Open threads at the Open Thread tab every Sunday and Wednesday

OT49: Open Secret

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

1. Bakkot has made a new script that allows people to filter out SSC comments by specific users they don’t want to read (including Anonymous). You can get it here for Chrome and here for Firefox.

2. I’m still trying to figure out how to relieve pressure on the open threads. I’m moving away from the idea of a forum (which wasn’t too popular) to having more regular open threads on the blog. I just need to figure out how to make it not clutter and detract from regular threads. One possibility would be to have even-numbered open threads have pictures and announcements and so on, and odd-numbered open threads be just the words “this is the open thread” so that it doesn’t take up as much room in feeds and the front page. A more interesting possibility: have the open thread be a hidden post like this. There would be a tab on the top, by the Comments tag and the About tag and all the others, that says Open Thread. It would link to whatever the hidden open thread was. After 1000 comments, some bot would automatically post a new hidden open thread and the location to which the tab directed would change. That way there would always be an open thread with fewer than 1000 comments. Would people use this? Would anybody want to program this for me?

3. Best comments of the week are people trying to explain mutational load to me, including Simon here, Gwern here, Ilai Bar-Natan here with a really interesting point that sexual reproduction is necessary to control mutational load (is this widely agreed and appreciated? should it be?), and Rosalind Arden (author of some of the papers my post cited) here.

4. Note a new advertisement by Numerai, which describes itself as “participatory cybernetic finance” and “an attempt at a hedge fund crowd-sourcing stock market predictions”. It offers prizes for algorithms that can predict a dataset they provide which corresponds to some features of the stock market that they plan to make money off of. I kind of thought the sort of people who have AIs that can predict the stock market would probably be, uh, busy with other things, but apparently this is a well-investigated field with a lot of possible incremental progress.

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1,144 Responses to OT49: Open Secret

    • onyomi says:

      The classification of the presidents doesn’t reveal much about the policies, but sure seems to reflect strongly on personal style.

  1. R Flaum says:

    Aristotle, On Trolling:

    That trolling is a shameful thing, and that no one of sense would accept to be called “troll,” are agreed; but what trolling is, and how many its species are, and whether there is an excellence of the troll, is unclear….

    • Mary says:

      Go read, everyone. The whole thing is wonderful.

    • Outis says:

      And none of these is the troll, or perhaps some are of a mixed type; for there is no art in what they do.

      But it is not really an art, being without any function; and it belongs not to the serious person to be a troll but to the one who lacks education.

      So is trolling a art or not?

    • Nita says:

      More quotes:

      And this is how the troll generates strife. For what he indicates is known to be false or harmful or ignorant; but he does not say that thing, but rather something close. In this way he retains the possibility of denial, and the skilled troll is always surprised and hurt, or seems to be, when the others take his comments up.

      And so he sets the community apart from each other, and introduces strife where before there was scarcely disagreement. For each person who takes up what was said grasps only a part of it, and insists on that, and is annoyed when others affirm something different. For some indeed see that the troll trolls, and are harsh; but others think that they ought to be more gentle, and others again do not even see the falsity, but grasp the truth which is nearby and insist that the troll ‘has a decent point’.

      One might wonder whether there is an art of trolling and an excellence; and indeed some say that Socrates was a troll, and so that the good man also trolls. And this is in fact what the troll claims: that he is a gadfly and beneficial, and without him to ‘stir up’ the thread it would become dull and unintelligent.

      But this is incorrect. For Socrates was speaking frankly when he told the Athenians to care for their souls, rather than money and honors, and showed that they lacked knowledge. And this is not trolling but the contrary, exhortation and truth-telling—even if the citizens get very annoyed. For annoyance results from many kinds of speech; and the peculiarity [idion] of the troll is not annoyance or controversy in general, but confusion and strife among a community who really agree.

      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t understand… Wouldn’t confusion and strife be an inevitable (And desirable) consequence from educating people to “Care for their souls” and all that? Not everybody in that community is going to grok the “troll” and upgrade their values and beliefs. Maybe they are even right to do so because the “troll” is wrong despite good intentions.

        This whole article is bad imho, it could be summarized as:

        “Trolls are identified or romanticized retroactively depending on whether I end up agreeing with them or not, and most importantly, everybody who goes against Holy Truth is obviously a troll. Seriously don’t listen to them, failure to grok the Holy Truth equals dishonesty.”

        I agree with the author on what a troll actually is but there are much more better ways to deal with the issue. The comments policy in this blog is a good example.

  2. Anon. says:

    The rewards on Numerai seem off by an order of magnitude for what they’re asking…

    • Deiseach says:

      I thought you should run a mile from anyone telling you they had a sure-fire system to win at cards, horse races, or the stock market and if you only fork over your life savings you’ll make a bundle. But what do I know about maths and high finance? I’m sure this time will be different from every other time! 🙂

      • ton says:

        You don’t need to give them any money to participate. Otherwise I don’t see what you mean.

        • Deiseach says:

          You don’t need to give them any money to participate. Otherwise I don’t see what you mean.

          Because sure-fire get rich quick schemes generally turn out not to be, except for the person who liberates the suckers from their money.

          I hasten to add that I am not at all saying Numerai are trying to con people, or that they are doing anything other than what they say: looking for computer models of certain aspects of the stockmarket which they then hope to use to guide investments so as to make a bundle.

          Maybe a crowdsourced semi-amateur effort will fix the problem of, as the linked article by Scott says, “because, you know, eventually they ALL blow-up”. So long as they’re not looking for anyone to throw money at them and all it costs is your time, there’s no loss.

          But I still wouldn’t be tempted by “my predictions are going so well, I should try a dabble in trading myself!”, just as a precautionary note.

          I don’t know: something is twinging my sense of being off about this, even though they’re using the predictions submitted to make actual real life trades and claim to be doing well. I think I’d like a bit more open evidence of “X’s prediction that shares in banana oil would rise so we traded those and here’s the proof” rather than telling financial reporters “yeah we’ve got pots of cash”.

          • ton says:

            That’s a problem for their investors, not you, as someone submitting predictions.

            >But I still wouldn’t be tempted by “my predictions are going so well, I should try a dabble in trading myself!”, just as a precautionary note.

            Nobody’s suggesting that afaict.

            Why do you care what evidence is public? Presumably their actual investors can see their data if they want to.

          • Deiseach says:

            Why do you care what evidence is public? Presumably their actual investors can see their data if they want to.

            True. It’s no skin off my nose. Why should I care? Only if I were going to take up the offer to be one of the volunteers (allegedly) creating their profitability, and I’m not.

            Public evidence would at least show that they are indeed using the submitted models, that those models are working ‘in the wild’, and that they are making the profits they claim to be making by using those models and those models alone. But that is just a personal quirk of mine, looking into the horse’s mouth.

          • Olivia says:

            The reason to use their thing instead of just doing the whole process yourself and making your own money is that their data is made into a format that’s clean. Data cleaning is most of any analysis, and their encoded data is very easy to just run predictive models on without fussing around with missing values and string data and time-series data. You’re doing a lot less work.

      • Jill says:

        Deiseach, I agree. I studied the stock market for a while and it’s the story of “a sucker born every minute and 2 out to get him.”

        There are all kinds of scams, where e.g. people have stocks their “system” told them were great. And you don’t have to give them any money. But they hope you will invest in their recoed stocks– which they have just bought before issuing the list to the public, and which they will then sell at a higher price, after advising everyone to buy them– known as a “pump and dump” scheme, where the public ends up holding the bag and it’s empty.

        Perhaps the scheme most guaranteed to lose money, is the one that the author really believes in. They tried 256, 874 different schemes and found one or two that would have made money over the past month or two. So they assume that it will make money in the future month or two. But, of course, it doesn’t. Because it just made money due to chance. If you test 256, 874 different schemes, a few will make money, just by random chance.

        Funds that have recently made good money are often piled into by new investors– after which the fund loses money.

        The problem with the stock market is that lots of people with extremely expensive computers are trying to predict it– and they are usually wrong too. And many, perhaps most, systems and people who make money in the market do so by chance or luck. So the “system” or the person is unlikely to keep winning for very long.

        People get their egos all worked up when they are successful. They think they understand the markets very well– until they lose their shirt. It’s called “confusing brains with a bull market.”

        The market is probably not possible to predict without insider non-public information.

        • Walter says:

          The market isn’t just complicated, it is anti inductive. If you uncover the sure fire strategy to become rich in the market, it will stop being that strategy once everyone uses it. Solving the market changes the solution.

        • eh says:

          The market is probably not possible to predict without insider non-public information.

          It seems like numerai are banking on what exactly “probably” means and on how fast the market overturns induction, in that they’re trying to take advantage of the gap between discovering a new strategy and exploiting it.

          • Jill says:

            Yeah. They won’t be the first to have failed at that.

            One of many problems here is that almost all new “strategies” succeed for only a little while and then only by chance, and so will not succeed in the future. It’s easy to feel like you know what you’re doing in the market and can do better than everyone else. But it turns out to be the Dunning Kruger effect.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

            And there are tons of market newsletters and software systems that claim to have come up with fail proof systems. But it’s all just marketing.

        • Chalid says:

          You don’t need insider information, you need *better* information, of which insider information is a subset.

          An example of better information – there is a company that takes satellite images of big box-store parking lots throughout the year. So if you see that Walmart parking lots are 80% full this year, and were only 55% full last year, you can infer that Walmart revenues are going to increase. If you are an investor and are willing to pay this satellite company for this information, you will have an edge over other investors in predicting Walmart stock’s behavior around its earnings announcement.

          Or think of news feeds – any news story is available to you, but a real-time feed of all news stories from multiple major sources, classified by ticker and event type, is the sort of thing that can give an institutional investor an edge over some guy just clicking “refresh” on the WSJ’s “markets” page.

          Or of course you can make more intelligent use of the same information as everyone else. This is pretty hard, as everyone points out, but a few people have managed to do it – the success of James Simons was not just luck for example.

          • It might be worth checking on whether companies without mission statements tend to perform a lot better.

            Meanwhile, I’ve learned *my* lesson. If I ever want to find a news story again, I should put it in my lj/dw.

          • YL says:

            That parking lot example is fascinating because everyone uses it and I’m not sure why that’s the one cool use of data that struck a cord with the public. It’s very clever and everyone loves it and now there are several newer hedge funds who like to sell the idea that they’re able to generate edge by taking these techniques and applying them mid-cap or EM companies or using them to analysis the synergy of mergers. It’s cool by why did this one clever idea make such an impact over others? Just interesting.

            Renaissance has looked at using social data – specifically the example I heard involved a use of twitter and weather (???) – but it doesn’t seem to be a major part of what they do at the moment. They do really really care about saving all instantaneous information that may be later updated for accuracy – so like early estimates or rumors basically, they like to save all of those since those are what the market is making some of its moment to moment decisions off of.

            But what I wanted to say originally is that little of what drives the volume of trades is not quant stuff like this – its not accurate or applicable enough for a large systematic fund to use as a primary strategy. The people doing the satellite stuff are your standard l/s equity funds. James Simons started off using price data and is honestly still mostly using price data like everyone else since it’s still the most predictive data that we have.

          • Deiseach says:

            Why is the parking lot more full this date today than this date last year is the first question I’d ask.

            Are Walmart running a big sale that day? Can people get the new widescreen HD TV was $850 now reduced to $500 for today only? Will those shoppers be there tomorrow or next week?

            Certainly if you take that data and extrapolate that this quarter’s earnings announcement is going to show an increase and buy (or sell) stock at the opportune moment, you’ll make a profit.

            But if you’re assuming that Walmart is going to have 80% full car parks all this year, and hence higher earnings for all four quarters, I don’t see that you can assume that on a satellite photo alone. You’d need to see a series of photos over time to make sure that that particular day was not a fluke high volume custom day (maybe the Walmart car park was full not of Walmart shoppers but people parking there because the store next door in the mall was having a huge sale, or Justin Bieber was making a guest appearance, or something).

          • Chalid says:

            @YL

            As I understand it, 10 years ago just having high-quality “traditional” datasets was enough to give you “better” information. It still is, but not nearly so much.

            I didn’t know that the parking lot idea was particularly well known. Other “alternative data” things I’ve seen are cell phone location data, facebook likes, various types of analysis of twitter, web traffic, debit card transactions, TV and radio ad records, hospital billings, and forensic analysis of CEO voice and facial expressions.

            Alternative data is getting bigger. And traditional quant strategies that *don’t* use alternative data have been getting less and less profitable over time, so quant funds are kind of being pushed towards increasing use of this stuff. No individual alternative data source is going to be a fund’s primary strategy, of course – you have to diversify your strategies.

            @Deiseach As I understand it they take photos every day of the year, at about the same time of day (to the extent that the orbital mechanics are compatible with that), except on cloudy days. It’s up to the stock picker to disentangle the effect of special fluke events and compensate for the variations in time and the like.

        • “The market is probably not possible to predict without insider non-public information.”

          Probably true, but “insider non-public information” can simply mean understanding something relevant to the future price of a stock that most people don’t understand.

          Back when I was considering buying the original Macintosh, one of my colleagues at Tulane Business School asked me why I didn’t get a PC junior instead. It occurred to me that the mistake he was making was likely to be very common among investors, who at that point were unlikely to know anything about graphic interfaces or the significance of using a Motorola 68000 CPU in a single user computer, so I bought Apple stock.

    • Chalid says:

      if you’re a guy at home with no special credentials or industry experience, a statistical model of the stock market that, say, predicts stock movements a few percent better than chance is hardly worth anything to you. You need to invest at a large scale to justify the fixed costs involved in actually trading. People don’t appreciate that data is *expensive.* We don’t know what the “features” in in the Numerai data are, but individual data sets for quant funds can run $250k/year or more, and you need more than one of those to get anywhere. Some strategies will need additional costs – e.g. collocated servers.

      So it looks like Numerai does the marketing needed to convince investors to give them a few hundred million dollars, and also sets up trade execution systems and data feeds, creates data cleaning processes, negotiates with data vendors, deals with risk management, legal issues, etc. If you’re some underemployed machine learning specialist who developed a stock-picking model in your spare time, you probably have little ability to do any of that, so taking Numerai’s $5k might very well be the right call.

      • Alex says:

        It bothers me, however, that (generic) you get to develop a model that is useless without “the code”, i. e. you cannot use your model to enter the market yourself because even if you could front the neccessary capital and had the untransformed data, you’d had to transform the data first to be used with your model and this you can’t do.

        This is advertised as “you keep the intellectual property of your model” omitting “which is useful to us and only to us” and implying “we will not pay for the model itself”.

        Also, realistically, “taking Numerai’s $5k” buys maybe 50h of time für the task. If you actually produce a winning entry in that time, that is. If not, you are dollar-auctioning with yourself (put in the additional hour to legitimize the previous hours). IMO there are better gambles to be made in the actual stock market.

      • Deiseach says:

        But will you make $5K? Their top guy so far has done, but $2k of that is for “originality” and their payout rules seem a bit complicated:

        Payouts
        The leaderboard will change frequently as new predictions are uploaded, so payouts will change too. To receive payment, you need to have placed in the top 25 of leaderboard when the timer runs out or you have originality. The final positions will be determined on the 67% held out set. If your model has overfit the leaderboard, you might place significantly worse on the final 67%. If you place in the top 25, you need apply your model to a new live dataset to claim your prize. Remember to store your most recent model in case you win. If you win, we will email you a link to a live encrypted dataset to predict on when the timer runs out. You’ll have 24 hours to use your model to predict on this dataset. By requiring that you upload predictions, instead of the code related to your model, we ensure that you can retain all intellectual property rights to your model. You never have to tell us how you built your model. It’s yours forever, and you can apply your ideas to all of our subsequent tournaments.

        So not alone do you need to place in the top 25, you then have to apply your model to a new dataset, and they don’t actually specify what the prize money is likely to be.

        And going down the leaderboard, some of the “winners” made as little as $69. The top two made what I’d consider reasonable money making this worth your time; the third placed didn’t even break $1k. If you’re really interested in the challenge and not bothered about the money, it’s worth doing, but given that Numerai claim to be real-world trading and paying out to their investors based on the models, this strikes me as a bit stingy, to be honest:

        Numerai (pronounced noo-mer-i) is the raddest hedge fund in the world. It’s a platform for artificial intelligence to access capital markets. Numerai lets users build models on homomorphically encrypted data and connect their artificial intelligence back to the API which commands the capital in the hedge fund. The best intelligences are assigned fund profits. Numerai Fund 1 LP began trading in November 2015.

        “Raddest”? Grownup people use this kind of lingo in serious business proposals? Well, it must be because I’m not Californian – or that I am old, Father William – that it strikes me as de trop! 🙂

  3. Anonymous says:

    There was a brief discussion in a previous thread about land tax (tax that ignores the value of the property). The general sentiment seemed to be that it’s not quite free from rent-seeking, but it still seems to me pretty good compared to an income/sales tax.

    What are the problems with it? I imagine it would be either too low to affect rent-seeking in cities, or too high so that it discourages ownership of rural land that the govt won’t use anyway. What about a scheme where you pay extra if the government is providing a school or hospital nearby?

    • lupis42 says:

      It discourages exploration of new uses of land that would increase it’s value. See http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/02/a_search-theore.html for a start.

      • John Schilling says:

        I find Caplan’s argument unconvincing in that he talks about 100% or near-100% tax rates and imagines he is making a novel, profound, or even relevant point when he says, essentially, “Haha! If the government takes all of the profit from doing a thing, nobody will do that thing!”

        And while he attributes the idea of an ill-defined 100% land value tax (100% per year? 100% on sale of the land?) to the Georgists, the “single tax” link he cites in support of that claim uses as its example a land-value tax rate of 10%, which it claims to be revenue-neutral w/re existing tax codes.

        Might a 10% land value tax be sufficient disincentive to suppress some economically desirable uses? Perhaps. But all taxes must necessarily disincentivize some otherwise-desirable economic activity, and it is far from obvious that the Georgist land value tax would be worse than the alternatives in that regard. And maybe a revenue-neutral land value tax would need to be more than 10%/year. These are matters worthy of serious debate.

        “I have identified a finite economic disincentive produced by your tax, therefore it is Bad and Wrong”, isn’t that. Neither is, “A 100% tax rate will disincentivize everything and so it is Bad and Wrong”.

        • actinide meta says:

          Surely a 10%/year land tax would capture far more than 100% of the present value of land (if it were announced that next year there would be such a tax based on today’s values, I would expect all landowners to scramble to sell all their land, even at negative prices. I’m not quite sure what the equilibrium would be if the tax is based on FMV from year to year, but prices would fall a lot)

          • Shieldfoss says:

            Why would they sell? They would lose the revenues they are currently generating off their land.

          • Murphy says:

            @Shieldfoss

            If you own land worth 1 million at todays prices and it’s announced that a 10% per year tax is going to be applied then if you can’t make more than 100k per year from it then it may be economic to pay someone to take it off your hands.

            Land rarely makes 10% per year net profit.

          • Paul Goodman says:

            I think there’s some stock/flow confusion here. Taxing the stock at 10% a year would clearly be too much. Ideally you’d want to define the tax as a percentage of the rate value can be extracted from the land (e.g. rent, mineral extraction) rather than basing it on the sale value, but in practice they should be pretty closely correlated and taxing the sale value is probably easier.

          • Cliff says:

            “Land rarely makes 10% per year net profit.”

            Your evidence is??

            “Guys, our corporate tax was cut to zero but they want to tax us $100,000/yr on our land value. Close down the nanofabrication factory immediately and pay someone to take it off our hands!”

            A 10% tax on my land value would be about 2.5x my current property taxes. Eliminate my income tax and I would jump for joy, not sell my house in a fire sale so I can live in the street.

          • Murphy says:

            @Cliff

            By chance are you only talking about the land you live on? And I’m guessing you’re not a farmer or otherwise making your living actually using much land?

            Also a ” nanofabrication factory” isn’t a thing.

        • lupis42 says:

          But all taxes must necessarily disincentivize some otherwise-desirable economic activity

          That’s the point in question, actually.

          Bryan is addressing the specific claim that a 1-time-only, 100% (or near 100%) Georgeist tax is, in economic terms, completely distortion-free.

          While I realize that OP was not specifically looking at a 1-time tax, or at any particular level, the point about where and how the distortion works remains valid: I have no incentive to look for oil, diamonds, or lucrative new crops that would grow on my land because finding one effectively raises my tax burden, even if it’s not something that I’m able to pursue.

          If you want to screw someone living in a Georgeist tax system over, discover oil under their house.

          As to *how* distorting it is, relative to other options, in general I’d expect to see NIMBYism increase by several orders of magnitude – because now, any local development that increases the value of land to a future developer costs the present owner money in the short term. There’s also a major question as to how to value the ‘land’ under, say, the Empire State Building – chosen as an example because it’s been developed since before we got off the gold standard, and there’s no reasonable history that could suggest a starting point.

          • John Schilling says:

            Bryan is addressing the specific claim that a 1-time-only, 100% (or near 100%) Georgeist tax is, in economic terms, completely distortion-free.

            Is that a claim that anybody is actually making? I didn’t see it in his cited links.

            I am fairly certain that the word “Georgeist”, in actual use, encompasses a wide range of land-value taxes, not just 100% one time. If not, fine, we need another word for land value taxes of some small percentage every year, because I’m pretty sure lots of people think those are a good idea and it’s not so trivially dismissable that I don’t want to talk to them (and to skeptical economists) about it.

          • lupis42 says:

            The claim(s) that a 1 time tax, or a Georgeist tax (which, you are correct, just refers to a tax levied on the unimproved value of land), or a tax which is both, is non-distorting, or as nearly so as to be safely assumed, is pretty common, and crops up regularly enough that I’d heard variants of it (and some rebuttals) in three different undergrad courses, and it comes up on the internet wherever one finds econ-interested amateurs.
            Bryan’s comment is the first rebuttal I remembered, not by any means the most apt – hence my calling it a starting point.

            As a tax system, it’s not trivially dismissable, but neither is it obviously superior, and there’s a lot of good, recent, well written discussion about it already in the blogosphere, which is worth reading if one is interested in the concept.

          • John Schilling says:

            and there’s a lot of good, recent, well written discussion about it already in the blogosphere, which is worth reading if one is interested in the concept.

            Could you perhaps link to some of that, rather than to Caplan giving a half-assed rebuttal to a strawmanned caricature of a land value tax?

          • Wency says:

            I don’t understand what the gold standard has to do with it.

            In principle, I’d think you rely mostly on comps. Look at what people paid for unimproved land in Manhattan. Or since there’s not much unimproved land in Manhattan, look at what people paid for properties where they intended to demolition any existing structures. Then back out the demolition costs.

            Then try to make some sort of value adjustment for the the Empire State Building’s location relative to the closest available comps. Ideally you can guess at this by looking at additional comps of existing building transactions.

            The answer it gives will be subjective and require judgement, which was cited earlier as one of the bigger flaws of the proposal. In practice, I bet if you asked 20 Manhattan commercial real estate professionals the value of the land beneath the Empire State Building (and they were incentivized to provide an honest, thoughtful answer), their answers would fall within a reasonable range, perhaps +/- 50% or so at most, and maybe much tighter than that.

            Of course, the owners of the property would surely hire an expensive lawyer and/or make political donations to push for a valuation that is on the lower end of that range, or even outside it.

          • lupis42 says:

            Just a comment to the effect that the country was dramatically different the last time there was any unimproved land in Manhattan, such that even attempting to extrapolate the rate of inflation is going to be more about what assumptions you chose then any underlying truth to the answer.

            If one takes the (collective) estimate of property developers as a guide, this means that NYC could dramatically increase it’s tax revenue by removing zoning restrictions.

            The existing landowners would have a strong incentive to ensure that their land was zoned, historically protected, and otherwise restricted such that it couldn’t possibly be put to any use other than it’s current use. I’m not sure which side would win that one, and it might depend a lot on whether the revenue was going to the same level of government as the valuators, and what that level is.

          • Wency says:

            I was thinking about the treatment of zoning as well. The system obviously works much better in a place that is unzoned, e.g. Houston. Zoning causes it to begin to breakdown.

            One solution would be for the tax to be levied by Federal government, with the expectation that the municipal or state government will pay the difference between the unzoned value and the zoned value, while the property owner will only pay based on the zoned value. So if zoning is deemed desirable, the community will collectively take responsibility for paying for the opportunity costs it generates.

            The system probably still breaks down around local politics. It has a lower tolerance for corruption than an income tax system.

        • “But all taxes must necessarily disincentivize some otherwise-desirable economic activity, and it is far from obvious that the Georgist land value tax would be worse than the alternatives in that regard.”

          The claim for the Georgist tax is that it does not disincentivize desirable activity because it doesn’t depend on activity. The tax is on site value, which does not include any value due to things people have done on that land, whether clearing it of trees and boulders, finding coal under it, or whatever.

          One can even argue that it disincentivizes undesirable activity. Consider someone who spends time and money figuring out what currently unused land will be valuable in the future due to things happening around it, such as suburbs expanding outward. His plan is to buy the land now, sell it as soon as it is clear to others that it is valuable. That has no effect on the use of the land, just makes sure that the windfall from its increased value goes to him instead of the present owner.

          The practical problem, of course, is how to measure site value.

          So far as your “all taxes” point, the argument for Pigouvian taxes is that they disincentivize undesirable activity.

          • John Schilling says:

            So far as your “all taxes” point, the argument for Pigouvian taxes is that they disincentivize undesirable activity.

            If you can find an undesirable economic activity that is completely delinked from desirable economic activities, yes. That’s about as unlikely as the reverse.

            In practice, an e.g. Pigovian carbon tax, in the course of strongly disincentivizing the practice of burning coal to generate electricity, at least weakly disincentivizes the practice of generating electricity. The only way that could not be the case is if burning coal was never the pre-tax optimal means of electricity production, in which case the tax would generate no revenue in the first place.

      • Anonymous says:

        I didn’t expect resources on the land would also be taxed. That seems to make the entire thing more complicated for no reason. Land with oil on it will cost more even without a resource tax so you’re still encouraged to not build your warehouse on top of prime farmland unless logistics are that important.

        Thanks for the responses (from everyone), I find the topic interesting but I’m reluctant to comment since I’m pretty uninformed.

        • lupis42 says:

          Well, resources aren’t technically taxed – the value of the undeveloped land is taxed. But if it’s known that the land contains resources that could be extracted, then it’s undeveloped value will reflect that.

          • “But if it’s known that the land contains resources that could be extracted, then it’s undeveloped value will reflect that.”

            Not if getting that knowledge was costly, in which case it, like improvements in the land, produced the value, hence value that goes untaxed. The site value is supposed to be what the value would be if nothing had been spent on the land.

          • lupis42 says:

            If *information about the value of the land* counts as an improvement, and is hence removed from taxing, aren’t we then essentially back to either a fixed acreage tax, possibly adjusted by local amenities/access/density? Even determining what crops can be grown requires figuring out things like the ph of the soil and the annual rainfall, sun exposure, etc – all of which requires cost to measure, just very low cost.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Its main problem is its main draw for backers: it prevents the property owner from enjoying his property if his enjoyment is not among the most productive uses which can be the land in question can be put. Since his neighbors improvements cause his taxes to increase just as much as the neighbors, he’s “encouraged” to improve his land at least as much.

    • Jason GL says:

      I think you’re on the right track, Anonymous, but why not correct for urban vs. rural differences directly? There ought to be a way to tie the amount of the land tax to the population density of the census tract your property is in. For example, suppose you set the tax at $2,000 per acre per year per (person per acre). If you live in a rural county where people are spread out, and there is only one person for every 20 acres of land, then a 20-acre farm will cost $2,000/year in taxes — expensive enough that you would want to sell the land if the land is sitting idle, but not so expensive that you couldn’t operate a profitable farm there. If you live in a dense urban area with apartment buildings where there are 50 people per acre, then a 1/4-acre townhouse will cost $25,000/year in taxes — expensive enough that you’ll be incentivized to convert the townhouse into another apartment building, but not so expensive that you can’t stay in your home if you’re a professional who really enjoys the neighborhood and strongly values privacy.

      This method has the advantage that you still want to search for valuable uses of your land (finding mineral deposits or lucrative new crops, ala Lupis42), and it also has the advantage that (for tax purposes) you don’t much care one way or the other whether your immediate neighbors upgrade their buildings, because the population density is measured across the entire census tract, and not just on your immediate block. It also gets you out from under the need to recruit a legion of unusually competent and incorruptible assessors to calculate fair market value on every property in the country.

      • This would give a lot of people a lot of incentive to change the borders of the census tracts.

        • Adam Casey says:

          So assuming we do something sensible like replacing “census tract” with some rigid thing based on lat/long, what do you conclude then?

          • Well it would still add some distortion[1], but at least it would be distortion that can’t be easily manipulated.

            [1] think of a village that is at the western edge of such a square, building a house at its western edge would end up in the next square thus it would have lower taxes than on its eastern edge. Basically there would be a incentive to build villages where 4 such squares meet.

          • Jason GL says:

            Emanuel, the distortion you mention sounds very benign to me. Compared to some of the downsides of other taxes — like unemployment, under-development, and reduced savings — it really doesn’t sound so bad to wind up with nice, evenly spaced villages at the intersection of latitude and longitude lines.

            From a policy point of view, is there any reason why we shouldn’t shift the entire tax burden (gradually) over to lat/long/pop-density based land taxes and Pigot-style pollution taxes?

          • Anonymous says:

            Every person that moves in next door to you adds to your tax bill? Sounds like a financial incentive for NIMBYism.

          • Jason GL says:

            On the margins, the financial incentive for NIMBYism should be trivial — if there’s 10,000 people in your district, and somebody wants to turn the 5-person single-family home across the street into a 15-person split-level townhouse, you’ll probably be much, much more concerned about whether you’ll like your new neighbors and whether the townhouse blocks your view of the creek than you would about an 0.1% increase in your tax rate.

            If somebody wants to upgrade the 5-person single-family home that’s ten blocks away from you, you’re unlikely to know about it or effectively coordinate with your distant neighbors to stop it.

            Alternatively, if somebody wants to radically change the entire character of your neighborhood, and build thousands of new units, you should expect to receive at least some benefit in the form of higher land values / better job opportunities / cheaper rents, and you can decide for yourself if the benefits outweigh the costs of a higher expected tax burden.

  4. toastyfrog says:

    Is anyone watching the Hugo awards kerfluffle?

    Very briefly: the Hugo award nominations, this year and last, were heavily influenced by a small group of internet trolls who all voted for the same slate. Many science fiction fans are upset. I interested in voting systems, and I’m not quite close enough to the science fiction community to be really offended, so I’ve been watching the developments with interest.

    Last year the discussion was about how one group was unhappy because their favorite works were never nominated for the award. The attempted fix was to switch the voting system to weaken slate votes, using what looks to me like a variant of Single Divisible Vote. In practice (in most categories) this fix produces at least one nominee (out of five) that is not from the slate, but it does not (and was not intended to) prevent the slate from nominating things.

    This year the trolls have successfully nominated some fairly offensive stuff. There were lots of fan votes for Best Novel, so that category looks pretty okay. But other categories, such as Best Short Story, fared poorly. “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” (technically science fiction!), by Chuck Tingle, is actually pretty funny if you look at it in the right light. Other nominees are worse. Some people (including me) think the rules should be changed further, to prevent the trolls from getting anything at all on the ballot.

    I am thinking the solution is to increase the voting requirements. Currently to vote or nominate you only need to pay 50$ for a “supporting membership”, and then you can vote by email. I think they should change it so that only people who have actually physically attended a worldcon can nominate works to the final ballot. Supporting members can still be allowed to vote on the actual Hugo (choosing from among the five nominees).

    I’m not an actual worldcon attendee, though, and I’ve noticed that nobody else has suggested this solution, which makes me think there’s a problem with it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Seems to me like the way to prevent a small amount of defectors from hijacking your voting system is to make the pool of votes bigger, not smaller. Can you even call them trolls if they were willing to pay $50 for the privilege?

      That said, I didn’t even know what the Hugo award is before reading your post.

    • Winfried says:

      Making it only open to attendees would shred any claims that the award represented anything more broad than the very insular and fairly small Worldcon group.

      • toastyfrog says:

        Is “this award should represent a broad group of people” something you care about?

        Personally all I care about is “this award should output a list of recommendations for good books I should investigate reading”. But if the people involved with the award want the award to be representative, I guess that would at least explain why they’re not thinking about narrowing the voting pool.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          If you’re very similar to the typical Worldcon goer then that’s not a problem at all, their list will look like what you would be interested in reading. But for the majority of the fandom the Hugo sticker would be a lot more useful to that end if the mass of voters had similar tastes to them.

          For instance, I have no emotional investment in the Hugos and always ignored the stickers, because the Hugo didn’t give me any information on how interesting the book’s world was. Even before I knew how the sausage was made it was obvious that the winners weren’t the sort of SFF which I liked reading. That’s not to say they’re universally bad but since the Hugo voters are looking for such different things it provides little additional information to hear that they liked a book.

        • Deiseach says:

          Is “this award should represent a broad group of people” something you care about?

          The Nebulas are the science fiction writers’ choice of what they think is the best writing in the field, there are other awards, but the Hugos were perceived as the fans’ choices. Maybe not the best, but the most popular, the “putting your money where your mouth was”, the books and stories and movies that fans would spend their money on. That’s why publishing companies stick great big “Hugo Award Winner!” or “Hugo Award-winning author!” on the covers, and at least part of the Sad Puppies was the frank admission by mid-list SF authors that their revenue stream (which is how they make a living and feed their families) was affected by (a) not being considered the kind of thing the Hugos should be encouraging (b) their publishing companies (I think Tor is in the middle of this, with the Nielsen Haydens having influential positions and definite opinions about who is right and who is wrong in the whole affair) not promoting their books because they didn’t have the “Hugo Award winner/nominee” seal of approval.

          If it is in practice, whatever it is in theory, the awards of a certain clique (no matter what politics or opinions), then it’s not the popular choice anymore, it’s the choice of what we should be finding popular. A bit like the suggested reading list which clumsily said “get rid of all the white male authors and read only works by non-white, non-cis het, etc. authors”.

          Challenging people to broaden their limits and try something outside their comfort zone is good; telling people “don’t read your favourite author’s new book this year solely because they’re the wrong colour, gender or sexual orientation” is not.

          • Mary says:

            “the Hugos were perceived as the fans’ choices.”

            The Hugos were billed as the fans’ choices. Indeed, for years and years, any complaints about the small voting pool were greeted with counters of “So increase the pool.”

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            I remember when GRRM and Brad Torgoson (or was it John C Wright? It was a year ago) were having a back and forth on their blogs blog.

            GRRM said that the Hugo’s represent the worldcon community, and Brad or John responded that one of his major points was to show this after years of being told they’re not, and he thanked GRRM for admitting it.

            Take this as you will.

          • John Schilling says:

            GRRM said that the Hugo’s represent the worldcon community

            I think part of the disconnect may be that “worldcon community” traditionally meant more than just actual worldcon attendees, and that worldcon fandom was supposed to encompass or at least represent fandom in general. The whole point of the supporting membership is that lots of people can’t afford to fly off to e.g. Finland just because we decided it would be cool to hold the big party there next year, but if you’re with us in spirit then you’re still one of us.

            If that gets changed to only physical worldcon attendees count as true members of the community, that over time gives disproportionate weight to the professional authors, semiprofessional SMOFs, and literal jet-set elite of fandom.

            It also suggests that the winning strategy for Puppies might shift to gaming the bidding process to ensure that all future Worldcons are held in deep red states. If Vox Day has his way, probably whichever state just enacted the most abhorrent piece of anti-LGTB “hate legislation” that all true proponents of social justice must boycott.

            Not sure if that’s practical, but if he pulls it off I will laugh and probably cheer.

          • Standback says:

            @Mary and @Forlorn Hopes: I would basically parse this as going “The Hugos are the choices of the fans [who invest in participating in the Hugos]”. Circular, but not meaningless.

            This has been my first year actively participating in the Hugos, and… it’s really something. It was a real jolt to my usual reading patterns. For one thing, I was making a real effort to read a bunch of things that were brand-new, rather than letting recommendations percolate around for a while until I take them up. For another, I was reading lots of existing, current discussion, and getting pointers to more online short stories than I could read if I quit my day job just for that! While I was at it, I learned more about eligibility and award procedure than any sane person should now. I also came into the process fully aware that, even without voting blocs, the odds of that fantastic little gem I loved from F&SF or that brilliant storygame I loved on Kickstarter actually making it onto the shortlist was pretty close to nil. Little fish, big pool. It’s taking part in an aggregate.

            I don’t think any of that is “typical” fan reading patterns; nor do I think it should be. Talking about what’s new and exciting in the genre is interesting to you if and only if you’re interested in talking about what’s new and exciting in the genre. And if you can get that particular group to self-select and hand out an award, then that award has meaning – even if it’s a circular one, “this is the award selected by the people enthusiastic about this award.”

            You can call that group “fans,” and that’s not wrong. You can call the group “The WorldCon community,” and that’s not wrong either. Since “The WorldCon community” is basically open to anybody interested in joining it, the community is basically defined by interest in participation.

            But, that’s different from just pure numbers. Adding a thousand new readers who, e.g., aren’t particularly interested in reading new work, doesn’t improve the award (at least, not in this view of things). Adding a thousand novel-lovers doesn’t add value to the short story categories. Your goal is to raise the number of fans who have some personal favorites in the categories — and fans voting a list selected by somebody else simply aren’t meeting that criteria.

          • Protagoras says:

            I’m not sure how one could game the bidding process. There’s not a limit on the number of bids (it has never been an issue), so you can’t lock anyone out by filling all the bidding slots with your own bids, the way you can lock other candidates out of the Hugos by filling all the slots with your own nominees. There’s just no way to win the bid without a plurality of Worldcon voters, and if the puppies could get that at will, there never would have been a problem in the first place; they’d have been winning Hugos for their favorites all along. Which suggests a possible solution for the Hugos, I suppose; include everyone who gets any nominations at all as a nominee. It would make the ballot a bit on the long side, but it would neutralize the slate approach.

          • John Schilling says:

            There’s just no way to win the bid without a plurality of Worldcon voters, and if the puppies could get that at will,

            “Plurality of Worldcon [site selection] voters” is not a terribly high bar, though.

            Looking at the numbers, Helsinki seems to have won for 2017 with 1363 out of 2539 valid votes cast. The actual voting was in 2015, so compare Chaos Horizon’s analysis which shows ~1000 solid Puppy voters and ~500 Puppy-leaning neutrals. Out of ~5500 total Hugo nominating votes.

            Most Worldcon members don’t participate in the site selection vote, and a multitude of site bids dilutes the influence of many who do. If the Puppies were to coordinate their support for a single bid, and particularly if that bid were at all credible among true neutrals, it seems like they would be able to select Worldcon sites at will. Where does Vox Day want you to have your party this year, loyal fans?

            At least until his opponents do the same, as they finally got around to doing w/re the Hugo awards vote in the third year of the Puppy Kerfluffle. Winner-take-all plurality voting is what two-party systems are built on. But then, I’m pretty sure Vox Day would count it a win if he always gets to decide where Worldcon is held or if he makes it clear and official that Worldcon Fandom is now divided between the Rabid Puppy Party and the Social Justice Party.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            @Standback

            I don’t think any of that is “typical” fan reading patterns; nor do I think it should be. Talking about what’s new and exciting in the genre is interesting to you if and only if you’re interested in talking about what’s new and exciting in the genre. And if you can get that particular group to self-select and hand out an award, then that award has meaning – even if it’s a circular one, “this is the award selected by the people enthusiastic about this award.”

