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Open Thread 54.5

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever.

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616 Responses to Open Thread 54.5

  1. http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2016/02/economist-explains-6

    A number of countries are offering bonds with negative returns (exactly what it sounds like– you get back less money than you put in), and people (that is, mostly large institutions) are buying them.

    This looks to me like a sign of a very unhealthy economy and/or some really perverse regulations and/or the great stagnation. What do you think?

    • CatCube says:

      That must have been a weird day for the first central banker to drop his rates that far.

      “Gentlemen, we’re in trouble. Our interest rate is now less than the rate of inflation, and buying our bonds is the equivalent of burning money. I’m not sure how we’re going to fund our operations this year.” … “What do you mean, ‘they’re still buying them?'”

      • I suspect it was more like, “You know, it’s gotten *really* expensive to store large sums of money….”

      • HeelBearCub says:

        But your scenario makes no sense. Broadly, the interest rate can’t go negative unless the market sets it there.

        • CatCube says:

          I was being flip with my statement.

          In actuality, I’d bet the biggest reason this would happen is that holders of large sums of cash don’t have anything that they feel is safer to purchase, and holding bonds with a negative real interest rate is still better than holding it as cash (the interest on the bonds will still offset *some* inflation).

        • CatCube says:

          Actually, it’s more that I didn’t read Nancy’s article closely. I thought it was saying that the real interest rate is negative, i.e., (nominal rate) – inflation < 0. I didn't realize that it was discussing bonds where the actual nominal rate is negative.

          • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

            there is a fortune to be made by the guy who finds a way to store vast sums of money in cash at low costs….

            How long do you want give it until some small country starts offering low fee, cash deposit large sum accounts from their central bank, i feel like The Camen islands or Liechtenstein could make a fortune.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Luke the CIA Stooge

            It’s not the cost of storage that is the problem, it’s providing the certainty that when you come to retrieve your pile of cash it will still be there.

          • brad says:

            Trying to set up that business without at least the acquiescence of, and far better the active cooperation of, the issuer of the currency in question would be a disaster. You need a way of turning electronic dollars into cleanly packaged paper currency delivered to your location for a cheap price.

            But central banks and/or governments wouldn’t generally like such a scheme since it would reduce the economy’s lending capacity and also the efficacy of their monetary levers.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Well, one obvious way this makes sense is if the currency is expected to strengthen vs. a basket of similar countries’ currencies. This could be caused by deflation there, or economic weakening elsewhere. But then why wouldn’t you just buy currency and hold it? Because holding currency carries a non-zero risk of loss (wherever it is that you hold it.) The risk of government default is (generally speaking) smaller.

      I do think it is a sign of bad things. One of which is that it means money is not circulating, but being held to an absurd degree.

      • I was wondering whether it would make sense for a business to lower its prices if it’s soaking up so much money it has to pay for storage

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I don’t think so.

          You are essentially asking whether it can be (on net) more profitable to make less net profit. It seems self-contradictory.

    • John Schilling says:

      It’s mostly a sign that people with money are afraid that investing in profitable business ventures is likely to go south on them when e.g. the EU disintegrates and Donald Trump is elected and China claims the South China Sea as its sovereign territory, or whatever. They want the safest possible investment, with the flexibility to immediately respond to changing events.

      It is also a sign that they think this is a short-term state of affairs, because if this goes on for more than a few years the smart move is to invest in Scrooge McDuck style money bins, or warehouses for valuable commodities. But as Nancy notes, that costs money in the short term.

      And finally, as the Economist points out, major governments have the power to make offers that bankers, etc, can’t refuse. In some cases, through explicit regulatory power – a bank’s license to operate in a nation is contingent on maintaining a certain level of “cash” reserves, where there isn’t enough physical currency but the regulators count their government’s bonds as cash equivalent. In other cases, crony capitalism can work both ways, and if you want the government to keep guaranteeing your market share the government will quietly make it clear that you are expected to keep the government solvent.

      • Chalid says:

        This is way outside my area of expertise, but I think you’ve got it backwards. If investors feared near-term economic apocalypse, they’d buy government bonds, sure. But you’d also expect them to avoid things like junk bonds, but junk bond spreads are at normal levels (they spiked earlier this year but have fallen since). And the stock market is fine too.

        So I think the future most consistent with the markets right now is one where we have long-term continued sluggish growth and low inflation. Because of low inflation, real returns on government bonds aren’t that anomalous (we’ve had negative *real* returns lots of times.) The negative nominal interest rates are weird, but perhaps all these show is that it’s difficult and risky to transport and store hundreds of billions of dollars of physical currency.

    • Teal says:

      There should be a floor on nominal interest rates at the cost of cash storage.

      What do you think it would cost to securely store 100M euros (200,000 bills)?

      • I’m not sure– keeping the rain off should be pretty cheap. Protection from fire isn’t too much more.

        However, the price should be higher to keep people from stealing the money, and higher than that to insure the money in case something happens to it.

        • Teal says:

          Germany’s yield curve bottoms out at -0.63%, which means you’d have to do better than about $700k a year.

          Switzerland’s is just about -1% and there’s a 1000 franc note to boot. That’s probably where we should expect a cash storage scheme to emerge first if it is going to.

