supreme court decision to protect it from broadly-supported censorship, and that some people don’t want to identify as part of publicly due to worries that they’ll suffer repercussions socially or professionally. More importantly, though, I have no idea how you even define “mainstream” in the modern world.

        I interpreted “consumerist” to be something defined by mere buying and consuming, like burgers or coke, where I see games as somewhere more around chess and lego; something that allows a great deal of legitimate self-expression and actualization. Paint and canvases seem less consumerist than lego and chess, which seem less consumerist than jigsaw puzzles, which seem less consumerist than posters. I would put video games around the lego/chess area on that scale, but maybe my understanding of consumerist is a bad one.

        “if there are multiple large businesses catering specifically to your subculture, then it’s not a subculture of outcasts from secular consumerism.”

        …Can you name some subcultures that passes this test? It seems to me that it rules out, say, any group of over a million members.

      • Vorkon says:

        The problem with this entire line of discussion is that the “modern secular consumerist” tribe (assuming such a thing even exists, but that’s an entirely different argument) is not the same as “consumerism.” The “Gamer” tribe can be consumerist while still being outcasts from the mainstream tribe in exactly the same way that some smaller Christian denomination is still Christian despite being outcasts from whatever the largest church in their area is.

        Consumerism is a way of doing things, not a tribe. It’s the ideology, not the movement.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      Are jigsaw puzzles consumerist?

      Are Lego consumerist?

      Are art supplies consumerist?

      There’s a gradient here that seems clear to me, that I hope the above examples can make clearer. Something about the degree of engagement and… let’s say “human fulfillment” gained from the activity per unit of purchase. All three are tickling the same “human fulfillment” module, but lego has several orders of magnitude more “resolution” than jigsaw puzzles, and arguably an order of magnitude or so less than paint and canvas.

      Games seem to me to be in the same general space. Their value comes not from having, but from doing.

      • Cauê says:

        We tend to see “consumerism” when other people buy things that we don’t find interesting, but our own interests don’t register as such.

        Or that’s my impression, at least. But I do see my books and games as ways to improve my life that happen to cost money, and my wife’s shoes and makeup as absurd money sinks with no practical purpose, and I’m sure her opinions on the topic are different.

  15. Oleg S. says:

    I’m searching for an IP market with minimal entry barrier. Something of a street market of IP to stock up on cheap technology or to dump an abandoned project that might never make it otherwise. Does anyone encountered something like that?