            I think that the Hugo was supposed to be a representative like a parliament. Most of us don’t spend all days debating policies, hope the people who do represent our views and values.

            Same for the Hugos. Only a relatively small number of fans want to spend so long researching in preparation for the vote. But you’d hope left wing, right wing, libertarian, etc fans were all represented and their votes counted.

            I get the impression though, that the Hugo voters have drifted further from the average person who just likes reading god sci-fi or fantasy.

            that wouldn’t be a problem. But when you still claim to represent all fans and fight the people pointing out you don’t tooth and nail, it becomes a problem.

          • Vorkon says:

            @Forlorn Hopes

            I remember when GRRM and Brad Torgoson (or was it John C Wright? It was a year ago) were having a back and forth on their blogs blog.

            GRRM said that the Hugo’s represent the worldcon community, and Brad or John responded that one of his major points was to show this after years of being told they’re not, and he thanked GRRM for admitting it.

            Take this as you will.

            That was Larry Correia, actually.

          • Standback says:

            @Forlorn Hope:

            I think that the Hugo was supposed to be a representative like a parliament. Most of us don’t spend all days debating policies, hope the people who do represent our views and values.

            Oooh! Good analogy. I like it.

            I get the impression though, that the Hugo voters have drifted further from the average person who just likes reading god sci-fi or fantasy.

            The impression I have, honestly, is that the field is so big and varied now, the “average person” doesn’t really exist.

            You’ve got military SF fans and steampunk fans; fans of epic fantasy and urban fantasy; people who know the difference between Young Adult and New Adult and know which one they love; fans of slipstream and Hard SF and Rationalist SF and Magical Realism and multicultural translated world SF and everything. Comic collectors and manga enthusiasts are HUGE genre fans; what would you say, on average, that their favorite Novella of 2015 might be?

            Now, you’re right that books selected by the self-selecting Hugo participants aren’t the same as a mass poll, just as you’d rather expect that laws passed by a dedicated parliament would be different from laws formulated by mass poll. But… that’s not really a bug, is it?

            And here’s the other point: Let’s roll with the Parliament analogy. How many times have you seen somebody say “Opposing Representative says X, which is clearly absurd — this demonstrates that X-ites are taking over, and the Opposing Representatives are no longer beholden to the public!”

            It’s very easy to be sensitive to the things you don’t like, to remember those, and cherry-pick those as representing the whole. But… that doesn’t actually mean you’ve got the whole picture. It doesn’t mean there’s been a hostile takeover. It means the X-ites are being represented, which you may not appreciate, but it sure doesn’t mean they’ve taken over and are holding everybody else in a stranglehold. (Remember, Correia and Torgersen each got nominated for the Best-New-Writer category before the Sad Puppy campaigns started!)

            The statement “The Hugo awards are drifting away from popular taste” is one that deserves examination and analysis:
            – How do you determine current “popular taste”?
            – Does “popular taste” even exist, in an area that’s both niche and highly fragmented?
            – Did the Hugos previously represent “popular taste” better than they do now?
            – Do the Puppies represent “popular taste” any more than the Hugos do?

            I don’t think there are easy answers to those questions. I certainly don’t feel like the Puppy campaigns made any attempt to answer them, IMHO.

            The Puppies were primarily saying “We hate these results” and “Our voices aren’t being counted.” But… the second doesn’t follow from the first, any more than it would be in a Parliament.

            And what they did in is very similar to what’s done in all sorts of politics – they may not have had particular favorites in common, but they were able to unite around a common opponent. So, if you start out with a dozen political streams, with Stream A presently dominant, and then three smaller streams unite as the Anti-A stream — well, that’s legitimate politics. It’ll get you the short-term goal of blocking A. But… it will also mean suppressing your own constructive goals, in order to cooperate with the other partners, and it’s likely to polarize the Parliament even further. That’s how you get a two-party system, and good luck feeling well-represented in one of those…

          • Mary says:

            “The impression I have, honestly, is that the field is so big and varied now, the “average person” doesn’t really exist.”

            Then they should have the gumption to admit it and stop calling it THE fan award.

            George R.R. Martin did not exactly cover himself with glory by proposing that the Puppies go create a conservative award without offering to, in return, admit that the Hugos were the leftist one.

            Not to mention that the reaction to the Dragoncon awards among the people who decried the Puppies — has negative.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            Can you post a few examples of the reaction to dragoncon?

          • As I recall, the reaction to the Dragoncon awards was wishing them well, but saying there were design flaws (sorry I don’t remember the details) in the way the awards were structured.

          • Standback says:

            @Forlorn:

            The File770 commentariat has a decent range of views. I mostly saw the range as being between “Hey, cool, hope that goes well”, “Eh, whatever, we’ll wait and see if they grow into something I care about,” and “This looks amateurish.” There are outliers, though. Iiiiit’s a comment section.

        • Winfried says:

          I don’t much care one way or the other as long as they don’t say one thing and mean another.

        • Mary says:

          THEY are the ones who called it the fan award, not the Worldcon award.

          Fans are a broad group of people. So it’s something people should care about. Truth in advertising and all that.

          • Deiseach says:

            Yeah, for years I thought the Hugos were done on some kind of wide-ranging poll (I being young and ignorant and in the pre-Internet days with no means of finding out how the sausage was made).

            One good thing, if clarification is always an unalloyed good, of the whole mess is that the Worldcon people* came out and admitted “They’re not voted on by fandom as a whole, they’re the property of Worldcon, they’re only voted on by Worldcon attendees and moreover you have to be a paid-up official member to vote, so there! We own them, sucks to you!”

            *By “people” I mean not alone the volunteer and semi-permanent committees but what could be called “the usual suspects”; I read a very unpleasant blog post by Teresa Nielsen Hayden about the whole affair that I’m not going to search out again because really I don’t need to be called a racist sexist homophobic religious bigot more than once a week, you know?

          • Deiseach,

            I don’t think it was a question of the Hugo and/or Worldcon committee “admitting” that the Hugos weren’t a fandom-wide award.

            I’m pretty sure the Worldcon committee had no idea whatsoever of the degree of lack of knowledge of how the Hugo winners were chosen.

            For what I’ve heard, your mistake that it was from a big general survey is much less common than believing the Hugos were a juried award.

            Sf fans (or at least the older fans I’m more familiar with) are utter crap at marketing. I believe it’s a geek thing, and possibly a geek fallacy. It’s the belief that people should be able to recognize quality on their own, and also that they shouldn’t be distracted by efforts to push them into doing things for irrelevant reasons.

            How the Hugos are awarded was never a secret, but it was included in piles of information that a lot of people didn’t see a reason to look at.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            It’s not so much that they admitted fandom as a whole didn’t vote for it.

            Rather. Before the party line was that the Hugo’s were representative of all of fandom. Sort of like a parliament. The public can’t just turn up and vote, but you have both Democrat and Republicans in the house and everyone is represented.

            Post puppies the new line is that the Hugo’s represents the worldcon crowd and only the worldcon crowd. If worldcon people have different tastes to the average fan then the Hugo’s representing worldcon tastes is a feature not a bug.

    • Kevin says:

      Not sure why, but I’m aware of this mess. In my teenage years and early college I read a lot of science fiction, but very little nowadays. The Hugo award seemed like a big deal back then given the way it was always prominently displayed on book covers, though at that time I was less than impressed by the quality of many nominees and winners. The awards seemed to be more about popularity instead of quality, similar to the Grammy Awards in being meaningless and yet highly touted. I didn’t realize until recently how janky and insular the Hugo nomination and voting process was. No wonder a few nasty cranks can wreck the thing. The process has no robustness and little legitimacy.

      At this point, the Hugo’s appear to be broken. If the governing body can find a way to completely retool the nomination and voting process, they might be able to save them. But frankly, no one seriously cares except ta tiny sliver of hard-core readers and writers who science fiction and fantasy.

    • Seth says:

      I’m not close to the situation, though I’ve read a few posts on it. Basically, I think what’s happened is that the long-running dispute between the “hard” (math, physics, outer space, adventure, empire) faction and the “soft” faction (psychology, sociology, inner space, relationship, life experience) got turbocharged by SJW/anti-SJW politics. The soft/hard dispute has been going on for decades, arguably started in 1950’s and really became apparent in the 1960’s. Thus it way predates current issues. But the intensity got much much worse when that longstanding divide connected with current politics. The awards turned into a political football between the various groups. It’s not the first time there’s been that general sort of dispute. But I’d say a pretty good case can be made that it’s the worst it’s ever been, by an order of magnitude.

      • Dan T. says:

        As I recall, as a kid in the ’70s reading through the shelves of the science fiction section of the local library (those books the library helpfully marked with a spaceship icon on their spines), I had distinct preferences in which books/stories I liked better, where the ones I preferred tended to be written in the ’40s and ’50s by people like Asimov and Heinlein (the old “hard-SF” style), while anything more recent I ran into (’60s and ’70s) was more likely to be touchy-feely stream-of-consciousness stuff that I just couldn’t get into as much. As a comic book fan then too, I also tended to like ’50s comics whenever I stumbled onto them more than the “oh-so-relevant” style preferred in the early ’70s.

        • Deiseach says:

          Oooh, the New Wave in SF! I was just about old enough to be entering into my SF reading years when that was kicking off. As usual, I cut my teeth on the Golden Age, but some of the New Wave I liked very well (I’ll always have a fondness for M. John Harrison because of the Viriconium stories).

          I honestly don’t mind stories featuring LGBT POC non-theist/freethinker/spiritual but not religious differently abled neurodivergent non-human/part-human/what is human exactly? characters going about their queer representation business in space* as long as, you know, it’s in space or they throw me some kind of a bone with a SF/F setting. I’m never going to read milsf no matter who writes it from what side of the political fence, but I will read a story or a whole book featuring a space lesbian starship engineer as long as the main point is “starship engineer” and not “space lesbian being a space lesbian lesbianically in space, did I mention she’s a space lesbian, never mind I will do so every third paragraph”.

          *Stars In My Pocket Like Grains Of Sand. Effin’ fantastic story, blows the doors off weaksauce efforts like “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love” despite being some thirty years older, and like many others I’m still waiting to find out do Marq and Rat ever get back together! Proposed sequel is not looking too likely this side of the Eschaton, but you never know 🙂

          • That’s pretty much how I feel.

            I think part of the problem with the puppies is that they just don’t have much good fiction to offer. I’ve read some puppy nominees, and I feel as though if I get bad imitation Eric Frank Russell, I’m lucky.

            This being said, I enjoyed Marko Kloos’ milsf (puppy nominee last year, but he withdrew it) a lot, and I don’t usually like milsf. It’s much better on the emotional side than most milsf, but it isn’t all PTSD all the time, either.

            Anyway, while my tastes run to some of the SJW-approved sf (Zettel’s Dust Girl trilogy, The Goblin Emperor, “The Litany of Earth” (the worshipers of the Deep Ones are a misrepresented minority, but the story comes out of the side of civil order and enlightenment values), “The Ballad of Black Tom”, “Every Heart a Door”…) it’s quite possible I’m missing some good puppyish stuff. Recommendations?

          • Winter Shaker says:

            I don’t usually like milsf

            Can’t you put a hyphen in there? It’s very difficult for the wetware text parser to not automatically swap the last two letters 🙂

          • I’ll try to remember to go with mil-sf.

          • Vorkon says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            Just out of curiosity, what did you like about The Goblin Emperor? I found it rather boring, without a single character that was either likeable, or even unlikeable in a “love to hate” sense, didn’t have a particularly novel or interesting setting or tackle any ideas that haven’t been explored a million times before, and lacked any sort of strong narrative to keep you going despite not caring about said characters or setting. (i.e. it’s mostly just a series of only slightly related events, without some strong central plotline or conspiracy tying it all together, which, I’ll admit, is more true to life, and can still make for a very good story if you’re invested in the characters or setting, but it gave me no particular reason to do so.)

          • I liked The Goblin Emperor because I sympathized with the main character, and I was definitely ready for a story where intelligence and good will lead to success.

            It was also a story with little violence in it, so that when there was some violence, it was shocking instead of more of the same.

            Anyone else notice that the main character was brownwashed on the cover?

          • meyerkev248 says:

            @Nancy:

            1) If I may recommend the International Lord of Hate himself, Larry’s own Grimnoir Chronicles.

            He’s got a bone to grind with FDR, and I’m never going to put them on “Books that fundamentally redefined my worldview”, but they were FUN, with a decent magic system. Much worse things to read.

            2) Ringo and Weber have problems, and when they collaborate, their problems cancel out (or at least get toned WAY down, so Weber can’t do missile calculations for 30 pages and Ringo can’t rant about politics for quite as long), so the March Upcountry Series was very, very good.

            Prince Roger McClintock, bratty teenager third in line to the Empire of Man is marooned on the wrong side of an just-this-side-of-medieval tech-base alien planet with a company of bodyguards, where he becomes very much not bratty.

            Cue a quite good knockoff of Anabasis that lasts 3 books and a 4th… eh, they were telegraphing it in the end of the 3rd. If you liked the 3, you’ll like the 4th, but it’s different.

            3) Michael Z. Wiliamson’s “Better To Beg Forgiveness… ”

            The UN is brokenly corrupt and running an Iraq War expy. They hire bodyguards (our heros) for their local “President”, who of course is a wonderful person who truly cares about “Iraq” because this is that sort of book.

            Halfway through, the UN decide to go with a different strongman, so his bodyguards have to get him off-planet and into a TV studio so he can’t be “killed by rioters” and can get back to trying to weld his society back together.

            Much, much better than I am making it sound.

            /And if we buy enough of them, Larry will buy a tank. Which he will then drive down his mountain to the grocery store.
            //Yeah… this Sad Puppies thing worked out well for him.

          • For what it’s worth, my anti-puppy sources had a consensus that Correia is a fairly good but not distinguished writer.

          • Vorkon says:

            Fair enough. I can definitely understand why someone might like it if they can manage to sympathize with the main character, I just have a tough time fathoming how anybody could sympathize with him. :op

          • meyerkev248 says:

            @Nancy:

            I completely concur with their description of Larry.

            Also, the MHI ones are at best tolerable and the one that actually made the Hugo slate didn’t click with me, and I’m not sure why.

            But the Grimnoir Chronicles were really, really fun.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            I haven’t read any of the sad puppies best novel choices, but I can recommend the following form the Sad Puppies list.

            Perfect State*, … And I Show You How Deep the Rabbit Hole Goes, Erfworld, Gunnerkrigg Court

            * And anything else by Brandon Sanderson except Alcatraz which I thought was meh. Start with Warbreaker, since he’s published it for free as a trial of his work, and it’s awesome.

          • Vorkon says:

            @meyerkev248

            Which MHI novel are you talking about? Because the only one of Correia’s works which was ever actually nominated for a Hugo was the third Grimnoir book, (a series which, I agree, is excellent) and then he’s refused to accept any nominations since, because of the politics. His first MHI novel (and first novel period) was nominated for a Campbell, but I don’t think that’s the one you’re talking about.

            But yeah, Larry Correia. I think he’s definitely worth a recommendation, perhaps with some reservations.

            Ultimately, he’s probably not as good as Butcher when it comes to pulpy action, but he’s still an awful lot of fun. He has a similar problem to Butcher, though, in that the first MHI novel is really pretty lousy, and you won’t get a feel for what really makes him fun until later books. It’s still a fun read, mind you, but nothing to write home about; the action is extremely well done, but the worldbuilding seems weak, a lot of the jokes feel forced, and the main character and his love interest are the two biggest Mary-Sues you’ll ever find outside of fanfiction.net. (though, to be fair, most Mary-Sues are the idealized self-image of some nerdy college kid, while Owen Pitt is the idealized self-image of Larry Correia, so if you’re not used to that he might FEEL a little different. But he’s not. He’s as Mary-Sue as they come.) Even in that book, though, the side characters are all outstanding, and they only get better as the series goes on. In fact, I’d say the series doesn’t really start to pick up until the first book that’s written in a different character’s POV, Monster Hunter Alpha, and they keep getting better from there. The government’s seemingly nonsensical monster-related policies start to make sense once you start getting a few scenes from one of their POVs, which helps the otherwise weak worldbuilding immensely. Even the main character eventually starts to get a bit more interesting, when he’s confronted with some choices similar to ones the cardboard antagonist had to make against him in the first novel, and Julie starts to get a little more to do than just be Owen’s love interest. But it’s still the side characters that steal the show.

            There’s also a few surprisingly clever ideas on display, which often look at first glance like just dumb jokes, but when you look deeper might just be more than that. Not brilliant literary commentary, or anything, but more than you’d expect at first glance. The white-trash trailer park elves, for example, while just a dumb joke on the surface, are actually a pretty inspired take on the trope of “the once-great ancient civilization which has fallen from grace” which his typified elves ever since Tolkien. That’s actually how such a society probably WOULD look, in our world. (See some Indian reservations, for example.) The setting is still MOSTLY just an excuse to write awesome gun battles, but there’s still a few interesting touches like that, here and there.

            Grimnoir, on the other hand, I would unreservedly recommend to just about anyone. It’s extremely well-researched alt-history, with an interesting take on the period, great characters, outstanding action, good pacing, and an intriguing overaching narrative. I have less to say about it than I did about MHI, but mostly just because I don’t need to spend so much time covering for its flaws. :op

            I’d also recommend his latest novel, Son of the Black Sword. It’s best described as “Fantasy Judge Dredd,” but the worldbuilding is pretty great, and there’s some interesting (if possibly heavy-handed, though it’s not entirely without subtlety) themes at work. It’s probably his most “message-ficcy” work to date, but is also quite possibly his best. (It’s hard to say, because first novels in a planned series tend to be a bit awkward, with a lot of setup that may or may not pay off satisfactorily, but *I* enjoyed it a great deal.)

            So, yeah, Correia’s work, in general, is recommended with reservations. Since a big selling point in the Goblin Emperor for you was apparently the LACK of violence, he might not be your thing. But if you’re looking for fun action, well, there’s a reason the entire Puppy movement sprung up basically around him.

            @Forlorn Hopes

            Heartily seconded on Gunnerkrigg Court and “anything by Brandon Sanderson.” Even the Alcatraz books are fun, if not him at his best. The tone he’s going for with those is “what you’d get if Terry Pratchett and J.K. Rowling made a baby,” and he is CERTAINLY no Terry Pratchett, but it’s still better than a lot of other YA fare that tries to be funny.

            Don’t be put off by talk about how complicated his magic systems are. He does an excellent job of teaching you how those systems work, and slowly working those lessons into the story, so that when he eventually uses that system he taught you to pull off something really cool, it feels earned, narratively. I like to think of it like hard sci-fi, except the “science” is all just made up fantasy bullshit. (Heh. It occurs to me, that might require a little more explanation, since that description sounds more like soft sci-fi. The way I see it, the main difference between hard and soft sci-fi isn’t necessarily the accuracy of the science, but how it is used. Soft sci-fi wraps itself in scientific trappings, and calls it a day. The technobabble may be close to accurate, or it may be bullshit, but at the end of the day it isn’t what matters. Hard sci-fi, on the other hand, actually USES some scientific principle, and the ramifications of that principle if it is expanded upon and taken to the furthest degree, as a central point in the story. Brandon Sanderson does that, but with imaginary magic systems, rather than science.) He’s also really good with a plot twist, foreshadowing them just enough that you feel like you should have seen them coming, but rarely do. (Or, at least, *I* rarely do. Your mileage may vary. :op )

            Incidentally, his take on the entire Puppy situation is a fairly interesting one: http://brandonsanderson.com/hugo-awards-2016/

            Gunnerkrigg Court is great too, but it kind of got lost while I was talking about how much I love Sanderson. Sorry! :op

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            Your views on Brandon pretty much match my own. Great writer all round, with very notable improvement as his books progress (Elantris for example I found had characters who were just a touch one dimensional), FANTASTIC world-building, I love the way the cosmere ties together, but I almost never find his jokes funny. Especially not the “witty” banter.

          • Vorkon says:

            IMHO, Elantris was held back mostly by the format he was trying to write it in. He would alternate between the three main characters, covering the SAME period of time in each set of three chapters. This meant that sometimes you’d have a chapter where nothing all that interesting was going on in one character’s storyline. If he hadn’t been so dead-set on sticking to that timeline, and shifted POVs more naturally, I think it would have been a lot better.

            Still, when you compare Elantris to MOST peoples’ first novels, it’s like night and day.

            Also, I think he can occasionally be funny, just mostly when he isn’t trying to. He’s good at setting up humorous situations, if not so much humorous dialogue. (The rest of his dialogue is good, and flows very naturally, though.) He’s gotten better at that too, though. I know I definitely chuckled at a few of David’s metaphors and Cody’s stories in the Reckoners books, and at Wayne being Wayne in the new Mistborn books, at least.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            Yeah. Bands of Mourning did get a really genuine laugh from me when they were all checking into the hotel – and the call back when they were leaving it.

            The humorous dialogue in the recokoners didn’t get a laugh though.

            —-

            I think one advantage Elantis has over other first novels, is that we wrote novels that didn’t get published due to naturally lower quality first.

            But I’m sure lots of other first novels are also actually just first-published.

      • Forlorn Hopes says:

        I don’t think it’s a hard/soft division.

        I have two… I suppose they’re half educated guesses.

        Either it’s: “Fiction that exists to promote a message vs Fiction which is story first and message second or not at all”.

        Or it mostly boils town to the authors. SJW, conservatives (Sad Puppies), alt right “Vox Day and his Rabid Puppies) .

        With each faction drawing in different groups. IMO the Sad Puppies really didn’t do the best job getting their point across. For example when GRRM was saying that he didn’t recognize the story of alienation that (I think it was Brad Torgoson but it might have been John C Wright) felt, no one brought up Requires Hate as objective evidence that the sci-fi community wasn’t welcoming to everyone.

        I suspect the post The Ideology is not the Movement explains a LOT of what’s going on here btw.

        • Dan T. says:

          There was also SF designed explicitly to promote a libertarian message; the works of L. Neil Smith and J. Neil Schulman (somehow, having Neil as a middle name seems to lead authors that way) are good examples.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            And Liberarian sci-fi tends to land pro-puppy.

            I think I phrased “Either it’s: “Fiction that exists to promote a message vs Fiction which is story first and message second or not at all”. ” badly.

            Perhaps

            “Fiction where it’s story first, message second (or not at all) vs fiction where it’s message first”.

            I don’t know if the puppies would be happy if message-first fiction won if they agreed with the Hugo, but they certainly claim they wouldn’t.

          • Deiseach says:

            I think the Sad Puppies originally argued (whatever their position is now that both sides have crystallised in their differences) that the point of stories should be that they are stories first. Whether or not you’re trying to educate your reader or present a particular philosophy to them, what your duty as an author is first and foremost is providing entertainment, and this means doing the bare, basic minimum of a writer’s job which is “plot, characters, development of same” combined with the sensawunda that SF/F evokes – they would say, only SF/F now evokes, as mainstream literature doesn’t care about such trifles and has moved on to clever theoretical tricks.

            Ursula LeGuin may have a particular philosophical or political message in her works, but the Puppies would acknowledge that she is a good writer and does the writer’s job. The reader is perfectly entitled to toss your work aside in disdain for any distasteful message they find therein, but if they toss it aside because it’s boring or hectoring or tedious, you have failed in your primary task: to write a good, entertaining story.

            Message-fic where the quality of the story is judged not on “does this draw the reader into another world of excitement and wonder” but “does it tick all the boxes on the current favoured representation checklist” therefore fails, by this criterion. You can perfectly well have a message-fic that trans merfolk on Titan deserve self-governance out from under the repressive rule of a theocratic Terra, but the story should not be a dreary lecture about trans rights activism first and foremost.

          • Nita says:

            your duty as an author is first and foremost is providing entertainment

            Different people genuinely find different kinds of stories entertaining. I like simple action movies, but other people find them boring. You could torture me by making me watch Bridget Jones’s Diary, but other people sincerely love it. I thought Inception was one of the best Hollywood films ever made, but (according to IMDB) many others actually hated it.

            Also, some people use “sensawunda” for quasi-religious awe, others for mind-expanding ideas, and some just for shiny cool stuff. All of them can make a story more attractive to readers, and many stories contain all three, but they’re fundamentally different things.

            For instance, Blindsight contains a mind-expanding idea (which seems likely to cause unease instead of wonder — perhaps it’s not “real” SF?), while The Stainless Steel Rat series mostly contains shiny cool stuff. I like both, but let’s admit that there’s no one feeling all decent SF stories induce.

      • tmk says:

        I think this is only one aspect of what hard vs. soft SciFi normally means. Star Wars has plenty of space, adventure and empire, but would never be called hard SF. My impression is that hard SF is about plausible future science and technology and building a self-consistent word, rather than throwing in cool stuff to make a fun story.

        • Seth says:

          What I was trying to convey is two main clusters, where Star Wars would fall into one (being a galactic empire adventure story about a male hero’s quest) despite it not being especially an extrapolation of science or technology itself. As opposed to say, a hypothetical story which focuses on Chewbacca’s sense of alienation as a Wookie in the human-dominated society, the prejudice he suffers from being regarded as nearly an animal, yet being scorned by others of his species for working with humans. Even if that was a good story, it’s a different kind of story.

          • Nornagest says:

            That’s a very different taxonomy than I’m used to. Hard SF-as-I-know-it usually has an adventure or exploration story wrapped around its crunchy technical center, and I suppose we could pull in “empire” by way of Asimov, but adventure/exploration/empire is not enough to qualify a story as such. A Princess of Mars is an adventure story, but few would call it hard SF. Ditto Heinlein’s Glory Road. On the other side of things the Imperial Radch books, maybe the biggest “SJW” franchise to come out of this irritating little culture war, are both adventure and empire stories.

            I don’t even think we’re looking at discrete clusters. Clarke wrote a lot of sociology stories that I’d still call “hard”. Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow is technically hard and has an exploration frame, but it’s basically a culture-clash story. Avatar (smurfs, not ninjas) is a similar cinematic case.

          • Seth says:

            Maybe those weren’t good labels, but I couldn’t think of better terms at the time. Plot vs. Character was some of it, but that’s too vague and general. It was less “hard-SF” and more at “hard-sciences-*associated*” where galactic empire qualifies since it has space travel underlying it, even if merely as a necessary story device. Basically, if someone sees a spaceship in it, that’s an automatic genre marker of a certain type. It might be overcome in exceptional cases, but by default it’ll be “That Buck Rogers Stuff”. The practitioners of literary magic realism are, by and large, not fond of anything which involves a spaceship.

            Galactic Patrol” was not more rigorous than the New Wave material. Yet there’s a divide between them, that rigor doesn’t capture.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I don’t think that’s soft vs. hard. Isaac Asimov’s “The Bicentennial Man” falls into your second cluster, but is definitely hard SF. But most of Asimov’s robot stories (e.g. “Little Lost Robot”) are adventure stories , and are equally hard SF.

            Message fiction that the Sad Puppy group complains about is a separate grouping. Heinlein’s _For Us, the Living_ is message fiction; so is Ayn Rand’s _Atlas Shrugged_ or B.F. Skinner’s _Walden 2_. All these had the main purpose of pushing a message to the audience, and the story came second to that. There was certainly a message in “The Bicentennial Man”, but the story came first.

        • Anonymous says:

          I had always understood hard science fiction to focus on the science part. The hardest being near future since that has the firmest grounding in actual science, but at least if it is going to have magic drives, they are elaborately described and reasonably plausible magic drives rather than *insert technobabble here*.

          If space is just your vague backdrop to an Aubrey/Maturin type thing, I’d consider that on the softer side.

        • Mary says:

          A good rule is that it’s hard SF if the author had to solve an equation in the writing process.

          • John Schilling says:

            A good rule is that it’s hard SF if the author had to solve an equation in the writing process.

            And if the author could have substituted a spreadsheet for a chapter of text, it’s David Weber 🙂

            But I do like your rule of thumb, and may steal it in the future.

          • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

            So Futurama must be the hardest SF on the block because one of the authors had to prove a theorem to write it.

        • Vorkon says:

          Obviously, hard sci-fi is the type written by Chuck Tingle.

    • One might not suspect, reading your post, that there was another side to the controversy, reasonable people who believe that the voters you are calling trolls are the good guys and the people complaining about them the bad guys. I cannot tell if you realize that or if your post, by someone who self-identifies as an outsider to the relevant population, is a result of having only heard one side.

      So far as your solution, I don’t think it would work. There are too many people, probably including a sizable fraction of both groups of puppies, who have been to at least one worldcon. I’m not an active sf fan, and have been to several.

      • walpolo says:

        I assumed the “trolls” part was a reference to the Rabid Puppies, who are in fact trolls–not the Sad Puppies, who have changed their approach so much this year that they’re a completely different movement.

      • John Schilling says:

        The Rabid Puppies could be accurately described as “trolls”, but the “Hugo awards kerfluffle” cannot be accurately described as Rabid Puppies vs. Science Fiction Fandom.

      • Murphy says:

        My basic sketch of the events is that there was a vague and gradual shift in the style of books getting nominations over a few years, there probably was a very disorganized shift with a minority voting in blocks, some people complained about the system being easy for a minority to control, were told that that was nonsense and that it was just fair democracy. So they birthed the Sad puppies as a semi-organized attempt to show how a minority could control things. Then the angrier factions birthed the Rabid puppies to do the same thing but in a more unpleasant way and they very very successfully showed that a small minority could completely control the vote. The people who’d been po-poing the claim earlier started screaming that it was terrible and that everyone involved is evil but still didn’t really want to admit that it was a pretty good QED to show that the vote was easily controlled by a minority.

        Hopefully they’ll actually improve the voting system in an effective way.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’d appreciate if you didn’t call them trolls. That’s assuming that the Bad Guys and Good Guys line neatly up on opposite sides, and all the moustache-twirling villains are over there with the dregs of society, while all the warriors of righteousness are on the side of the Hugo and Worldcon officialdom.

      I think the Hugos have been broken for a long time (I really can’t think of the last time I read or bought anything by a recent “Hugo Award Winner!”) but it wasn’t until the whole Sad and Rabid Puppies affairs blew up that the rot was exposed.

      I think they should change it so that only people who have actually physically attended a worldcon can nominate works to the final ballot.

      Thus confining it to solely Americans who will be the attendees at most cons (granted, that’s probably how it works out in practice) and to hell with the rest of the English-reading SF fandom, eh? The last vestiges of pretence that this is “The Fandom People’s Choice” will at least be gone, and as the officials have reminded us, the Hugos are trademarked property of Worldcon; they don’t need a popular vote, they could declare winners by fiat or by the vote of the “informal and self-selected group of volunteers constitute the “Permanent Floating Worldcon Committee” who volunteer for many Worldcons in different years; this group offers a measure of institutional continuity to otherwise disparate legal organizations”.

      I’ve complained at great length how at least one nominee was not by any stretch of the imagination (not even under the aegis of Magical Realism) SF/F and another winner was decent but needed hefty editing and really had only applied a skim coat of SF to a typical modern literary fiction short story. I have only read the first page of “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” (hem hem) but it has a hell of a lot more traditional SF set-up and gives us actual names for the characters than the much-admired, if non-winning, Tale Of Woe Woe Weepy Weepy Woe. Dr Tingle’s opus is a SF work I could get behind (a long, long way behind, given its predilections) as a winner.

      Does that make me a troll? Then I will lurk here under my bridge, swilling my redneck gin and gnawing on the bones of unfortunate paleontologists.

      • Seth says:

        It’s akin to, err, “PlayerPortal”. There’s no question that some very nasty characters are involved. But to say there’s anything more to the situation than Trolls Menacing The Good People risks one being branded a Bad Person.

      • Alex says:

        I think the Hugos have been broken for a long time

        “I think” as in you are the author of the link behind “broken” as in buying the novel advertised therein might be a practical way to show appreciation for your contributions in the comments?

        • Deiseach says:

          Alex, if I understand correctly, you are by soft insinuation thinking that I am Ms Phillips? I am not she nor is she I, nor do we have hand, act or part in each other’s writings, nor do I know anything more of her than that this was a random article I found by Googling and seemed a good example of what the problem was re: the Old Guard in Worldcon and the Hugo Awards (and that the Old Guard wasn’t necessarily the dinosaurs of the sexist past of the 50s/60s/70s anymore).

          If I do not understand you correctly, and you mean to say that I am suggesting we all buy the linked author’s works, or that you think such is a good idea in showing appreciation, that is up to everyone themselves to decide for themselves 🙂

          • Alex says:

            The first. I had problems understanding a sentence starting with “I” and then linking to a person other than “I”.

            Apologies for the confusion.

    • John Schilling says:

      Is anyone watching the Hugo awards kerfluffle?

      Very briefly: the Hugo award nominations, this year and last, were heavily influenced by a small group of internet trolls who all voted for the same slate.

      This has been discussed here repeatedly and at extensively, yes. And with enough sympathy for both sides, including the “internet trolls”, that I am inclined to suspect classic internet trolling in this uninformed, one-sided drive-by post now.

      Any useful discussion of this subject really ought to start with about 100% fewer insults in the opening post. Please don’t feed the troll.

    • I recently published a book with Vox Day, the guy in charge of the Rabid Puppies which is behind nominating the “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” for a Hugo. The book was briefly #1 on Amazon for economics theory. The book is called “On the Question of Free Trade: An Economics Discourse” and consists of a transcript of a debate between Vox and myself. Here is the audio of our debate posted to my Future Strategist podcast.

      • Randy M says:

        Oh, I’ve been meaning to read and/or listen to that. What was your opinion of VD as a debater before and after?

        • I have an exceptionally high opinion of Vox Day as a debater. He was extremely nice to me, and honest in how he stated his opinion and our disagreement. Furthermore, I saw him briefly discuss me and our debate on a YouTube interview and he said very nice things about me. Given that he calls himself “Supreme Dark Lord” I was expecting somewhat different behavior, but I think that Vox plays Tit-for-Tat (or Grim Trigger) and since I was nice to him, he played nice with me. Finally, Vox offered me very generous terms on the revenues from our ebook.

    • The Nybbler says:

      A little background on “Space Raptor Butt Invasion”: The nomination of that is a direct response to the nomination of “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love”, a story which won the 2013 Nebula and was nominated for the 2014 Hugo, despite being not SF at all, but pushed all the right buttons for the small group that controlled the awards. (That story, and “The Water That Falls On You From Nowhere”, are two often cited by the “puppy” groups as exemplars of the problems with the Hugos)

      There are, in fact, at least three groups involved here.

      1) The Sad Puppies. Formed by Larry Correia, originally to demonstrate that there was political bias in the Hugo process. Taken over last year (Sad Puppies 3) by Brad Torgersen, to produce this slate:

      https://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/sad-puppies-3-the-2015-hugo-slate/

      These are all legitimate nominations; there’s no trolling.

      This year, the Sad Puppies were run by Kate Paulk, Sarah Hoyt, and Amanda Green; they used a different process and came up with this slate:

      http://sadpuppies4.org/the-list/

      Once again, these are legitimate nominnations.

      2) The Rabid Puppies. Last year, Vox Day was going to make it his mission to “destroy” the Hugos. Larry Correia talked him out of it. Vox instead made is own slate, with some overlap with the Sad. It’s heavy on self-promotion for Vox’s publishing house, but surprisingly is still all legitimate works

      https://voxday.blogspot.com/2015/02/rabid-puppies-2015.html

      This year, after the unpleasantness of last year, the Rabids decided to break things:

      https://voxday.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/rabid-puppies-2016-list.html

      This slate includes trolling of various sorts, including the Tingle story. Some of the trolling is only that he picked works the third group would like, so they’d have to take a pick he chose or snub someone they liked.

      3) The trufans, the CHORFs, the SMOFs, the decent people… depending on who you ask. These are the people controlling the nominations and awards prior to Sad Puppies (by virtue of being in a very small pond); they’re the ones who pushed the two stories I mentioned above. They didn’t have a nominating slate as far as I know. They did have a final voting slate: Vote for non-puppy works, then vote for No Award. They mostly succeeded, leading to many Hugo categories last year receiving “no award”. One of them, David Gerrold, handed out wooden “asterisks” to the snubbed nominees. And made the Vonnegut reference in case you missed it (asterisk = asshole).

      Here’s their voting slate:
      http://deirdre.net/the-puppy-free-hugo-award-voters-guide/

      • Zorgon says:

        Very informative, thank you.

        Also – is it just me or is handing out a “asshole award” to the nominees, rather than the nominators, just being a complete dick?

        (I mean, I don’t expect any better from these people, but still…)

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Pretty much, yeah.

          As corroborating evidence, Gerrold has followed this up by repeatedly insisting that he had absolutely no idea whatsoever that the asterisks might be taken as an insult, and claiming that they were somehow a tribute to Terry Pratchett.

          • Viliam says:

            Seems like he spends all his time and creative energy in cultural wars, which is why I keep waiting more than twenty years (!!!) for the next book in the Chtorr series.

            There is more than one way how politics can ruin sci-fi.

          • I’m inclined to think that we haven’t seen a new Chtorr book (haven’t Gerrold been writing other sf?) because he wrote himself into a corner. There is no hope for Earth, there is no hope for the human race.

            Well, not absolutely no hope. The giddier sort of Humanity Fuck Yeah! sf would have had humans taking over the Chtorran ecology.

            I’ve seen a suggestion that the Chtorran ecology is actually like a puffball– it’s life cycle is to spread its spores and then die locally.

      • Julie K says:

        Ooh look, the Sad Puppies 4 list includes “… And I Show You How Deep the Rabbit Hole Goes – Scott Alexander” under Best Short Story. 🙂

        • suntzuanime says:

          I started writing up an angry comment about how dammit, that’s not SF either and they’re being just as bad, but then I realized I’d confused it with “Universal Love, Said the Cactus Person”. The actually chosen story seems perfectly on-genre.

          • Murphy says:

            It would be fun if Scott got a nomination. Particularly since he’s said in the past that he filters out *puppy* related info from his feeds.

          • Deiseach says:

            “Universal Love” would be the Fantasy nomination 🙂

          • The Hugos don’t make a distinction between fantasy and science fiction. This is good because there’s no reliable way of making that distinction.

            In fact, if the consensus of Hugo voters was to support a book with no fantasy or science fiction in it (this came up in regards to Hild), it would win. It isn’t the job of the Hugo committee to decide on genre.

          • Vorkon says:

            I’d argue that Universal Love counts as SF/F, but only for the aside at the very end, after the human had left/woken up, where the cactus person and the big green bat turn to each other to check their math.

        • Standback says:

          I nominated that one too!

          …Nor am I the only one. On File770’s probably-entirely-unrepresentative sample, “Rabbit Hole” was a strong favorite.

        • Berna says:

          Oh, thanks for reminding me of that awesome story!