    • fasdfasdfa says:

      Smells like dollar auction, but on a much bigger scale.

    • Corey says:

      The negative rates come from wealth concentration such that it’s difficult to find mattresses sufficiently large and/or secure to stash one’s cash under.

      The interesting question is why not more investment into productive activity instead of just stashing the cash – it only has to have a slightly positive expected return (including risk) to be a better deal. There could be lots of potential drivers for that – risk aversion, new ventures require little capital (think GM vs. Facebook here), Wall St hates capex on balance sheets (I worked at a startup ~2000 that *rented computers* to make said balance sheet look better). Ask three macroeconomists and you’ll get at least five answers.

      • Nicholas says:

        Would this constitute evidence that there is no better deal, perhaps as there is no good productive use for the money?

        • Corey says:

          Probably. But that’s interesting/alarming in itself – we, as a society, have run out of useful things to do with money?

          Ideally governments (the counterparties to these negative-rate transactions) could step up and do something at least marginally useful with the money (if nothing else, tax cuts – at negative rates borrowing the money is more fiscally prudent than collecting taxes) but… *shrug*

        • John Schilling says:

          Not that there is no better use, so much as that there is no safer use. And even then, only in the short term outside view. The decision between government bonds and cash is generally made after people have taken care of the short-term needs of their own particular enterprises, after they have invested as much as they feel comfortable putting out of reach for the long term, and after they have satisfied their taste for high-risk high-reward investments in the short term. There’s plenty of room for people to see good, productive uses for their money in those categories, and as Chalid notes, junk (i.e. high-risk high-return corporate) bonds are still selling well enough.

  2. HeelBearCub says:

    If you have not watched the video or read the transcript of Republican Senator Tim Scott’s speech on differential treatment of blacks by police, I would humbly ask that you do so.

    I would like people to fully digest it. I’m not particularly making any point.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      thanks for the link. reading now.

    • S_J says:

      I’ve heard a few similar stories.

      One was of a pair of teens, one Black and one White, driving a beater of a car. Into a neighborhood which is mostly-White, and middle-class. Cops pulled them over for failing to signal while changing lanes. (The kids weren’t looking for trouble, but their age and the car in question might have caused the cop to deem them Persons of Interest…)

      Or another young man, Black, who got an evening job at a country club in an upper-class suburban area. This young man had to dress up for that job. At least one of his parents was a Doctor of some type…perhaps both were. Don’t know what level of car he was driving, but the local cops in that suburb pulled him over very often while he was returning from work at about midnight.

      Don’t know if it’s a counter-argument–but my (White) brother got extra attention from cops when he was driving a beater of a car in a neighborhood where such cars were nonexistent. (That car had a cracked windshield, a noisy muffler, a good deal of visible rust, and was obviously 20 years old.) The fact that he was attending a semi-regular event in someone’s house in that neighborhood meant that local Police occasionally stopped him for almost-no-reason.

      I kind of suspect that some of the pulled-over-for-driving-while-Black incidents are simply for driving a car that appears to not belong in that area.

      But there are also cops who filter for wrong-tribe, wrong-area, wrong-economic-class. And this filter feels like racism to Black people who get caught in it.

      Caveat: Another of my brothers served as a police officer in a large Southern city for a few years…he tells stories of seeing expensive cars in the slum neighborhood, and learning that those cars were stolen. He once pulled over a car for a minor traffic violation, and found that the driver was a fugitive wanted by the Feds. And in the cop-shop, both the Black and the White officers told stories about small traffic-stops turning into felon-in-possession-of-firearms arrests, or in-possession-of-stolen-property arrests, or similar.

      • Anonymous says:

        Anecdata: I’m a 37 year old black male. I’ve only ever gotten pulled over about 6 or 7 times in my entire life.

        The first time I was pulled over was in NYC, right after 9/11. I drove the wrong way into a 1 way street and obviously got pulled over. I was actually in the military at the time, on leave, so the cop saw my dogtags and haircut and asked if I was a servicemember. I confirmed, and the cop was like “Well, be careful next time” and that was it.

        Second time was when I was on terminal leave in 2003, driving back to NYC from where I was stationed out west. Somewhere in the Midwest at maybe 3 or 4 am I got pulled over for speeding. Again, the cop saw my uniform in my car and out of state plates and asked if I was military, had I gone to Iraq, etc. and I confirmed. He then said something like “You look pretty tired, there’s a hotel about a mile or so up the road, you should get some rest” and that was it.

        Third time was when I was in college. The cop asked if I had been drinking and I said yes, but during dinner & I estimated it takes about an hour to metabolize drinks and had 1 drink per hour, etc. (it was about midnight) I did the field sobriety test, passed, and went home without incident.

        Fourth time was again in college for speeding on the way to NYC. The cop asked me why I was pulled over and I joked “I was probably going a bit too fast”. He chuckled and did the whole check paperwork/insurance/etc. He came back and let me off with a warning since I didn’t have a record.

        Fifth time was when I was going to Ft. Huachuca for work. My company arranged for me to get a cheap sedan for the trip, but the rental company no longer had the car I booked. So they were like “Well… how about we give you this Mustang instead?”. I think this might have been the only time I was pulled over for a racial reason (black guy driving nice car) but the officer assumed I was military since I told him where I was going coupled with the fact that it was a rental car so let me off with a warning.