        • Vorkon says:

          Interestingly enough, it also includes one of Ann Leckie’s Ancillary books this year, which is one of the puppies’ go-to examples of books that push a Social Justice agenda. Though, when push comes to shove, most puppies will at least admit that those are, “pretty good, but the only reason they get recognized above and beyond everything else that’s ‘pretty good,’ is because of the nonsense with the pronouns,” so I guess it isn’t TOO far from their usual tastes, and since the list has 10 entries, I can see a few people voting for it. I still suspect its’ inclusion has more to do with non-puppies trolling their open voting system, though. (But the fact that they didn’t remove it from the final list says good things, at least.)

          Speaking of which, and also on the subject of interesting entries on the Sad Puppy list, I kinda’ wish I had realized they were doing a truly open voting system before they closed it this year: If you look at their spreadsheet of all votes, HPMOR was only one vote away from the top 10 they published as the actual list.

      • Outis says:

        I just read “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love”, and I was aghast to find out that I liked it. But it’s still not SF at all.

      • Deiseach says:

        “Water” is a halfway decent story that needs to be edited with a chainsaw to become a really good story; “Dinosaur” had no business next, nigh or near the Hugos (the Nebulas are their own affair, the writers pining after mainstream respectability and rebranding themselves as writers of “speculative fiction*” not that grubby old “science fiction”).

        *Was I bitter about Russ Ballard jumping ship for this label? What do you think? Same as Margaret Atwood using a metric fuckton of SF tropes but shuddering away in horror when Proper Literary Critics murmured about her novel being SF perhaps maybe if you looked at it in a certain light:

        Atwood has resisted the suggestion that The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake are science fiction, suggesting to The Guardian in 2003 that they are speculative fiction instead: “Science fiction has monsters and spaceships; speculative fiction could really happen.” She told the Book of the Month Club: “Oryx and Crake is a speculative fiction, not a science fiction proper. It contains no intergalactic space travel, no teleportation, no Martians.” On BBC Breakfast she explained that science fiction, as opposed to what she herself wrote, was “talking squids in outer space.” The latter phrase particularly rankled advocates of science fiction and frequently recurs when her writing is discussed.

        That’s basically the attitude that annoyed the hell out of the Sad Puppies and why I’d be on their side in this row.

        • brad says:

          I don’t understand what the problem is exactly. The Atwoods of the world don’t want to be called SFF and don’t want SFF awards. They and the Sad Puppies seem to be in agreement.

        • Nita says:

          “Science fiction has monsters and spaceships; speculative fiction could really happen.”

          Especially hilarious because Oryx and Crake is full of cheap horror logic, which makes it even lower-brow than most sci-fi.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” sounds like a reference to this. I don’t think Chuck Tingle is part of the SF community, so I doubt he knows that story and intended such a reference, but did VD choose it for that reason? Did he ever provide reasons for his choices? Did he choose them from some crowd-sourced list of nominees that came with reasons?

    • Winter Shaker says:

      I’m only vaguely aware of it because I follow Eneasz Brodski’s blog – I’m not in the fandom myself, but only because I don’t really read any fiction these days. If I did, sci-fi would probably feature a fair bit.

      But I do love his headline for a recent post: Space Raptor Butt Invasion – Chuck Tingle is the Hero that the Puppies Need, if not the one they Want.

      Incidentally, @Douglas Knight, Brodski thinks that Chuck Tingle “is obviously an insider. Not just an SF author, but possibly someone who is already known for his/her work under his/her real name”, though I am not remotely in a position to guess which of you is right.

    • Agronomous says:

      @toastyfrog:

      Is anyone watching the Hugo awards kerfluffle?

      Very briefly: the Hugo award nominations, this year and last, were heavily influenced by a small group of internet trolls who all voted for the same slate.

      Picking a side, then investigating, may not be a reliable algorithm for discovering the truth. If only someone would write a sequence of articles that would warn us of such bad approaches so that we could become, if not perfectly right, at least less wrong….

      On the other hand, you’re the only other person I’ve found who says “kerfluffle” (and not “kerfuffle”), so I’m inclined to cut you a little slack.

    • tmk says:

      It has been discussed in past threads. There are many people who are sympathetic to the puppies here, so it will be difficult to get an interesting discussion about the voting system.

      I think you are right, the Hugo nomination system is very vulnerable to slate voting. If group A all vote the same, while group B are spreading their votes between many works, then group A will win even if they are a small minority. Just getting more people to nominate is unlikely to help, because of the effectiveness of coordinated voting.

      If it weren’t for the puppies it could have been an author with dedicated social media following getting all their fans to nominate their works. I think it was moderated because doing so could bring more shame to the author than the value of the nomination. Especially if an author filled all the nomination spots with their own work.

      In selecting the award winner from the nominees slate voting is far less effective, because the regular voters are not split up as much. The Hugos also only allow WorldCon attendees to vote, but I think that is secondary.

      You could of course get everyone organized behind various slates, like political parties. I don’t like that because it gives too much power to the party leaders, and it would lead to the same polarization and rigidity you see in politics.

      I think you want a large organized nomination group to get one of their works nominated, because they probably represent a preference shared by many people. But, you don’t want to let them fill the entire ballot, and exclude all other preferences in the nomination stage. Would it work to give the first nomination spot to the work with the most votes, but then trow away all ballots that nominated that work? Separately for each category of course.

      • Urstoff says:

        If it weren’t for the puppies it could have been an author with dedicated social media following getting all their fans to nominate their works.

        You mean like Scalzi’s Redshirts winning the Hugo? I know he didn’t campaign for it (to my knowledge), but he is by far the author with the largest internet presence, and dear god did that book suck.

        • Evan Þ says:

          How’d it suck? I read it earlier this year and rather liked it, even though my tastes generally lean more towards the Sad Puppies’ style than their opponents’.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            In a word, shallow.

            The book was too shallow. It’s understanding of Star Trek was shallow. It’s plot was shallow. It’s characters were shallow.

            A perfectly good book to fill an afternoon, but not nearly worthy of a Hugo.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I wouldn’t say it sucked. It was a perfectly entertaining book to read on public transit. But that’s all it was. I wouldn’t read it again.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Sure, the premise is a shallow parody of Star Trek, but I thought that was intentional. And yes, its characters could be built up… until the afterwords, or whatever Scalzi called them – there, he builds up some of the characters from the main narrative to (IMO) really shine. But I really liked the plot, style, and afterwords, and at least for me, it’s worth rereading.

          • Held in Escrow says:

            It was the most Scalzi book to ever Scalzi. Great premise, completely bungled execution and twist

          • Urstoff says:

            It was the most Scalzi book to ever Scalzi. Great premise, completely bungled execution and twist

            Yuuuuup. It was a good premise completely ruined and made unbearable by 150% Scalzi try-hard humor.

          • Evan Þ says:

            For those of you who think Redshirts sucked, what’d you think of Scalzi’s Lock In? In my mind, it was done a lot better than Redshirts.

          • Held in Escrow says:

            I didn’t like Lockin that much as the mystery just felt bland and the idea of the cool other world was never really fleshed out. I wanted to read more about the main character’s dad honestly, he was pretty interesting

    • Protagoras says:

      I tend to think George R. R. Martin’s summary of what’s been going on is the most accurate; at least he’s the one who describes fandom as I know it. He identified what is I think the one incurable problem; in the 1980s, the people who run Worldcon decided they didn’t want the convention to grow any more, because it was becoming unmanageable. Worldcon is an old fashioned science fiction convention; it’s not a big business like a comicon, and so I can sympathize with the desire of the people in charge (who are unpaid volunteers) not to pile on work for themselves. But the small voting pool is what made the voting system easy to game (and perhaps the fact that the convention is actively not interested in bringing in too many more people made it more insular; I think the puppies are mostly wrong, but they are perhaps not completely wrong about that). If too few voters is the problem, your suggestion would just mean fewer voters.

      Dragoncon, which in this era of Worldcon stagnation has grown to be much larger than Worldcon, is doing awards of its own this year. Perhaps those will better represent the opinion of the fans than either the old guard at Worldcon or any of the puppies.

    • Urstoff says:

      Given that the Hugo’s have been terrible for many years now, I’m in a basic “lol who cares” mode. Vox Day is obnoxious and awful, but so are PNH and his ilk. The only award I pay attention to for the purpose of discovering new material is the Philip K. Dick award.

      Not participating in any culture wars is vital for my contentment.

    • Anonymous says:

      The most interesting arguments in the puppy debacle were over whether low brow SFF deserves any awards (other than selling books, which is its own reward) or they should all be reserved for middle brow works or the tiny number of high brow works.

      Unfortunately those discussion were mostly drowned out by the “there are SJWs under every bed” crowd and especially by VD and his herps.

      • Deiseach says:

        (W)hether low brow SFF deserves any awards (other than selling books, which is its own reward) or they should all be reserved for middle brow works or the tiny number of high brow works

        But part of the problem is that the Hugos are used by publishers to promote books, and the books that don’t get promoted are the ones that fail to sell (this is becoming more and more of a problem for all kinds of authors; Judith Tarr, a reasonably successful fantasy author if not one of the massively best-selling ones, and with a writing career of some thirty years, has put up an appeal for financial help on her livejournal).

        So “low-brow SF”, if it doesn’t get nominated for awards, doesn’t get rewarded by “selling books” and for midlist authors, who face being dropped by their publishers if they don’t sell in the required numbers, not even being eligible for a Hugo nomination cuts at their livelihood.

        • Anonymous says:

          I’m not coming down one side or the other on that question. I think it’s an interesting discussion to have, unlike most of the rest of it.

        • walpolo says:

          Maybe John Grisham would sell even better if he could win the Nobel Prize for Literature, but because he writes the type of fiction that could never win the Nobel Prize, he sells better than the Prize-winning authors.

          Same goes for Kevin J. Anderson and the Hugo.

          • I prefer that the Hugo go to things which are extraordinarily good, rather than to the usual thing done very well. To my mind, Butcher’s Skin Game (what a fine combination of author’s name and title) was definitely the usual thing done very well. I wouldn’t have been embarrassed if it had won, but I think it would have been missing the point of the Hugo.

            Someone (possibly Torgerson) said that paranormal romance and urban fantasy were getting ignored by the Hugos just as much as milsf. I don’t know whether it’s mere prejudice or lack of stand-out contenders.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m generally with Nancy on this one, but finding five “extraordinarily good” SF/F novels every year can be a tall order. Can anyone name five from 2015, not counting The Martian? Or from last year? Rounding out the ballot with the usual thing done very well is I think the norm rather than the exception.

            It gets harder, obviously, if the unspoken rule is that one side is to generate a list of five extraordinarily good works with conspicuous Social Justice content, and the other a list of five extraordinarily good works with a conspicuous lack of Social Justice content. I don’t mind seeing the likes of Skin Game on my Hugo ballot, but much less Dark Between the Stars please.

          • I was thinking more of how people should nominate– look for what you really love rather than just what’s better than usual.

            If this policy were followed, it would be very rare for anyone to find five things in a category to vote for.

            EPH (assuming it passes this year) will at least stop giving an advantage to people who vote for more things per category.

            This gets to something I’m trying to put a finger on about what a semi-popular award like the Hugo’s is for. Contra Correia, there’s no point in rewarding what’s merely popular– popular things are likely to already be well known.

            Also, here are a couple of arguments on the subject which aren’t mine. I’m not citing the source because I’m not sure whether they’d want it.

            Firstly, there is no sense in which Correia was owed a Hugo. Many people write excellent sf for decades and don’t get a Hugo. It really is an honor (and a fairly unusual one) just to be nominated.

            Secondly, the Hugo’s are (or were, goddammit) a show of respect from a community to those people who have delighted it. While a Hugo award can affect sales (how much? I’m not sure), that isn’t what it’s for or about.

            Campaigning for a Hugo is like asking someone to say they love you. They might say they love you, but it just isn’t the same as hearing it said spontaneously.

          • Vorkon says:

            I think they main reason Skin Game was nominated (and why they continue to nominate Butcher, despite The Aeronaut’s Windlass not really being all that impressive and suffering badly from “first book in a series just setting the stage and not going anywhere all that interesting” syndrome, despite a particularly fun take on intelligent cats) is because, like you said, they feel his past work and the genre as a whole has been unfairly snubbed. I’m not sure if that’s a good rationale for an award that’s supposed to represent the best work in a particular year, (though I would have voted for Skin Game in a second if The Three Body Problem hadn’t made it on the final list) but I can’t help but agree with them: His work has been consistently amazing, and he deserves some recognition above and beyond sales.

            And yeah, I know Torgersen and Correia have both complained about Urban Fantasy getting shoved into a ghetto by the SF/F community, in much the same way that SF/F is often shoved into a ghetto by the wider literary community. Personally, I think it has more to do with prejudice (more against the “low brow” than politics, but that happens too) than lack of standout examples.

            They also nominated another Urban Fantasy author last year, Annie Bellet, but she declined the nomination due to the controversy. Technically, the short story they nominated was post-apocalyptic, rather than Urban Fantasy, but I’ve read some of her other stuff too, and quite liked it, so she might be worth checking out, if you’re looking for some non-Butcher examples. (Of course, I’d imagine she’s doing fairly well for herself these days, since declining the nomination made her something of a darling to the anti-puppy folks, including earning one of those ridiculous Asterisk awards.)

          • “like you said, they feel his past work and the genre as a whole has been unfairly snubbed.” I don’t think I said that, and I certainly didn’t mean it. I don’t follow the puppies in enough detail to have a opinion about whether they were thinking that, though it seems plausible.

            As for giving the award for *something* from an author who’s done much better, I still wish Lafferty had gotten a Hugo for something other than “Eurema’s Dam”.

            Any recommendations for outstandingly good urban fantasy?

          • keranih says:

            urban fantasy

            Emma Bull’s Finder is very competently done, and is high on my ‘perpetual re-read’ list.

            Urban fantasy (vs rural medieval of various historical regions) is not my cuppa, but I will look and see if there are any more recent that I like.

          • Vorkon says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            Oh, I didn’t mean that you said that the genre (and his work, specifically) has been snubbed. I meant that you said that they said the genre had been snubbed. Specifically, when you said:

            Someone (possibly Torgerson) said that paranormal romance and urban fantasy were getting ignored by the Hugos just as much as milsf. I don’t know whether it’s mere prejudice or lack of stand-out contenders.

            Sorry about the confusion there! I just meant, “yeah, you’re right, that’s what they think, and that’s why they keep nominating Butcher.”

            As a side note, have you read the rest of the Dresden Files? Skin Game, on its own, is only an extremely competent heist story/espionage thriller with a supernatural edge, but as a capstone to a lot of things that had gone before, it’s a lot more impactful, and generally impressive. It still manages to stand on its own, which is more than can be said for a lot of umpteenth volumes in a long series, but that’s not how it was intended to be read. That’s a problem with a lot of sequels that get nominated for awards, actually, and is why I don’t mind “this guy should have won an award a LONG time ago”-style nominations, in general.

            (Though, I must warn you, the first two books in the series are pretty terrible. The first one, specifically, was a deliberate attempt to write a trite, clichéd story, and he never expected to both like the setting and characters, and have other people like it enough, for him to continue it. It picks up quickly after that, though.)

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Vorkon

            … which is why I strongly liked last year’s idea of a Hugo category for multi-book sagas. It got referred to a committee, but fortunately not defeated.

          • Randy M says:

            Recall a year or two ago, the complete works of The Wheel of Time were nominated. Amusingly, the publisher provided them free of charge to Worldcon voters, iirc. (ebook, of course)

            edit: As Evan just pointed out.

          • Nornagest says:

            The first one, specifically, was a deliberate attempt to write a trite, clichéd story, and he never expected to both like the setting and characters, and have other people like it enough, for him to continue it.

            The thing about trite, cliched stories is that the cliches became trite for a reason. So when a competent author picks them up rather than trying to strike new ground, they tend to sell like hotcakes.

            No one would call David Eddings original, for example — he literally wrote a book describing his formula. But he’s not a bad writer, and he was one of the biggest names in fantasy between Tolkien and the Nineties boom.

          • Maybe that’s the problem. I gave up on the series after the sometime in the second book.

            I don’t remember the details, but I think some interesting stuff was set up in book 1, and then it was set back to the beginning in book 2.

          • Pku says:

            Any recommendations for outstandingly good urban fantasy?

            Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere is fantastic (the book form – I wasn’t that crazy about the show’s execution), as well as his short story A study in Emerald.

            Also a +1 for Dresden Files – I think people here would enjoy it. It manages to have actually smart characters, in the sense that you never want to shout “no you idiot!” at the characters, including the villains (unless it’s part of a plot you only find out about later). For example, I’m a non-religious utilitarian, but the christian characters are well-written enough that it made me seriously consider the benefits of faith and virtue ethics.

            What’s the name of the Annie Bellet story you were talking about?

          • John Schilling says:

            Also a +1 for Dresden Files – I think people here would enjoy it. It manages to have actually smart characters, in the sense that you never want to shout “no you idiot!” at the characters,

            Really? I mean, I second the nomination, but I want to shout “No you idiot!” at Harry pretty much every third chapter. Every time he runs into an obvious trap, or into battle with a vastly more powerful foe and not a hint of a plan, for no better reason than that some innocent bystander is in danger. And more so as Butcher keeps upping the stakes, and the consequences.

            It helps, particularly considering the usual motive for his idiocy, that he’s such a likeable idiot.

            If I have a concern for the series going forward, it’s that this dynamic will require maintaining an increasingly narrow balance between Deus Ex Machina Ad Infinitum on the one hand, and a level of darkness that really doesn’t fit the concept or the characters on the other.

          • Vorkon says:

            @PKU

            The Annie Bellet story that the Sad Puppies tried to nominate?

            http://www.johnjosephadams.com/apocalypse-triptych/free-reads/goodnight-stars-annie-bellet/

            Like I said, not Urban Fantasy, but it was still quite good, and most of the rest of what she writes is Urban Fantasy. Shorter, self-published novellas, for the most part. I haven’t read all of her stuff yet, but I can at least say that her 20-Sided Sorceress series, while it might not have been award-worthy, exactly, is still quite fun.

            Also, yeah, most of what Gaiman writes could be considered Urban Fantasy, but then, he’s never had much difficulty getting awards, so I guess that’s one mark against the Puppies’ position. Either way, seconded on Neverwhere, and I’d definitely call American Gods Urban Fantasy, too.

            But yeah, people really shouldn’t discount Butcher, just because what he writes tends to be a bit pulpy. One thing that always strikes me about his work (other than his phenomenal ability to write witty banter, that is; I don’t think it would be a stretch to say he’s better at witty banter than just about any writer working today, with the possible exception of Joss Whedon) is the way he can describe things that are truly alien, overwhelming, terrifying, and just generally beyond the ability of the human mind to adequately comprehend, and really make you feel the enormity and alien-ness of them, better than anyone since Lovecraft, while still managing to present a world that still somehow manages to be ultimately hopeful, uplifting, and fun, despite all that. It’s a pretty unique dynamic, which I don’t think very many other people could manage to pull off. I think that’s part of the reason why the Dresden Files doesn’t really start to pick up until the Faerie courts are introduced.

            @John Schilling

            To be fair, he always knows he’s running into an obvious trap, he just does it anyway.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz – “Someone (possibly Torgerson) said that paranormal romance and urban fantasy were getting ignored by the Hugos just as much as milsf. I don’t know whether it’s mere prejudice or lack of stand-out contenders.”

            …I was amused one day to learn that a series I’d been following for some time, which I was pretty sure was sci-fi, was actually classified as “paranormal romance”. If you’ve never heard of it, I recommend the Dr. Zeus books by Kage Baker.

            “Firstly, there is no sense in which Correia was owed a Hugo. Many people write excellent sf for decades and don’t get a Hugo. It really is an honor (and a fairly unusual one) just to be nominated.”

            Correia never claimed to be owed a Hugo. He was nominated for a Campbell, and was then treated like shit by the worldcon clique due apparently to the fact that he’s not a proper blue tribe person. Everything since then has been an extended and highly entertaining object lesson on why people really should not do things like that.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            Any recommendations for outstandingly good urban fantasy?

            Gunnerkrigg Court and the Golem and the Djinn are my 5/5.

            For 4/5 I’d say Rivers of London and London Falling. Rivers of London is, IMO, a better done Dresden Files with less action/set-pieces but less standoffish, kind of jerk charachters – and more diplomatic solutions to problems.

            London Falling has some weaknesses, which I can feel but can’t describe, but makes up for it be being so good at capturing the feeling of “ordinary people struggling to deal with the supernatural”.

            If I go beyond books, I’d say the Blackwell Legacy 2 (point and click computer game) for it’s amazing ability to set a mood. And Being Human (UK) Series 1-3, which IMO has the “final word” on the whole angsty political vampire trope.

            I think Gunnerkrigg Court is the only one recent enough to qualify for this years Hugos, and the Sads recommended it.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Vorkon: My desire to shout “No, you idiot!” at the idiot tap-dancing through a minefield is increased, not diminished, if I see him clearly reading the “Danger: Minefield” sign beforehand. Mere ignorance is the least form of idiocy.

          • keranih says:

            the Dr. Zeus books by Kage Baker

            …are bloody well not paranormal romance.

            Well, okay, so it did shift over to being a fairly creepy version of the Alex and Mendoza show towards the end, but still! Cyborgs and lost civilizations and immortals and history and time travel oh my!

            The Graveyard Game was a hauntingly terrific read, and I recommend it to anyone, even if that’s the only one of the series they read.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ Deiseach
          But part of the problem is that the Hugos are used by publishers to promote books, and the books that don’t get promoted are the ones that fail to sell (this is becoming more and more of a problem for all kinds of authors;

          Right. Muggles are a big big market: librarians, chain buyers, review journals. Muggles like Hugo stickers; their bosses can’t complain about those.

          That’s a system that HPMOR really might have destroyed.

          • Randy M says:

            Because people would have found it objectionable? I don’t think it would have mattered much, given that it is only really available on-line. Correct me if I’m wrong.

      • The Nybbler says:

        John Wright writes highbrow SFF. Personally I don’t like it, but both the Sads and the Rabids do and the old guard does not. And Redshirts is decidedly lowbrow. This isn’t really about highbrow/lowbrow.

        • Anonymous says:

          Highbrow in the sense of postminimalism music or conceptual art installations? I’m not sure there is any highbrow SFF.

          To put my cards on the table I’d say that’s a good thing. I think upper middlebrow is the best brow.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Highbrow in the sense of heavy with symbolism and allegory, and not in particularly accessible language.

    • Standback says:

      I’ve been following along fairly assiduously since last year. It’s an interesting situation, and my take on it seems to be… a little bit off to one side.

      For one thing, I think a lot of the value the Hugos provide (provided?) isn’t just selecting the X Best Whatever a year; much more, it’s been a focal point for discussion (and argument!) where pros and fans and anybody interested could swap recommendations (and scathing rants), and talk about what’s new and interesting in the genre. The fact that anybody can participate, and yet it’s only a few thousand people involved, means it’s fairly easy for any individual to jump in and join the conversation.

      In other words, it was a form of community, and community activity.

      That’s kind of the way its processes work to begin with: the nomination phase tends to highlight the favorites of strong blocs and factions – say, fans of certain authors, or subgenres. But the voting stage pits those favorites against each other; something whose appeal is only niche can get on the shortlist, but it’ll never win. The Hugos are really good at boosting works that originate from specific niches, but that also speak to a wide audience.

      But… that’s all really dependent on size. Too big, or spread across too wide a field, and you lose the sense of community and participation. If the field grows sprawling and fractured enough, if there are a hundred different subgenres and any given shortlist only spotlights ten of them, then a bunch of fans find the awards less relevant. And, the small size of the group and the wide spread of work makes the awards wide open to easy influence by groups that are fairly single-minded (or, in the case of intentional attack, disciplined).

      So, boosting nomination numbers tenfold might block slating initiatives (might. it’s a big field), but it would also mean diluting individual influence to the point that average participants would no longer feel very invested in it. Limiting participation would be the same thing, but in the opposite direction – if you can’t afford a trip to Helsinki in 2017, you’re also cut out of the discussion.

      I think ultimately, the Puppy campaigns are a community problem, and will need a community-oriented solution. I’d like to see WorldCon absorb the Puppies who are sincerely interested in promoting great work in the field, and firmly block the influence of those who are just trolling.

      At the moment there’s Vox Day who’s stirring up cheaply-fueled internet outrage any way you can, and opposite them you’ve got WorldCon, whose members are often indignant and happy to return the hostility, and who have pretty good methodology to make changes to the nomination and voting process, but one that moves very slowly and demands lots of buy-in. So I think we’ll be seeing this fester for some time yet, after which things will eventually settle down – either through the Puppies petering out, or WorldCon clamping down on them.

      Where the Hugos are going in the long term is, well, a different question.

      But as long as it gives me good reason to have lots and lots of genre discussion all over the internet, well, I’m really glad it’s there 🙂

    • This might be as good a place as any to mention a theory– that for a very long time, science fiction and science fiction fans were despised by mainstream culture.

      Then, it became clear that it was possible to make money, sometimes a lot of money, in IT, and it also became clear that the fantastic was a normal part of human story-telling (rather than obviously inferior to stories about the real world and contemporary problems) and that there’s a large audience for world-building and whatever you call going over the details of a canon for consistency even if it’s not real-world plausibility.

      I remember when I first saw a polite story in a newspaper about a convention! And NPR did a long eulogy about Gordon Dickson (a solid but second rank golden age author)!

      What I didn’t see coming was that sf fans felt freer to hate each other.

      • Nita says:

        Uh, I think the people who looked down on sci-fi did so because it’s “genre fiction” (fiction that hits well-known emotional buttons using well-known tropes), not because it’s fantastic.

        For example, romance stories often deal with the real world and contemporary problems (actually, not just any passing fad-problems, but the ageless problem of finding the perfect mate), but they are still considered inferior to “real” literature. Or, from the other side, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is clearly fantastical, and yet it’s taken seriously by mainstream critics and scholars.

        • Mystery fiction may not have been respected, but it didn’t get despised the way sf did.

          As I understand it, giving the highest prestige to realistic fiction happened during the early 1900s. Earlier classics with fantastic elements were given a pass.

          And the problems were supposed to be large political problems which hurt a lot of people. Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath was getting literature right.

          • LHN says:

            Another data point: it was only over the course of the 19th century that novels themselves became respectable, and some of that may have been a matter of gravitating towards more respectable subjects. In Jane Austen, reading them is treated with some suspicion by more than one character. Not by the author herself, of course, and her protagonists and their love interests tend to read them. Though Northanger Abbey is sort of about the dangers of being too otaku about it.

            By Alcott’s Little Women, novels are in somewhat better odor but Jo is scolded for, and guided away from, writing action serials. (Alcott herself manages to have an entire Western take place largely offstage, with Dan in Jo’s Boys.)

            It does seem true that when poetry was the real high culture literary art, fantastic themes were still okay, especially since that overlapped with interest in classical mythology. Ditto opera, highbrow theater, etc. I wonder if the deprecation of the fantastic was in part a product of a lingering inferiority complex for novels.

          • Louisa May Alcott wrote thrillers under a pseudonym. I’ve read A Long Fatal Love Chase and I recommend it both as a pretty good page turner and as a reminder of how much the world has changed.

          • LHN says:

            Louisa May Alcott wrote thrillers under a pseudonym.

            Interesting! Though since it looks like those are pre-Little Women, the turn away towards more “improving” books seems autobiographical. (Though not knowing her biography in much detail, I don’t know if the motivation was the same as Jo’s.)

      • Forlorn Hopes says:

        What I didn’t see coming was that sf fans felt freer to hate each other.

        This shouldn’t be surprising. The social effects of common enemies are well known.

        Though I do feel that a lot of the vitriol is coming from outside sci-fi. Which is to say that a new generation of sci-fi/fantasy fans are bringing it with them from tumblr/universities/activism/wherever.

        The puppies and puppy-kickers have a lot in common, it’s why they’re drawn to similar books, and why they’re fighting. They’re each other’s outgroup.

    • Iceman says:

      Currently to vote or nominate you only need to pay 50$ for a “supporting membership”, and then you can vote by email.

      I’m going to use this as a prompt to remind everyone that a two-parter of My Little Pony is up for a Hugo this time around, and for $50, you can help Friendship is Magic get the critical acclaim it deserves. (Regardless of how it got nominated.)

      • The Nybbler says:

        The MLP nomination was a nice piece of trolling. Not only is it nominating a kid’s TV show for a Serious Award, but the particular episode is one which is seen by the Puppy sides as repudiating part of the other side’s philosophy. And on the surface it’s a perfectly legitimate nomination.

        • LHN says:

          I don’t think the “kids’ show” aspect is a problem per se. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire won for novel in 2001, and multiple Harry Potter, Narnia, and Henson productions have been nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation over the years.

          (I put Gravity Falls’ “Weirdmageddon” on my own nomination ballot entirely sincerely, albeit obviously without any effect.)

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          which is seen by the Puppy sides as repudiating part of the other side’s philosophy. And on the surface it’s a perfectly legitimate nomination.

          Okay, the idea of a Straussian pony cartoon is too funny for me to not ask you to explain.

        • Iceman says:

          That’s all true, and it’s also a really smart tactical move, too. How many bronies who wouldn’t otherwise participate in the Hugo award process are voting this year because their favorite show was nominated for an award? Notice how last year there was multiple no-awards; perhaps an influx of new people voting seriously might otherwise counteract coordinated anti-puppy voting?

          (Or, from Vox’s point of view, an even better outcome would be some of the bronies voting anti-SJW out of spite. Remember Derpygate? I do. Years later. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.)

          • Nornagest says:

            I may regret asking this, but what the hell is Derpygate?

          • null says:

            Disclaimer: I am not part of the MLP fandom in any capacity.

            So there was a character called Derpy Hooves, and some people thought this was making fun of disabled people.

          • Nornagest says:

            Weird. But I guess I’ve heard of dumber controversies.

        • Nornagest says:

          Would you mind going into a little more detail? I’m passingly familiar with MLP, but only the first season or so. I gather this is more recent.

        • LHN says:

          I’ll leave it to Mark (or someone else) to summarize it, but FWIW the nominated episodes are on Netflix.

        • Vorkon says:

          The Nybbler already posted a link with a pretty good description of the episode and what it’s about, above:

          http://thefederalist.com/2015/04/08/my-little-pony-to-children-marxism-is-not-magic/

        • Nita says:

          MLP is a genuinely good cartoon series (mostly for kids, but potentially enjoyable for adults as well). That particular episode, however, departed from the usual genre and headed straight into Chick tract territory.

        • Forlorn Hopes says:

          I strongly disagree Nita. It’s closer to a Narnia than a Chick Tract, if we are to use religious comparisons.

          I’d happily debate the point, but first you must give evidence. I can’t say more to an assertion than “I disagree”.

          @Mark Atwood
          Please can you go into more detail. I like the show, but I’ve never been a part of the fandom.

          However that sounds fascinating. Please share the details.

        • Nita says:

          @ Forlorn Hopes

          I can’t really comment on Narnia — I’ve only read the first book, and that was 20 years ago. But as far as political critiques go, the episode was like “the Nazis were bad because they hated puppies and opera”. It’s the bizarre disconnection from reality that reminded me of Chick tracts. If you’re going to criticize communism or the SJ movement (according to the interpretation in the linked review), there are plenty of true things you could say. So, why make stuff up?

          Both (actual, Soviet Union) communists and SJ folks believe(d) that individuals can have talents and passions that make them better than others at particular things. If anything, they’re likely to think that you have to develop your special skills, because there’s important work to be done.

          Actually, thinking about this reminded me of a kids’ story series by the Soviet writer Nikolay Nosov. (He also has good realistic, propaganda-free stories, but this series is definitely communism-flavored.) Instead of cute little ponies, the characters are cute little humans, the protagonist is a simple boy instead of a clever girl, and he lives in Flower Town instead of Ponyville. Also, there are no princesses and no money. But most characters are named after their special talents or character traits, just like ponies, and no one seems to think that everyone should be exactly the same.

          Illustrations:
          protagonist
          clever guy and astronomer guy
          painter guy
          mechanic duo

          MLP is at its best when it deals with friendship-related questions kids might encounter in their daily life — e.g., can you be too helpful? what if you don’t get along with a friend’s friend? But every time it strays into political territory, it ends up saying something weird.

        • Forlorn Hopes says:

          can’t really comment on Narnia

          I just meant that Narnia is a high quality religious work, while Chick Tracts are a joke.

          Both (actual, Soviet Union) communists and SJ folks believe(d) that individuals can have talents and passions that make them better than others at particular things.

          Here’s where you’re making a mistake. You’re taking a metaphor literally.

          SJ folk don’t believe that talents are bad. But they do support things like diversity quotas in hiring.

          It’s obviously not the same as taking people’s talents away. No SJW is asking skilled tech workers or CEOs to become less talented. Instead they’re saying choose the less talented person because promoting equality is more important than getting the best person for the job.

          But it works as a metaphor because:

          1) A cartoonishly evil plot is more appropriate for a children’s cartoon than a nuanced and accurate view.

          2) It gets the most important point across – that there is such a thing as taking equality too far.

          3) While communism/SJW don’t say that individual excellence is bad, it discouraged it unintentionally. Why work harder under communist economics when there is little reward for doing so?

          Why work hard to overcome your flaws when you can just blame the patriarchy/oppression?

          —————–

          More importantly you’re focusing on the wrong part of the episode.

          The most important part of the episode is not when it criticizes taking away talent but when it criticizes the idea that people can only get along with people like themselves.

          This barely even a metaphor. The only way it could be more explicit is if they called the village a safe space. And with the huge amounts of SJ promoted X-Only groups, rooms, etc it’s quite topical.

          That aspect of SJ culture is not healthy, and segregation certainly is bad. They have every right to do it, but they also have every right to smoke cigarettes.

          The episodes message that you should accept and befriend people different from you, not isolating yourself with a group of people who’re all the same as you, is a message for our times.

          The deftness in which it told the message, mixed into a good story, and the perfect choice of message all combine to create something worthy of a Hugo.

        • Nita says:

          OK, I see there are some real-world factual disagreements underlying our difference of opinion here.

          SJ folk don’t believe that talents are bad. But they do support things like diversity quotas in hiring. [..] they’re saying choose the less talented person

          No, they’re not. They sincerely believe that our judgment of talent is compromised by bias (not an outrageous claim — we all believe that bias is a thing, right?), so we have to make some adjustments to counteract it — for instance, casting a wider net when soliciting job applications, considering whether we treat outgroup members with more hostility in interviews etc.

          Why work harder under communist economics when there is little reward for doing so?

          Of course there were rewards — bonuses, promotions, vacation trips, the Soviet equivalent of “Employee of the Month”, and so on. (And of course, people who could schmooze and self-promote managed to get more than their ‘fair’ share, especially where performance was hard to measure. But the same is true of the average business environment.)

          it criticizes the idea that people can only get along with people like themselves

          Whose idea is that? The SJ movement is an alliance of many different minority-rights movements. It’s constantly trying to find ways for various groups to support each other and not to tread on each other’s toes.

          And maybe “safe spaces” actually help some people. I’ve certainly seen people defend r/theredpill as a place where men can vent about their terrible experiences with women without being judged.

        • Forlorn Hopes says:

          OK, I see there are some real-world factual disagreements underlying our difference of opinion here.

          Naturally. What else would it have been?

          No, they’re not. They sincerely believe that our judgment of talent is compromised by bias (not an outrageous claim

          IMO there’s an expressed preference / revealed preference difference here.

          SJ say that they want to compensate for bias, but I see a lot of support for quotas and very little for, e.g. replacing job interviews with anonymized aptitude tests. (A policy I support by the way).

          Bias is definitely part of the problem, and part of SJ thinking about the problem.

          But if SJ only wanted to address bias and didn’t want to see less skilled women/minority candidates getting the job ahead of more qualified white/Asian men then I would expect to see as least equal support between quotas and anonymization.

          We don’t see that.

          Of course there were rewards

          Small ones. (I don’t particularly want to get into a debate on Marxist/communist economics. I’m not that interested in the subject)

          Whose idea is that?

          Here’s an example.

          If someone is feeling saying a Trump supporter sharing a campus with them makes them feel unsafe, how do you think they’ll react if their friend comes out the closet as a Trump supporter.

          Or what they’ll say if a friend asks them for advice because their friend came out the closet?

          This whole idea that people with different opinions makes you feel unsafe is coming from SJ culture, and when someone makes you feel unsafe you don’t befriend them.

          And maybe “safe spaces” actually help some people. I’ve certainly seen people defend r/theredpill as a place where men can vent about their terrible experiences with women without being judged.

          Of course they do. Few ideas are wholly good or wholly bad.

          When a safe space is designed to help people get back on their feet to a point where they no longer need a safe space (that means helping the person. Not changing the entire world to suit the person) it’s probably a good thing.

          Feel free to criticism the quality of help provided by r/theredpill but they are trying to provide advice on how to have more successful relationships with women.

        • ChetC3 says:

          IMO there’s an expressed preference / revealed preference difference here.

          IMO, revealed preference arguments of this sort are politically correct straw-manning. When this kind of argument is made in the other direction (“conservatives/libertarians say they support Policy X for purely principled reasons, but their patterns of behavior show it’s really just racism/misogyny/whatever”), it’s treated as clear evidence of leftist perfidy. How unspeakably uncharitable to not take them at their word! But take the exact same approach in arguing against the political left, and all you’ve got to do is slap on a bit of jargon from economics (the good social science) to make it completely respectable. Another one of the sneaky double-standards by which the SSC orthodoxy is upheld.

        • TheWorst says:

          @ChetC3: I agree with both you and Forlorn Hopes, in a way. But I think the point would be better made in the other context. Revealed preferences are a thing, even if everyone switches positions on it based on whose revealed preferences are currently contradicting their stated ones.

          I think it might be a better idea to speak up when conservatives falsely claim that noticing revealed preferences is Leftist Perfidy, rather than when they correctly point out what our revealed preferences are. When someone sometimes says true things and sometimes says false things, chastise them in the second instance, not the first.

          “You once said something incorrect, so you don’t get to say things that are true” seems like a less-useful policy. More true things. Always.

        • Jiro says:

          The revealed preference argument is “they claim to want X, but they don’t do Y, which would actually accomplish X”. There are, of course, possible explanations–perhaps they don’t believe that Y accomplishes X, for instance. It isn’t a fully general argument–whether the argument works depends on what the possible explanations are and how plausible they are.

          Can you think of some reason why SJs would object to anonymized tests to reduce bias? At least, some reason that doesn’t boil down to “anonymized tests would work too well because they would make it impossible to disfavor the ingroup but also impossible to favor them”?

        • Anonymous says:

          The problem is the “SJWs” exist mostly in the heads of the paranoid and the malicious both looking for enemies. Since they only have a tenuous connection to reality they are capable of being endlessly no true Scotsman’ed.

          For example, I’ve seen several articles in left leaning media praising blind auditioning for orchestra spots, but I’m sure that doesn’t count somehow.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I don’t think you have to go to revealed preference arguments. Many SJ types believe, axiomatically, that any difference in outcome between “privileged” and “marginalized” groups is due to some sort of discrimination, by the privileged, on some level. They will say so. They are fine with various neutral methods to remove bias such as anonymization, but if these do not remove the difference in outcome they will not be satisfied that there is no bias and will demand stronger methods.