        I normally drive a hybrid which I think accounts for me not being pulled over frequently. I tell my white friends that I can’t get a “cooler” or “more masculine” car since I figure I’d get pulled over more.

        The other times were for PA inspection stickers being out of date; one time probably doesn’t even count as being “pulled over” since I was already out of my car. That time the cop actually did a huge U-turn to chase me down to stop me and give me a citation as I was walking into an Eat-n-Park.

    • anon says:

      Good speech, but it didn’t strike me as particularly novel, or especially interesting from a policy point of view, since he deferred his discussion of policy to part III. Is there a link to that?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        It is not interesting from a policy point of view, but before people can agree on policies, they usually need to agree on the nature of the challenge to be addressed.

        Nonetheless, Tim Scott’s YouTube page has part 1, part 2, and part 3.

      • Urstoff says:

        I wonder what policies that, for example, Campaign Zero proposes conservatives disagree with: http://www.joincampaignzero.org/solutions/#solutionsoverview

        I would guess 1 and 9? I imagine most police departments themseleves would reject nearly all of them.

        • Anonymous says:

          1. Broken Windows

          Meh. I don’t like that they try to roll a bunch of different things into one. Their actual list includes some that I don’t care about (spitting, lol), but others that are generally important tools to have (trespassing). On profiling, several of them are fine, but I get itchy when they go after all predictive policing technology under the guise that the data is “systematically biased”.

          2. Civilian Oversight

          Again, pretty meh. It’s always about when the rubber meets the road. When it comes down to it, it’s people overseeing other people, and you can set up intra-department incentives to go either way just as well as you can set up inter-department incentives to go either way. I don’t like their reliance on the 1-in-12 stat, because we have no idea what the base rate should be.

          3. Limit use of force

          Ohhhh boy is the devil in these details. Their recounting of the International Deadly Force Standard skips a couple “or”s. With those extra “or”s, it looks a heck of a lot more like what we already have. Vehicle shooting and high-speed chases have complicated trade-offs, and I don’t think it’s clear that we should put nearly the blanket ban on them that they want.

          4. Independent Investigations/Prosecutions

          Their first (and most important) point has nothing to do with independence. It’s just changing a mens rea standard. I’m not familiar enough with actual case law here to know whether it would be good or not… and they certainly haven’t made a case for it.

          I don’t like requiring a special prosecutor to prosecute all cases when there is any allegation surrounding an officer-involved death/serious injury. Encourage independent prosecutors, sure. But then, they should have the discretion to say, “There’s no way we’re prosecuting this allegation.” Otherwise, we end up with things like the string of frankly ridiculous cases (and subsequent acquittals) we’ve seen in B-More.

          5. Affirmative action in police departments

          Yea, when phrased like this, I imagine there would be a bunch of conservatives against it.

          6. Body cams

          From a “getting evidence” standpoint, this is generally good. There are some privacy implications, but those can be plausibly worked through. It might help make it obvious that some good shoots are actually good shoots and that some bad shoots are obviously bad shoots (a good thing), but it will probably perversely increase public tension/outcry. This is because every single time there’s a good shoot (or at least, a not-criminally-provably bad shoot) that kinda looks bad to the layman, it’s going to be plastered on CNN. Is there a word for things that make situations better yet make our perception of them worse?

          7. Training

          I’m not knowledgeable enough in existing training regimens or how their proposals would actually end up in practice, but the quarterly requirement seems a bit much. Also, there’s about zero evidence that “implicit bias” extends to anything outside a lab (and I have massive misgivings about the methods by which we measure these in the lab).

          8. Money

          Again, there are some across-the-board solutions to problems that can have large variation. For example, if you’re in an area where parking space is restricted, it’s unfortunately a welfare-improving strategy to charge for parking. This is undercut if there are many violators that go unpunished. If you’re in an area with such an ample supply of violators, ticket quotas might make sense. “Look, we both know there’s more than enough out there. You need to get out and write some.” Even with the quota, they could be only capturing a small percentage of violators. Of course, there are other places where this wouldn’t apply.

          Their link for “banning issuing fines/arrest warrants for failure to appear” doesn’t seem to actually do that. The article does reference the DOJ Ferguson Report, but it doesn’t do that either. It provides for some alternate first-choice mechanism (which are probably fine), but it would be monumentally stupid to completely ban giving any punishment for never showing up in court.

          I’d want more stats for how municipalities actually generate revenue across the country… and more information on the actual practices of parole/probation fees. Civil forfeiture does have specific domains in which it’s useful, but it’s not terribly controversial that this area of law needs some development.

          9. Demilitarization

          I really could not care either way. If the gear is useful, they’re going to find substitutes in the open market… regardless of whether it looks scary.

          I don’t like the restriction on SWAT teams. One major purpose of using them is to avoid emergency situations where there is an imminent threat to life. The hope is that they’ve also been appropriately trained (see point 7 and the fact that “Training” is right there in the name). I’ll note that their link to Cincinnati PD on this point doesn’t do what they say, but this might just be a copy/paste error, because it’s the same link as…

          For no-knocks, their link doesn’t include an imminent threat standard… and it almost certainly shouldn’t.