          Based on the sample of SJ people I’ve had arguments with, they are also fine for calling for explicit bias against privileged groups, to counteract pre-existing biases against marginalized groups. They will not admit to any limit to these biases; if you complain about a bias against a privileged person, they will claim that the playing field is so stacked against the marginalized person that any bias in the other direction is acceptable.

        • TheWorst says:

          @Jiro:

          The revealed preference argument is …

          That’s one of them, yes. It seems extraordinarily sketchy to present that as “the” revealed preference argument, though. I’ve seen a lot of revealed preference arguments, and almost all of them are a good deal stronger than that.

        • TheWorst says:

          @ anonymous:

          The problem is the “SJWs” exist mostly in the heads of the paranoid and the malicious both looking for enemies.

          This is a testable belief; if a person who self-identifies as an SJW can be found, then it will have been falsified.

          I know (too many) people who self-identify as such. There is a good chance you can find plenty of them with a quick search of your surroundings, and/or trivially-easy use of devices in your immediate vicinity.

        • ChetC3 says:

          From the SJ perspective, anti-affirmative action is code for anti-black. Call it a heuristic if you like. As much as you may object, SJ people sincerely believe that their opponents are mostly racist, sexist, homophobic, and generally bigoted. So when their opponents say something is “unbiased”, what they really mean is “biased in favor of professional class white guys” (and maybe Asians). But since econ-speak doesn’t have much cachet in the SJ-friendly parts of the left, they don’t couch their my-opponents-are-evil-liars arguments in terms of revealed preference.

        • Anonymous says:

          TheWorst:
          You seemed to have missed the word “mostly”. The anti-SJW hysteria around here is an object lesson in Scott’s weakman idea. Find one college student on Twitter or twenty-something with a blog on a third tier gawker property and all of a sudden you are justified in your ranting about an emerging evil empire.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          I don’t think this is really all that complicated.

          Proponents of affirmative action and other quota systems, in the West at least, genuinely believe that there are no significant differences in ability between so-called advantaged and disadvantaged populations. Moreover, they believe that there is a large untapped pool of disadvantaged talent to the point that they expect instituting a quota to actually increase the competence of new hires / students.

          Now, granted, they’re wrong on both counts. The hidden vein of diamonds-in-the-rough they’re imagining largely doesn’t exist anyway, so even if the groups had perfectly uniform abilities you would expect a quota to lower candidate quality. And more importantly, ability is not uniformly distributed between populations. Both of these are well documented.

          That’s where the problem with PC comes into it: it’s very difficult to actually point either of those things out in a politically sensitive way. This isn’t even on the level of rules like “saying that America is a meritocracy constitutes a microagression,” it’s the most ground-floor level of “don’t make openly racist / sexist comments.” It’s like trying to teach proper condom use in upper-crust Victorian London: the restrictions on how you can say things prevent you from being able to make a useful point at all.

        • Forlorn Hopes says:

          This is a testable belief; if a person who self-identifies as an SJW can be found, then it will have been falsified.

          Indeed. I have seen many self identified SJWs, Mostly on twitter and RPG.net.

          “You once said something incorrect, so you don’t get to say things that are true” seems like a less-useful policy. More true things. Always.

          Well said.

          (Also, while people might do so, I didn’t personally oppose revealed preference arguments when they challenge the right. Admittedly I don’t post here that often so it’s not exactly a high bar for me)

          For example, I’ve seen several articles in left leaning media praising blind auditioning for orchestra spots, but I’m sure that doesn’t count somehow.

          Not all leftists are SJWs, I can’t say if those particular leftists are SJW because I don’t know who they are.

          I can say that quotas get far more promotion in SJW circles than anonymized testing.

          Can you think of some reason why SJs would object to anonymized tests to reduce bias?

          I think what happened was that IQ tests got a bad rap because there were racial differences on average in the results – and that soured SJ Tribe on the entire concept of anonymized testing.

          However this is just extrapolation from memories. I can’t verify it with a quick google.

          However while I don’t know the reason why SJ might not like anonymized testing. Given the high profile success of anonymizing musician auditions (one of the reasons I like the idea of anonymized tests) I would expect that if SJ tribe had a better reason than “it counters biases, but can’t promote our tibial members over more qualified members of the outgroup” for not liking anonymized testing I would expect SJ tribe to know the reason.

          Nita?

        • keranih says:

          For example, I’ve seen several articles in left leaning media praising blind auditioning for orchestra spots, but I’m sure that doesn’t count somehow.

          I’ve seen some of those, and I found them surprising in how much trouble they had to go through in order to properly ‘blind’ the auditions – not just full length panels separating the the judges from the candidate, but carpeted walkways so that women’s heels didn’t reveal the gender of the candidate. The resulting shift in hiring percentages did serve as a bit of cold bath to the idea that well, they are already pretty unbiased, right? Evidently, there was still some bias left to shift.

          However…and not to take away from the idea that oh heck yes we need more blinded objective selection tools…in our social world, a one-time individual performance is not the whole of a person’s qualities.

          Will this performer show up at all rehersals? Will they show up sober?

          Will this performer get along amicably with coworkers?

          Will this performer interact with the audience in a manner that draws larger audiences and more ticket sales?

          These are important also, and strong negatives here could – quite fairly – lead to an orchestra rejecting a candidate who had a brillant audition in favor of one with a very good audition performance. Probably the largest issue would be difficulty in objectively measuring reliability/sobriety/charisma, and correctly weighting that against audition performance.

          None of which has much to do with blinding orchestra auditions being written of favorably in leftist press – because the notability is the outcome (more women hired) than the means. If the outcome had been the same number of women vs men hired – or if more men had been hired in blinded tests – we’d not have heard about this from the same people.

          We need to aim at the faulty system, not at the results. This is the SJW error.

          W

        • TheWorst says:

          Also, while people might do so, I didn’t personally oppose revealed preference arguments when they challenge the right.

          Good. I didn’t want to make a claim that strong, but now I will: “Someone I see as being on Your Side once said something that was incorrect, so you’re not allowed to say true things” is an even less-useful policy, and I’d hoped it wasn’t the one ChetC3 was applying.

          The policy I’d promote instead is for everyone to be aware of reality: When “we” say true-but-hurtful things about “them,” they won’t like it. This does not change the accuracy of any true things that might be said by Them about Us.

          It does not matter how strongly our team is convinced that They are the bad guys and we are the heroes of the story. Truth value does not change based on the tribal affiliation of the speaker.

          Anyone who would drink Drano just because someone in the outgroup said not to is an idiot.

          Edit: Scooped.

          We need to aim at the faulty system, not at the results. This is the SJW error.

          This. Faulty results that favor “my team” aren’t less faulty than any other kind of faulty result.

        • Anonymous says:

          I see a lot of very confident holding forth on what SJWs believe in this thread. We’ve got outright marxists and monarchists on here happy to share what they believe, but for this supposedly huge and mainstream group we need to rely on bigfoot reports.

          Hmm.

        • Nita says:

          @ Forlorn Hopes

          I see a lot of support for quotas and very little for, e.g. replacing job interviews with anonymized aptitude tests.

          I’ve seen more debate about quotas than support for them, but I have seen several pieces about blind orchestra auditions, for example. And some people are trying to make it work for tech companies, too.

          If someone is feeling saying a Trump supporter sharing a campus with them makes them feel unsafe

          But they’re not saying that. They’re saying that “Build a Wall” and “Accept the Inevitable” are kind of shitty things to write all over the common spaces. I wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who thought that was a fine thing to do, either. (Or with someone who scrawled “Hillary is Happening, We Shall Bathe in Male Tears!” all over the place, for that matter. “I think Hillary Clinton would be a good president” is a political opinion. “Hurting men’s precious fee-fees is fun” is the opinion of an asshole.)

          they are trying to provide advice on how to have more successful relationships with women

          Well, other safe spaces try to provide helpful advice as well. Some of it may be counterproductive, but probably not all of it.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          @Mark Atwood: Jim wrote a similar review of “The Cutie Map”:

          So I downloaded this My Little Pony Episode, “the cutie map”, And it is pretty good and very deep. 1984, Brave New World, and Harrison Bergeron, written for ten year old girls.

          A commie pony has established a commie utopia, and our major characters drop in to investigate.

          There is the mandatory official happiness of “Brave New World”, the destructive equalizing downwards of “Harrison Bergeron”, and the poverty, ugliness, and lying authoritarianism of “1984”. All depicted for ten year old girls.

          Of course “My Little Pony” is in the business of teaching little girls prosocial lessons, and the first lesson that we are beaten over the head with is “people can disagree, and still be friends”. Which gets repeated numerous times. Sounds pretty bland and innocent as a lecture to ten year old girls. Right? Except that it is set in a society of terrifying political correctness where everyone agrees with everyone or else. Which makes it not at all bland and innocent.

          In other words, Social Justice Warriors, the mob who wants to no platform Moldbug, the rioters trying the shut down the Trump rallies, are behaving like naughty, unpleasant, bad, nasty children. Like naughty ten year old girls.

          Another lesson, less heavily thumped, is that some people are better than other people, and that some people can be better than other people, and still be friends. Also, the commie utopia has no choice in goods, and what goods it does have are no good. The equal ponies are dressed in identical coarse sacks, and eat identical bad food. Since everyone is supposedly equally good at muffin production, the cook is in fact dreadful at cooking muffins.

          At eighteen minutes in the first episode, we find that the incompetent muffin cook has, like Harrison Bergeron, been deprived of her special talent that once made her better than others.

          We also encounter the Overton Window “that sounds extreme”. Or rather “that souNDS EEEXXXTEEEEEEEEME!!” – for views that before the communist revolution would have been utterly ordinary and taken for granted. Even those plotting counter revolution are incapable of crimethink. They want moderate and reasonable counter revolution – nothing EEEXXXTEEEEEEEEME!! They are cuckservative ponies. Communism is horrible, brutal, and failing disastrously, so they want just slightly less communism. But nothing “EEEXXXTEEEEEEEEME!!”

          Yes, My Little Pony features a cuckservative.

          And then, at the end of the first episode, they discover there is no leaving utopia,

          At the start of the next episode, we hear propaganda broadcast by loudspeaker. “Exceptionalism is a lie” say the loudspeakers. But the ten year old girls viewing the episode know the major characters are exceptional – leading to a moral unusual in shows directed at ten year old girls “Don’t trust the mass media – it is probably propaganda.”

          But the major characters have had their special abilities, their superiority, magically removed from them. They are handicapped down to the lowest common denominator. They find that they like dull books and crappy soviet style goods.

          Then comes the pressure to rat out your fellow reactionaries and counter revolutionaries.

          Then Fluttershy discovers that some commies are more equal than other commies, reveals it, and counter revolution ensues – an ending that I fear is far too optimistic. We already know that some commies are more equal than other commies, and no one is revolting.

        • Forlorn Hopes says:

          I’ve seen more debate about quotas than support for them, but I have seen several pieces about blind orchestra auditions, for example. And some people are trying to make it work for tech companies, too.

          I’m aware, I’ve even met some of the people trying it in tech a few years back. (just a casual conversation)

          But I don’t see nearly as much debate about anonymized testing as debate about quotas. And I don’t see nearly as much support for anonymized testing as I see support for quotas.

          But they’re not saying that. They’re saying that “Build a Wall” and “Accept the Inevitable” are kind of shitty things to write all over the common spaces. I wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who thought that was a fine thing to do, either.

          What’s so bad about either?

          “Accept the Inevitable” is a pretty bland thing to say. It’s really just saying “my candidate is going to win! yay!”.

          Build a wall depends entirely upon the motivations for that wall. Which is going to vary by the individual trump supporter.

          (Or with someone who scrawled “Hillary is Happening, We Shall Bathe in Male Tears!” all over the place, for that matter. “I think Hillary Clinton would be a good president” is a political opinion. “Hurting men’s precious fee-fees is fun” is the opinion of an asshole.)

          Note though that these examples are unfair comparison. Both of yours explicitly state that inflicting hurt upon men is a good thing.

          With the Trump chalkings, well it’s entirely possible that they don’t like Mexicans and would feel good if Trump hurt them.

          But it’s entirely possible that they just think “Mexican’s are hard working decent people who’ll do the job for half what I need to feed my family. How am I going to keep food on the table without economic protectionism?”

          (I confidant that in practice, Trump supporters come from both camps.)

          This is how memes forbidding friendship work. Nobody says “don’t be friends with them”. It’s always “don’t be friends with them because they’re assholes”.

          So basically. If you want to know how SJ discourages friendships with people who’re different from you. It’s by encouraging you to assume the worst about people.

        • Protagoras says:

          I know some self-identified SJWs, but they’re not much like the description of SJWs around here; for the most part, their views are pretty moderate. They call themselves SJWs because they’re pissed off at conservatives over various issues and perceived slights, and owning the label is a way flipping off the other side. Kind of the liberal version of being a Trump supporter.

        • TheWorst says:

          Kind of the liberal version of being a Trump supporter.

          It’s nice to feel like I’m not the only person who notices this.

        • ChetC3 says:

          @TheWorst

          I’m saying that the local standards of civility and charity are blatantly tilted in favor of a certain kinds of right-wing rhetoric. If we’re talking about what’s true instead of what’s polite, the default assumption of anyone remotely familiar with neuroscience and human psychology should be that the explanations people give of their actions and beliefs are BS. Instead, the standard around here is that members of the favored classes (the “red tribe”, anti-SJWs, right-leaning angry male nerds in general) must be treated as having super-human levels of psychological insight, in addition to their unimpeachable intellectual honesty and integrity. Anything less will be dismissed as insufficiently charitable. General criticism of the “blue tribe”, feminists, SJs, etc., not being held to the same unrealistic standards is what I’m objecting to, not the truth of any individual criticism.

        • TheWorst says:

          I’m saying that the local standards of civility and charity are blatantly tilted in favor of a certain kinds of right-wing rhetoric.

          This seems true.

          Instead, the standard around here is that members of the favored classes … must be treated as having super-human levels of psychological insight, in addition to their unimpeachable intellectual honesty and integrity.

          This seems untrue.

          My point was that if you think your tribe is receiving insufficient charity, being uncharitable to other people when they are correct is probably the wrong strategy.

          When your side is right, your side benefits from norms that value truth. Hence: More true things, always. The answer is never “less true things.”

          General criticism of the “blue tribe”, feminists, SJs, etc., not being held to the same unrealistic standards is what I’m objecting to, not the truth of any individual criticism.

          I understand that. My point is that this is anathema to anyone who actually thinks their side is correct. Truth is not an unrealistic standard.

          If someone makes a false statement, that means they were wrong. It does not mean that “your side” is now entitled to one “free” false statement.

        • LHN says:

          If someone is feeling saying a Trump supporter sharing a campus with them makes them feel unsafe

          But they’re not saying that. They’re saying that “Build a Wall” and “Accept the Inevitable” are kind of shitty things to write all over the common spaces.

          I think pressing the university into taking action against the chalker (trespassing charges if nonstudents, disciplinary process if students) goes a little farther than that.

          There was also a specific student quote claiming that due to the university “not ending it”, “people of color are struggling academically because they are so focused on trying to have a safe community and focus on these issues”. That sounds extremely close to “a Trump supporter sharing a campus with them makes them feel unsafe”.

          http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/03/emory-u-to-track-down-trump-supporting-chalkers.html

        • dndnrsn says:

          @ChetC3: Yes.

          The most common failure mode of a method of understanding opinions, behaviours, etc based on neuroscience, psychology, etc is coming to a view of the world where everyone else is hopelessly befuddled by their biology and so forth, but you are clear-eyed and above all that.

          Of course, fully embracing a model where everyone is just coming up with after-the-fact justifications for their opinions, which they really derived from their emotions and what is advantageous to believe, which are in large part biologically determined, is rather depressing, to say the least, because it implies you yourself only hold this worldview for such base reasons.

          Turtles all the way down.

        • Nita says:

          @ Forlorn Hopes

          But I don’t see nearly as much debate about anonymized testing as debate about quotas.

          Perhaps because quotas are extremely controversial? And the only positions where I have heard of mandatory quotas are ones where a test-based approach seems unlikely, such as management board members or members of parliament.

          “Accept the Inevitable” is a pretty bland thing to say. It’s really just saying “my candidate is going to win! yay!”.

          Not all interpretations of this phrase are quite so happy.

          But it’s entirely possible that they just think

          It’s entirely possible that people who think that exist. Is thinking that a likely motivation for the graffiti? I don’t think so. When I’m worried about the future of my family, I don’t usually find the nearest political opponent and urge them to “accept the inevitable”.

          “They’re assholes” is what I keep hearing about the dreaded SJWs, although many of them seem to have good intentions.

        • ChetC3 says:

          @TheWorst

          I don’t agree that the claim was true. At best, there’s no practical way to prove it’s false. It’s no better an argument than asking why libertarians don’t move to Somalia if they hate government so much.

        • TheWorst says:

          …is rather depressing, to say the least, because it implies you yourself only hold this worldview for such base reasons.

          Welcome, brother! Pull up a chair and have a drink. The drinks are terrible, but so is everything else.

        • null says:

          You know, it doesn’t help your case by stereotyping your opponents. In any case, I think it’s more of a matter that people bring their own biases into things, and given the tilt of the SSC commentariat this is the inevitable result.

          I don’t appreciate ‘angry male nerd’ used as a pejorative. In general, it is dismissive.

        • I know some smart civil people that I respect who identify as SJWs.

          I’m horrified, but what seems to be going on is that they do a word by word analysis. Justice is good. Extending it so that it has good group effects is good. It is good to be a Warrior for good things.

          Oy! This is like expecting science in science fiction. Of course, there is *some* science, but you shouldn’t default to expecting it.

          Those people look at (what I consider to be) the good parts of Social Justice and ignore how horrible it can get. I’m hoping such people can push the Overton Window in Social Justice rather than being first against the wall when the revolution comes. I have no idea what’s going to happen.

        • ChetC3 says:

          @dndnrsn

          Or you could believe that self-serving confabulation is the path of least resistance, but it’s still possible with effort for people to do better. That’s what rationality, in the non-tribal sense, is supposed to be about.

        • TheWorst says:

          I don’t agree that the claim was true.

          I know! That’s kind of my point. When your opponent says something true, it’s probably a good idea to acknowledge it. Otherwise, it will look like very strong evidence that you aren’t on the right side–or at least that you don’t care whether or not you’re on the right side.

          That’s the whole problem; it seems to me that you’ve made several convincing statements that you care about tribal warfare more than about truth. This is extremely unpersuasive to people who care about truth, and reduces the chances that they will place weight on your statements about truth or untruth.

          When a person is correct, truth is always their ally. To a person who merely would prefer to be correct, truth is still always their ally.

        • ChetC3 says:

          I don’t appreciate ‘angry male nerd’ used as a pejorative. In general, it is dismissive.

          So is ‘post-modernist’. So is ‘SJW’. If there’s some blanket rule in effect against terms that can be used as pejoratives, I haven’t noticed.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          SJW is such an unhelpful concept, it seems like there is always an incentive for anti-SJ people to stretch it as far as they can, and an equally strong incentive from SJ people to define it as narrowly as possible.

        • dndnrsn says:

          @ChetC3: I’ve started a new tree down below.

        • null says:

          There isn’t a rule, but you’re a jerk. There’s also a substantial difference between those insults in that only one of them refers to criteria other than people’s intellectual positions.

        • ChetC3 says:

          What’s the polite way to describe people who promote male nerd identity politics?

        • Forlorn Hopes says:

          Perhaps because quotas are extremely controversial?

          That could explain why quotas get more debate than tests. It would not explain why they get more support (measured independently from the amount of opposition)

          And the only positions where I have heard of mandatory quotas are ones where a test-based approach seems unlikely, such as management board members or members of parliament.

          This doesn’t explain why you don’t see support for tests for programming.

          Not all interpretations of this phrase are quite so happy.

          That’s a joke – if you fight a bear with a chainsaw the bear will win.

          What’s wrong with that?

          When I’m worried about the future of my family, I don’t usually find the nearest political opponent and urge them to “accept the inevitable”.

          You’re not a Trump supporter. You’re not even the same tribe as a Trump supporter.

          Why are you judging them by what you’d do?

          “They’re assholes” is what I keep hearing about the dreaded SJWs, although many of them seem to have good intentions.

          Some are, some aren’t.

          Though the SJW memeplex seems to make it easy for assholes to rise to the top. Requires Hate should be an uncontroversial example of this.

          (Of course. You could say that about Trump)

        • null says:

          What does ‘male nerd identity politics’ mean?

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ Whatever Happened To Anonymous
          SJW is such an unhelpful concept, it seems like there is always an incentive for anti-SJ peoaple to stretch it as far as they can

          Datapoint: There is a style of debate (and, charitably, of thought) that I strongly oppose. I do not know an appropriate name for it. I most often see it used to support issues referred to as SJW issues, and by the people referred to (by outsiders) as SJWs. Thus when I want to refer to that style, I call it ‘SJW style’, and the people who use it, ‘SJWs’.

          I apologize to the eggs, if any.

        • Nita says:

          @ Forlorn Hopes

          It would not explain why they get more support (measured independently from the amount of opposition)

          Yes, it would not explain that. Has anyone actually measured the amount of support? E.g., with something like:

          Which of the following policies do you support?
          – blind auditions and similar performance tests
          – demographic quotas
          – etc.

          What’s wrong with that?

          There’s nothing wrong with the joke. It just shows that “accept the inevitable” can mean “lol, you’re fucked”.

          Why are you judging them by what you’d do?

          Because they’re human beings, just like me. What do you think I should do instead?

        • Forlorn Hopes says:

          Yes, it would not explain that. Has anyone actually measured the amount of support?

          I don’t think there’s any formal measurements.

          I’d sooner do a survey of popular websites aligned with SJ tribe rather than a question. This is about revealed preferences not stated preferences.

          There’s nothing wrong with the joke. It just shows that “accept the inevitable” can mean “lol, you’re fucked”.

          Which is not automatically a bad thing. It sounds to me like something you’d say to mate down at the sports bar when their team is loosing.

          Because they’re human beings, just like me. What do you think I should do instead?

          Learn about their culture, then use that knowledge to understand what they likely meant by accept the inevitable rather than using yourself.

          I don’t mind when I get missgendered. I’m human, trans people are also human, so it’s safe to assume trans people don’t mind being missgendered…

          Complete nonsense isn’t it? Same goes for Trump supporters. Judging them by how you’d feel is complete nonsense.

          Calling them assholes because you judged them by yourself in ignorance. We’ll there’s a reason SJW tribe gets a bad rep in a lot of places.

        • Nita says:

          @ Forlorn Hopes

          This is about revealed preferences not stated preferences.

          Right. Also, we want to measure support, not controversy (see: Toxoplasma of Rage). How would we disentangle them?

          And I guess a study of really revealed preferences should look at the things people actually try to implement (various mentorship programs seem to be popular?), not at things they merely comment on.

          It sounds to me like something you’d say to mate

          Like you just said yourself, they’re not even the same tribe. Being abrasive to your mates works as countersignalling precisely because we don’t treat strangers that way and expect to get away with it.

      • Mary says:

        AND your membership will let you nominate next year.

    • keranih says:

      I have been pretty open about being a pro-Sad Puppy commenter here.

      I reject your take on the Hugo kerfluffle in pretty much its entirety, and strongly urge you to expand your reading list.

      Having said that – I think the best solution to any charges of vote fixing is to increase the number of voters, so that any nefarious plans will be lost in the broader poll of preferences, and so a more accurate survey of fans can be conducted. (This is, btw, the Sad Puppy take. If we had 100,000 fans nominating, Vox Day and his ilk would be unable to exert any influence.)

      If we can’t increase the number of votes – and as noted above, the old order WorldCon TruFan contingent is resistant to getting more people involved – then I think the 4/6 suggestion (everyone gets four suggestions for final ballot, the top six get picked) is certainly reasonable. EPH, on the other hand, is a convoluted mess that seems far more trouble than it is worth.

    • Vorkon says:

      I am thinking the solution is to increase the voting requirements. Currently to vote or nominate you only need to pay 50$ for a “supporting membership”, and then you can vote by email. I think they should change it so that only people who have actually physically attended a worldcon can nominate works to the final ballot. Supporting members can still be allowed to vote on the actual Hugo (choosing from among the five nominees).

      That sounds like a great idea, if your goal is the delegitimatize the Hugo, wipe it of whatever prestige it still has left, and potentially bankrupt Worldcon.

      As I understand it, Worldcon relies on supporting memberships to stay out of the red. It’s true that under your plan, it would still be possible to pay for a supporting membership, but the entire reason most people get supporting memberships is to vote on/nominate for the Hugo. That’s the whole reason they tried to sell the Hugo as belonging to the entire SF/F fandom, up until the Puppy kerfluffle, in the first place. There is no way that your plan doesn’t significantly reduce the number of supporting memberships, if not reduce it to an insignificant number. That can’t be good for Worldcon as a whole.

      And that doesn’t even begin to get into how bad the optics would look on this. While I’m sympathetic to a lot of the Puppies’ concerns, as of right now Worldcon has at least some moral highground here: There’s no actual, real-life secret cabal, systematically discriminating against the Puppies. Such discrimination may exist, but it’s all unconscious bias. (Though, I have to admit, it’s somewhat amusing that the puppies seem to have independently stumbled upon the concept of “privilege,” even though they might be loathe to describe it that way, but I digress. :op ) And although I believe a lot of the concerns about slate voting are overblown, and are being used to rationalize away the feeling of “we don’t like the puppies and we want them gone, so we’re going to subconsciously latch onto the idea of them blindly following a slate, despite the organizers clearly describing it as a recommendations list like so many others that have always floated around the internet” I can’t deny that the central anti-puppy argument, that it’s unfair if one group dominates entire categories, is definitely a valid concern, and is worth addressing. However, once you make it so the puppies are excluded from voting altogether, you’ve given up any high ground you may have once had. At that point, you actually are systematically discriminating against them, and you’re no longer just preventing a single faction from dominating entire categories. There’s no way this can be good for the Hugo’s reputation.

      Pretty much the only person who would benefit from a proposition like this is Vox Day, whose entire goal is to ruin the Hugo’s reputation, and who I’m sure would love to bankrupt Worldcon. (And maybe Larry Correia, who gets an opportunity to smugly say, “I told ‘ya so.”)

      Anyway, assuming you’re serious and not just trying to secretly push some Rabid Puppy goal, here is what I have to say about the current proposed changes to the nomination system:

      I think EPH (the Single divisible Vote system you mention) is a lousy idea, but that 6/4 (the proposed change that you can only nominate 4 works per category, but that there will be 6 finalists instead of 5, as there are currently) is actually pretty good. As you say, EPH ensures that, no matter what, there will always be at least one work per category that belongs to an organized slate. It incentivizes organizing around a particular one or two popular works, and encourages other people, not just the puppies, to engage in slate voting as well, rather than nominating everything that interests them, and will only serve to make the finalist less varied in the long run. It’s true that it will prevent one faction from ever dominating a single category, but it presupposes that such factions will always exist, and dispels the illusion that offbeat and niche works could ever possibly earn the nomination, which a nomination system for an award like this should make possible. 6/4, on the other hand, also prevents a single faction from ever dominating, (as there will always be 2 spots not covered by any slate) but at the same time widens the net, and allows a greater diversity of works to show up on the final ballot.

      Anyway, if you’re curious, you can always check the last Open Thread for another discussion on the Hugos, and maybe check out this post for an explanation of why maybe this isn’t the best topic to be discussing here. (Though, I must say, I’m guilty of ignoring that myself. :op )

      • walpolo says:

        There’s no actual, real-life secret cabal, systematically discriminating against the Puppies. Such discrimination may exist, but it’s all unconscious bias. (Though, I have to admit, it’s somewhat amusing that the puppies seem to have independently stumbled upon the concept of “privilege,” even though they might be loathe to describe it that way, but I digress.

        There’s definitely no cabal, but that doesn’t mean that the bias against conservative writers is all unconscious. I think there are a lot of people who would consciously say “You can’t separate the art from the artist, and conservative artists are bad people.” That isn’t a secret cabal, but it’s a lot of individual people having conscious biases against Sad Puppy types.

        I imagine instead of privilege it’s more like being a black person in a town where yeah, there’s no KKK and no Jim Crow laws, but most people will use racial slurs in front of your face, etc. That wouldn’t be unconscious bias or white privilege, it’s explicit racism that just doesn’t happen to be very well organized.

        • This is reminding me about a bit from Megan Mcardle- I don’t have the link handy, but she was asked on bloggingheads about what she’d written that changed people’s minds.

          She wrote about prejudice against conservatives in academia, and she said that conservatives told her they now understood what progressives mean when they talk about microaggressions. However, no progressives learned that they were prejudiced against conservatives.

      • LHN says:

        The Worldcon is (I think) the largest of the fan-run SF conventions (though utterly dwarfed by for-profit cons like Dragoncon or Gen Con). But given the fairly large cons that manage to run without benefit of significant supporting memberships, I’m guessing that the Worldcon would survive without them. It might be smaller and less ambitious, but I wouldn’t think to the point of non-viability.

        As a point of comparison: when the Worldcon is outside North America, there’s a North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC) held in its stead. Those are smaller than the Worldcon, but still draw a couple of thousand attendees despite not offering a Hugo vote.

        I don’t get the impression that the supporting membership was a big deal outside the congoing community until the relatively recent advent (I think 2009?[1]) of the Hugo packet, which gives voters copies of most of the nominated works free. (For a few years it was all of the nominated written works, but some publishers have scaled that back to samples in recent years.)

        [1] Not counting Brad Templeton’s 1993 Hugo Anthology CD, which was a one-off, was sold rather than given to the membership, and didn’t become available IIRC till after the awards.

        That also may have laid some of the groundwork for the most recent controversy, by expanding interest in the Hugo nominations process more widely.

        • keranih says:

          there is no secret cabal

          …you know, I would have bought this, once upona. In fact, I did used to believe this, and poo-pooed the people who muttered about “them, over there, hating us, over here.”

          I used to believe it right up to Easter Monday last year, when vicious, hate-filled, and libelous screeds masquerading as straight news articles hit the presses in international media outlets. Less than 48 hours after the final ballots were announced, multiple anti-puppy people were manipulating the news cycle to push the narrative that racist, anti-woman, homo-hating bigots had “taken over” the Hugos.

          More than one of these screeds were penned by individual authors whose works had been in contention for Hugos, with narry a mention of how they, themselves, had lost out in the voting process.

          All this whilst the various Puppies were still in a dazzled state of “WTF? No, seriously, wtf just happened??!?!” Because no one expected the Hugos to be so jacked up as to be that easily broken. And because we honestly believed that the Worldcon smof to at least have the integrity to not leak the results to the cabal before hand.

          soooo…yeah. A crappy, clumsy, self-foot-shooting cabal, but a secret cabal none the less.

          • Unfortunately, it was very tempting to think that the puppies sweeping the nominations for the Hugos was something they did on purpose, rather than that they gave the system a shove and it fell right over. In other words, there was much less of a conspiracy than you thought.

            It looks like you strengthened the opposition against you.

          • keranih says:

            Unfortunately, it was very tempting to think that the puppies sweeping the nominations for the Hugos was something they did on purpose, rather than that they gave the system a shove and it fell right over.

            Well, yes, esp if respected people in the field (and how can you tell if they are respected people in the field? Why, you see if they won a Hugo!) are telling you that everything was just fine until those noisy kids and their dog showed up.

            I get that people wanted to believe that the system was solid and sound and just. But when the damn tower falls down, it’s really not fair to blame the people on the outside who have been claiming that it has been leaning sideways for years. Human, but not fair. Nor rational. Nor factually correct.

            It looks like you strengthened the opposition against you.

            *shrugs* Mightcould. But we’re not done yet. And I’m with Mal Reynolds here.

          • Anonymous says:

            Unfortunately, it was very tempting to think that the puppies sweeping the nominations for the Hugos was something they did on purpose, rather than that they gave the system a shove and it fell right over.

            Reminds me in a funny of Lithwick’s description of Ted Cruz on the debate circuit. Everyone else was there to have a good time and here’s this guy that comes in intensively preps for a competition that’s supposed to feature extemporaneous speeches, and chivvies the judges for every last point.

            Sure the voting system was “broken”. Heaven forbid every single thing in this world not be completely locked down and unable to be exploited.

            This is why we can’t have nice things.

          • Teal says:

            ^^
            That should be Teal, I forgot for a second that I switched names.

          • Psmith says:

            Everyone else was there to have a good time and here’s this guy that comes in intensively preps for a competition that’s supposed to feature extemporaneous speeches, and chivvies the judges for every last point.

            This may have been true then (although I kind of doubt it), but it certainly isn’t true now. As somebody who used to complain about this sort of thing myself, “oh, they just won by aggressively following the rules, we on the other hand upheld the true spirit of the activity which is to have fun and learn things” is usually an excuse for just not being all that good.

          • Teal says:

            It wouldn’t at all surprise me that the Ted Cruz’s of the world have ruined it entirely. Once you have to lock something down to protect against people like him, you’ll end up destroying what was valuable in the first place. That’s something the Hugos are likely to find out all about in the next few years.

            There’s probably also a warning in there about college admissions and using gamable metrics, but I think I’ll leave it vague.

          • Nita says:

            Everyone else was there to have a good time and here’s this guy that comes in intensively preps for a competition that’s supposed to feature extemporaneous speeches, and chivvies the judges for every last point.

            Uh, I’m gonna side with Psmith on this one. The speeches are put together in a short time, but you still have to prepare to succeed. A debate is of higher quality (which is more fun) if everyone comes well-prepared.

            And it’s a competition, so everyone cares about points.

          • Teal says:

            http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/05/i_was_on_the_college_debate_circuit_with_ted_cruz.html

            My whole college debate experience with Ted Cruz can be distilled into a single, visceral, impression: that of being trapped in a too-small classroom in some dusty Ivy League building, with an opponent too big for the space. My memories of Ted are that he was too loud, too umbragey, and too rehearsed in an activity meant to mirror the clubby, off-the-cuff charms of the British Parliament.

            You braced yourself to be screamed at by someone who wanted it more than anyone else.

            Cruz’s style invariably tended toward the pompous, achieving the unenviable end of making a fun, oratorical activity into a joyless weekend slog. He liked to reframe whatever the topic was to his own advantage, a ploy he used effectively in GOP debates throughout the campaign. (We all heard the endless recitation of his father’s arrival from Cuba to Texas with $100 sewn into his underwear, even if the topic on the table was euthanasia or the line-item veto.)

            Most of my memories of debating Ted Cruz involve being hollered at. Austan was always defter than I was at deflating that which was most infuriating about Ted—the way he’d reframe a debate topic into something he had prepared, or would become fake-angry in ways that suited a 19-year-old even less than it suits a 40-something-year-old. I do remember that he wasn’t funny, and also that he never ever seemed comfortable in his skin. He always wanted to relitigate whatever round had just been decided, even if everyone else was careening drunkenly around the quad.

            There’s more if you follow the links. If you don’t see anything both true and cringeworthy in there then frankly you are probably part of the problem.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Teal,

            Maybe this is just misplaced geek solidarity but that article made me a lot more favorable to Cruz.

            I did some debate myself a while back, constitutional law actually, at a similar age. And participants tended to cluster into the larger group of wealthier vaguely-liberal social butterflies who were there to screw around drink and get laid, versus the few guys like me who came there to win. I wasn’t going to buy a suit and travel a few hundred miles just so that I can play grabass, and it would be insulting to the event hosts and my competitors not to put forward my best possible performance.

            If you want to have a yacht club or café atmosphere then don’t advertise it as a debate.

          • Nita says:

            @ Teal

            None of that sounds very unusual to me. The loudness, the rehearsed style, the reframing, the outrage — all of these are common debating tactics. He does sound a bit more intense than most, especially with the arguing well into the party. Perhaps he didn’t drink alcohol?

          • Psmith says:

            @Teal, yes, I read that Slate piece, and the Jezebel source for the specific claims about debate, before I posted. I wanted to make sure that the impression I got from your original paraphrase matched what the sources actually said, and it seems to me that it does. Cruz sounds like any really good HS/college debater, and his contemporaries sound like people who are upset that they lost fair and square because someone else cared more about winning than they did. (And possibly motivated by a nebulous “creepiness” rather than anything Cruz actually did in debate.). Do you have any experience with competitive debate in the US?

            Anyway, I agree with Dealgood and Nita. If you think caring about winning a competitive event and conducting yourself accordingly is “part of the problem” or “cringeworthy”, you may not be well suited to competitive events in general or competitive debate in particular. Which is fine, but hardly a sign of transcendent moral or aesthetic wrongness.

          • John Schilling says:

            Also: Given the selection criteria, all Presidents of the United States will be people who care about winning competitive debate-like events and conduct themselves accordingly, dialed to eleven. At most, you can hope for a President who fakes not caring. If that’s something you really want.

          • Teal says:

            Just because something is in the form of a competition doesn’t mean it has to be geared to min-maxers.

            De gustibus non disputandum est , but given that there are those of us on the other side that do find that sort of thing cringeworthy and unpleasant, I hope you’ll understand why we want to keep the Ted Cruzes of the world with their win-at-all-costs attitude away from things we like. Like, say, a certain science fiction convention and associated award. Or our colleges.

          • Nita says:

            Even with the fake outrage and folders of pre-made arguments, Parliamentary debating styles are still quite human-friendly. If you want to see real munchkinism, check out Policy debate. (Aww!)

          • John Schilling says:

            I hope you’ll understand why we want to keep the Ted Cruzes of the world with their win-at-all-costs attitude away from things we like

            If you want to keep people with win-at-all-costs attitude away from things that you like, then there is ABSOLUTELY NO ALTERNATIVE but to select people for those things on some basis other than simply winning a competition.

            Elections are competitions. Presumably you are some sort of monarchist? Or do you just like people whose win-at-all-costs attitude includes a highly developed skill of faking nonchalance?

          • Teal says:

            @John Schilling
            I realize that Ted Cruz was until quite recently a candidate for President so it seems like anything involving him must be about that, but I haven’t actually said anything about what I would or wouldn’t like to see in a Presidential candidate. The description in Lithwick’s article reminded me of a certain sad puppy supporter attitude. I made that connection when I brought it up.

            I’m sorry I don’t want to talk about what you want to talk about, at least not right here. Maybe a different thread at a different time.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Teal: Fair enough, and I’d like to keep people like Ted Cruz out of e.g. my entire social and professional life. But there are some things that simply must be dominated by people like Ted Cruz, and among them are A: electoral politics and B: things that are defined by being competitions, like formal competitive debates.

            If you take great pleasure in formal competitive debating among congenial people, that’s rather like taking great pleasure in playing high-stakes poker among congenial people. Fun while it lasts, but it will end in tears.

      • Mary says:

        ” There’s no actual, real-life secret cabal, systematically discriminating against the Puppies. ”

        Some of the anti-Puppy forces knew how many nominations Sad Puppies 3 had gotten before the nominations were announced.

        Either those forces explicitly broke the rules, or they knew what the actual nominees “should” have been, and the authors didn’t get the nomination (you get told in advance, so you can decline before the list is made public), which is to say there was another slate.

    • Vorkon says:

      Actually, as long as we’re on the topic of the Hugos, I’ve been wondering something, and I’m not really sure how to find it out.

      This year, both Puppy lists proposed several video games for the “Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form” award, and I’m kind of surprised that, in that category, at least, none of them managed to get through. I firmly believe that, at the very least, The Witcher 3 and Undertale (the latter of which wasn’t on the Rabid slate, but may have been on the Sad list. I can’t quite remember) are FAR more impressive from a narrative standpoint than any of the movies that made it onto the final ballot. Does anyone know why the puppies failed to make an impact in that category? Were video games found to not be eligible, or is it simply that the category has more people voting in it, unlike the short story and various whatever-zine categories, and was therefore harder to sweep? Either explanation is somewhat disheartening.

  5. ton says:

    Scott: where did you get the two articles in 4 from, and is that somewhere I could go to read similar things?

  6. Would the hidden open threads be archived?

    Might it make sense to have a separate blog (like the one for Unsong) for open threads? If so, the thousand comment limit per thread still makes sense.

    I’ve been noodling at the question of how people go from system 1 reactions to language and generalizations. For example, how do people go from minor rejection to “everyone hates me” or a number of good but low stakes interactions with someone to “this is a good person who should be trusted in general”?

    Possibly in the same category– my stomach muscles are usually tight, and I’ve been figuring out that this tends to lead to me feeling that something bad is going to happen. It took a long time for me to even notice the connection.

    • Zippy says:

      Might it make sense to have a separate blog (like the one for Unsong) for open threads? If so, the thousand comment limit per thread still makes sense.

      At that point we’d just be using a really crappy forum, and might as well just mosey over to /ratanon/ or do self posts on r/slatestarcodex.

      (“What is the limit?”, I hear you ask. Convenience.)

      • Nita says:

        The software at reddit and 8chan is different, so the community would be different as well.

  7. Noumenon72 says:

    To use the Firefox user-blocking script, first install the useful Greasemonkey add-on. Then go to Scott’s link and click the “Raw” button over on the right (or go here) and it will auto-install. Then come back here and test it by clicking any user’s avatar. You’ll see a pop-up asking if you want to block them.

    Question: Does this hide all replies to those posters, like the one for Marginal Revolution?

    Rumination: Has anyone noticed whether this kind of solution leads to a worse experience for nonregulars, because the regulars don’t notice all the bad posts?

    • pneumatik says:

      Your rumination is likely to come true. I believe that is why Slashdot defaults to not showing comments with a score of zero and below, something which is only possible when you have a comment scoring system. OTOH, Slashdot has plenty of terrible people who make terrible posts.

      Now that I think of it, Slashdot’s comment / karma system seems to address some of the problems the commentariat here has with other comment ranking systems. Comments are never deleted and threading is preserved. Readers can filter by comment rank (from -1 to 5) to hide the comment completely, to show just the title, or to show the entire comment. This may have all been discussed previously, though.

      • nope says:

        What if instead of comment ranking there was thread ranking? Basically, people could vote on whether or not entire threads were interesting/useful/substantive, which seems like it might have better incentives baked in and lead less to popularity contests and such.

        • Nita says:

          This is an interesting idea. It might actually encourage civil and productive discussion instead of “smackdowns” and cheap jokes (probably the two most disproportionate vote-attractors on reddit).

          On the other hand, how would it actually work? Has anyone seen anything of this sort implemented in practice?

          • My ideal version would have (a pop-up of?) a little chart showing the history of the amount of karma for the thread. That way, people would be able to see quickly whether the thread was still live, and whether it was considered better or worse during certain times.

          • arbitrary_greay says:

            This is where the nesting limit becomes an obstacle, because then all following comments are necessarily put into one thread, even if there are low-quality comments interspersed within that everyone else ignores.
            It also means that tracking the thread ends at the level before the nesting limit, since everyone is replying to the one level up. You can’t track who is replying to whom, unless people start using the url-manipulation method. there may be 2-3 different conversations all happening in the long run, but by appearances, and by reply-tracking, they’re all still in one thread.

    • Bakkot says:

      Thanks for the more complete installation instructions.

      Question: Does this hide all replies to those posters, like the one for Marginal Revolution?

      Yes. To be more precise, it is exactly as if you’d gone through and clicked “hide” on all of the comments of all of the users you have blocked. (Avatars therefore remain visible, and you can unblock by clicking on the avatar of a blocked user.)

      Rumination: Has anyone noticed whether this kind of solution leads to a worse experience for nonregulars, because the regulars don’t notice all the bad posts?

      Yeah, I’m was a bit hesitant to share this because of potential impact on culture. My hope is that this will make it easier for people to not respond to posts whose content they would prefer not be present, and that this will reduce engagement with those posts and thereby discourage them. But I doubt it will have much effect either way.

      • Noumenon72 says:

        That’s not quite what I meant; I wanted to know if it hid the entire thread descending from those comments, so you don’t even see the response to the trolling. It sounds like it just hides the individual comments. That’s fine. Thanks for making this — I have felt its lack.

        • Nita says:

          No, Bakkot said it does hide the entire thread — you can click ‘Hide’ under Bakkot’s comment for a demo.

  8. BeefSnakStikR says:

    I read Echopraxia, and it seemed like Peter Watts got philosophical (p-) zombies wrong. From his postscript:

    Both surgical and viral varieties appear in Echopraxia; the surgically induced military model is essentially the “p-zombie” favored by philosophers.

    Here’s my understanding of p-zombies (which admittedly I only know from Dennett’s argument against them): (1) p-zombies are not conscious and (2) are supposed to be indistinguishable from non-zombies. Watts is clear on (1) stating several times that they aren’t conscious. I know that’s been debated in the literature. Putting that aside…

    Regarding (2) Watts writes p-zombies as having noticeably uncanny eye movement and superhuman reflexes, and the main character is constantly horrified at the sight of a zombie. They’re *noticeably* zombies–more like movie zombies than p-zombies.

    Or maybe I’m missing something in Watts’ plot. His zombies need people to “pull their strings” in order to do anything, and the military has some sort of way to switch them on and off…did Watts mean for the military to be using the p-zombies in creepy ways, totally separate from the nature of p-zombies?

    On the other hand, Watts does tell us that the p-zombies are indistinguishable from non-zombies, that technology cannot

    pick out the fractional chill of a zombie brain inside its skull, not from a distance, not through a wall or a roof, not in the middle of a riot

    But I’m not sure why the main character (the least advanced human in the story!) is able to recognize zombies when advanced technology can’t.

    • Deiseach says:

      Haven’t read the book but it may be down to plot constraints: you won’t get much mileage out of “terrifying and uncanny human-but-not-quite creature that is… absolutely indistinguishable in every way from a normal human, they look, act and speak like ordinary humans and you can’t tell the difference but trust me, they’re not human and they’re terrifying and uncanny”.

    • suntzuanime says:

      When most people think of p-zombies they are thinking of something that is distinguishable from a human, if only subtly. It is very hard to imagine something that’s truly indistinguishable from a human and yet has no consciousness, and it’s hard to see why anyone should care. Which is sort of the point of the p-zombie thought experiment, properly interpreted.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Many people have put forward p-zombie arguments for many purposes. In particular, the point of the original people (eg, Chalmers) was exactly the opposite: he does care about the difference.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      @BeefSnakStikR – “Or maybe I’m missing something in Watts’ plot.”

      Have you read Blindsight?

      …I haven’t read Echopraxia yet, but given how Blindsight handled the issue, I don’t think he cares about whether the zombie is indistinguishable from a normal human, but rather whether the zombie is better than a normal human at any given task. This seems less a rejection of the original idea than an extension of it; the zombies aren’t indistinguishable, but one of the distinguishing characteristics is their obvious superiority.

      • Murphy says:

        I found Blindsight to be much superior to Echopraxia. Blindsight was… remarkable with a few silly twists. Good scifi that actually came with a citation list.

        Echopraxia just felt like dropping all that and just trying to go for the full generic undead set just because he wanted them all. I was expecting werewolves to turn up by the end.

        • I was put off of Blindsight because it seemed as though the humans tortured the aliens for no particular reason.

          It’s possible that I should reread it (in any case, the idea that vampires react badly to right angle is very cool). It’s not that I think the humans might have had a good reason for torturing the aliens, it’s that I’ve become a lot more cynical about the human propensity to torture.

          • Murphy says:

            ****spoilers****

            If it helps the aliens, in general, didn’t seem to care much or at all about the 2 being tortured and the ship was sort of doing the same to the humans right from the get-go.

            If I remember right while they did inflict pain on the 2 captured aliens I thought it was only after all other attempts to elicit a response failed.

            I found it more odd that they jumped straight to cutting a hole in the alien ship and didn’t happen to have any magnetic materials in their spacesuits before they knew about the insides of the alien ship.

          • Anon. says:

            SPOILERS

            The torture was used to figure out how they communicated. Separate the aliens but let them communicate, then inflict pain until they solve a puzzle that requires communication. Capture the communications and use them to understand their language.

            Hence,

            This is how you communicate with a fellow intelligence: You hurt it, you keep on hurting it, until you can distinguish the speech from the screams.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Nancy – “I was put off of Blindsight because it seemed as though the humans tortured the aliens for no particular reason.”

            I think the reason was provided in the “technology implies belligerence” monologue. Watts’ characters tend to be pretty cold-blooded about achieving their objectives. It’s one of the things that makes me deeply uncomfortable about a lot of his stories; he’s willing to bite some pretty crazy bullets.

            @Murphy – “I found it more odd that they jumped straight to cutting a hole in the alien ship and didn’t happen to have any magnetic materials in their spacesuits before they knew about the insides of the alien ship.”

            My memory is that the Rorschach was surrounded by intense EM fields that were obvious from outside; also, their ship seemed to be capable of manufacturing new kit on short notice.

      • BeefSnakStikR says:

        I haven’t read Blindsight yet, no. I did notice in Watts’ postscript to Echopraxia that by reducing the functioning of the ‘consciousness’ part of the brain, other parts and functions are enhanced. (Like when you lose one sense, others are enhanced, I guess.)

        I’m still not sure whether Watt’s intention was to argue that reducing one’s consciousness would likely or inevitably enhance other behavior, or that the military was reducing consciousness as a mercy to their soldiers while deliberately enhancing them via additional means.

        • sweeneyrod says:

          One of the ideas in Blindsight was ***MAJOR SPOILERS*** that consciousness is not necessary for intelligence, and humans are the only conscious beings in the universe — everyone else has had it evolved away. So I think he is probably arguing that reducing consciousness would inevitably enhance other behaviour (I’ve not read Echopraxia though).

          • FacelessCraven says:

            yeah, this. the idea is that not only is consciousness unnecessary, it’s actually expensive, a roadblock. The zombies are smarter, faster, better than humans because they’re not thinking/feeling/emoting, just doing. Compare this to the idea of “flow”, various observations about how practice/training teaches you to do something “instinctively” with minimal effort and great accuracy, etc.

  9. Zslastman says:

    The necessity of recombination is text book genetics yes. See the Wikipedia entry for Mullers Ratchet.

    • Ptoliporthos says:

      Recombination is not necessary, but it (ceteris paribus) makes selection more effective by attenuating Hill-Robertson effects. A species can get by without recombination as long as it has a sufficiently large population size.

      Wikipedia is honestly terrible on this whole thing, because the study of the advantages of recombination is tied up with the study of the human sex chromosomes. The most prolific and widely publicized author in that space gives entertaining talks and furnishes quotable (but wrong) sound bytes about how the lack of recombination will make the Y chromosome disappear and men will die out. That sort of stuff ends up on NPR or in Maureen Dowd columns — and the Wikipedia articles have largely been written and edited by people who have accepted that argument uncritically.

      For a non-quantitative treatment, just pick up Hermann Muller’s thesis (it’s like a hundred fifty page article published in issue #3 of Genetics but it’s actually a good read — like science story time with uncle Hermann). R. A. Fisher’s 1948 paper on recombination is also a good place to start for a quantitative perspective — even though his model for the sex chromosomes is only half right. For the most quantitatively inclined, I’d recommend reading Brian Charlesworth’s work on describing various Hill-Robertson effects in the absence of recombination. If you need a reference work on population genetics in general, Hartl & Clark is the go-to introductory textbook.

      • Alan Crowe says:

        If I’m buying Hartl and Clark to satisfy idle curiosity, can I pay three pounds for the 1998 third edition or must I pay sixty pounds for the 2007 fourth edition?

        I guess I’m really asking if there has been a revolution in population genetics such that a 1998 text book contains out-right errors.

        • Ptoliporthos says:

          The math ought to be the same — most of the stuff covered in Hartl & Clark would have been worked out in the early part of the 20th century. The examples may seem dated, since the human genome hadn’t been finished yet.

      • zslastman says:

        Second that recommendation of Hartl and Clark. Isn’t recombination necessary for large (non microbial) genomes though? At some point every single offspring of the least mutated population member is going to have at least one more mutation, right?

        • Alan Crowe says:

          For single nucleotide polymorphisms there are only four possibilities A,C,G, or T. Once a genome has acquired plenty of mutations there is a small chance that the next mutation will hit a nucleotide that has already been mutated. If that happens, there is a one in three chance that the original mutation gets corrected. That is to say the number of mutations goes down.

          • zslastman says:

            Hmmm. That’s true, and is referred to as a back mutation, I was neglecting them because usually one does, in population genetics. But it looks like they can actually matter given super large effective population sizes.

        • Ptoliporthos says:

          You’re probably confusing several independent things:

          Eukaryotes (a group that includes some microbes but excludes bacteria and archea) can carry out meiosis, a special cell cycle for producing haploid gametes.

          In most (but not all) eukaryotes, crossing over (recombination) is required for proper chromosome segregation during meiosis.

          There is generally a large fitness cost (i. e. death) associated with having the wrong number of chromosomes.

          Eukaryotes have much smaller population sizes than bacteria. Humans are probably the most numerous mammal with a population of 7×10^9. Each human on the planet has around 10^14 E. coli their gut.

          Eukaryotes do tend to have larger genomes than bacteria.

          But, the reason humans require crossovers in meiosis is about chromosome segregation in meiosis– not about genome size. The reason humans reproduce through meiosis is that if they didn’t, their small population size would have doomed them.

          • zslastman says:

            No I’m definitely not confused about those things. Mullers ratchet is thought to set an upward limit on genome size, or so I was taught, and looking it up again I see that this is probably because you need implausibly large effective population sizes for mutational interference to matter.

          • Ptoliporthos says:

            I see, you meant genome size in a population genetic sense of how many coding bases are subject to point mutations and not in a grind up an organism, measure the mass of DNA, divide by the mass of a base-pair, then divide by the number of cells sense.

            Sorry for the mistake, since I’m involved in generating reference sequence, I think about the latter far more than the former.

  10. J says:

    Thought experiment:

    Haidt claims that Fairness is a central Blue Team principle. If you were on Blue Team, but you had to pick something to replace Fairness, what would you choose?

    My answer was “kindness”, and as I then contrasted Kindness and Fairness, it made me realize that Fairness seems to have some fundamental pitfalls: who gets to decide what’s Fair, and how far will you go to enforce it? Harrison Bergeron points out the hazards of handicapping the advantaged to achieve fairness. Kindness seems to more naturally focus on helping people who need it without having to decide first whether they were unfairly victimized.

    I recently saw a thread where someone complained that affirmative action discriminated against white men. Of course he was immediately piled upon with scorn and derision and knowing things were said about how he couldn’t see his own privilege. I looked him up, and turns out he was working in Poland for a US company. So it seemed a bit hypocritical for people born and raised in the US to lecture someone about privilege who grew up impoverished in Poland without English as a first language and without access to the technology we all grew up with, trying to make a technical career for himself in the West. And in another thread, someone went so far as to list groups in order of privilege according to race/gender/orientation. (Please let’s not argue about that; I’m only interested in the meta-concept of whether Fairness has a hazard of making people want to make ordered lists like that)

    Kindness has the same problem as Fairness when it comes to allocating scarce resources: who are we going to be Kind to and in what proportion? But it doesn’t require a scapegoat: we don’t need Evil Bad Guys to be the cause of Unfairness. We can simply observe that Polish guys and women and black folks and white kids who grew up in the ghetto all seem to have a tough time in certain circumstances so let’s give them a break when we can.

    • candles says:

      I don’t know if this is keeping with the spirit of your question, but I actually think fairness or kindness are just fine.

      The thing I wish I could do to Blue Tribe moral principles more generally is reintroduce the personal virtues of charity, humility (epistemic and otherwise), and forgiveness, and make those virtues broadly recognized, normed, and foregrounded.

      I think without charity, humility, and forgiveness, the ideals of promoting either fairness or kindness often turn really sour.

      We all have extremely limited cognitive abilities to understand what actually counts as fair. We all have to live in a world where other people don’t live up to our standards of kindness. We all have very limited abilities to recognize how much we don’t see, or how immensely hard it is to put ourselves in other people’s heads. Getting things right in the world is really, really hard. Sometimes what we think is fair or kind turns out to be wrong, to make things worse, not better. Sometimes other people get that stuff wrong as well.

      As someone who lives deep in Blue tribe land, I can confidently say that charity, humility, and forgiveness are virtues that many well-credentialed people I know have left by the wayside long ago. In fact, when I think about why I generally have such a negative reaction to Blue tribe activism, I’m pretty sure it’s because, at least to my eyes, they often don’t acknowledge these virtues as virtues, or even see them as roadblocks to attaining “progress”.

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        “The thing I wish I could do to Blue Tribe moral principles more generally is reintroduce the personal virtues of charity, humility (epistemic and otherwise), and forgiveness, and make those virtues broadly recognized, normed, and foregrounded.”

        I don’t think that would work; there are plenty of social groups that recognize said virtues, but I’m not aware of them actually transforming said groups on their own. Praising self-control doesn’t seem to get you self control; you have to be the Mormons.

        • candles says:

          Ha – somewhat ironically, I was raised Mormon and still largely agree with (and try to live by) most of their values…. which likely informs my complaint.

      • Deiseach says:

        If you were on Blue Team, but you had to pick something to replace Fairness, what would you choose?

        Not Blue Team by any stretch of the imagination, but in the spirit of what candles says, I’d recommend the virtue of Mercy, which is the moderate point between charity and justice. People seem to think mercy means slapping it on indistinguishably: “Oh you broke all your limbs and your spine, let me help you/Oh you murdered sixty four people because you were bored, you poor mite!” but that’s not the case.

        If you’ll excuse me quoting myself from a long-ass post I wrote on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy for a religious-discussion site (feel free to ignore the “God” parts as not applicable here):

        Mercy springs from charity and justice. However, charity is more than mercy and justice is more than law. Charity and justice are cardinal virtues, mercy is a secondary virtue. We nowadays tend to translate “faith, hope and charity” as “faith, hope and love”, and love is a better way to think of charity, especially in relation to God.

        (C)harity is love of God which conduces to love of our neighbour, justice is equality and equity between people as individuals and as members of society, and mercy is the actions or active principle which derives from both, spurred to love our neighbour as ourselves by charity and to repair deficiencies by justice.

      • Wency says:

        This is something I’ve been thinking for a long time — in particular, the value of humility.

        I enjoy comedy, and I contrast Louie CK, who would seem to have a acquired a fair measure of humility, with John Oliver, whose every intonation drips with thick, oily smugness. In truth, Louie probably agrees with John Oliver on almost every political and social issue, but I can listen to Louie for days, while I’m exhausted by Oliver more or less the instant he starts talking.

        Truth be told though, I think it’s often a problem with the alt-right, beginning with the writing style of old Mencius himself.

        Still, to paraphrase Moldbug, conservatism is always retreating, always making concessions. Maybe that’s the very reason that it seems to have more humility embedded in it. Compare: the relative humility of the French and German leaderships in June 1940. But perhaps mainstream conservatism also has more libertarian instincts, more “live and let live” embedded in it, at least in the U.S.

        From mainstream conservatives, I hear a lot of, “Well, can we at least have this shred of the old culture? If I accept that gay weddings are a thing that happens, can I at least reserve the right to not bake a cake for them?”

        And being given a resounding, “No, it’s Current Year.”

        Would the roles in that situation be reversed if gay marriage were being banned, and its advocates were looking to preserve some shred of the old culture?

        “Can we at least have civil unions? Or at least be allowed to keep our gay bars and gay night clubs?” “No, that’s incrementalism. We won’t make that mistake again.”

        • Hlynkacg says:

          That’s a fair question and tbh I don’t have an answer, though I do sympathize.

        • Vorkon says:

          “No, that’s incrementalism. We won’t make that mistake again.”

          To be honest, that seems to be the position the Red Tribe has begun taking over the past few years over most of the issues the Blue Tribe hasn’t already thoroughly defeated them on. (Most notably gun control, but the same could be said for a lot of other issues, too.)

          • Hlynkacg says:

            I would say it more like “Compromise” requires both sides to give something up. Trying to steal the whole pie and but settling for half isn’t a very good compromise as far as the baker is concerned.

            To use the most recent gun control push as an example.

            A: We want to make the federal background check requirements more strict.
            B: We want national reciprocity for carry permits.
            A: You wont get it.
            B: No deal then.

    • Loquat says:

      I don’t believe the hazard of wanting to make official Privilege rankings and the like is unique to Fairness; any time you have a hierarchy some people will want to codify it. And indeed, lists like that are useful if you’re going to be navigating the world they apply to – dealing with nobility in the olden days you generally wanted to know the relative rank of a duke, a baron, a viscount, etc, and dealing with modern Social Justice types you generally should know where you stand on the Privilege ladder.

    • Anonymous says:

      Empathy™ and compassion, but those are hard for some people and painful for everyone. Most people are at the point where they pretty much do the opposite automatically.

      If someone suffers about something you don’t have the basis for a deontological judgement until you put yourself in their place. The pain and difficulty have to do with the effects this process has on your own identity and ideas. Madness, to be honest. Reconciling this deontological judgement with your own values right after feeling and understanding theirs. And then you probably want to be utilitarian about your own values so you might need to act in opposition to people you now love… The temptation to think they are bad is a mechanism to keep this in check. Do we want jews weeping at the death of glorious fascism? Would they be able to adequately react against threats if they had this level of Empathy and Compassion?

      If you are the only one doing this, you get killed. And you don’t even care when it happens. Very Virtuous indeed but what good does it do? Even if you manage to act, you just did the same thing the mechanism told you but now you feel very guilty about it. Is the guilt going to be put to good use or is it going to hold people down and cause unnecessary suffering? Perhaps cultivating some kind of “Pride of Guilt” instead of either extreme would be good?

      • The Nybbler says:

        Empathy and compassion are what Blue Team members claim to have just as they are unleashing a vitriolic screed about how you don’t have any.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:
        • Viliam says:

          It’s probably a difference between having empathy as a genuine emotion, and trying to role-play it.

          The natural form of empathy has many flaws: it suffers from availability bias, can be manipulated by making a drama, etc.

          The fake empathy is usually applied selectively to people who “deserve” it according to some schematic judgement.

          Like Mary said, the problem with natural empathy is that when a person starts sobbing in your office, you will take greater care of them, and ignore those outside your field of vision, who may pay the cost of your decision.

          The problem with fake empathy is that no amount of sobbing will move your heart if your ideology gives you an excuse that their personal suffering is not real because something something institutional something.

      • Mary says:

        Empathy suffers from the notorious problem of proximity — being nice to the person who’s sobbing in your office rather than the others who will bear the brunt of your niceness.

        • John Schilling says:

          I am reminded of a column a few months back by an airline pilot talking about how good it made him feel to use his power and authority to hold a flight for half an hour while a sick child’s parents went looking for a misplaced teddy bear. I couldn’t help wondering whether there might be someone now permanently estranged from their family because the emotional impact of “missed his daughter’s wedding because the airline missed a connection” is limited to the first four words. Or unemployed because a second-rate candidate got the job when he didn’t make the scheduled interview, or any of a hundred other things.

          But hey, the child was happy that day, and the pilot was smugly satisfied for weeks, so happy endings to everybody we care about.

          • Randy M says:

            That would really tick me off even as the father of the child so favored.
            “See honey, you are apparently more important than any of these other hundred or so people.”

        • Jiro says:

          Perhaps more relevant here is the problem that empathy creares incentives for people to be upset so your empathy gets triggered.

          And as I’ve noted before, you cant’ fix this by only empathizing with genuine distress because people have the ability to feel genuine distress in a strategic manner.

          • J says:

            people have the ability to feel genuine distress in a strategic manner.

            That’s a brilliant observation, thanks.

    • Sastan says:

      As Haidt notes, “fairness” is embraced by everyone, but it means vastly different things to different people.

      To replace fairness, I suggest the left adopt a better definition of fairness.

    • Jill says:

      Allocating scarce resources is a big problem– to whom do you give fairness or compassion to and under what circumstances?

      There is also the context of our current social situation where most people are overstimulated, overwhelmed, and/or worn out. So many don’t have a lot of extra to give to someone else. It’s easy to suffer compassion fatigue– and to be jealous of animals who never have the experience of turning on their TV and being told about all kinds of other animals of their species and other species, all over the world, suffering in various ways, as if they should do something about it.

      And there is our current state of tribal politics that consists to a large degree of bashing others and government officials, regardless of what they do or say. Here is an article that dates the beginning of our current tribal politics of bashing– rather than problem solving– back to Gingrich in the 1990’s and says it paved the way for someone like Trump to run for president.

      The political scientist who saw Trump’s rise coming
      Norm Ornstein on why the Republican Party was ripe for a takeover, what the media missed, and whether Trump could win the presidency.

      http://www.vox.com/2016/5/6/11598838/donald-trump-predictions-norm-ornstein

      • TheAncientGeek says:

        One way of solving the resource allocation problem is to have a system of universal positive rights. Then you don’t have special interest groups clammering for special treatment, or ordinary citizens needing to decide who to allocate resources to.

        • Mary says:

          Universal positive rights is another name for slavery

          • null says:

            Please clarify the argument that you are making. Is it “universal positive rights implies some features slavery has” or “universal positive rights is as morally wrong as the system of slavery in place during 19th century America”? The statement as written seems to be making argument 1 to system 2 and argument 2 to system 1.

            (Admittedly this usage of Systems 1 and 2 is nonstandard but comes close enough that I feel okay in using it.)

          • hlynkacg says:

            I can’t speak for Mary but it seems obvious to me that any notion of “universal positive rights” requires slavery of some sort.

            To quote our most gracious host…

            The Virginians took this idea and ran with it – in the wrong direction. They said we wouldn’t be free if we were limited by poverty, therefore we insist upon being extremely rich. Needless to say, this conception of freedom required first indentured servitude and later slavery to make it work, but the Virginians never claimed that the servants or slaves were free. That wasn’t the point. Freedom, like wealth, was properly distributed according to rank.

            In short, if you have a right to health care, education, a doctor or educator who refuses to work or otherwise puts conditions on their service (such as getting paid for their trouble) is guilty of violating your rights and thus deserves your condemnation.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            Mary, if I didn’t know you were a regular reader of the blog , I would ask if you are a regular reader of the blog. The argument you are making has been shredded repeatedly here and on LW. If you think it can be rescued or improved, you need to provde more than a one liner.

          • null says:

            If you say an argument has been shredded, could you please provide a link to what you believe is the most effective refutation?

          • “Mary, if I didn’t know you were a regular reader of the blog , I would ask if you are a regular reader of the blog. ”

            I’m a regular reader of the blog and agree with Mary. If I have a positive right to get something–housing, medical care, food, an adequate income–someone must have an obligation to provide it to me. Such things don’t simply appear out of thin air, so someone must have an obligation to produce them in order that I can consume them.

            In response to Null, I don’t think “as morally wrong” is the right way of putting it. Rather “morally wrong in the same way.”

            Imagine a milder version of 19th century American slavery in which slave owners could beat their slaves, but only in ways that produced no permanent injury, could not kill them, and had to free them at age fifty. Would you agree that that would still be slavery, although not as wrong as the actual version?

          • Anonymous says:

            That someone is the government. Which brings us right back around to the auto-discrediting hyperbole that taxes are theft or in this case, perhaps even worse, taxes are slavery.

          • null says:

            I would agree that this is still slavery. The point I was trying to make is that most people associate slavery with a specific set of harms, and that these harms do not carry over to implementations of universal positive rights.

            If you are claiming that the central harm of slavery is coercion, I think you’re wrong, but also there would have to be an argument about how a system in which these rights are upheld is more coercive than the current system, in which presumably these so-called rights only apply to some people.

          • “but also there would have to be an argument about how a system in which these rights are upheld is more coercive than the current system, in which presumably these so-called rights only apply to some people.”

            The current system is coercive in lots of ways.

            It isn’t everyone having positive rights that makes it a form of slavery, it’s anyone having them.

            I don’t think the usual objections to slavery are about the specific harms, since we think of a wide variety of systems, with different specific harms, as forms of slavery.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @anon

            You realize that you’re advocating fascism at this point don’t you? Not the contentless insult but the actual philosophy.

            The people are the property of the state and thus rounding up “arbitrary group” and putting them to work digging canals isn’t “slavery” just as exterminating them isn’t “murder”.

          • Anonymous says:

            Do you have any idea how insane you sound? The right to health care as provided by the state is bog standard in other parts of the world. But only freedom loving ‘merican patriots can see that it is really fascism as well as slavery and theft.

            Get a grip.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Do you have any idea how insane you sound?

            Do you?

            Something being “bog standard” doesn’t change the circumstances behind it. You want to argue that healthcare is a universal right? You need to concede that failure to provide it is a violation of your rights.

          • null says:

            hylnkacg: Does this result in doctors being jailed, fined, etc. for refusing to provide health care?

            Anonymous: How much health care do you think people have a right to?

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            @David

            “I’m a regular reader of the blog and agree with Mary. If I have a positive right to get something–housing, medical care, food, an adequate income–someone must have an obligation to provide it to me. ”

            The contentious point is slavery, not obligation.

            Using “slavery” as a synonym for obligation is a blatant example of the Noncentral fallacy.

            “http://lesswrong.com/lw/e95/the_noncentral_fallacy_the_worst_argument_in_the/”

            “It isn’t everyone having positive rights that makes it a form of slavery, it’s anyone having them.”

            How about filling in the rest of the argument: since when was slavery defined as “any form of coercion whatosoever”?

            “I don’t think the usual objections to slavery are about the specific harms, since we think of a wide variety of systems, with different specific harms, as forms of slavery.”

            Is “we” libertatians, or people in general?

            @hylnkacg

            ” Does this result in doctors being jailed, fined, etc. for refusing to provide health care?”

            Indeed. A state employed doctor in a public healthcare system can, at the worst, be sacked for refusing to treat someone . That’s not slavery,because much worse things happen to slaves who refuse. The “harms” are central to slavery as a concept, and when you leave them out you are automatically commiting the noncentral fallacy.

            @null

            ” How much health care do you think people have a right to?”

            How much education do people have a right to? The answer is a finite amount, as defined by various political and bureacratic processes. People already have positive rights in the USA, and it doesn’t lead to anyone being able to demand an infinite amount of anything, which was presumably your implication about healthcare.

            @Everybody

            How can it be both true and a political point worth making to say that “the citizens of a state with positive rights (ie any typical liberal democracy) are slaves “?

            It *is* obvious that any such citizen is under obligations, but that doens’t have any obvious connotation tha there is anything wrong with that.

            There is something obviously wrong with being a slave , yet it is not obvious that the average citizen is , since they are not considered property, forbidden from owning property, or forbidden from transferring themselves (up to leaving the country).

            There is no version of the argument that simultaneously has the right denotation (obvious truth) and connotation (obvious moral unacceptability). It just doesn’t work as a one liner.

            The only libertarian argument that has a hope of working is one showing that the obligations a typical citizen are morally unacceptable in some non-obvious way.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Does this result in doctors being jailed, fined, etc. for refusing to provide health care?

            It should.

          • Nita says:

            No, it should not. Doctors have (positive and negative) rights, too.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ The Ancient Geek
            A state employed doctor in a public healthcare system can, at the worst, be sacked for refusing to treat someone . That’s not slavery,because much worse things happen to slaves who refuse.

            It’s not slavery, because no one is rounding up people and forcing them to be state-employed doctors.

            You might as well say that firemen, police, judges, etc are slaves, because citizens have a positive right to fire and police protection, judicial process, etc. I think the argument wanted, is ‘taxation is theft’.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @HouseBoatOnStyx – …People don’t have a right to police protection, though. Like, not even a little bit. Ditto for fire protection, I should think. The examples you are citing show the exact opposite of what you are claiming, for exactly the reasons people above have stated.

            (not sure about judges, the situation there seems more complex, but I think it shakes out to a similar conclusion.)

            The examples above don’t look like slavery because the “rights” are defined as access to whatever can be provided, or because no one attempts to rigorously enforce them. Some of the stuff I’ve read about doctors in the UK comes pretty damn close to slavery, though.

          • John Schilling says:

            It’s not slavery, because no one is rounding up people and forcing them to be state-employed doctors.

            What happens when enough of the people who have chosen to become doctors notice the economic opportunity of forming a union and saying “We won’t treat the people you have unconditionally promised treatment, unless you pay each of us five million dollars per year?”

            What happens when those people go on strike, and how do you rectify that with their patients’ right to be treated?

          • Anonymous says:

            Instead of pulling dystopian fantasies out of our collective rears, why not take a look at the actual places where this exists and see how it actually goes?

          • Salem says:

            I live in one of the places where this actually happens. The junior doctors do have a union, and they just went on strike, including walking out on emergency care. Probably this caused some excess deaths, but not too many, because consultants covered. But if they did this long-term, or if the consultants went on strike at the same time too, then it would be a disaster.

            My “right” to free medical care would not be worth very much with no-one to provide it.

            Some people say the junior doctors are blackmailing the public. Others say that if we don’t pay the junior doctors more, then no-one will want to be a junior doctor. Either way, if no-one does the work, the work will not be done.

            Strikes me that John Schilling is precisely correct.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            why not take a look at the actual places where this exists and see how it actually goes?

            You mean places like the Antebellum South or the Soviet Union? Hell, even the relatively tame British National Health Service has had some decidedly dystopian moments.

            You’d be better off trying to figure out in which universal positive rights don’t end in dystopia.

            Doctors have (positive and negative) rights, too.

            Rights that are incompatible with everyone else’s “positive right” to health care. You can’t have it both ways.

          • Anonymous says:

            By all means let’s look to the Antebellum South or the Soviet Union rather than contemporary Sweden for what a system with the right to healthcare looks like. Maybe after that we can discuss Nazi Germany and gun control.

            Does this sort of thing sound good in your head?

          • Hlynkacg says:

            @anon
            Do you actually read the threads you reply to?

            The Antebellum South and Soviet Union and the assorted fascist parties of the 20 and 30s were cited as examples of what happens when you follow “positive rights” to their logical conclusion. Why “pull dystopian fantasies out of our collective rears” when we have so many real historical examples to choose from?

            You want to talk about contemporary Sweden? Ok let’s do that. Read Salem’s reply, and tell us how you think that situation ought to have been resolved.

            What do you think would have happened if the Junior Doctors had decided to hold out for longer? or if the consultants had decided to strike as well in solidarity? If history is any guide, the government would have eventually used (or at least threatened to use) violence to break up the strike. After all, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and thus the people’s collective right to healthcare must naturally outweigh whatever rights the doctors think they have.

          • Nita says:

            Sometimes our rights can be in conflict, just like our interests sometimes are in conflict. We try to structure our society in ways that make these conflicts as low-impact as possible, ideally avoiding them altogether.

            But, as there is no universal algorithm for solving such problems, sometimes it takes a long time and many attempts to find an improvement.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Nita – “Sometimes our rights can be in conflict, just like our interests sometimes are in conflict. We try to structure our society in ways that make these conflicts as low-impact as possible, ideally avoiding them altogether.”

            Sure, but for what seem like obvious reasons, “you have a right to not have X done to you” creates a whole lot fewer conflicts than “you have a right to have X done for you”, so much so that some people see a clear discontinuity between the two. I’m happy with a right to free speech. The idea of a right to be heard seems inevitably horrifying. The “right” to police protection seems similar.

          • Mary says:

            ” The point I was trying to make is that most people associate slavery with a specific set of harms,”

            Most people are stunningly ignorant about the history of slavery. An institution that lasted through all of human history and before has a lot of variation.

            Meanwhile, here in the United States, the Supreme Court has maintained that slavery is when someone is forced to labor against his will for the good of another — which is also the definition of positive rights.

          • Mary says:

            “That someone is the government. Which brings us right back around to the auto-discrediting hyperbole that taxes are theft or in this case, perhaps even worse, taxes are slavery.”

            Taxes can certainly be both if done wrongly. Or are you literally saying that the government owns all the fruits of your labor but somehow it’s not slavery?

    • Anonymous says:

      And in another thread, someone went so far as to list groups in order of privilege according to race/gender/orientation. (Please let’s not argue about that; I’m only interested in the meta-concept of whether Fairness has a hazard of making people want to make ordered lists like that)

      OK, but why argue about such a non-central example of fairness implementation? I mean, most liberals aren’t SJWs and don’t make ordered lists based on those criteria.

      • J says:

        I debated about whether to include it. Extremes have the hazard of distorting an ideology, but can also make for clear examples of a failure mode.

        What I’m more embarrassed about is that I think I asked this in an open thread a while back, so I feel bad about taking up scarce attention.

    • Mary says:

      Fairness and Kindness both have their limits. For instance, the reverse of the Harrison Bergeron where someone doesn’t care whether he’s fair as long as he’s kind, such as giving special exemptions for people with problems (or sob stories), and saddling other people with the resulting workload or taking things from them they had earned.

    • Nita says:

      Hi, Eastern European here. Actually I’d say that Polish people working in Poland, even for US companies, have much less reason to worry about affirmative action than white folks working in the US. If someone’s hiring in Poland, the overwhelming majority of applicants will be white, so the chance that ‘your’ job will be snatched away by a competitor of color is really, really low. If someone’s hiring globally, the average Pole already has an advantage over the average American due to, e.g., lower housing prices.

      Also, growing up in Poland doesn’t necessarily mean growing up “impoverished”. (This is not a hint that this guy was probably the son of a privileged party apparatchik who deserves an arbitrary amount of scorn, but a reminder that “Poles are dirt poor” is a bit of a crude stereotype in itself.)

      So, I would put a Polish guy objecting to affirmative action in the same bracket as me objecting to Ted Cruz’s views — there’s no direct personal impact, so it’s basically abstract political speech, even if motivated by sincere moral outrage. And, believe it or not, there are a lot of naively racist people in Eastern Europe (who might sincerely think things like “of course black people are lazy — in Africa you can just lie below a palm tree and wait until bananas drop into your mouth”).

      ***

      Now, on to the actual topic. What you call Kindness seems to correspond to what Haidt calls Care. You argue that people probably piled on the unlucky Polish guy because they were motivated by Fairness. But what would adherents of Care-but-Not-Fairness do if someone insisted that Care is not a valid value and should be excluded from some or all decisions? How would they defend Care? I’m guessing that at least some of them might treat this opponent in really hurtful fashion. So, it also could have been a Care gone wrong situation.

      Some configurations of Care+Fairness might actually help us do better than Care alone — e.g., if we decide to treat all people with kindness, not just the most disadvantaged ones. (A common mistake is accidentally excluding yourself from the set of all people, which makes you more miserable and sometimes meaner in the long run.)