          10. Contracts

          Their first point is just a repeat. There are complicated issues with making disciplinary histories public. Jonathan Abel had a pretty good series on this at Volokh recently. Removal of pay for any use of force or any investigation just seems vindictive. If they’re proven guilty, the penalty will far outweigh any compensation they may have gotten in the meantime (and you could just as easily retroactively fine them whatever amount of compensation they received).

        • hlynkacg says:

          Looking at that list I disagree with 1 and 3, broadly agree with 2, 4, 6, and 8, and say that the rest are highly conditional on what the authors actually have in mind.

        • gbdub says:

          I’ve actually seen a fair number of conservatives in favor of 9 (demilitarization). Many from the gray/libertarian sides, but also a lot of ex-military who think cops are trying to play soldier.

          Generally I think most of them are good ideas, but as always the devils in the details. For example, in “Fair Police Union Contracts” (10) they want to prevent any police from getting paid while under investigation for use of force. Which seems like a bad idea – investigations can go on a long time, there’s almost always some degree of investigation, and the cop has to pay bills. The idea of some financial skin in the game may not be a bad idea though – maybe a mandatory x-week leave after a shooting with 3/4 pay and no overtime or something.

          One of the things they apparently make a big deal of in most concealed carry classes (for civilians) is that, even though sometimes drawing a gun and shooting someone is the right choice, things will definitely be painful for you. Not only do you need to deal with shooting someone, but you will almost certainly go to court, may face jail time, etc. The fact that you have to be cognizant of this I think helps prevent unnecessary uses of force by CCW holders, and I’d like this extended to cops in some way (beyond paperwork).

    • John Schilling says:

      Would it be practical to do away with police traffic stops? At least anecdotally, most tales of police abuse begin with a traffic stop. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard a story that began with someone being stopped for a broken tail light, that didn’t end with police abuse. Possibly there are better statistics to be found on that.

      We will occasionally need police to stop people who are engaged in reckless driving, or committing nontraffic crimes while inside a moving car. I don’t think that’s at all controversial. At the other extreme, we enforce parking laws in a manner that is entirely non-confrontational, and are moving in that direction w/re some moving violations, e.g. red-light cameras. Presumably we could do the same for other moving violations even when there is a policeman on the scene who could immediately confront the offender. Just record the violation on the police car’s dashcam, and send a letter to the vehicle’s registered owner.

      It does seem to me that current American policing practice is to use “traffic stops” as a way to randomly (or not-so-randomly) interrogate passing citizens to ee if they are Up To Something. Particularly since 1974, when we passed the 55 mph speed limit and abandoned any pretense that our traffic laws were going to match our accepted driving practices – now almost everybody violates the traffic code almost daily, and the police get to decide which ones get stopped for a mini-interrogation. I don’t think that’s good for police-community relations, and if we really do want the police to interrogate random passing citizens maybe we should make it explicit that they are doing that so we can apply proper oversight.

      Possible counterargument #1: Traffic safety. I think this is rather weak given that we do pretty much accept that everyone speeds and not everyone signals every lane change, and that we basically have a catch-and-release program for traffic offenders. But maybe, given American driving culture as it is, the personal interaction in a traffic stop serves as a useful nudge in the way that a ticket in the mail wouldn’t. I’d rather have the culture where we have sensible traffic laws and everybody obeys them or has their license suspended, but that’s at least a generation in the future.

      Possible counterargument #2: Effective policing actually requires randomly (or not-so-randomly) stopping people to see if they are Up To Something, and hiding it behind a fig leaf of “traffic stops” is more palatable for the alternatives. This could be aggravated by the US being an automobile-based society, it being easier for the cop on the beat to strike up a “casual conversation” with a pedestrian or a fellow passenger of a transit system.

      And a question for the foreigners here, or at least the foreign drivers: How frequent are police traffic stops where you are? Is being stopped and ticketed something that basically never happens and is taken as evidence that maybe you shouldn’t have a license, or is it something everyone takes for granted will happen every year or two? Is there any obvious pattern in when, where, or to whom traffic stops happen?

      • Corey says:

        Hopefully self-driving cars make the question moot 🙂

        Anytime there are rules/laws that approximately nobody follows, the potential for abuse exists. At the very least you’ll have selective enforcement, by definition.

        Automated enforcement, along with a relaxation of some of the less-followed rules and making fines small, seems like a good idea (people follow rules better when sanctions are swift and certain, even/especially when small). Though that can easily turn into tax farming, as with red-light cameras.

        Some traffic laws will require human-ish judgement to enforce, e.g. where’s the line between “slightly careless driver” and “probable drunk”?

      • Alex says:

        (Western Europe)

        In approx. 10 years at 20000km/year (whatever that is in American units) I have been stopped on average I think less than once a year and always for speeding.

        The process here is so that a (sometimes unmarked) police car is placed somewhere stationary with an officer laser-measuring your speed. If you did go over the speeding limit, another officer will pull you from traffic, briefly look at your driving licence and registration and collect your ticket payable by debit card (no cash, presumably to fight corruption). No random interrogation involved. It is unlikely that you are asked to leave the car (as depicted by Hollywood as a standard in the US).