    • TheAncientGeek says:

      Haidt doesn’t argue that the right rejects fairnes, he argues that right and left have differing versions:-

      Three Kinds of Fairness
      Arguments about fairness are interminable in part because there are three different kinds, making it easy for left and right to talk past each other. First, we must distinguish between procedural fairness and distributive fairness.
      Procedural fairness involves whether impartial and open procedures are used when decisions affecting the well being of others are made. Is the decision-maker impartial? Is the game rigged? Procedural fairness is crucial for the health of a democracy because when people have faith in the system, they are much more willing to accept outcomes that are disadvantageous to themselves. And when they think the system is corrupt, they are much more prone to join populist rebellions. Occupy Wall Street and many Tea Partiers (including Sarah Palin) agree that America suffers from crony capitalism—a direct violation of procedural fairness.
      Distributive fairness, in contrast, refers to how we distribute stuff—benefits as well as burdens. Is everyone getting his fair share and doing her fair share? But there are two subtypes of distributive fairness—equality (everyone gets the same) and proportionality (all receive rewards in proportion to their inputs; this is sometimes called equity). This simple distinction can help us understand many of today’s most vexing controversies. Everyone endorses proportionality, but the left simultaneously endorses equality, even when it is in tension with proportionality. The right has no interest in equality for its own sake. Conservatives prefer proportionality, even when it leads to massive inequalities of outcome

    • Randy M says:

      TVTropes puts Harrison Bergeron under the “Misaimed fandom” category, iirc. Vonnegut was trying to satirize conservative fears of an equality obsessed dystopia.

      • The Nybbler says:

        That claim about Harrison Bergeron is based on a single paper which admits that it is a minority view.

        • Randy M says:

          I meant to imply something less than certainty by sourcing from tvtropes, although the theory did make sense to me as Vonnegut never seemed particularly conservative, at the same time it’s not conclusive because Vonnegut isn’t easy to define and would probably have run with the interesting story idea even if it contradicted him politically.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        I’ve always wondered about that. Wikipedia cites this as the only example of his commenting on the interpretation of the story.

      • Nornagest says:

        I’ve heard that theory before, but I doubt it. Vonnegut was more leftist than rightist insofar as he can be pinned down to a side, but that would be his only satire of a specific political trope; satirizing broad cultural tendencies was more his thing. Plus it sounds suspiciously pat — “oh, that’s a satire of your side!”

  11. hlynkacg says:

    As a former trauma medic I noticed something that appeared to be a common theme in two otherwise unrelated threads.

    The first was a discussion about the distinction between Occupy Wall Street and the Bundy Ranch Stand-off the second was about hunting and gathering in the ancestral environment.

    There seems to be a tendency to underestimate the effectiveness of natural/improvised weapons like sticks & stones, while at the same time overestimating the effectiveness of purpose built weapons like guns and knives. The assumption that Occupy was peaceful protest (because they were ostensibly “unarmed”) while the Bundy’s were not seems at odds with the number and rate of injuries observed at both protests.

    Sticks and Stones will break my bones is more than just a children’s rhyme. A baseball sized rock thrown by an athletic human will do a fair bit of damage to human sized targets and will kill a lot of smaller prey such as birds and rabbits outright.

    By the same token I see a lot of people, on both sides of the gun control debate, who seem to assume that having a gun or knife is a magical “I win button” for just about any violent encounter, when in reality 1-hit kills are exceptionally rare especially when everyone involved is hopped up on adrenaline.

    • Seth says:

      The issue might best be thought of as the difference between “best case” and “average case”. That is, a skilled, athletic human can indeed do much damage with a rock or stick. A not very skilled, not very athletic human is going to be able to do much more damage with a gun or a knife than with a rock or stick. The gun and knife vastly multiply the amount of damage that can be inflicted with a relatively small amount of force.

      • lupis42 says:

        No, they multiply the “ease” which that force can be unleashed with. In order to hurt someone with a half-brick, you’ve got to throw it at them pretty hard. You’ve got to mean it. With a stick, you’ve got to hit them (again, pretty hard). You don’t need to be skilled or athletic to permanently ruin someone’s dancing with a baseball bat, but you do need to get close to them and try.

    • suntzuanime says:

      The assumption that Occupy was peaceful protest (because they were ostensibly “unarmed”) while the Bundy’s were not seems at odds with the number and rate of injuries observed at both protests.

      Weapons prevent injuries, by making parties less eager to engage. Up to you if you consider armed deterrence “peaceful”.

      • John Schilling says:

        Weapons prevent injuries, by making parties less eager to engage.

        More precisely, they make it less unambiguous about who is engaging in what.

        It’s easy to believe that throwing a rock or a brick at a police line, or a Molotov cocktail at a (hopefully unoccuped) car or building, isn’t really violence, that nothing irreversibly bad is going to happen and that in a few days you’ll be back at school studying for mid-terms because basically you’re a college student, not a thug or a soldier. Same deal, from the other direction, when it comes to sending the police with batons and tear gas to clear out a crowd.

        Drawing or brandishing a gun means crossing a very clear Rubicon – you are explicitly offering Real Violence of the sort there’s no going back from. There’s usually a higher activation threshold for that.

        • hlynkacg says:

          That is an excellent point.

        • Viliam says:

          If you hold a rock in your hand, hey, you haven’t thrown it yet. On the other hand, if you have thrown it, hey, your hands are now empty; there is no hard evidence it was you. In either case you can make an excuse for yourself.

          But when you are caught with a bloody baseball bat in your hands, or a smoking gun… then it’s more difficult to argue your innocence.

          (And I suspect that specifically students have an experience that without hard evidence, even obviously fake words can get them out of any trouble.)

        • HircumSaeculorum says:

          To go off on something of a tangent, how much student violence is there, actually? How many students in the US have been to any sort of protest? How many have been to a protest where the police were involved? How many of those actually threw something or did anything remotely describable as violence? I think you’re implying that a significant amount of violence is done by irresponsible college students who don’t think of themselves as violent – however, I think that most violence done with thrown rocks, Molotov cocktails, or similar things isn’t done by students.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            I don’t have any data beyond personal observation but I did see a noticeable up-tick in the number of 18-20 year olds coming in to the ER with broken arms, skull fractures, and lacerations when our local Occupy movement was at it’s height. Typically from being struck by thrown bottles, or getting knocked down in a scrum.

            That said I wouldn’t characterize it as much worse than the 4th of July, Saint Paddy’s Day, or one of the rougher music festivals. The difference being that even if “Band X’s” show on Saturday get’s a bit rowdy you can put an extra crew on call and be confident that everything would be back to normal by Monday morning. Occupy on the other hand was on going.

      • TheAncientGeek says:

        Which is why wars are so bloodless? Weapons make it easier to injure and kill once engagement has ocurred. You are tacitly assuming engagent won’t occur, which is only likely if one side has an advantage. Weapons don’t equal peace, but a monopoly of force by responsible agencies approximates it.

        • John Schilling says:

          Which is why wars are so bloodless?

          No, it’s why the world is so peaceful. And always has been; pick any random latitude, longitude, and date in recorded history, and odds are pretty good that there wasn’t a war going on then and there. Not because nobody had anything to fight over; there’s always something to fight over. Worth killing for, worth dying for, are higher bars.

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            That doesn’t address my point. Even if weapons somehow make war rare, rather than making it possible at all, you still have to include the casualties in your utilitarian calculation. You don’t get to say ‘look at the thirty years of peace, never mind the thirty million killed when it ended’.

    • Seth says:

      Another thought – since you’re a former trauma medic, you can probably think of many *emergency* medical procedures which are not magical “Heal Person” spells – i.e. every injured person isn’t immediately restored to heath, might have bad side-effects or even make things worse sometimes. But, on the whole, in many many cases, work well and can indeed mean the difference between death versus a reasonable recovery. I stress “emergency” since this stuff is tough when someone’s maybe bleeding a lot, has other injuries, and you’re under stress and time pressure, etc. Complete recovery from very serious injury, like 1-hit kill, might be uncommon. But you can greatly increase the odds of better outcome (for the appropriate definition of “better”).

    • anon says:

      I rewatched “The Last Samurai” recently. (It’s a great movie by the way! although can certainly be legitimately criticized as overly naive … it doesn’t seriously engage with the idea that the Meiji industrialization might have had some obviously good economic consequences that would have been clear to at least some poor people at the time, not to mention some of the samurai class.)

      The whole movie is basically about guns versus swords, basically taking the moral position that guns are bad because they don’t require enough training to use moderately effectively. (Actually, Tom Cruise masters kendo in the same amount of time that his nemesis takes to train a bunch of peasants to be a competent, modern rifle force. But then, he’s Tom Cruise.)

      I think that moral position, accurate or not — and I don’t know if it is, since I’ve never learned to use any sort of weapon — lies that the heart of the pro-gun control position.

      • hlynkacg says:

        In regards to the “guns are bad because they don’t require enough training to use moderately effectively” argument.

        I think there are two competing factors at play. Do you want to live in a world where the proverbial “little old lady” has a capacity for violence comparable to a young athletic male? I’m fairly certain that most people on the anti-gun-control side would say yes. The other is the discipline issue you mention.

        For the most part I think it’s a cultural thing. I for one am constantly annoyed by the “lightness” with which Hollywood treats firearms, and violence in general. I keep wanting to reach through the screen and smack the heroes upside the head. How hard is it to keep your goddamn finger of the goddamn fucking bang-switch?

        • Jiro says:

          Actually I’m sometimes (whatever is the reverse of lightness) about how Hollywood treats hurting someone in self-defense. Which may be worse because it usually turns up in a more realistic setting than the one where the heroes go in guns ablazing (either that, or an unrealistic setting where the heroes can hate self-defense because they have plot armor so the lack of self-defense never inconveniences them).

        • Randy M says:

          What is that quote about Samuel Colt making men equal?

          • PhoenixRite says:

            I’ve heard both
            “God created Man, [but] Sam Colt made them equal.”
            and
            “Abe Lincoln may have freed all men, but Sam Colt made them equal.”

    • Mary says:

      Stones have been used as a method of execution.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Intention seems like a key discriminator in the narrative (which you correctly identify as skewed).

      People who use natural weapons are acting on impulse or out of need. If someone has acquired or created a tool, they are acting intentionally. Generally speaking, intentionality acts as a force multiplier, so it makes a fair amount of sense to overestimate the danger posed by a tool.

  12. Sniffnoy says:

    In psychopharmacology news: A recent paper suggests that the antidepressant effects of ketamine may be due to one particular metabolite rather than ketamine directly. Certainly interesting if true. Only been tested in mice, though.

  13. Erin says:

    When “Vegetarianism for Meat-Eaters” was published it very successfully convinced me to stop eating chicken (since then I have eaten chicken only about once, when I visited my parents and they served some for dinner). I reread the post recently and noticed this remark: “eggs are terrible on a calorie-for-calorie basis, but if we’re talking about which animal products to urge people to give up, this is counterbalanced by nobody except Gaston getting too many calories from eggs.”

    !!! I get *way* more calories from eggs than from meat. This has probably been true my whole life, has definitely been true since I’ve been cooking for myself, and is also true of a lot of people I know. In particular, it seems like the vegetarian-but-not-vegans I know eat *a lot* of eggs. (Source: I live in a college dorm with a kitchen; I basically know what everyone here who isn’t on a meal plan eats.)

    Anyway, yeah, this disturbed me, particularly considering that I really don’t want to give up eggs. At the moment I have settled for buying eggs that are highly rated here, but this is not all that satisfactory.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      @ Erin

      You might try looking through less-organized sources. The neighbors I get eggs from don’t have any certifications etc, and certainly seldom advertise, because they already have a waiting list of neighbors wanting more eggs than their hens can produce.

      Try bulletin boards at local hippie markets, or at the farm supply stores that sell chicken feed. A lot of people won’t bother to list on those either, for the same reason, but if you ask the management they may give you some leads.

      Edit: BTW, I’m looking for more ways to use eggs. Baking instead of boiling is easier (~half an hour at cake temperature), and the result can be worked into various things: the chopped whites in place of tofu or mixed into rice or pasta; the yolks mashed and added to sauces for thickening; etc.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Depending on what you are doing with your eggs, by my understanding vegetarian egg substitutes are among the most advanced vegetarian food substitutes and might be palatable.

    • keranih says:

      If one is going to be making choices on one’s food sources based on the welfare of the animals providing the substance one depends on, it seems to me that it would be best to have a full grasp of ‘welfare’ and ‘the animals providing the substance’.

      More specifically – if one’s organic/cage-free/sustainable/etc source has to hatch 120 chickens in order to get 100 to market, because 20 of them die before processing (or laying eggs, etc) while the conventionally raised chickens can get 100 to market and only lose 105, then it seems to me that the conventional system has distinct advantages.

      Likewise, I think one should also consider the impact on wildlife and field animals involved in growing grains/soy/etc. Growing and harvesting grains requires mechanical manipulation of the earth (and cutting/raking/grinding of the crop). The more land under cultivation, the more field mice, marsh hares, quail and sparrows are impacted by the farming operation. Organic chicken requires organic feed, which has a significantly lower yield per acre. If 100 pounds of chicken meat – or 100 eggs – requires 90 pounds of feed in a conventional system, and if under the less efficient organic/sustainable system 120 pound of feed are required, then, again, the conventional system has advantages.

      (These numbers are representative – the portions and ratios are correct across the average of organic/sustainable vs conventional, but the exact tradeoffs can vary wildly from operation to operation.)

      There are pros and cons for all things.

  14. ejlflop says:

    When reading about algorithmic trading (e.g. the linked article) I tend to get this terrible sense of foreboding, that extensive use of these techniques will somehow doom the world, quite in addition to any reservations I might have about capitalism in general. It just *feels* wrong, like something dreadful is going to happen with race conditions once a certain percentage of traders are robots who just trade as fast as possible. Is this actually a real failure mode in real stock markets? If not now, will it all fall apart catastrophically in 10, 20, 50 years? Does ultra-rapid trading actually make stock markets more efficient in some nebulous way, thereby adding value to the economy and making everyone (non-traders) better off?

    I would have thought that algorithmic traders require the continued safe existence of a population of ‘ordinary’ traders who are merely trying to invest money in their favourite corporations. I know almost nothing about economics though. (I suppose what I’m getting at is: is it ethical to advertise algorithmic trading on SSC, blah blah utilitarianism etc.)

    • John Schilling says:

      The value of ultra-rapid trading is in reducing the latency risk, overhead costs, and bid-ask spread for long-term investors.

      When you decide, based on your careful assessment of the energy industry and/or your enthusiasm for “green technology” that you want to buy a thousand shares of SPWR, odds are pretty good that there isn’t someone right that second trying to sell a thousand shares of SPWR. In olden times, you’d have to hire a stock broker to literally walk down to Wall Street and start asking around for someone who might be willing to sell. Most likely he’d have to offer a premium to get your shares from someone who wasn’t so much planning to sell right that minute but just ambivalent about holding on to his shares. And you’d have to pay the broker a substantial commission for his efforts. And it might take a few days, during which you might hear some catastrophic news about SPWR that makes you reconsider your decision to buy but, oops, your broker is out of reach because he’s busy meeting potential sellers like you asked him to.

      Now, a few keystrokes on your computer, and you get your thousand shares in a matter of seconds, paying an extra half a percent or so over the seller’s price. When you do that, you’re buying not from someone who invested in SPWR years back and made an informed decision to sell today, but from one of a vast army of high-speed traders competing for that half a percent with every electronic and algorithmic trick in their book.

      This seems to be a good thing overall, and it isn’t clear how it can cause real catastrophes. There have been cases where it caused fake catastrophes, but those mostly involve the advertised prices of stocks that nobody was really trying to buy or sell at the moment, and which correct themselves quite rapidly when non-algorithmic traders show up asking, “So, you’re really offering to sell SPWR for ten cents on the dollar?”

      • anon says:

        I agree with John, but to point out something under appreciated by most “retail” investors: when you click “buy” on E-trade or whatever, your order is not being transmitted to a free-for-all of HFT algorithms competing to offer you the best price, per se. Rather, E-trade made a “payment for order flow” agreement with some set of HFT firms, who know that as a retail investor your order is “uninformed” (compared to the orders made by hedge funds etc, no matter how much research you did). That is, they are much less likely to lose money by collecting the bid-ask spread from your order than from a randomly selected order. So orders like yours are a scarce commodity, which they therefore have to buy the right to fulfill from retail platforms like E-trade.

        To some people this reeks of fraud, but just like the story John was telling, it’s actually just the market being a little more efficient.

      • ejlflop says:

        Great, I think I understand it lot better now, thanks.

        Your “long-term” investors are like my “ordinary” investors, right? What’s the incentive for these investors to stay in the market, if algorithms are better at making money? What if the percentage of algorithmic traders approaches 100%? If that hasn’t happened yet, that might be why there haven’t been many catastrophes yet. Is the best case scenario simply that algorithmic traders can’t make money off each other, so there will always be these other traders, who are responsible for the random churn of the stock market?

        • John Schilling says:

          The algorithms are better at competing for, not “making”, the finite sum of money to be found in the bid-ask spread between various long-term or value investors. And there’s hundreds of billions of dollars of that every year, maybe even a trillion or so (WAG).

          But there are tens of trillions of dollars of real value created every year, and in the markets where that wealth is bought and sold, human judgement still trumps the algorithms. If it turns out you suck at assessing real value but are good at algorithms, sure, take your shot at a cut of that mere trillion dollars. But these are two different markets, with two different winning strategies, and the one with the big money is not going to be abandoned.

          Basically, you’re asking why people bother making sandwiches when ants are better than people at finding breadcrumbs on the floor. No matter how good the algorithmic ants are at finding the crumbs left by the sandwich-makers, making sandwiches is still a winning move for humans. Killing or even discouraging the ants may not be, if you value clean floors.

    • Chalid says:

      Do note that “algorithmic trading” is not the same thing as high-frequency trading. There’s lots of money being traded by computers where the holding period is months or longer.

      FWIW, HFT has been getting less profitable due to increased competition and better handling of orders by other market participants. I wouldn’t expect it to be a big deal in 10 years.

      • anon says:

        I’ll take the other side of that bet. I suspect HFT will still be a relatively small but profitable part of the industry in 10 years. I think the “arms race” characterization (which implies that these companies will essentially compete one another to death) has been vastly overstated in the Michael Lewis version of the media narrative.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        In what sense was HFT ever “a big deal”? It was never as profitable as the market makers it displaced. It just replaced a large number of people by a small number of people, so the profits were concentrated, so journalists loved to point at them.

    • YL says:

      It’s been pointed out that HFT isn’t what this commenter is really asking about, but I’d like to try to address the actual question. I believe ejlflop is asking about the problems that might arise with growing systematic strategies down the line. I think the easiest answer to this is that if trend following and momentum strategies continue to dominate this space, the result will be a continued increase in volatility in the market. On the other hand, if at some point the market enters a state in which the current mean reversion based algorithms can perform better or if we come up with just generally better mean reversion techniques, hopefully that would decrease the volatility in the market.

      I don’t work in systematic trading at all but I do have substantial, broad surface level exposure to the field and it’s incredible to me how much of algorithmic trading really is based on momentum – even fund that like to sell themselves on mean reversion, signal recognition, machine learning, cross correlation, typically rely heavily on momentum and trend following to support their strategies.

      Side note: the state of machine learning in systematic trading also appears appalling from the outside. The only hedge fund I can think of doing anything close to decent with it is Millburn and all they really use it for is to stitch together and smooth vector spaces. It’s cool but not at all AI in the super-cool sense. Then again maybe whatever Renaissance has been doing with Medallion is machine learning based but I doubt it, it’s always sounded more like clever signal recognition to me.

      As for HFT, Teza, an HFT firm primarily, was recently raising capital for a systematic, non-HFT hedge fund that would use the data they collect from their HFT program to basically try to do some more statistical arbitrage (such a cool idea) – which is odd that you would be raising outside capital if your HFT program just minted hella cash 24/7. I do get the feeling that HFT will eventually just become more integrated into anyone who trades systematically seriously, just as many global macro funds now have a small systematic component to compliment the discretionary side. Further I don’t totally believe that HFT compresses the bid-ask spread in any real way – it seems to me that most HFT trade the most liquid markets possible and really aren’t able to do much else. Monetary policy has been driving liquidity (lower) since the GFC and dominates the spreads of anything outside equities. Anything a HFT firm would do for spreads I feel could be done by a vol prop shop.

    • Aegeus says:

      I remember reading about an Amazon bot designed to just underbid the lowest price for an item, so it would get listed first in search results.. And then it ran into another bot that did the same thing, they underbid each other, and ended up trying to sell an item for pennies… So yeah, algorithmic trading can definitely go wrong.

      The good news is, there are safeguards in place. After a few cautionary tales like these, people start to, say, put a lower bound on what their robot will sell for. After the “flash crash” a few years ago, regulations changed to prevent some of the causes. Stock exchanges also have “circuit breakers” that can stop trading in the middle of a crash to give the humans a moment to catch up.

    • Adam says:

      It’s been pointed out already that algo trading isn’t the same thing as HFT. Equally important, most of the largest market players are not hedge funds. They’re pensions, endowments, the social security trust, entities with enormous sums of money that are legally forbidden from engaging in high-risk strategies or purchasing high-risk assets. Their failure mode is what we saw in 2008, ratings agencies saying an instrument is much safer than it actually is, not algorithms chasing each other. They still make heavy use of computational models, but for risk management, not prediction.

  15. Hummingbird says:

    I really like this extension that hides the comments of certain users. I’ve needed this for a while now.
    Is there any way this could be adapted to the comments on Unsong?

    • Bakkot says:

      Trivially, yes. Updated the script to do that too. Might take an hour or so to propagate to the Chrome “store”; it’ll be version 1.0.2 when it does.

      Unsong’s website for whatever reason has Hovercards enabled, which you will need to disable (hover over one and click “turn off hovercards”) to use this extension.

      Alternatively Scott could just turn them off site-wide on Unsong, which I would be strongly in favor of.

  16. Siah Sargus says:

    The whole idea of “body type” in our culture is really weird to me, bordering on alien, and often winds up being frustrating.

    I approach different body types from a very material, very art-focused point of view. I like noticing the small anatomical differences between people:

    For muscular anatomy, that’s the presence or absence of certain muscles; muscles like the palmaris longus in the forearm, or the accessory soleus in the leg. Muscles like these are basically just duplication for existing muscles and are rarely necessary for most people, but I like to keep track of which characters of mine do and don’t have muscles like these, because unseen time-wasting detail is my specialty. Even for people with exactly the same muscles, they still might have wildly different insertions and origins of those muscles, making them look noticeably different. As I’ve drawn more bodies from various references, I’ve notice some muscles seem to have a huge amount of variation, much more than other. Like the shape and separation of the various tendinous intersections of the rectus abdominis – six packs look very different on different people, much more diverse than shit-tier magazine covers would suggest, and not just at absurdly low body fat percentages.

    Continuing the differences of body type for skeletal anatomy, there’s the obvious one – height. But, there are also a great deal of bone variations beyond just height, like the length of the femur or the length of the humerus proportionate to the rest of the skeleton. Just look at how “leggy” some people can be at all sorts of heights. This sort of variation in development and structure continues as far down as you look. Even with the in endocrine system there is a tremendous variation in the levels of various sex hormones in the blood, although, in practice this matters to me as an artist less than the others, since these, from a visual point of view, mainly effect the size and shape of breasts and penises.

    Okay, so the idea of body types as discussed online is completely alien to me because it almost completely involves absolutely none of this.

    It’s simply about body fat percentages, and occasionally height. It’s just so frustrating as an artist to put all of the work I do into giving distinct bodies, within realistic ranges, that have different and distinct bone and muscle structures, even though I know most people only ever notice “the different body types” if I make a character fat. That just seems so orthogonal to actual bodytypes – any bodytype can become fat! I have a feeling someone in this comment section will concoct an answer involving signaling, capitalism, or game theory.

    But frankly, I just felt like ranting.

    • Noumenon72 says:

      Maybe you could do an educational post. Like, compare two celebrity photos with the same “body type”, point out the differences you see, redraw the two celebrities with their femurs/rectus abdominus insertions swapped.

    • Thanks for the level of detail.

      It surprised me a lot when I found that all people don’t have the same set of muscles.

    • Rowan says:

      Isn’t the signalling answer just “it’s a euphemism”? People talk about “body types” when comparing fat people to thin people because calling someone fat is considered insulting.

      • Rowan, I don’t think it’s just that, or at least it was a relief to me when one of M.A. Foster’s ler novels had a little more detail for the descriptions of thin people’s bodies– it was as though being slender part of the range of the human condition rather than attractiveness magic.

    • Anonymous says:

      since these, from a visual point of view, mainly effect the size and shape of breasts and penises

      Is this true, though?

      • Siah Sargus says:

        It’s absolutely true. Puberty is mainly caused by endogenous sex hormones, and the breasts and testes only fully develop in those specific endocrine conditions. Just a heads up, this is the most SEO-optimized sentence ever:

        You can absolutely use sex steroids and growth hormones to encourage the development of breasts long after puberty.

        Now I will explain: The growth of breasts during and after puberty is primarily controlled by four factors – endogenous estrogens like estradiol, progesterone, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). So as long as we have those four factors we can encourage additional growth. Two of them, the sex hormones progesterone and estradiol, can be found in certain birth controls. However, since most female hormonal birth control routes are oral (pills), the estradiol gets metabolized in the liver (first pass metabolism) and turns into estriol, which is slightly less effective for breast development, but still an estrogen. Boosting levels of GH and IGF-1 is more difficult, and usually illegal, because you can use those drugs to build muscle, and the government doesn’t like that. Drugs are supposed to intoxicate you, not build you up, right? That being said, you can use peptides like GHRP-6, Mod GRF, or MK-677 to increase natural gh release before sleeping, or thirty minute before a meal. So, yeah, totally true, you can effect the size of your breasts right now (even if you’re a guy!)

        And yes, the same roughly applies to male sexual characteristics. But for all of you gentleman who are looking to “enlarge their cock”… I’m sorry, there are no ways to legitimately gain more than a couple centimeters, and none of them are sane or convenient. Penis size is mediated by the presence of dihydrotestorone during a specific period right before puberty, and after that, there’s not much you can do. I won’t give you any platitudes about “it’s how you use it that matters” or any such bullshit, but I will tell you penises look wildly different from man to man, and this is the type of body diversity that I ultimately care about.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          A only causes B is a very, very different claim from A causes B.

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes, THANK YOU Douglas Knight.

            @Siah Sargus, I know that endogenous hormones affect those specific characteristics, my question was aimed at the fact that other characteristics — musculature, nose/facial bone structure, fat distribution — will also be affected.

          • Siah Sargus says:

            Well it would be a very boring world is steroids didn’t act on the whole body, wouldn’t it? Testosterone has a very powerful effect on growing minds increasing the amount of gray matter, and also increasing the overall brain size. However, this doesn’t make mens heads bigger, so it’s not significant is the visual sense. Because I’m an artist, not an endocrinologist. When it comes to the head, I care about the visual effects of testosterone like brow bossing.

            My point was; the most dramatic visual changes that sex hormones cause are the growth of primary and secondary sexual characteristics.

            @Anonymous I misread your question, I apologize. My choice of wording was poor, breasts and dicks certainly aren’t the only part of the body that changes, just the most significant to me.

          • “Well it would be a very boring world is steroids didn’t act on the whole body, wouldn’t it?”

            Indeed. Anyone know why or how reproductive hormones are involved with temperature control?

            It’s my impression (but my situation may be unusual) that hot flashes interfere with sleep by raising my body temperature. Is there sleep disruption caused by disregulated body temperature that isn’t related to hot flashes?

          • Anonymous says:

            Is there sleep disruption caused by disregulated body temperature that isn’t related to hot flashes?

            Well, it’s known that bringing body temp down is important for falling asleep, so the link is there, but IDK if you meant something more specific than that?

          • I don’t have anything in particular in mind, just that if something can go wrong with a body system, it’s probably happening to someone.

  17. Dirdle says:

    “I find no absolution//In my rational point of view”? Can’t say I agree with all the kabbalistic implications of this thread’s title.

    Anyway, the Merciful Leader just spent all these words saying “don’t feed the trolls,” I think? Not that saying that has ever worked, in any way, shape, form or fashion. When the baiter finds your hook*, you’ll think it’s critically important to bite just this once. Can’t say I disagree with the idea, though. So how do we avoid this?

    * Technically, these should be the other way around, but…

    • Dan T. says:

      That piece is making the point that a failure mode of rationalists is to take others’ attempts to attack and belittle them as if they were constructive criticism, and engage with it in a way that ends up only promoting the attackers. This is in contrast to the opposite failure mode of some other groups, such as the social justice left, where they take anything critical (even when intended constructively) as an attack and start spitting vitriol at the attacker. (Ironically, that too could end up helping to promote the opposing side; and both styles can produce much clickbaity controversy that drags more people into it and leads to social media dogpiles.)

      Personally, I always prefer the constructively-engaging style (I’d rather be seen as too willing to be constructive with trolls and jerks than as too unwilling to be constructive with anybody of a politically-incorrect view), and I’d actually very much like to see a review from Scott of the “work that must not be named” which is presumably motivating his post.

  18. Inty says:

    Recently I’ve discovered a method for dealing with my tinnitus. Until yesterday, I’d never heard ‘silence’. At the risk of sounding like a sketchy sidebar ad, to anyone with tinnitus I recommend this One Weird Trick:

    Place your palms over your ears and point your middle fingers towards the base of your skull, where your head meets your neck. Tap your index fingers against your head 40-50 times. Repeat at will.

    I’ve found that this completely abolishes ringing for about 30 seconds, but it produces a lasting effect of quieting my tinnitus for the rest of the day. I’ve recommended this to some people on Facebook, and it seems to have mixed results- it seemed to work for about 2/3 of them, without accounting for sampling bias in replies. One person said it made their tinnitus worse, but this was only temporary, and nobody I’ve spoken to has said it’s produced any lasting negative effects yet.

    • Sastan says:

      I have pretty bad tinnitus in one ear.

      Tried this, seemed to lower the volume of the ringing a bit. Will report after further testing.

      • Inty says:

        I’ve been playing around with doing different things to see what’s necessary or sufficient to achieve the effect. The original comment recommended tapping your index finger against your middle finger, but I found this to be awkward and unnecessary. I’ve tried tapping harder, but it didn’t seem to affect things much. Tapping for longer did help, though.

    • There’s something of the sort from Taoist healing arts.

      http://econtact.ca/9_4/saario.html

      Please keep posting about how your method is working out.

    • Bassicallyboss says:

      Tried this; worked about as described. I noticed the tapping seemed to cause some very high-frequency sounds in the same general range as my tinnitus; I wonder if the mechanism has to do with filtering “background” noise, either in the ear itself or in the brain?

  19. Siah Sargus says:

    Hey, Scott, regarding the creation of a forum, I found this portal to hell on the subreddit:

    TW:Everything

    It’s a subthread on redchanit devoted to forced anonymity and rationality, and, despite having very little traffic compared to other sites, shows all of the problems and benefits of anonymous communication.

    Obviously it could never replace the comments here, but their memes about you are amusing.

    • Anonymous says:

      >portal to hell
      that’s a great hell

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      >I ship Scott Alexander/Nick Land

      Hilarious stuff.

      EDIT: Why do images take so long to load, by the way?

    • EyeballFrog says:

      OK, this thread made me laugh far more than it should have.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Thank you, that’s glorious.

    • Fj says:

      The thread about whether the rationalist community, being openminded and in search for life hacks, should embrace prostate simulation just like it embraced polyamory and cryonics, was some god-tier trolling.

      Some anon got seriously upset, because on one hand the suggestion is perfectly legitimate, on the other hand it would forever brand the rationalist community as those guys who are smug about sticking fingers up their butts.

      • Nita says:

        prostate simulation

        A very appropriate typo.

      • Zippy says:

        I believe that was, in fact, copypasta from a LessWrong discussion post that was quickly deleted. Both the OP and the branding reply.

    • Zippy says:

      forced anonymity

      I don’t think that’s true; names and tripcodes seem to work fine. They do currently have a culture of not using those features, though.

  20. Carinthum says:

    Hi, I know this thread is very cluttered but quick question.

    After I finally moved out, I was having an argument with Mum and Dad. My parents claim that it’s perfectly normal at 24 for a modern Australian that I can’t drive and haven’t even started learning, that they don’t trust me to go to an airport on my own (I haven’t gone before, they say), and that given I have Aspergers the fact (they say) I’m incapable of office work shouldn’t be considered a big deal.

    Requesting advice on how much truth there is to this. I reckon they’re wrong, but an external perspective would be good.

    • It depends on your Aspergers. From the limited information you have provided it’s possible your parents are showing an appropriate level of caution and concern, or they could be treating you unreasonably.

    • Sid says:

      As an Australian of fairly similar age:

      – Not knowing how to drive doesn’t seem like a big deal at all.
      – The airport thing depends. Are they just keen to help you, or basically trying to forbid you from going alone? The latter seems weird and controlling, but the former seems pretty normal.
      – Not quite sure what you mean on the third point. Certainly not a big deal in the sense that you should be ashamed, or that it makes you sound ‘crazy’, or anything like that. (edit: I think I might have misunderstood — are they telling you you’re incapable of office work, but you think they might be wrong? If so, then as James Miller said, it seems like we would need more information about your Aspergers in order to make a judgment.)

      • Carinthum says:

        Thanks on the driving thing.

        Mum and Dad say that Dad (who was Australian raised unlike Mum) would never have been allowed to go to the airport by himself until he’d gone before. But they are effectively forbidding it.

        • Tracy W says:

          I’m raised Kiwi, and at age 21 went wandering around the USA by myself. My parents worried a lot, but not about me finding my way to airports.

          That said, how is your sense of direction and how do you cope with large crowds? Or dealing with daft people in authority?

          It also seems odd that you would be incapable of all office work, that incorporates quite a variety of skills and situations.

    • Jill says:

      Yes, this is one of those things where people who see/hear/know you in person are likely to be able to tell much more than people on line. Have you seen a doctor for you Aspergers? If so, what do they say about whether you can work, or if you can work, what kind of work you can do? Does your doctor think you need help in getting to the airport?

      There are different levels of Aspergers, and the answers are different for different ones.

      • Carinthum says:

        (NOTE: In retrospect, I realized this kind of dump was kind of immature. I apologize for this, I’m not sure how else to express it. Also, sorry about the slow reply)

        In retrospect, I was being a bit immature about asking about the office work thing for which I apologize. The truth is that, after so much frustration over Mum and Dad forbidding me from doing things and me being too weak to resist (pretty pathetic, but in my defense I have Aspergers and back when this overcontrol problem started my psychologist Richard Eisenmeier was saying I had to negotiate with my parents to be allowed to use the trams on my own and my parents were strongly pushing the same thing) I’m absolutely sick of it.

        Even if it’s not true any more, for many years my parents informally pressured me severely to stay Catholic (they say they didn’t but I pretty much felt trapped), I was outright forbidden to date, made to do university half time (on the basis I couldn’t handle the stress otherwise, regardless of what I thought), had aides to go to every tutorial to stop me talking too much etc. This gets humiliating over time.

        That’s why it matters to me, not whether a typical Aspie can do it, but whether a normal person can do it. After a certain amount of being treated like an invalid and being pressured from all angles to stay that way I just got sick of it after a while.

        I thought (and yes this was dumb) I could simply get clarification on what was and wasn’t normal, since I’ve received contradictory sources of information in my life. For each of the three things I’ve listed, there are people who claim it is and is not normal to be that way.

        That being said, I apologize for posting this. It was just after the fight, and I wasn’t thinking clearly at the time. I know it’s very rude to bounce you like this, but after I posted my initial post I wasn’t sure what else to do.

        • Agronomous says:

          I don’t think you need to apologize, because I don’t think you’ve actually harmed anyone. And I’d be astounded if your comment ends up being the least-mature one in this open thread.

          I wish I could be of some help to you, but all I can say is hang in there, gradually build your skills in dealing with the weird illogical world, and feel free to post a progress report from time to time.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I was going to write a reply but instead I will simply “second” Agronomous’ comment. Hang in there mate, and keep fighting the good fights.

    • Devilbunny says:

      Not an Australian, but I can attest from past week’s experience that airports are not places for newbies even if fully neurotypical. I’m a moderately frequent traveler and was extraordinarily frustrated by people who didn’t get the rules. Especially if they were shunted into the expedited-screening lines, which have their own set of rules that are different and mostly known only to those who have gotten precertified.

      As for driving, can’t speak as to typicality, but as an American, I find that very odd. I perfectly understand not wanting to own a car, if you live in a big city, but not knowing how to drive? Not having a license? Very restrictive when you travel.

      • James Picone says:

        Not an Australian, but I can attest from past week’s experience that airports are not places for newbies even if fully neurotypical. I’m a moderately frequent traveler and was extraordinarily frustrated by people who didn’t get the rules. Especially if they were shunted into the expedited-screening lines, which have their own set of rules that are different and mostly known only to those who have gotten precertified.

        Australia’s rules about what you can bring on flights are significantly less restrictive than the US’.

    • tern says:

      Congratulations on moving out – hope that’s working out well for you.

      As for your questions, I basically agree with the other commenters, with the exception that even in America I don’t find it very unusual for someone not to have a driver’s license if they live somewhere walkable with public transport. The complicating factor is that almost everyone who wants to buy alcohol ends up getting one anyway, just because getting alternate ID is almost as much of a hassle. My sister and her partner (both somewhat older than you) do without, and they live in the suburbs.

    • Peter says:

      The first time I went to an airport, I went solo. I even have Asperger’s! (The usual proviso about everyone being differently affected applies here, of course).

      Oddly enough I seem to fly pretty well, despite having had more than my fair share of incidents. There was the time I flew at the height of the liquid explosives terrorist scare, there was the time my plane landed on time then was forced to wait on the tarmac for half an hour causing me to miss my connecting flight, there was the time I’d booked my flight home for one day too early. The time I flew to Germany when the World Cup was on there hardly rates. With all of those… I think I was more bothered about not being able to socialise very well at the conferences I was travelling to/from than by the airport incidents themselves.

      All of these incidents were before I got my diagnosis, incidentally.

    • Nita says:

      The problem is, no one really knows what the limits of your abilities are. Not your parents, not you, not us, and most likely not even your doctor.

      Rough estimates of what’s “normal” for neurotypical people exist because there are a lot of them, so we can draw some statistical conclusions. But various groups of non-neurotypical people are much smaller, and there’s no completely reliable way to tell which group you belong to.

      So, it seems that you’ll have to find relatively safe ways to experiment and practice new skills. E.g., consider going to the airport. What is your goal? How can you achieve it? What might go wrong? What can you do to prevent unwanted outcomes, either in advance or on the spot?

      Make lists or draw diagrams, or talk to someone — whatever helps you think. In the end, either you will feel sufficiently prepared to attempt your novel task, or you will have ideas for smaller things to try/practice before you can tackle it.

      Maybe you will always need to schedule more time for something than most people, or bring along a printed map, or ask for directions. That’s OK. And sometimes you will try something new and fail. That’s OK too — experiments don’t always work out. And there might be some tasks or circumstances that you really can’t handle, and you will have to avoid them — but first you’ll have to find out what they are.

      Ideal parents would always give just the right amount of encouragement or protection. Unfortunately, you are unsure how good or bad your parents are in this respect. You don’t know how much you can trust them, and that makes everything harder and more confusing. But if you keep learning what you really can and cannot do, and keep comparing their judgment to reality, eventually you will figure it all out. Good luck!

      • Carinthum says:

        As I said elsewhere in the thread, after years of my parents trying to stop me from dating, pressuring me to stay Catholic etc I have too much frustration to simply lie back and accept I’m disabled. If I have limitations ordinary people don’t have, I am going to overcome them.

        I’ve been looking on this thread for practical help as to how to do that. Please don’t try to say I shouldn’t- I get enough of that as it is.

        • Nita says:

          What I was trying to say is this: even if you did have some insurmountable limitations, you would still have to try new things and practice new skills.

          Even if your parents are right about something, they are still wrong to limit and discourage you, because they don’t really know what you can do. No one does.

          And it doesn’t really matter whether other Australians have done something by the age of 24 or not. It’s perfectly fine to try something just because you want to, even if other people haven’t done it yet. (But I understand that you want to get a more reliable idea of reality than your parents’ claims.)

          Like everyone else here, I don’t know why your parents are so controlling. But in any case, since you must discard their advice in order to make any progress at all, you’ll have to replace it with your own estimates of what you’re ready to try, what you need to practice, and what the risks might be.

        • nm. k.m. says:

          Caveat: I don’t have Asperger’s nor am I an Australian. Trying to answer your questions:

          – Knowing how to drive: I know plenty of people at ~24 who don’t know how to drive, but this is area where public transit coverage is good and is enough to get by. In some other areas where you need a car / motorized vehicle to go anywhere, this would be more weird.

          – Airports: This is a bit tricky. You want to know if 24 year people go to airports alone. I’d say yes. But a significant “but”: As some other people said elsewhere in other replies, I’d recommend to anyone *not* to go to an airport first time alone. Stuff like security screenings, daft procedures and bureaucracy, what to do if when there’s delays and complications, etc. are frustrating. Depending on what kind of Asperger’s you have, “not going alone” might even be very reasonable precaution, but you probably have a better idea about your situation than random people in the internet. Usually people travel by air first time with their families when they are younger, so most people would have an idea what it is like well before they are 24.

          Have you been in other, similar places? A large railway station, perhaps?

          – Religions decisions like “staying Catholic” shouldn’t have anything to do with Asperger’s syndrome, or any medical condition. On the other hand, having a conflict about religious beliefs with your parents at 24 is what quite often happens to non-Aspergers people, too, but I repeat, Asperger’s should have nothing to do with it, and if they are using that as a leverage, I don’t think it is okay. But what to do about it, I’m afraid I don’t have not much good advice.

          Have you discussed your religious beliefs with you local priest? About being a Catholic, and that you feel your parents are pressuring you, for example? I was raised a Protestant, so I don’t know much about Catholicism, but that would sound very normal thing to do.

          [On the other hand: Nowadays I consider myself an atheist, but I still sort of “fake it”/ dance around it during family gatherings (frankly, last year I ended up reading the Gospel before Christmas dinner, and that was weird, being probably the only one in the table not considering it a valid historical source), and I think my extended family doesn’t know I’m an atheist and I’m not telling them because I know they wouldn’t react well and be very unreasonable, though think my parents probably can guess… I’m telling this an example that dealing with religion can be …complicated to non-Aspergers, too.

          As I said, I don’t know much about Catholicism, but I’d wager that the Pope would agree that if you don’t want to be a Catholic and don’t believe in their teachings, you can “not be a Catholic”, even if you never tell your parents. *If* it is of some condolence. Of course religious freedoms are basic human rights, and ideally everyone could voice their beliefs openly and honestly to everyone, but as I said, world is complicated and full of unreasonable people.]

          – Do you know other people than your parents, to whom you can voice your concerns? For example, if you think they are unjustly restricting where you can go and can not, and what part of that is reasonable given your Asperger and what is not.

    • James Picone says:

      I am Australian, and have several friends around that age who do not know how to drive or do not drive much. Easily double-digit percentages, maybe ~25%?

      Airports are certainly unpleasant, but probably figure-out-able? Depends what kinds of things you have problems with. Note that my limited airport experience is with one of the smaller ones in Australia.

    • Agronomous says:

      I just realized something that might be helpful:

      There’s no reason your first time at an airport has to be the day you travel. You might want to go for a couple of hours one day and just wander around, figuring things out and seeing how you react to the situation. If it’s intolerable, you can just leave. If you want to be even more cautious, you can bring someone who’s flown before with you.

      One more idea: search for other people’s first-time airport experiences on the web.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Also, consider that if you find airports terrible, this is not necessarily solely on your end: very few people enjoy airports or spending time in them.

      • LHN says:

        Can you walk around an Australian airport without a ticket? Since the post-9/11 security changes, it hasn’t been possible to go through security without one in the US. Still possible to see the ticket counter and baggage dropoff, but not really to get fully familiar with the layout and process.

        (What’s amazing is watching an old movie like “The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer”, and seeing someone walk onto a plane without a ticket, and buy one from the flight attendant as if it were a train.)

        • keranih says:

          For me, the most horrific experiences in airports are on the public side of the security line (and the security line itself.) Once on the far side, it’s relatively easy to find somewhere to sit and read/nap.

          • LHN says:

            That’s fair. I’ve had a couple of “failed to notice a gate change, almost missed flight” experiences on the far side of security which were stressful enough. But it’s true that as a general rule getting through security feels like having largely finished running the gauntlet. I do think actually going through the security line is a big part of the experience.

            (Probably more stressful if, like me, you’re inclined to opt out of the body scanners. I never know if I’m going to have to do it till I see which machine I’m being directed towards, or how long the delay for a search will be if I don’t luck into a metal detector. Someone who’s trying to minimize issues probably doesn’t need to add that complication, and I don’t know what the scanner situation is in Australia in any case.)

            Post-security, I don’t know if the crowding, sometimes hard-to-hear announcements, or occasionally labyrinthine layout might be an issue.

  21. anon says:

    Stellaris. Looks. Sooo. Freakin’. GOOD!

    • Luke G says:

      Yes!

      • Carinthum says:

        Very true, but it’s kind of disappointing that there’s no slave revolts. I was going to try for the optimal possible build, but “no slave revolts” makes slavery so broken the game loses all challenge.

        Right now, though I’m a bit concerned about the research costs I’m probably going to go for a Science Directorate Fanatic Materialist Natural Physicist build, then expend a crapton of Influence on early pro-Research Edicts (including Physics Grants). As long as I can maintain at least competent expansion (which hopefully I’ll figure out after doing the tutorial), higher Physics gives me a combination of further Research bonuses that should allow me to win some early wars and build a strong Empire.

        • anon says:

          Paradox’s style is to flesh out features in expansion packs. Arumba’s let’s play videos already show a number of UI bugs that will hopefully be fixed. Your point about slavery seems interesting; I don’t know anything about that part of the game yet. My secret hope is that some clever modders will figure out a way to vastly increase the number of stars in the galaxy and also add semi-realistic orbital mechanics to the calculation of pathing trajectories and sub-FTL travel times.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            “Your point about slavery seems interesting; I don’t know anything about that part of the game yet.”

            Slaves produce less energy and research. Having slaves pisses off other star empires. It makes other individuals on the same planet unhappy (not sure if collectivist immune).

            Stack slaves with Despotic Empire
            -15% building cost
            +10% slave mineral output
            +10% slave food output

            Have energy and research produced on planets without slaves and you are good to conquer the galaxy. Unlike other conquerors, you don’t have to worry about revolts; since slaves can’t revolt, none of your new subjects can revolt since you can immediately enslave them. You can ignore a lot of the games subsystems. That’s not good.

          • anon says:

            AFAICT some Fallen Empires have a problem with slavery. Maybe that’s the main nerf to the mechanic?

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            It is overpowered except in some games where you get brutally destroyed due to something entirely out of your control? That doesn’t sound like a good balance system.

          • anon says:

            That depends on P(annihilation), I suppose. If lim_{t->infty} P(annihilation before t) = 1, then for optimal play slavery has to be used carefully and phased out at a strategic time (depending on Fallen Empire proximity and other factors). If it’s plausible to play the whole game and have decent a chance of ZERO negative consequences from slavery, then maybe you’re right that it is OP.

            I think the AGI end-game decision is supposed to be similar? Not sure…

          • anon says:

            OK I’ve played it a bit now and it’s a lot of fun. I’ll report back after I’ve engaged seriously with the midgame phase. Exploration/expansion is cool, though.

    • Brad (The Other One) says:

      How does it stack up against Civ 5, gameplay wise?

      • anon says:

        I haven’t had a chance to play it yet (released at midnight in my TZ and I have work today). But from watching videos on youtube, it looks much better than Civ 5 to me. Although it’s symmetric start, the racial differences (colonizability of planets, ethos, etc) and randomized tech options seem like they will make the players much less isomorphic to one another than in Civ.

        Early reviews criticize the mid- and end-game for being bloated and potentially a boring grind. And a lot of people seem to share Samuel Skinner’s concern about the no-slave-revolt bug (so I expect it to be fixed in an early patch). But the early game seems universally popular — the analogue of getting your first 3-5 cities in Civ, but much more interesting. I think it’s probably better because surveying systems etc. is apparently a lot more exciting as exploration than removing a few patches of fog of war. But we’ll see what I think for myself after playing it tonight.

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        Thanks for the review. Glad I held off.

        • anon says:

          It seems to be pretty popular with a lot of people. Maybe wait until it’s on sale if you’re skeptical, but think twice before completely forswearing the game.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I mean, if you wait long enough for it to go on sale, they might finish the other half of their development cycle. Some of the flaws are structural but a lot of them seem like the game was rushed out the door half-baked (they admitted as much in the case of slave revolts). Paradox are too prideful to label their unfinished games “Early Access”, basically.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            The problem is it is a huge departure from there previous work; I am skeptical they can actually pull off this sort of thing. We already have GAGA Extreme summing up his experience which is “science is king. Again.”; I don’t know how they can shift the game to be truly different from other 4xs and still be fun and interesting.

            So far all the recent 4xs appear to have been either astoundingly generic, good but niche or complete garbage. Stellaris is a step above generic, but not a lot. Given CK2, I don’t think they can simultaneously pull of an increase in interesting gameplay and balance.

  22. EyeballFrog says:

    I recently rediscovered /r/HFY, a subreddit dedicated to original sci-fi works that depict humans as being awesome in various ways. There’s a lot of fun reads on there and for some reason I was reminded of some of Scott’s stuff. Anyone else here who’s a fan of this sort of thing?

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s entertainment with high diminishing returns. After reading a couple they get too repetitive, but the first dozen or so are a lot of fun to read so everyone should give it a try. It’s like SAO or mahouka or hollywood power fantasy, the first ones you watch are great and even if you find the genre shallow after that the initial fun is worth it.

      The space seems lacking in authors though, last time I checked an HFY thread on 4chan I had already read everything that was posted. The ones about the veil of madness were my favourite.

    • Rowan says:

      I think there’s room for actual science fiction that leans on “humanity fuck yeah” as a trope, and there’s room for discussion of the relevant trope and how it could be played with little snippets, but the typical content of the HFY sub is between those two “niches” where I think it’s worthwhile, so it’s just boring formulaic fiction around a memetically fit gimmick, like the anti-SJ “tales of privilege”

  23. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    SSC SF Story of the Week #15
    This week we are discussing “Transmission” by Nate Soares.
    Next time we will discuss “The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Selena was insane. Even if we ignore the qualitative difference between humans going extinct and surviving and just think in terms of saving individual humans, Robins’s plan had around a 50% chance of catching any given human before the screwup (“catching half the transmission is better than slamming ourselves into the side of a planet”), and even afterwards she had only destroyed one of the eight recievers and burned two of the six hours they started out with. Meanwhile, Selena herself estimated her chances of making the landing at somewhere around 0.1%-1% (“My odds aren’t that low, captain. One in a hundred. Maybe one in a thousand. But not one in a million”). Clearly, Robins’s plan had the greatest chance of saving even one member of Selena’s family, but Selena refused to stick with what was workable and now humanity no longer exists. Thanks, Selena!

      • I’m going to agree. Selena’s plan is foolhardy, and if it fails has the consequence of killing EVERYONE. Emily’s plan saves many fewer people in the best case, but many many more people in the average case.

        Just to be safe, I vote that we bar anyone named Selena from being on colonization missions in the future.

        • Walter says:

          Selena may have been irrational, but Emily stabbing her gave us worst of both worlds. Even if stabbing Selena killed her, Emily didn’t know how to work the ship. She couldn’t have slowed it back down.

    • Anon. says:

      I thought this was a weak story. The ending was predictable, which undermined whatever tension there might’ve been in the build-up. Humanity dying needs to evoke a sense of awe, but it was all so flat… The attempts to insert a “personal factor” to the choice of each character was blatant and ineffective. And why didn’t they wake up other people?

    • Deiseach says:

      “Transmission” is stacking the deck. Only two officers are thawed out in an emergency? The Captain is a political appointee with no real command authority?

      It’s a nicely grim tale where both characters mean well and end up destroying themselves, each other, and the entirety of humanity, and it does make a change from the recent stories that worked out too pat for a happy ending, but on the other hand, it’s nihilistic for the sake of it.

      What destroyed Earth? Why no other ships sent out even in a last-ditch desperate attempt at saving some other survivors? If the threat was so all-encompassing that it managed to compromise the entire Solar System, how come it didn’t interfere with the transmission of the minds? And they really could keep a transmission of the entire minds of over 2 billion people coherent that far out to the colony ship? Only one colony ship? Why wasn’t the captain or another officer woken up when the ship had to divert, which put them behind schedule: that’s the kind of thing that makes a big difference to when they’re going to make planetfall, how far the planet has moved on in its orbit from the planned position, etc.

      Also, apparently even though this is the one and only colony ship and Earth has accordingly put all its eggs in one basket, potential colonists include people with severe – even fatal – diseases/disabilities (like the captain’s son) and a captain who has not got the respect and more importantly the obedience of her officers?

      Good contrast between both characters, high stakes, good reasons on both sides for why they put forward the plan they selected, but too many holes in the plot once the emotional affect of the story (murder! death! absolute destruction and failure! humanity is destroyed, doomed, finished, kaput!) wears off.

      “The Cold Equations” – oh man, I loved that story the first time I read it, and even though since I’ve read critiques of it, it still works better than “Transmission” because the stakes aren’t so high so they’re more personal and immediate, and the pilot isn’t a daredevil hair-trigger reactions type with delusions of infallibility.

      • Jiro says:

        I happen to agree with Cory Doctorow’s specific criticism of Cold Equations, even though the rest of his rant is worthless: Failing to take proper safety precautions, and having someone die as a result, is a human failing, not victimization by the laws of nature. The story conceals this by having the missing safety precautions indirectly kill rather than directly, but it would be the same if the girl had just tried to stow away, fallen into the engine, and got burned up. The laws of nature dictate that anyone who falls into an engine burns up, but we wouldn’t describe that as someone dying due to the laws of nature.

        • Evan Þ says:

          I read that essay too, and I’m not convinced by his criticism. Yes, the gaze of the story is limited – but you can’t assume that the unseen social structure includes significant human failings impacting the story. Are you saying that every mining mission should be equipped with vaccines against all diseases known to the galaxy? (Are current Antarctic missions equipped with smallpox vaccines? With HPV vaccines?) Or are you saying that every shuttle should take enough fuel for multiple stowaways or else not launch at all, even if there isn’t more fuel available and not launching would mean the vaccines don’t get to the colony?

          (If you’re instead criticizing Barton for not anticipating autopilots, that’s a legitimate technical point, but not a human failing inside his universe where they presumably don’t exist.)

        • Stowaways were a known problem. All that was needed (assuming you couldn’t just get rid of the door) was for someone (possibly the pilot, but security personnel would probably be better) to check the closet!

          I think it’s better to look at the story as being about bureaucratic failure at least as much as the Cold Equations.

          Folks here might be interested in “Lost Dorsai”– it’s about being stuck in a situation where there is almost certainly a clever solution, but there isn’t enough time to figure it out.

        • Deiseach says:

          The proper safety precautions would be guards to keep stowaways off the ships, I agree. The girl got aboard way too easily. And sure, part of the human failing on the part of the crew is that they’re all frontiersmen, so everyone knows the penalty for stowing away and the reasons behind it, and nobody on colony worlds would therefore dream of stowing away on a rescue ship, so they don’t think to check for stowaways (anymore than I check under my bed for burglars). They know the crew of the cruiser would never do something so stupid and they don’t think the passengers are going to stow away – why would they, they’re travelling on the cruiser to their own destinations!

          And the EDS is not an independent ship, it’s like a lifeboat on the larger ship that gets dropped off and sent out to cover emergency calls where the larger ship can’t divert. So it’s like the crew of a rescue lifeboat setting out – who checks for stowaways on a lifeboat sent out to rescue a sinking ship?

          But the girl is from Earth, doesn’t know the rules, doesn’t know the dangers and so thinks she’s only breaking a minor regulation that means she’ll have to pay a fine. The intent of the story is to contrast the “oh pooh, what possible harm can it do to break this silly rule?” versus “there are good reasons for laws even if you don’t know them” (as a laws’n’rules type myself, I appreciate it).

          You could say it’s an extreme example of Chesterton’s Fence: if you don’t know the reason for a regulation, go away and find out before you decide to break it, no matter how silly or trivial or bureaucratic you think it is 🙂

          But that doesn’t affect the rest of the story, which is that given the physical limitations, the small ship does not have the fuel to spare to account for her extra weight. It’s pared down to the bone for the reasons given in the story, and I wonder if there are similar examples we could take from modern-day military situations?

          Anybody know anything about, say, “if you have tanks in the desert you want to keep the weight down as much as possible because overheating” or the like?

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t think overheating is a serious problem these days, but the weights and external dimensions of armored vehicles (at least in the American army and others that have pressing power-projection needs) are often tightly constrained because of air-mobility concerns. The Stryker family of armored vehicles, for example, is fairly lightly armored out of the box because it needs to be carried by a C-130 Hercules transport plane, and has to be upgraded in the field to be able to reliably survive RPG attack. Special jeep-like vehicles have also been developed for use with the smaller V-22 Osprey.

            Aircraft face even harsher tradeoffs for weight, but I’ll leave that to someone that knows more about it than I do.

          • Hlynkacg says:

            Anybody know anything about, say, “if you have tanks in the desert you want to keep the weight down as much as possible because overheating” or the like?

            I was a crewchief in a Naval SAR/Medevac detachment, and was the detachment’s staff NCO for my last tour in Iraq.

            Aside from maintenance and babysitting, my biggest worry/time-sink was the detachment’s fuel and water budget. How much we had, how much we were using, and when/where we might get more. The status of our “buffalos” (tanker trailers) and getting them to where they were needed was a major component of our day-to-day operational planning.

            How much water we had determined how much long we could stay out and how much gas we had determined how much work we could get done. Moving a full trailer is hard work so we were constantly having to strike a balance between keeping the tankers full enough to meet our needs and keeping them light enough to pick up and move when needed.

          • I just realized that “The Cold Equations” is a trolley problem with a more plausible set-up. “More plausible than a trolley problem” is a very low standard.

            Even when I first read it, cutting the fuel so close seemed unlikely. What if you had to land in a storm– or dodge a storm?

            It’s a somewhat different story if the question is “kill the girl or 10% chance of her, the pilot, and the miners(?) all die?”.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’ve seen the Cold Equations plot set up in terms of life support supplies a number of times, and that seems more plausible to me. If you have a one-man craft and a 30% margin for your CO2 scrubbers, then they’ll crap out halfway through the voyage if you have a stowaway despite everyone’s best intentions.

      • John Schilling says:

        Are we discussing “The Cold Equations” in this Open Thread or the next? I’d like to participate, but if it’s going to be split across two threads I’d prefer to focus on the main one.

    • reader says:

      Transmission really, really wanted to be “The Cold Equations” but failed because the setup is too implausible at every level. Only one pilot? The captain can’t fly (and doesn’t even recognize her weight is pointing the wrong direction at first)? No more crew? No one else to wake? Cargo doors that can’t be opened? And why is the ship is full of sick people who’d need an entire industrial base spun up before they could start manufacturing medical equipment and treatments, instead of just leaving them on earth to be woken and cured as the research succeeds?

      Just… this setup is stupid. Everyone who put this setup together must’ve been stupid, and every character who appears is stupid. This isn’t an interesting setup well-explored, it’s a clunky high-concept recipe for the author to smash a couple puppets together with sound and fury, signifying nothing.

      • The Nybbler says:

        That’s a general problem with this kind of story; I think the subgenre has a name but I don’t remember it. The short-story form doesn’t allow time to explore the setup in detail, so if you don’t buy it, the story fails for you.

  24. Kyrus says:

    I kind of thought the sort of people who have AIs that can predict the stock market would probably be, uh, busy with other things, but apparently this is a well-investigated field with a lot of possible incremental progress.

    What is up with calling everything an AI nowadays? I won some money on numerai by just doing a simple regression on the data. Much AI, so advanced, such danger that it will overtake the world.

  25. Edward Scizorhands says:

    Is there a way I can donate to charity under my real name and not get saturated with junk mail?

    I basically feel like a sucker for donating.

    • ton says:

      Fake address?

    • Anaxagoras says:

      I’ve donated through GiveWell using my real name to a couple places, and I’m certainly not getting saturated with messages. Since first donating through them about a year and a half ago, I’ve only received maybe a half dozen messages, and they’re not requests for more cash either.

      • anon says:

        Yeah this is my experience too. There’s probably a pretty big negative correlation between how good a charity is (in an EA sense) and how much they spam you. Universities being exhibit A.

    • drethelin says:

      We really need google to invent a spam filter for physical mailboxes

  26. underst8 says:

    I’m not a usa type person. Getting my info from the meeja and various online places.

    I am deeply confused about the republican establishments attitude towards Trump.

    Isnt Trump just saying what the GOP has been saying or hinting at all along?

    When I asked this on a forum where lots of technical and science types hung out, the answers I got fell into three camps :-

    1/ They dont like him cos he’s not one of them.

    2/ Because he might actually change something.

    3/ Because he says things which shouldn’t be said out loud.

    1 would seem to suggest theres a conspiracy, that its not about the politics so much as the cabal.

    2 again suggests a conspiracy to stay in power rather than any public interest.

    3 seems the most plausible, because whilst the base might like what he says it will be a different matter come the general election when he has to appeal more to the centre.

    Thoughts?

    • suntzuanime says:

      No, Trump deviates from GOP orthodoxy on many, many issues. Some, like open borders, you might argue that they have been “hinting” the opposite of what they’ve been saying, but on issues like free trade, universal healthcare, Planned Parenthood, or foreign interventions, it’s hard to argue that the GOP has agreed with him all along but has been too cowardly to say it.

      The primary was, I think, in large part about the GOP discovering that their voter base does not actually buy in to large parts of their doctrine.

      • underst8 says:

        >deviates from GOP orthodoxy on many, many issues.

        Ok, thanks, I didn’t know that. The media coverage I’ve been watching/reading has been about his more outrageous comments. I’m not seeing much about his actual policies. Maybe I’m just not looking in the right place.

        As to their base not buying into the GOP doctrine, I’m not sure. That seems to suggest a level of engagement with policy I’m just not seeing. To me it looks like a howl of rage, like they’re fine with the doctrine what they’re not fine with is not living in some sort of 1950’s USA dream world. But again, I’m not there, maybe the distance is having a distorting effect.

        • suntzuanime says:

          The media is, in general, not very charitable towards Trump and his supporters.

        • Wrong Species says:

          So you didn’t hear about his flip flop on abortions? Or his policy of bringing back waterboarding? Or his plan to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it? Or his plan to fight an economic war with China? Or his recent suggestion about defaulting on the debt?

          The idea that the media isn’t discussing his policies is pretty ridiculous, maybe less so from a foreign perspective.

          • underst8 says:

            Ha! Funny, those were the “outrageous comments” I was referring to. I didnt think they were policies so much as just saying what the crowd wanted to hear.

            When I say policy I’m thinking more along the lines of some well thought out published document. Something more formal.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I didnt think they were policies so much as just saying what the crowd wanted to hear.

            I’m fairly certain that’s exactly what they are.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Well in that case you can’t blame the media because he doesn’t have any kind of formal, published documents. He’s not exactly known for his eloquent, distinguished writing.

          • suntzuanime says:

            That’s simply a lie. He’s outlined many policy positions in detail on his campaign website, which is the first place you would have checked if you cared at all about the truth. For example, Trump’s healthcare plan: https://www.donaldjtrump.com/positions/healthcare-reform

          • Wrong Species says:

            I didn’t realize we were considering his campaign page as “formal, published documents”. But it doesn’t even matter what that says because he’s just going to change his mind anyways so forgive me for not taking any of his proposals seriously.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I won’t forgive you for not taking the truth seriously. What the fuck were you looking for, beyond an in-depth position statement? You wanted a publication in a fucking peer-reviewed journal? No, you just spouted off the easy slur without giving a damn about the facts of the matter, and now that you’re being called on it you’re like “well the facts don’t matter because everyone knows I’m right anyway.” Fuck you.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I was thinking like a book outlining his policy positions on more than seven issues. The difference between his website and Clinton’s is pretty pathetic in this regard. But even on those seven issues, he’s already flip flopped on at least one of them. You can “call me out” for my dismissal all you want but it’s not really that surprising when the guy changes his policy position mid interview three times. And yes, I read the transcripts so don’t accuse me of not watching it myself. Don’t presume to know what I do or don’t care about because you’re probably wrong.

    • Montfort says:

      As suntzu says, there’s a lot of actual policy differences between Trump and the traditional republican platform.

      Now, it’s also true that established republicans don’t like him because he’s not one of them and because he doesn’t project the type of serious, dignified image they regard as normal. But I don’t think that’s the most important reason – you can compare the reaction to Trump with the reaction to Carson (an outsider who had image problems with seeming serious), or Cruz (an “insider” that all the other insiders hate for inside baseball reasons). You’ll note neither sparked official “Stop X” movements (though Carson was never successful enough to warrant one, anyway).

      An alternate explanation might be that they’re so concerned and upset not particularly because they might have to nominate Trump, but rather because the usual ways of shutting down unwanted candidates didn’t really work for them. Trump managed to navigate through the complex electoral regulations fairly successfully, he overcame a great deal of negative media coverage, survived major anti-endorsements, etc. So in a way he represents a loss of establishment influence on the primaries, and the prospect of that potentially being long-lasting is (IMO) much more distressing to them than having to run a single unpalatable candidate.

      • Agronomous says:

        he overcame a great deal of negative media coverage

        No, he benefited from a great deal of negative media coverage. Nobody walks into a Republican primary thinking “Gee, the media hate this guy, and they’re obviously even-handed and unbiased….”

        And some of it’s so over-the-top that I have to physically bite my tongue to keep from defending Trump. (I’m a conservative; he’s not; what the hell happened to this party?)

        • underst8 says:

          >I’m a conservative; he’s not

          Why isnt he? What would you say he is?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Aside from his stance on immigration Trump is basically a new York liberal. That said, he pisses off the right people and that’s a big point in his favor.

          • Pku says:

            I’m not conservative, but here’s my impression:

            – Trump is protectionist on trade. traditionally, it’s the right who’s more pro-free trade, and while the left isn’t universally against it (e.g. Obama backs the TPP), those who are are generally Sanders-style liberals.

            – With abortion, Trump really seems like a liberal pretending rather than a true believer. He’s flip-flopped on the issue, and his “we need to punish women who have abortions” statement is like walking into a room saying “HELLO THERE FELLOW LIBERALS, LET’S PLAN SOME OBSTRUCTIVE GOVERNMENT BUREAUCRACY”.

            – He supports government-backed healthcare of some sort, while conservatives are generally against obamacare-esque things.

            – As a personality, he’s overtly loud and insulting, while conservatives seem to believe in wholesome family values, which he pretty much anti-embodies. I don’t know how important this is to most conservatives, though.

        • Deiseach says:

          The abortion question is that typical “have you stopped beating your wife yet” that pro-life groups get.

          “So if you really think abortion is murder, why don’t you say that women who have abortions are criminals? Why don’t you charge them with murder?”

          (a) No, because that would not be compassionate and it’s not about punishing women – “Ha, so you don’t really think it’s murder! You’re only saying that because you want to punish women for having sex!”

          (b) Okay, I’ll bite; yes, we will consider women and abortion providers as murderers – well, you saw the response to Trump 🙂 “See, we told you all along – they hate women, they’re misogynists, they want to punish women for the temerity of having sex lives! It’s not about the foetus!”

          • Teal says:

            Perhaps it was unfair but it was a great gotcha question. If you are and have been pro-life you have an answer to the “prosecuting women” question. Maybe as you say it’s an unfair have you stopped beating your wife question, but you’ve been debating this since high school and you know how to thread the needle.

            Trump’s answer was like failing a shibboleth. He didn’t know they things you were supposed to know if you are a “real” pro-lifer. I’d be different if someone like Mike Huckabee answered that way because he really is / wanted to claim to be on the hard core side of the question.

            Above all it shows Trump’s arrogance. Any other politician that wanted to switch over to the pro-life side for political reasons would at least do a minimal amount of homework.

          • DavidS says:

            It’s not really like ‘have you stopped beating your wife’. It’s not that sort of trick: it’s just something that traps people between the ideologically pure position and the practical policy proposal. You get this with all sorts of issues, and I think it’s basically legitimate.

            Though reacting to (b) as ‘this proves they don’t care about the foetus, just hate women’ is silly, yes.

      • James Picone says:

        The impression of Trump I’ve gotten is that he’s kind of similar to the National Party in Australia, whose members are mostly farmers and other rural people. Protectionist, anti-immigration, anti-environmentalist, pro-guns, etc..

        That’s a voting block that’s not terribly well-served by the whole two-party thing. Not really buying into the free-market thing, but lukewarm on the kinds of government intervention the Democrats are into. In Australia they’ve been in a coalition with the right-wing party for a while, but I suspect that’s partially historical accident and partially because the left-wing party is the one that tore down the vast majority of the protectionist walls.

        I’m not terribly familiar with his positions, though, so maybe that’s just a surface-level impression. How does he feel about agricultural subsidies?

        • hlynkacg says:

          I think you’re on the correct track, but I would characterize his voting block is predominantly Rust-belters rather than agricultural workers.

          That said, the rust belters are in a similar boat as the farmers in your example, where they’ve kind of been left high and dry by the whole two-party thing. They feel that they’ve been screwed over by the government’s immigration and trade policy, a lot of people were left without work when the local factories and steel mills closed down and they quite reasonably see Obama’s “war on fossil fuels” as a threat to what income they have left.

          Whether Trump is really the man to save them is anyone’s guess, but he’s the first national politician in a generation to actively pursue them, and treat their concerns as legitimate. When he says things like “Make America Great Again” and they hear Reopen the factories, and reclaim the communities that have been abandoned to urban decay.

          • Wrong Species says:

            The Mythology Of Trump’s ‘Working Class’ Support

            “However, while Republican turnout has considerably increased overall from four years ago, there’s no sign of a particularly heavy turnout among “working-class” or lower-income Republicans. On average in states where exit polls were conducted both this year and in the Republican campaign four years ago, 29 percent of GOP voters have had household incomes below $50,000 this year, compared with 31 percent in 2012.”

          • Hlynkacg says:

            The fact that “there’s no sign of a particularly heavy turnout among lower-income Republicans.” is secondary to the fact that those who did show up voted for trump, at least in states east of the Mississippi.

            As I said above his “Make America Great Again” rhetoric is aimed squarely at those who’ve been watching the decline of US manufacturing and the fall of cities like Detroit with existential horror and the election map reflects this.

    • Julie K says:

      Rather than asking third parties why “they” don’t like Trump, try seeing what they have to say for themselves:
      http://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-02-29/the-die-hard-republicans-who-say-nevertrump

      http://c7.nrostatic.com/article/430126/donald-trump-conservatives-oppose-nomination

      • underst8 says:

        Fascinating, thankyou.

        The bloomberg one confuses me even more though, the republicans on there seem to be accusing Trump of everything those on the left accuse the GOP of all the time! To all of my left leaning friends Trump is the very image of the modern republican. Where have all these concerned republicans been hiding? Do they just not get the press coverage?

        • CatCube says:

          Your friends’ mental image of “modern republican[s]” isn’t actually modern Republicans. The image they have in their heads is a caricature of modern Republicans, and a caricature that flatters themselves.

          For example, a significant fraction of the Republican party is the so-called “religious right” that bangs on about the crudity of modern media. Why do you think those people would be cool with a reality-show star that blames a reporter’s question on her menstrual cycle in an interview on national television?

          National Review, an establishment conservative magazine dating back to the ’50s, devoted an entire issue to why Trump shouldn’t be the Republican nominee.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Do you have any actual proof that Republican leaders are as racist as you seem to believe?

        • Hlynkacg says:

          Where have all these concerned republicans been hiding?

          In this election cycle? Most of them were supporting Cruz or Carson. In general? I think a lot the “inside the belt-way” Republicans (the party elite for a lack of a better term) simply assumed that everyone would fall in line to defeat Hillary and thus seriously underestimated just how dissatisfied a good chunk of their voter base was with the status quo.

          I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of Instapundit’s response to David Brooks these last few months and I expect to get a lot more before November.

          To ask the question is to answer it.

          The Tea Party movement — which you also failed to understand, and thus mostly despised — was a bourgeois, well-mannered effort (remember how Tea Party protests left the Mall cleaner than before they arrived?) to fix America. It was treated with contempt, smeared as racist, and blocked by a bipartisan coalition of business-as-usual elites. So now you have Trump, who’s not so well-mannered, and his followers, who are not so well-mannered, and you don’t like it.

          Emphasis mine.

          I suspect that there are a lot of old guard looking at Trump and realizing too late that they shouldn’t have expended so much political capital freezing out the more “moderate” anti-establishment candidates, because now they’ve painted themselves into a corner where the rank-and-file aren’t feeling all that inclined to listen to them.

          • TomFL says:

            Definitely an own goal by party leadership. They now have the choice between disassociating themselves from their own voters, or associating with someone which they will be reminded of for the rest of their career if it ends badly.

            They should have never allowed it to come to this, and their failure to even ask publicly “how did this happen” is in itself a symptom of how it did happen. Brooks laid out a column in which he said they should respect the voters but not respect Trump. Very few others have even said that.

            The wholesale dismissal of issues as illegitimate and lack of meaningful media engagement for the Tea Party/Trumpsters without much discussion is also a sign of what went wrong here. The meme that perceived grievances are the same as legitimate grievances that is popular on the left does not appear to cross the tribal boundary.

    • TomFL says:

      Trump is the first recent negation of “The Party Decides”. He basically threw out the party platform and ran on his own thing which is a mish-mash of both party’s platforms. For those of us who are sick of seeing an endless series of contests between what appears to be the same two choices every election cycle, it is encouraging (regardless of the specific implementation here).

      I hope people continue to break the mold here.

      Most people don’t really adhere to Republican or Democrat on all issues, although the tribal factor is a huge thing to overcome once someone decides which one they want to be a member of. I have seen approximately zero people change stance on climate change and switching parties is exceptionally rare in my experience.

      1. It is a rebuke of the party’s leaders, it is impossible to see it any other way.
      2. The party’s leaders subsequently rebuking their own voters is probably not wise.

      Every election cycle is interpreted as the apocalypse for the losing party in the media. In this case the red tribe situation will likely get worse before it gets better, but it may be that the tribe was in need of some deossification. An implosion on one side does not equate to the other side being right.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Is his platform really a mix of the two parties? My impression is that it’s the immigration stance that really made him a big deal, and his immigration stance is to the right of either party.

    • John Schilling says:

      Since everyone else is answering the bit about how Trump’s policies (to the extent that he has any) aren’t those of the GOP establishment, and going on to explain why people who aren’t the GOP establishment like him, I’ll try to tackle the second half of the question: Why, other than policy differences, does the GOP establishment hate him?

      I. The “GOP Establishment” has spent decades building a coalition and a political machine that could effectively promote and defend its principles, even from a minority position, and not incidentally provide lots of cushy powerful jobs for members of the GOP establishment. All of this by a strategy that does not depend on having a Republican in the White House; there will inevitably be long stretches when that’s not the case, and the GOP is comfortable playing defense from the halls of congress, the Supreme Court, and the various state governments.

      Donald Trump, who has contributed nothing to any of this, comes out of left field to claim the nice-to-have bonus of the GOP’s presidential hopes for himself and the political outsiders who support him while offering nothing to rest of the party and its long-term goals.

      II. Donald Trump, in the course of branding himself as the perfect candidate to win the GOP primary, has incidentally made himself the perfect candidate to lose the general election. That’s a delicate balance for any candidate, from either party, to strike. Hillary Clinton, while generally a weak candidate in a weak year for the Democratic party, is at least trying. And, weak as she nonetheless is, Donald Trump is the one candidate who is consistently unable to beat her in general-election polling.

      The GOP doesn’t need the Presidency, but it kind of does need the House and/or Senate. Between the coattail effect and the prospect of Trump’s opponents mobilizing to deny him not just the presidency but congressional support on the off chance that he does make it to the White House, a weak or divisive Trump campaign threatens the GOP’s position in Congress. Which, in addition to being critical to their strategy, is where an awful lot of them have jobs.

      III. If Trump does manage to become President of the United States, there is the concern that he will do a monumentally bad job of it. Historically, nobody has done well in that job without serving an apprenticeship as Vice President, State Government, or Senator, or commanding the entire United States Army in time of war. Those jobs (and really, senator is iffy) offer the sort of experience a President needs and on something approaching the relevant scale. They also build the sort of connections that would enable a new President to build the sort of staff he will need.

      The idea that being a successful billionaire businessman qualifies one to be President, is as dubious as the ideal that doing well as a Boy Scout troop leader qualifies one to lead a Marine Expeditionary Force in battle, or that being an outstanding high-school principal is all the preparation one needs to be a Fortune 500 CEO. And even if it turns out to be true in Trump’s case, the people who have spend decades working up through the ranks in the traditional halls of GOP power are hardly likely to embrace that view.

      Instead, they fear having their reputations and that of the party they have pinned their hopes on, shackled to an incompetent buffoon (or worse) of a President.

      IV. If, in spite of all of this, Trump somehow manages to become a successful President, he will do so for his own reasons, which as others have noted are not the GOP’s reasons. And having cast himself as the outsider who comes to put the corrupt and decadent GOP establishment in its place, he is unlikely to rule in concert with that establishment, to respect their positions and prerogatives, or necessarily even to leave anything for them in the long term after he’s had his four to eight years.

      What’s not to hate?

      • anon says:

        OK, I’ll push back on #III. I think your sample size of presidents without the type of experience you suggest is crucial, is too small to draw any conclusions. And in fact most of these presidents are average; the lowest rated ones are underrated or died very early. At least one was uncontroversially excellent.

        According to the Book of Knowledge, here are the MAIN EXAMPLES of presidents who were never VP, Governor, 4+ star general, or Senator, together with their most obvious qualifying resume item and my comments:

        * James Madison (two-term Secretary of State), aggregate rank 14. No slouch intellectually, not perfect, but not a terrible president.