        Speaking of Hollywood, it is _very_ unlikely here that a policecar will approach you from behind to stop you. Technically it can happen, but it never happened to me.

        Also, for what its worth, I encountered a police roadblock I think once. It was a very boring affair where traffic was basically asked to go by at walking speed and drivers where inspechted by torch light from the outside as they went by.

        But naturally now I’m curious if Hollywood depicts US-traffic accurately.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Traffic stops vary. The typical “speed trap” involves an officer with radar (or LIDAR) equipment who finds a speeder, then chases them down. They ask you how fast you were going (hey, why not get you to provide additional evidence beyond the radar/laser!), and other random questions like where you’re going, why you’re going there, where you live (which they check against your license), or whatever else they feel like asking.

          The state of Maryland used to do speed traps where they’d LIDAR a group of cars from a distance and a cop would step out into traffic to pull them all over at once. I don’t know if they still do this. It always seemed like a great way to get a cop hit by a car.

          They don’t normally ask you to “step out of the car” for speeding; they do in drunk driving stops, because they’ll want you to perform the stupid field tests. They also ask you to “step out of the car” if they want to arrest you (e.g. you have a warrant, the car is stolen).

          • Anonymous says:

            The state of Maryland used to do speed traps where they’d LIDAR a group of cars from a distance and a cop would step out into traffic to pull them all over at once.

            They definitely still do this. There is a place maybe a quarter mile from where I live (on the main road I take to work), and I see them doing exactly this in exactly the same location every couple weeks. I got lucky enough to not be speeding (or maybe just not caught) the first couple times I saw them there… and I obviously never speed though that section anymore… so I don’t know how the stop, itself, goes.

        • John Schilling says:

          But naturally now I’m curious if Hollywood depicts US-traffic accurately

          The US version for highway speeding tickets is usually too boring to be worth Hollywood’s attention, but very similar to your experience. Police generally do not ask the driver to get out of the car, and indeed are threatened if he does. The interrogation is usually limited to the traffic infraction at hand unless the policeman has some other reason to be suspicious.

          If the cop had reason to be suspicious from the start and is just using the traffic violation as an excuse for a field interrogation, that’s when you see people being asked to step out of the car, etc. This is more common in urban areas, because there’s not much a highway driver can do to arouse suspicion that he or she is anything more than a bad driver.

        • Nornagest says:

          I speed frequently but moderately, but I’ve only been stopped for speeding once, and in that case I got let go without a ticket (case of mistaken identity; the cop was looking for someone that his radar had tagged doing 60 in a 35 zone, and pulled the wrong guy over). I have been ticketed for other things. Once legitimately (following too close); one, in my opinion, spuriously (illegal U-turn, at an intersection where a U-turn was safe). The procedure generally looks like this: a cop car approaches your moving vehicle from behind and signals you to pull over. You do. The cop pulls up behind you, gets out of his car, walks up to you while you’re still in the driver’s seat, and asks you for license, registration, and proof of insurance. You won’t be asked to leave the car unless you’re under suspicion of drunk driving or another serious offense.

          If he’s not in a hurry he’ll probably go through a few more questions designed to get you to incriminate yourself, and then he’ll write you a ticket which cites the offense and the jurisdiction you need to pay the fine to. No money changes hands on-site, but you’re expected to send a check, bring cash to the corresponding courthouse’s traffic department, or pay online within a few weeks. You then need to jump through some hoops to avoid getting a point on your license, which means higher insurance premiums.

          I’ve seen more roadblocks outside the US than in it, but occasionally the police in college towns will set up a checkpoint and subject random people passing through to sobriety tests. The constitutionality of this strikes me as questionable, but it happens.

        • CatCube says:

          You can assume that Hollywood depicts almost nothing accurately, even about the United States. As John Schilling mentioned, the cops usually don’t want you to get out of the car, and getting out if they don’t tell you to is a great way to get shot by the police. If you’re in your car, you’re pretty limited in your ability to aim a firearm at the cops when they’re going back and forth from their own vehicle (with their back to you), while being on your feet outside gives you more freedom to direct aimed fire at the officer. If a cop does ask you to get out, it is very likely that you’re going to jail tonight.

          It might depict California somewhat accurately, though, but realize that California is pretty atypical. For example, everybody thinks that people under 18 are “jailbait” for the purposes of statutory rape. However, the age of consent is 16 in most US states. Most TV shows used to be written and filmed in California, where the age of consent is 18. It’s no longer true that the vast majority of shows are written by Californians, but the “18 is the age of consent” thing has entered the cultural zeitgeist throughout the US.

          • Nornagest says:

            Nope. I’m Californian. So is John Schilling, if I recall correctly.

          • John Schilling says:

            Correct, and California traffic stops are the same as almost everyone else’s. A professionally courteous annoyance, unless the cop is one of the really bad ones, a decent one having a really bad day, or something in your first impression or the records check make the cop particularly suspicious.

            And as CatCube notes, anyone who wants to win a gunfight with the policeman is going to have to get out of the driver’s seat first, so American cops at least really want you to stay in that seat. A large fraction (~20%) of American police officers killed in the line of duty are killed over what they thought was a routine speeding ticket and the driver thought was a cop who knew about e.g. the load of drugs in the trunk.

          • Weird to me then, as the only time I was pulled over, (Iowa highway driving a rental) the cop asked me to get out of the car and had me sit in the passenger seat while he asked me if I knew I was speeding and gave me a ticket. (Had the cruise control on and didn’t notice until too late that I was catching up to him on the highway while he was going the speed limit in the left lane.)

            He did also act like he was doing me a big favor by not rounding up my speed and giving me a bigger ticket, which annoyed me but I didn’t say anything.

      • gbdub says:

        I’ve only been actually pulled over once (have had to go through a couple checkpoints outside of that) – I was coming out of a toll booth in OK and I “didn’t signal my lane change”. Note that these were barely marked toll lanes all merging into one – it was pretty clearly a “see if you’re Up to Something” stop, I’m guessing because I had out of state plates and a car full of stuff (I was moving after college).

        I’d be up for limiting the ability to actually stop someone for the really minor stuff. Maybe make a broken taillight an extra fine if you get stopped for something more serious. The problem is that almost everything is still going to be subjective – “oh you swerved a little bit I thought you were drunk”, etc.

      • Lumifer says:

        One of the reasons US police loves traffic stops is because it’s a source of money. No, I do not mean traffic violations fines, I mean civil forfeiture.

        See e.g. this New Yorker story. A quote out of there:

        One of the first cases that caught his attention was titled State of Texas vs. One Gold Crucifix. The police had confiscated a simple gold cross that a woman wore around her neck after pulling her over for a minor traffic violation. No contraband was reported, no criminal charges were filed, and no traffic ticket was issued. That’s how it went in dozens more cases involving cash, cars, and jewelry. A number of files contained slips of paper of a sort he’d never seen before. These were roadside property waivers, improvised by the district attorney, which threatened criminal charges unless drivers agreed to hand over valuables.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        In the UK: Most speeding tickets here do not involve a traffic stop. You get caught either by a fixed camera or by someone (not necessarily a cop) operating a mobile camera unit, and the person the car is registered to gets a letter telling them to identify who was driving it at the time. Failure to do so is an offence the penalty for which is the same as the maximum for speeding. The process is similar for some other moving violations like running red lights.

        Some people have complained that automatic enforcement has replaced traffic patrols and is incapable of catching some behaviours which are arguably more dangerous than speeding, such as driving while using a mobile phone or while drunk.

        Most people habitually exceed the speed limit by a small amount, especially outside built-up areas. In general, speed cameras are set to only trigger once the limit is exceeded by 10% plus 2 mph. Despite this leeway, getting caught is not uncommon. It will increase your insurance premiums, but most jobs, rental companies, etc. don’t care about a single speeding ticket.

        On the other hand, if someone has amassed enough speeding tickets to be temporarily banned from driving (4 in 3 years) or to be close to that, people will think they are an unusually careless driver. This is not necessarily because they drive too fast, but because they don’t notice cameras (which are signposted and painted bright yellow).

        A couple of other differences about traffic stops in the UK: police here often will ask the person they stop to get out of their car if they want to have a conversation with them. Also, it is not a legal requirement to have your licence or proof of insurance with you while driving.

      • Mary says:

        “And I don’t think I’ve ever heard a story that began with someone being stopped for a broken tail light, that didn’t end with police abuse.”

        cop pulled me over, told me I had a broken tail light, let me go sounds like the most boring story ever.

        (Assuming that the driver did not have a much more serious reason to fear the cop, which I’ve heard a few times.)

        • A Rash Anion says:

          Once I was pulled over for a broken tail light, and the cop wrote me a “fix it” ticket. That was it. Later, I got the tail light fixed, so the fine was waived.

          The reason you don’t see a lot of stories of boring police interactions is that they’re not interesting to read. Nobody writes long posts that then get reblogged and discussed a million times about completely ordinary traffic stops.

  3. An hour and a half about fascia, with emphasis on being aware of how adjacent muscles move relative to each other.

    I don’t know about you, but I’ve assumed that stretching means stretching along a line. Knowing that stretching is muscles moving in their own directions– which are not simple lines– feels a lot better.

  4. Silva says:

    To those of you NOT worried about European population replacement: why not? Thanks for good answers.

    • ediguls says:

      German here. I feel that after several generations, either people become integrated and intermixing with the local population occurs, or people will stay segregated and remain at the lower end of the social hierarchy, limiting their prospects. Also I think the immigration rates are too low to make a dent. And in my social ranks, the only foreigners I know are well-integrated.

      • gbdub says:

        “people will stay segregated and remain at the lower end of the social hierarchy, limiting their prospects”

        – That prospect seems pretty scary to me. Yeah, the native culture is not getting replaced, but an ethnically segregated underclass sounds like a recipe for nastiness.

    • Teal says:

      There was a series of posts a few open threads back where population stuff was compared to global warming for the other side of the ideological spectrum. It seems like a lot of worry over something that may or may not happen, if it does probably won’t be as bad as it is being portrayed, in any event is a long ways off, and there’s more than a faint whiff that the people claiming to be really worried about it like the proposed prevention / mitigation measures regardless.

      • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

        I think the population stuff was more about the ageing workforce; IIRC the amount of people over 60 will outnumber the people under 5 sometime in the next decade (in the West). Who is going to be supporting all of those retirees?

        • hlynkacg says:

          That’s the framing I’ve always heard it in. Presumably that’s where all the jokes about “pushing granny off a cliff” came from.

        • Teal says:

          Given the obvious solution and the obvious objection to it, I’m not sure that’s two separate issues.

    • Tekhno says:

      I’m not worried about European population replacement. I’m worried about European population replacement by devout Muslims. If the Chinese replaced us I wouldn’t care. I’m a secular bigot.

    • Corey says:

      I can speak to #WhiteGenocide worries if that’s what you mean; I don’t have good perspective on “Muslim theocratic takeover of Europe” worries.

      AFAICT even the most ardent HBDers are talking about a 5-point average IQ advantage to whites, which doesn’t seem like it would make that big of an outcome difference (and certainly less than the damage from going full ethnat).

      • Vaniver says:

        which doesn’t seem like it would make that big of an outcome difference

        An average shift of 5 IQ points is a huge deal, because the effects of IQ are highly nonlinear.

    • youzicha says:

      I think there are three different things you could worry about, although I don’t feel very worried about any of them.

      1. The social security systems were designed assuming that the population and economy would grow exponentially, and now we can’t have as generous pensions because there are not enough young working people to support them. This is definitely true, but on the other hand, exponential growth is not sustainable forever, so we would have had to adapt at some point. Our living standard is still much higher than, say, a hundred years ago, so we can surely survive even if the social security payments were cut by a lot.

      2. What if everyone voluntarily goes extinct, leaving Europe an empty wasteland? I think it’s too early to worry about this: birthrates only fell below replacement in the 1970s, and it would take many generations to depopulate the continent. Surely a lot could and would happen before then.

      3. What if the current population is replaced with some different one? (E.g., all protestants go voluntarily extinct, so almost everyone in the future is catholic). But the timescales for that to happen are also quite long. I expect the net effect of this kind of change to be smaller than the cultural random drift that happens anyway. E.g., it only took a hundred years for sweden to go from mostly christian to mostly atheist—a much faster rate of change than what you’d get from the differences in birthrate. And in particular, the birthrates themselves vary a lot faster than the timescale for replacing the population, so I don’t think it’s possible to conclude which group would become the majority in the future.

      • Mary says:

        No. 2 is taken care of by our good old Evolution. Some people are reproducing more than others. It is their genes that will appear in the future. Anything that encourages you to have children is being selected for hard.

  5. Anatoly says:

    Diets Do Not Work: It’s time to stop telling fat people to become thin.

    This article is from 2015, but I think I’ve seen several articles with this precise message over the last few years. This attitude seems to be knocking on the cultural Overton window and asking to come in. Note that the word “fatphobia” doesn’t occur in the article, and there’s nothing tumblr-cultural-war like about it.

    Is this supported by evidence, or cherry-picked? Is it actually irrational for someone who’s significantly overweight or obese to keep trying to lose weight? Any opinions/data/good studies on this?

    • Kevin says:

      I think it’s clear that there’s broad biological variation in metabolisms, etc. which make weight a very personal issue. It’s also clear that most diets have no scientific basis, and whether any one of them works for a person is basically a game of roulette.

      A friend of mine has had decent success with a low glycemic index diet, one of the more scientifically supported diets. Reducing blood sugar spikes has health implications beyond weight gain, but she’s also lost weight and stuck to it for the past year. Part of the success of this diet is that it allows enough variety and amount of food that she doesn’t feel hungry or get cravings. Exercise has also been important.

      In contrast, I can eat pretty much whatever I want and get a bare minimum of exercise, and I won’t gain any weight. It just comes down to metabolism and other biological/genetic factors. I freely admit this is completely unfair.

      If you have a blood glucose monitor, a biology lab, and a boosted decision tree (or other machine learning algorithm), you can design a highly personalized and accurate diet: The Algorithm That Creates Diets That Work for You
      (Publication: Personalized Nutrition by Prediction of Glycemic Responses)

      The team developed an algorithm that used all of these individual characteristics—some 137 factors in total—to predict a person’s blood-sugar responses to different foods. Unlike carbohydrate counting or the glycemic index, this algorithm doesn’t just look at the nutrient content of a meal, but also the traits of the person eating it.

      It was remarkably accurate. When the team tested it on a fresh set of 100 volunteers, it predicted sugar spikes that matched the volunteers’ actual data with a correlation of 0.7 (where 1 would be perfect). That’s good: Even if the same person eats the same meal on two different days, the correlation between the two sugar spikes will be 0.77 at most. That sets a ceiling for predictability, one that the team’s algorithm came very close to hitting. It certainly outperformed the crude technique of counting carbs or calories; when Zeevi and Korem tried doing that, they got correlations of just 0.38 and 0.33.