        * Zach Taylor (only a 2 star general), aggregate rank 35. Seems like it bears out your theory, but with only 1 year and change in office he counts as 0.25 datapoints at most.

        * Abraham Lincoln (2 years in the House), aggregate rank 1.

        * Garfield (elected to Senate but didn’t serve) — assassinated after 6 months, so his aggregate rank 31 seems irrelevant.

        * Herbert Hoover (2 term Secretary of Commerce). Maybe the best Trump analog? His aggregate rank is low (32) but I think probably undeserved. The best understanding of modern economics is that the Fed caused the Depression, not Hoover. I think Hoover’s likely one of the most underrated presidents.

        SEMI-EXAMPLES:

        * James Polk (2 years as Gov. of TN), aggregate rank 10. Kind of a cheat because he was briefly a governor, but he had no other qualifications of the type you suggest. He was a career pol though (speaker of the house). Pretty good president by most accounts (although like many I question the morality of the war with Mexico and stealing half their country).

        * Chaz Arthur (served only 6 months as VP under Garfield) — middling rank 28, but Tim Urban’s survey suggests he’s underrated by history since as an outsider to the 2-party system (sound familiar?) he had no one invested in his legacy.

        * Taft (but he’d been a military Governor in Phillipines, Cuba, plus served as Secretary of War and Chief Justice of the SCOTUS — so he doesn’t really count). Middling rank 23.

        * Ford (2 years as VP) — middling rank 26.

        ANTI-EXAMPLES:

        * Ulysses Grant — a negative example. He *was* the top general and has aggregate rank 36, widely regarded as about as shitty as presidents get.

        * I think Wilson counts as a negative example (having been governor of NJ and getting the US into a terrible war with very little at stake in terms of US interests). But this is obviously controversial so we can move on.

        * W. Uncontroversial negative example.

        * Nixon. Uncontroversial negative example.

        • Anonymous says:

          Taft was CJ of SCOTUS after he was POTUS, not before.

          • anon says:

            Correct — my bad. I wish Wikipedia followed the universal resume convention of listing positions in reverse chronological order, rather than some combination of reverse-chronological and importance.

        • Evan Þ says:

          I think Grant might turn out to be the best analog to Trump. He knew he wasn’t a politician, so he trusted his advisors… who were hugely corrupt. Plus, one of his signature policies – sending the army to guarantee freedmen’s rights – was strongly opposed by Democrats in Congress, southern planters on the ground, and a strong minority of Northern sentiment which objected to what was verging on a war of occupation. In the end, it was quickly abandoned after Grant left office, leaving him with next to no legacy.

          And to add on to your Zachary Taylor example, during his year in office, he managed to almost start the Civil War by ordering the Federal army to Santa Fe, which was claimed by the State of Texas and occupied by Texas Rangers. Perhaps fortunately, he died the next day, and his successor countermanded the order.

          • John Schilling says:

            Agreed on both counts. Andrew Jackson is another plausible Trump model, I’m afraid. And, if so, please dear God can we preemptively not put him on any denomination of currency other than maybe the three-dollar bill?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Putting Jackson, hater of central banks, on a Federal Reserve Note was brilliant. The equivalent for Trump would be a reading room in the Library of Congress or something.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            Some might say that putting the author of ‘Gold and Economic Freedom’ (from Rand’s Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal) in charge of the Fed was even more brilliant.

          • LHN says:

            And, if so, please dear God can we preemptively not put him on any denomination of currency other than maybe the three-dollar bill?

            Surely given its place in popular culture, that bill’s portrait should be reserved for someone from the LGBTQA[1] community?

            [1] Apologies if there have been further letters added since I last updated.

          • Anonymous says:

            You need two Qs for queer and questioning, two As for asexual and allies, an I for intersex, and a P for pansexuals. Some also include ‘2S’ or ‘TS’ for two-spirit which is a Native American thing.

          • anon says:

            Andrew Jackson (aggregate rank 8) is considered by many to have been a pretty good president. He was an asshole, even by the standards of the day, and some of his well-intended policies led to poor results (e.g. the spoils system). But he seems to have been pretty effective overall.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            “Some also include ‘2S’ or ‘TS’ for two-spirit which is a Native American thing.”

            It’s interesting how some people are allowed to culturally appropriate…

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t think you are actually “allowed” to call yourself two spirit unless you are Native American. It’s included to make them feel welcome in the groups. Though I have to imagine there aren’t too many running around.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        I’ve been wondering, since before Trump reared his head, about the endgame in the polarization that’s been taking place for the last couple of decades. (The Big Sort is part of it, and the restructuring of the parties so you no longer have Democrats like Scoop Jackson and Republicans like Nelson Rockefeller.)

        It all makes me think about the factionalization of Rome and jockeying for power before Augustus finally nailed it down. It seems to me that we are really ripe for somebody to come along as a strong peacemaker that everybody accepts out of exhaustion. Not Trump, certainly: despite his outsider status he is far too hated to inspire exhausted acceptance. But who?

        I remember reading that after WWII, Eisenhower was courted by both parties, and it was really up in the air about which one he would run with (if either). Has there been such an individual in earlier elections? (Neglecting Washington himself, of course. Maybe a requirement is that the nation be saved from an existential threat.)

        Is there anybody out there now whom nobody ever thought of as a politician but who is widely respected on both the left and the right? (Honestly, I don’t know whether to hope you can name someone or to hope you cannot.)

        • keranih says:

          The military is the traditional source of apolitical managers and leaders in the US (see: Colin Powell). Other options may be business and medical/science, but the problem is that the right is the traditional home of businessmen and the left owns academia. And the strengths of business & science are not those of politics.

        • Anonymous says:

          Eisenhower was a really popular choice, but then turned out to be an ineffectual President at best.

          Come to think of it, of all the general Presidents, including Washington, Jackson was probably the most effective of advancing a significant agenda.

          • LHN says:

            I think Washington’s agenda–essentially, establishing the United States as a self-sustaining, financially and politically stable union capable of withstanding uprisings from within and cooption from without– was probably more all-encompassing and successful. Just so pervasive that it’s semi-invisible. (Reinforced by the fact that his appearing to be above politics was a major tool in getting it to work.)

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s hard for me to get a handle on Washington. Maybe it’s because he didn’t leave papers, but I vacillate between seeing him as an empty suit and a masterful puppetmaster.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Eisenhower was a really popular choice, but then turned out to be an ineffectual President at best.

            For the purposes of my query, I’m not all that interested in whether he was effectual. For one thing, many governmental actions others might call effectual I call misguided. More to the point, I observe that I can’t think of anybody who is widely respected but apolitical, and I wonder if this is another consequence of our recent polarization or just pretty much how it’s always been.

            Regarding Eisenhower in particular, I was interested to read Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World, “Evan Thomas’s startling account of how the underrated Dwight Eisenhower saved the world from nuclear holocaust”.

          • LHN says:

            @Anonymous The fact that Washington seemed to so overawe and impress conflicting smart people who had no lack of self-regard, and who weren’t always happy with what he did, strikes me as pointing away from the empty suit characterization. As does the fact that it proved so hard for anyone else to emulate his combination of oversight and restraint.

            (Lots of people wanted or said they wanted to be their countries’ George Washington. The record suggests that it’s a much harder trick than it looks.)

            But yeah, it would be fascinating to have more first person insight into him.

          • anon says:

            How exactly was Ike ineffectual?

            Some good things he did:

            * Managed to end the Korean War
            * Didn’t get into a nuclear war with USSR (or come nearly as close as some of his successors)
            * Interstate highway system worked out pretty well for the economy (I’ll reluctantly admit — without conceding that federal planning was necessarily essential to achieve comparably good transportation infrastrucure)
            * Desegregated the army, and took a tough stance with Arkansas on school desegregation after Brown
            * Didn’t nuke China

            His worst blunders (IMO):
            * Domino theory
            * Iran coup authorization
            * It was under his watch that both CIA and FBI started to get completely out of control

            Maybe his southeast Asia policy should be on one of the above lists, but I’m not sufficiently well-versed in the early history of the Vietnam War to say.

            Seems like a pretty good record to me. I can nitpick that his passivity helped entrench two forces he was actually ideologically opposed to — the welfare state / New Deal, and the military industrial complex. But a president is not a god…

  27. BBA says:

    Death by GPS – how some people have gotten dangerously lost, and even killed, due to blindly following GPS directions.

    Some of these issues exist with good old paper maps too – i.e. not differentiating between paved, lit highways and unmaintained dirt trails. Following GPS instructions past a bunch of “road closed” warning signs and over the edge of a demolished bridge is probably a new one.

    • John Schilling says:

      A related issue, in aviation, is mid-air collisions between airplanes now flying exactly the same routes between the same waypoints, and not e.g. looking out the window for a reality check.

      • Randy M says:

        How often does that happen? As opposed to near misses, which might well be frequent, I think I would hear about every mid air collision of a commercial flight. After all, we still occasionally get updates about the missing Malaysian airliner.

        • John Schilling says:

          It almost never happens for commercial airline flights, because those are by law always conducted on instrument flight plans, which is supposed to mean constant air traffic control oversight specifically for collision avoidance. But there was that one time when a Brazilian traffic controller issued an improper clearance and wasn’t paying attention when it was followed with lethal precision.

          For smaller aircraft and especially those flying under visual flight rules, it isn’t clear how often this happens because there’s usually no way to know why two planes collided. Mid-air collisions in general occur maybe half a dozen times a year in the United States; it would be reasonable to presume that most mid-air collisions during cruise flight are due to excess navigational precision, but the FAA server isn’t giving me the spreadsheet that has that information. I’ve seen a handful of specific case studies that have been singled out as probably GPS-related

    • Amusingly, I ran into a similar (but very non-fatal) incident yesterday. While testing out a new car and new GPS unit, we decided to use the “shortest route” option to get from one end of town to the other. it warned us that we were going on unpaved roads, but this is Romania so not terribly surprising.

      What was surprising was the fact that the chosen route involved a climb up a steep hill in deep gravel. We got about 2/3 of the way up before the car simply couldn’t climb any more, and was digging a rut in the gravel. I was able to back down the hill to a driveway, turn around, and return to the main road. We decided that using “shortest route” as the route-finding option was a bad idea, and we would stick to “fastest” (which generally takes you on arterials).

  28. Saal says:

    So, I’ve been debating whether/how to bring this up, due to charitability concerns, but I feel like it needs to be said.

    This came across as really weak from a rationality/epistemic virtue POV, Scott. I feel like Nostalgebraist made a reasonably strong case that Bostrom, FHI, or both were using Dark Arts to push UFAI concerns deliberately, and you basically just said “nah, I think these guys are too nice for that”. I’m not particularly satisfied by a simple retraction on FHI’s part, either. I don’t buy that from politicians and I don’t see why I should buy it from the EY side of the AI debate either.

    I’ve been on the fence with regard to the AI debate because it seems like there’s a lot of intelligent, sincere people on both sides of it and the arguments I’ve heard from both sides have been roughly equivalent in their persuasiveness. I would say I’m still mostly on the fence, but I’m not a compsci person, mathematician, statistician or philosopher, so losing some as yet undecided measure of trust in experts whose claims I probably can’t adequately evaluate definitely has me leaning one way.

    I’d love to hear reasons I should be as nonchalant about this as you.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      That they changed everything and even sent emails to other groups telling them to change everything as soon as they learned about it doesn’t convince you?

      It’s not like they were called on it in some cosmic way. It was one guy on a Tumblr. I feel like they went above and beyond accepting the correction and fixing their stuff.

      • Rob K says:

        It shows that they’ll respond to feedback, but it doesn’t suggest an internal culture that’s dedicated to quality control to a degree that would allow one to trust their work before someone skeptically reviews it.

        That might be fine – it’s possible that everything they release is going to get skeptical review. But there are definitely several different levels of trust in play, and my takeaway from this is that they don’t fall in the “liars who stick to their lies” category (good!) but also don’t qualify for the “thorough self-reviewers who can be assumed trustworthy until shown otherwise” level.

        (I worked years ago at a think tank-ish gig, and it was drilled into our heads that ANY error – but especially one that looked like tendentious misrepresentation in service of our point of view – could be devastating to our slowly accrued credibility, and we had an internal culture that reflected that. I’ve still never been as Yelled At in my life as I was after I got sloppy on double checking my data work in a way that almost led us to publish some inaccurate data during my time there.)

        • Saal says:

          Pretty much this. I don’t think this is some cosmic setback, Scott, hence why I said I’m still on the fence rather than adopting nostalgebraist’s more severe “FHI are lying liars who lie a lot” outlook, and I do think the retraction was a Good Thing. With that said, however, Bostrom and/or FHI (and given that Bostrom was the first to misuse it it could be entirely him) transformed a number that was literally pulled from the posteriors of the original researchers by their own admission and transformed it into an “estimate” by “those who have studied” these things, ie existential risks, and applied it to AI. The original source of the claim wasn’t even talking specifically about AI from what I’m getting. This seems pretty clearly like dark arts used to push a particular view, albeit a sincerely held one, which I thought we as LW diaspora folk were supposed to be strongly against.

          If we take as given that this is NOT in fact a case of Dark Arts, which I’m perhaps prepared to do given this is the only case of this nature I’ve heard of coming out of FHI, it still reflects poorly on the rigorousness of the organization. That’s bad when you’re already the underdog with regard to established opinion in a field.

          • youzicha says:

            I don’t think nostagebraist suggested that this was a deliberate lie, just that it was a very basic mistake which calls into question how competent they are.

          • My position is basically “it’s really bad if it was deliberately misleading, and it’s also really bad it it wasn’t.” I talk about this a bit in this post.

            I really want to emphasize how badly I think Bostrom comes off in the “not Dark Arts” possible-case. Because, as I said in the linked post, I really did not do anything special at all by (1) finding the 0.1% claim startling and (2) reading and understanding the relevant parts of the Stern Report. The Stern Report is not opaquely written, and someone with Bostrom’s background should be able to understand their points about discounting without a hitch. If he didn’t understand them and it was an honest mistake, we’re at the point of positing that the Future of Humanity Institute is being sloppier with its sources than you or I would be even on a casual 10-minute Google dive that has nothing to do with our day jobs. That seems to imply that we’re better off researching FHI-relevant material ourselves and ignoring what FHI puts out.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I heard Nick Patterson interviewed on a machine learning podcast. He said that if anyone in the audience were tempted to try their hand at the stock market, they should know that just getting the data is really hard. Renaissance had eight PhDs working full time cleaning data.

    • I was shocked to find that you can’t even get the daily stock market prices for free or (as I recall) for cheap.

      Does anyone know the history of this? I can remember when the daily NYSE was in the newspaper. Not terribly useful if you were trying to apply physics math to the stock market (when did that start?), but at least the numbers were there.

      • anon says:

        You can get daily closes for free pretty easily. (Try Yahoo finance or Quandl.) Intraday (ticks and quotes) data is quite expensive. Once you’re up and running you can (depending on licensing terms) record the data directly from feeds in markets you subscribe to for trading purposes. But for a brand new firm buying and cleaning historical data for backtesting is a potentially very significant upfront capital investment.

  30. Wrong Species says:

    For any given debate, it can be pretty difficult to follow along with between two arguments and evaluate which one has the stronger case. So I was wondering if it was possible to make it simpler(and more meta of course). Imagine that public figures who makes these arguments receive a sort of “reputation score”. It could incorporate how smart the person is (measured by their IQ), how knowledgeable they are on the subject(based off formal schooling), how political the subject is and how invested the person is in the subject. Obviously it wouldn’t be a perfect measure and of course people can be right for the wrong reasons. The question is can it be done in a relatively objective way that illuminates more than it obfuscates? And what other factors should go in to such a score?

    • Siah Sargus says:

      This is basically just the ultimate version of the ad hominem fallacy. Facts and lies, and the people that say them, are two different things.

      • Wrong Species says:

        It’s not like I’m proposing that this replaces all debates. It could just be a potentially useful tool.

        • I can see merit in the idea but I wonder how it could be implemented fairly. I think the main attempt at something like this has been academia. Depending on how good or bad you feel academia is at it, it does potential raise the issue of how you identify people or systems that are suitable to objectively create and carry out the reputation measurements. We’d also have to close the ways that system could be gamed (eg. qualifications at fake universities, attacking academia to undermine the system). I also think Siah has a strong point – I’ve often felt frustrated that academics in my field refused to even acknowledge fallacies in their arguments because the person pointing it out wasn’t “reputable” enough.

        • Thinking about this further, I think that while I think filtering for fallacies is more effective than filtering for intelligence, this may be a useful tool in some cases. Maybe you should develop the idea further and maybe make a blog/subreddit post about it?

    • arbitrary_greay says:

      I recommend that you look into how competitive debate rounds are judged.

  31. Wrong Species says:

    Why are philosophers so wishy washy when it comes to the acceptance of intuition as a reasonable guide to solving metaphysical issues? They say it can be used with regards to ethics and consciousness but it seems doubtful that they would accept it with regards to free will or God. Why?

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      The free will argument is almost entirely a debate over definitions. God is a factual question. I’m not seeing how intuition can even pretend to enter there.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Free will is only a definitional issue between compatibilism and hard determinism. Those who believe in libertarian free will believe in something quite different.

        As far as God, people have been believing in the supernatural for thousands, probably tens of thousands of years. We seem to have an intuitive belief in these supernatural forces which is why atheists can be superstitious even when they are aware of the contradiction. Of course, this intuition doesn’t necessarily reflect reality. It’s probably just a weird human quirk that was coopted by our cultural institutions.

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          “Free will is only a definitional issue between compatibilism and hard determinism. Those who believe in libertarian free will believe in something quite different.”

          I’m almost positive libertarian free will requires using a bunch of very… unique definitions.

          “Of course, this intuition doesn’t necessarily reflect reality.”

          My point was philosophers recognize that. They understand it isn’t an intuition case because it is a claim about the physical existence of something.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Libertarians believe that if you replay a certain time frame over and over again that there will be different results if it involves human decision making. Determinists don’t. That is actually a substantial difference in beliefs. If you don’t believe that then you’re just wrong.

            And how is consciousness not a claim about the physical existence of something?

          • Protagoras says:

            @Wrong Species, As is often the case, unfortunate terminology has become entrenched; many modern “determinists” (in the free will sense) believe irreducible chance is theoretically possible, and if there were such a thing what you claim would be true. The “determinists” just deny that this would have anything to do with free will.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            Libertarians believe that if you replay a certain time frame over and over again that there will be different results if it involves human decision making. Determinists don’t. That is actually a substantial difference in beliefs. If you don’t believe that then you’re just wrong.

            This isn’t quite right, and makes libertarianism about free will sound perhaps less plausible than it needs to. Libertarians think that determinism is false – that the past and laws of nature do not determine the future when it comes to human action. They think there is a special type of agent causation at work. That’s not to say that if you were to “replay” things you’d get different outcomes (as you would if there were genuinely random causation).

            It may be helpful to compare to the following: suppose person A claims that the future is determined entirely by the past movement in the sky of Mercury, and person B does not. That doesn’t mean that person B thinks that if you “replay” yesterday’s motion of mercury over and over again different things will happen in the future. They think that what happens depends on the motion of mercury and other things. If you replay the motion of mercury and hold other things fixed, the same things will happen. If you change other things, then different things will happen. Without knowing what’s going on outside of mercury when we are “replaying” its motion, the case is underdescribed.

            It is the same with the libertarian. If you ask them “what will happen if you replay physical history again and again?” They’ll say (or they could/should say) “well, it depends – if you hold fixed these other causal forces (agents’ decisions), then the same things will happen. If you change them, then different things will happen.” Again, the thought experiment is underdescribed.

            What they are committed to is the existence of possible worlds with the same past and physical laws in which different things happen because of agents making different decisions. Thinking about it in terms of “replaying history” is liable to characterize them in a misleading and uncharitable way.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Philosophisticat:

            Yes, that.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Protagoras

            True, the difference between free will and randomness is important. But the determinist theory, even when accounting for things such as quantum mechanics, should still be much more predictable than the libertarian one.

            @philosophicat

            In theory, there is a difference between events could turn out differently and events will turn out differently but I’m not sure how important that is in practice. If libertarianism is correct, then how would we control for human decision making if we decided to run the experiment? If there was an ability to do otherwise, it would be remarkable if that never happened.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            They think there is a special type of agent causation at work. That’s not to say that if you were to “replay” things you’d get different outcomes (as you would if there were genuinely random causation).

            Agent causationists are one type of libertarian. But there are also libertarians like Kane and Balaguer who do think that it is quantum randomness in the brain that gives us free will.

          • Fj says:

            To whom it might concern, I replied on the subreddit because I don’t feel like checking out this thread for responses forever.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @EarthlyKnight

            Fair enough. As such, libertarians just need to think that free will is incompatible with determinism and to think that it exists. The point was that this doesn’t commit you to random causation or these claims about what would happen if you replayed history.

      • thisguy says:

        >God is a factual question.

        “Factual” questions along this line are just a debate over definitions of “factual questions”

        • Samuel Skinner says:

          I’m pretty sure “God exists” versus “God doesn’t exist” has testable differences everyone agrees on. Unfortunately theists have moved to requiring you die, but that is infinitely better than free will which requires either rewinding time or another universe that runs on different rules to compare to.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      Why are philosophers so wishy washy when it comes to the acceptance of intuition as a reasonable guide to solving metaphysical issues? They say it can be used with regards to ethics and consciousness but it seems doubtful that they would accept it with regards to free will or God. Why?

      There is a vast array of different opinions about the proper role of intuition in philosophical methodology. Just about every conceivable view is represented, so it is no use saying of philosophers in general what they believe or don’t believe. Let’s distinguish different grades of involvement:

      1. Linguistic intuitions governing the application of concepts.
      2. Intuitions concerning mathematical or set-theoretical axioms, or inference rules in logic.
      3. Normative intuitions enlisted in support of foundational moral and epistemic beliefs.
      4. Metaphysical intuitions about straightforward matters of fact, e.g. whether you could survive the destruction of your brain, whether the past and future are real.

      Nearly all philosophers will allow some role for (1), because it is easy to justify our linguistic intuitions as the output of a consciously inaccessible language module. A few extreme nominalists will peel off from the herd at (2). More will reject (3), but it is difficult to do so without ending up an anti-realist about ethics and knowledge. (4) is where people start to get very nervous.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I’m not seeing the distinction between ethical intuitionism and number four. “Killing innocent people is objectively wrong” is a factual statement. The question is whether it’s right. Where would you put questions about artistic subjectivity?

        • Philosophisticat says:

          @Wrong Species

          You could think that we should allow a role for intuitions about first order normative matters (whether something is right or wrong) without allowing the same role for metaethical matters (whether morality is objective). “Killing innocent people is objectively wrong” is a hybrid claim that has its feet in both places.

          Whether there’s a good motivation for accepting one but not the other kind of intuitions is a difficult question – those who like intuitions of the more controversial sort will often point to symmetries with intuitions of less controversial sort to lend credence to their view.

          • Wrong Species says:

            It doesn’t seem to be a “hybrid claim” so much as a stronger claim. Because if I was an ethical subjectivist, I could say that something is wrong(but not objectively so) but if I say that morality is objective, I can’t say that nothing is right or wrong. That wouldn’t make any sense. So if philosophers believe in moral realism(which seems to be the most popular position among philosophers), then they are believing in #4, which is where they “should start to get very nervous”. But they don’t! And I honestly can’t figure out why.

            “Whether there’s a good motivation for accepting one but not the other kind of intuitions is a difficult question – those who like intuitions of the more controversial sort will often point to symmetries with intuitions of less controversial sort to lend credence to their view.”

            That’s definitely true. If I’m an moral anti-realist, I appeal to intuitions about objectivity in the arts. If I’m a moral realist, then I appeal to intuitions on logic. I’m not sure how to resolve that other than being a radical skeptic.

    • FeepingCreature says:

      Ethics, just like consciousness, can be considered as an attempt to measure an attribute of psychology; consider the human mind an evolving system and determine in which configurations it ends up given certain extreme inputs. In a sense, it empirically relies on intuition because intuition is the thing that it measures.

  32. It doesn't matter says:

    >There would be a tab on the top, by the Comments tag and the About tag and all the others, that says Open Thread. It would link to whatever the hidden open thread was. After 1000 comments, some bot would automatically post a new hidden open thread and the location to which the tab directed would change.

    This is actually an awesome idea; it would give us something similar to a forum in that we get continuous access to General SSC Readership Discussion without the fragmentation and (likely) inactivity of an actual forum. The only problem is that I actually like going to open threads that have more then 1000 comments, especially to keep following a discussion. There should be some super easy to find archive of older open threads, too.

    • Vorkon says:

      I would probably base it on a certain number of new threads rather than total number of comments. If I were engaged in an interesting debate, I wouldn’t want to have to move to a new page, and need to refer to the old page to go over previous comments. Maybe something like 50 new threads/top level comments/whatever you want to call them?

  33. Dr Dealgood says:

    Alright so this is a bit of a weird and kind of personal post, but I’d like some advice from the commentariat.

    I’m talking to a girl at the moment. She’s otherwise seemingly perfect and I was considering dating her more seriously. But as we get closer it increasingly seems that she’s suffering from delusions and I don’t really know what to do about it.

    When we first starting talking she hit me with some pretty believable stories about workplace / school harassment, similar to what I had heard from other friends so I didn’t really question it too much. And I was even prepared to believe a few different variations on that theme at different times and places because some people do seem to be magnets for misfortune.

    But then the stories started going in weird directions. Being hunted for years by government agents, who are still watching her. Having met with high-ranking officials of several countries as a child but having all the records destroyed. Having been proposed to by an oil baron as a teenager. Cagey hints about medical experimentation.

    There are a few common themes through all of them, but the easiest way to summarize it is that it’s a Mary Sue fanfic of her own life. Basically that’s she’s simultaneously alone and persecuted by a hostile world, but also extremely important and hyper-competent in an unlikely range of skills as well as being incredibly lucky (which she attributes to divine intervention in some cases).

    I don’t think she’s consciously lying to me, although that’s a possibility, but if anything that makes it worse. I really don’t know what to do other than just GTFO.

    • stargirlprincesss says:

      This seems like the sort of thing Ozy might know about. Ozy seems to know alot about the literature on various mental health issues. They might be able to point you toward relevant literature/resources.

      edited: was just a slip up on my part

      • Anonymous says:

        jsyk, Ozy prefers they/them pronouns

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        I would crosspost but I don’t think Ozy does open threads at Thingofthings. It would mean thread-jacking an existing topic.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      Speaking from a degree of personal experience, GTFO is almost certainly the correct response. Or, at least, do not proceed further until and and unless you are certain she is tracking consensus reality reliably.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Seconded. GTFO.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        Alright, thanks for the advice. It seems like everyone who has been in a similar situation agrees on that.

        I’m not trying to be difficult but I’m not actually sure what you mean by consensus reality here though. I feel like the use of consensus reality rather than reality is supposed to mean something slightly different even if I can’t put my finger on what.

        • John Schilling says:

          Reality is, famously, “that which doesn’t go away when you stop believing in it”. Consensus reality is that which everyone else agrees wouldn’t go away if you stopped believing in it, addressing the measurement problem that you can’t simultaneously believe something doesn’t exist and honestly check to see if it has gone away. It differs from just plain reality mostly in that it allows for the small possibility that the consensus is itself wrong, which we mostly ignore in practice.

          “Oil barons proposing marriage to random teenagers who aren’t from ultra-rich families: p<<0.05" and "Government agents spending years hunting and observing people rather than just locking them up or ignoring them: p<<0.05", are part of consensus reality. If in doubt, ask around. Here's as good a place as any, and maybe better than most.

          "Consensus reality" is how you distinguish between the competing hypotheses, "my girlfriend is crazy" and "I am crazy", while acknowledging that "the whole damn world is crazy" remains on the table.

          • Alex says:

            “Oil barons proposing marriage to random teenagers who aren’t from ultra-rich families: p<<0.05"

            I’m not sure this is the correct point of comparison. On this level of specificness (is that a word?), most events in anybody’s life have very low priors.

            Phrased as “Rich and or influential men (at least) flirting with teenagers (leaving room for interpretation)” I think this might be more common, than one would wish to believe.

            For whatever its worth, I have heard a similar story (in this point, not the others), and the young woman in question, as far as I can tell, seemed in touch with reality otherwise. It wasn’t an oil baron, but how relevant is that detail?

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not sure this is the correct point of comparison. On this level of specificness (is that a word?), most events in anybody’s life have very low priors

            Hence listing multiple events, though I didn’t make that explicit and I didn’t copy Dealgood’s entire list.

            You’re right that p(oil baron proposing to random teenager) is itself not so low that you’d conclude someone was crazy because they told you it happened to them. Very few things are, and most of those seem to involve flying saucers.

            But if enough individual events are each highly improbable, the joint probability of the whole set becomes low enough to be overshadowed by p(crazy).

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @DrDealgood – “I’m not trying to be difficult but I’m not actually sure what you mean by consensus reality here though. I feel like the use of consensus reality rather than reality is supposed to mean something slightly different even if I can’t put my finger on what.”

          No offense taken, and John Schilling captures the essence above. I guess the way I would put it is that weird doesn’t have to mean false to mean dangerous, in a relationship-stability sense. In the case of my ex, the weirdest part was a whole set of extraordinarily well-developed Tulpas (though I wasn’t familiar with the term or phenomenon at the time). The Tulpas were “real” to the best of my ability to tell and in all the ways that seemed to matter. They were also deeply weird, which had the effect of pulling me out of my world and into theirs, cutting me off from vital support links to my friends and family and forcing me to rely almost exclusively on my own highly-compromised judgement. Deeply weird things are usually kept secret, for obvious social reasons. Them sharing the secret with you cements the relationship. You keeping the secret cements the relationship more, but also compromises your support network by giving you an excuse to discount their advice; after all, they don’t know the whole story, do they?

          If you haven’t, by the way, I recommend Socrates’ speech on Love from the Symposium, especially his rebuttal of Aristophanes’ point about love as a healer of the broken. I was introduced to it a decade or more too late, and regret the lack bitterly.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Thanks, I downloaded an English translation and will try to read through it later tonight.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        @ FacelessCraven
        Or, at least, do not proceed further until and and unless you are certain she is tracking consensus reality reliably.

        And if she is, perhaps you should run even faster?

    • Alex says:

      What is the nature of your conflict? You wouldn’t ask if GTFO was an easily available option, I assume.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        That’s a good question honestly. I’m not actually bound to her in any way, there isn’t a reason why I couldn’t walk away at any point.

        I guess the main reason that I’m unsure is how incredibly well everything had been going up to this point. I wasn’t really exaggerating when I said she seemed perfect: apart from this recent revelation, this girl has almost exactly what I was looking for. I kind of got flicked between the eyes with this whole thing and it left me a bit disoriented.

        • onyomi says:

          I’d say if you are thinking about staying with her you probably need to confront the issue head on. Which is not to say she needs to do a 180 overnight, but you need to see whether she is, at least, aware of this, and whether she might be willing to work on it.

          Like to me, it would make a big difference whether, when asked about it, she said “oh yeah, for some reason I just have this compulsion to say strange things I know aren’t true, but I’ve been working on that with my counselor” vs. “did the government send you???”

          • Alex says:

            Once you assume she is lying, no piece of information she can give will help in any way. You would not believe an heroin addict who promises you to seek help if you made possible this “one last shot”, and neither should you believe a liar who seems sensible about her lies.

            Actually “did the government send you???” is a much less dangerous answer than “oh yeah, for some reason I just have this compulsion to say strange things I know aren’t true, but I’ve been working on that with my counselor”

          • onyomi says:

            Huh? This isn’t some kind of logic puzzle.

          • Alex says:

            I didn’t said it was a puzzle.

            What I meant to say, is that from experience if someone said to me “oh yeah, for some reason I just have this compulsion to say strange things I know aren’t true, but I’ve been working on that with my counselor” that wouldn’t put me at ease about that person in the slightest and especially it would be no less alarming than if she said “did the government send you???”

            You may have made other experinces, leading you to other conclusions.

            People tend to not fully appreciate what it means if someone has lost contact with “consensus reality”. This might not apply to you specifically. How should I know.

          • onyomi says:

            But the “government’s out to get me” reaction would be more consistent with a loss of touch with reality, as it would indicate she doesn’t even realize she’s lying. The “I weirdly blurt out things I know are not true” reaction would indicate she’s still in touch with reality but for some reason says things she knows are not true, probably to illicit some kind of reaction.

          • Alex says:

            The “I weirdly blurt out things I know are not true” reaction would indicate she’s still in touch with reality but for some reason says things she knows are not true, probably to illicit some kind of reaction.

            From experience, I disagree.

            1) For many intents and purposes there is no practical difference between “I weirdly blurt out things I know are not true” and actually believing they were true. If you ever were to come to a situation were it really mattered that she said the truth (for an extreme example, think courtroom) and she was unable to do so, for whatever reason, her alledgedly knowing she does not speak the truth, will be of little help.

            2) Things like this do not just happen randomly. This is a fictous example you invented to make a point, but it will be of little use if you weren’t thinking of an actual diagnosis, when you constructed that example. Might I ask, what that diagnosis was?

            3) A person saying that she knows that what she says is not true is no indication whatsoever that this is actually the case. I’m not talking logic puzzles. I’m talking the experience, that most likely she will have gotten the same feedback earlier. And she will have learned that this is how people perceive her. And that the easiest way out is “admitting her problem”. This doesn’t mean that she actually knows. Finding out how another person _really_ perceives reality is extremely hard. As I assumed was well known in this community.

            4) The very idea that in her heart of hearts she knows what is true but somehow cannot voice it is a simplification that cannot possibly do justice to whatever diagnosis you had in mind. Again from experience, this is not how the human psyche works. So I take it that either you have made very different experiences than me, which would be totally ok, of course, or you have very little practical experince with psychic disorders that might cause the problem at hand.

            But the “government’s out to get me” reaction would be more consistent with a loss of touch with reality, as it would indicate she doesn’t even realize she’s lying.

            Unless of course she is not lying. In rationalist terms, basically, if you get this answer, you can update your model of her metal state given your prior for the government actually being after her. If you get the other answer, you are non the wiser. Therefore, this answer contains vastly more information.

        • Alex says:

          Random thoughts:

          – whatever you feelings for her are, the feelings most likely won’t “fix” her, assuming she is not telling “the truth”. As an analogy, a personal relationship is typically not sufficient to “cure” a heroin addiction. At least as far as I know. However people seem to fall for that kind of misconception. Try not to be that guy.

          – people, unable of “tracking consensus reality reliably” [I love that choice of words from Faceless Craven, above] can be extremely interesting to be with. This depends on how adventurous / cynic you are and how much you would mind you or her “getting hurt” in the end. But I would recommend entering such an adventure only knowing, that _none_ of the standard rules of “consensus reality” will apply. Do not enter it under the delusion that she will submit to reality in the end / when it counts / …

          – if there is any option of approching this rationally, you probably should make a worst case estimate of the harm she could inflict upon you. Remember, you’d be playing outside the rules. A restraining order (Anon. below) is one thing. You waking up one night and she straddeling (correct term?) you holding a kitchen knive might be unpleasant. Things like this happen (not literally “all the time”, of course, but you are lokking for a posterior estimate given her personality)

          – naturally you should not take advice from random people on the internet, especially not, this is my disclaimer, if they think the Stone/Douglas relationship in “Basic Instinct” is an acceptable role model. However, I wanted to add something with more entropy than “GTFO”.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Early love/infatuation makes objective analysis impossible. Start with the assumption that you’re not thinking straight; they always seem perfect at first. One of your meatspace buddies can probably point out a dozen other red flags.

          Ultimately it’s up to you to decide where the sweet spot is on the pretty/sane/smart triangle, but I recommend optimizing for sanity.

          • Alex says:

            Pretty/Smart/Insane is _very_ gratifying short term 🙂

          • onyomi says:

            “Pretty/Smart/Insane is _very_ gratifying short term”

            This seems a pretty misogynistic or just plain misanthropic attitude to adopt? And I’m definitely not the sort who frequently levels accusations of misogyny.

          • Alex says:

            Nah.

            It is very misanthropic to propose a “pretty/sane/smart triangle” in the first place and it should certainly not be used as a model of humanity in any serious context.

            I (falsely?) assumed that the above was common knowledge and therefore that Jaskologist used the model only in a very sterotypical not to be taken seriously fashion.

            It was this register, in which I tried to answer.

            Please do not take this as a suggestion to benchmark actual or potential relationships against any metric of pretty/smart/sane. Thank you.

            [Meta: Does this help? Still misanthropic? I’m sure there was a misunderstanding.]

            [Edit: More Meta: My browser fails to correctly render the closing emoticon in my post, which you also did not quote. Anyways, in theory that emoticon, had it worked, should have informed readers that I ws not speaking in seriousness.]

          • Hlynkacg says:

            On the flip side, triangular constraints are a well known engineering trope that are easy to apply in this scenario.

            It’s hardly misanthropic to observe that a prospective mate who is both attractive and well-adjusted is going to be more sought after, as such the likelihood of such an individual being unattached is markedly lower.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I was about to steel-man with almost that exact argument, but now you done stole my thunder.

          • onyomi says:

            It’s not the triangular calculation I find misanthropic, but rather the idea that someone who’s hot, smart, but crazy might be good to have sex with for a while, though obviously you wouldn’t want to keep her around too long. If you are willing to work on/put up with crazy for the long haul in exchange for hot and smart, then go for it. I’m just envisioning someone who is already probably insecure and a little unstable getting used until it’s no longer convenient, and that doesn’t sound very nice, though I can’t claim to be totally innocent myself (I think I’ve also been a victim of it, probably?)

          • The Nybbler says:

            The idea that hot, smart, and crazy (and the “smart” is optional) is fun for a while (but quickly sours, hence the crude but common advice “not to stick it in the crazy”) is pretty much cliche. And not without reason; there’s definitely men who go for those sort of relationships with those sorts of women.

            I don’t know if it’s misanthropic to say so, any more than noting that any other sorts of dysfunctional relationship patterns exist.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            “Crazy” people are initially exciting to be in a relationship with – there’s drama and interesting stories. As a guy, you get to play the hero, trying to rescue the sexy damsel in distress from all her problems – this is an ego boost.

            The trouble is that too much excitement is exhausting. Eventually you realize there’s no end in sight – that even though you might be able to help her slay the dragons she’s facing right now, there are more and larger dragons behind those ones – it becomes a thankless and impossible task. She can’t actually be fixed, or at least not by you; the best you can hope for is try to try to leave her a bit better off than you found her.

            …or so I’ve heard. 🙂

          • Alex says:

            onyomi:

            If this is still about my remark, Glen Raphael captured what I meant far better than you did.

            In detail:

            but rather the idea that someone who’s hot, smart, but crazy might be good to have sex with for a while,

            I did not say anything about sex. Is this about the choice of “gratifying” as a term?

            though obviously you wouldn’t want to keep her around too long.

            Seriously, have you ever met someone in the smart/sexy/crazy stereotype? (I still think Sharon Stone in “Basic Instict” is a good capture of that sterotypem just so that we are on the same page. You may have to gender-transform this, depending on your interests, naturally. Maybe Hopkins in “Silence