      • dndnrsn says:

        It is entirely possible that there are biological factors that can make a difference in how well two people absorb calories – gut flora, etc. If two people are eating a diet that would be 2000 calories in someone with a perfectly median average biology, and both burn 2000 calories, but one of them somehow absorbs an extra 100 calories per day – that’s ten pounds a year. (Numbers pulled out of the air).

        It’s also possible that some people get hungrier than other people. Which does not in and of itself mean they will gain more weight, it just makes it harder for them not to, harder to lose weight, etc.

        However, leaving aside a few genetic wonders who are lean and muscular and can eat whatever they want, I flat out do not trust people’s self-reporting of how much they eat. The more overfat someone is, the worse they generally are at estimating caloric intake, and skinny people are generally bad at knowing what a lot of food actually is (this is a problem for skinny guys trying to gain weight).

        It is plausible that biological causes can make a difference such that someone absorbs a bit more calories than intended and steadily gains weight despite the math saying they shouldn’t be. But that two people could eat the same diet, and one absorb so many more calories that they carry many hundreds of thousands around in the form of excess adipose tissue, seems a lot less plausible.

    • Anonanon says:

      “people are often invested in their own thin privilege”

      “She also wrote, with a giddy glee that likely derived from malnutrition”

      “This makes most weight-loss studies disingenuous at best and downright deceptive at worst.”

      The first red flag is the URL starting with “Slate”, but those tidbits don’t exactly help. Going on to pimp “HAES” at the end seals the deal.

      Are we expected to believe that people can keep gaining weight if they’re not eating enough calories to maintain their bodyweight? Does the Fat Positivity Fairy sneak extra cakes into everyone’s midnight snacks?

      • Kevin says:

        Are we expected to believe that people can keep gaining weight if they’re not eating enough calories to maintain their bodyweight?

        You’re assuming the other factors in that equation are constant. Evidence indicates that they aren’t.

      • Mary says:

        Their bodies can go into famine mode and conserve like nobody’s business.

        This is why crash diets are not good.

      • Anonymous says:

        The first red flag is the URL starting with “Slate”

        *looks nervously at URL bar*

    • Anon. says:

      Surely the change in the prevalence of obesity over time makes this idea a non-starter?

      • Kevin says:

        Nah, there are indications that chemical interactions with some time dependence (e.g. changes in the environment due to industrialization) could play a role. For example, from a few years ago: The obesity era

        Consider, for example, this troublesome fact, reported in 2010 by the biostatistician David B Allison and his co-authors at the University of Alabama in Birmingham: over the past 20 years or more, as the American people were getting fatter, so were America’s marmosets. As were laboratory macaques, chimpanzees, vervet monkeys and mice, as well as domestic dogs, domestic cats, and domestic and feral rats from both rural and urban areas. In fact, the researchers examined records on those eight species and found that average weight for every one had increased. The marmosets gained an average of nine per cent per decade. Lab mice gained about 11 per cent per decade. Chimps, for some reason, are doing especially badly: their average body weight had risen 35 per cent per decade. Allison, who had been hearing about an unexplained rise in the average weight of lab animals, was nonetheless surprised by the consistency across so many species. ‘Virtually in every population of animals we looked at, that met our criteria, there was the same upward trend,’ he told me.

        It isn’t hard to imagine that people who are eating more themselves are giving more to their spoiled pets, or leaving sweeter, fattier garbage for street cats and rodents. But such results don’t explain why the weight gain is also occurring in species that human beings don’t pamper, such as animals in labs, whose diets are strictly controlled. In fact, lab animals’ lives are so precisely watched and measured that the researchers can rule out accidental human influence: records show those creatures gained weight over decades without any significant change in their diet or activities. Obviously, if animals are getting heavier along with us, it can’t just be that they’re eating more Snickers bars and driving to work most days. On the contrary, the trend suggests some widely shared cause, beyond the control of individuals, which is contributing to obesity across many species.

        • Alex Zavoluk says:

          “Environmental causes due to industrialization” resulted in a trend that varies from 35-40% obesity rate in the US, Great Birtain, and Mexico, but 10% in the Netherlands and <5% in Japan? One that began only in the 1980s? (source: )

          And what would these environmental causes even be? We’ve mostly cleaned up the air and water compared to the 70s. Or is it just standard “capitalism/corporations are evil” woo?

          • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

            I always thought it was due to the ubiquity of artificial light.

            The little I know about weight gain is that the general formula doesn’t look like calories in < calories out = weight loss, but more like (calories in * some hormonal response) < calories out = weight loss.

            My incredibly amateur explanation is that artificial light messes with animals' endocrine system in some fashion which leads to weight gain. Even if the amount of calories ingested remains constant.

          • Corey says:

            I’m sure some people believe it for the “wrong” reasons, but something’s out of whack in hunger regulation, hormones are heavily involved and the exact mechanisms are tied in with a bunch of stuff (e.g. suppressing ghrelin reduces hunger but affects lots of other stuff also).

            A hormone analog in the environment (I don’t think anyone has good candidates yet) is plenty plausible.

            There are likely multiple causative factors, confounding study further, and nutrition studies are ~all bunk (~nobody makes people live in hospitals on controlled diets for them).

          • John Schilling says:

            (calories in * some hormonal response) < calories out = weight loss

            That equation appears to imbue “hormonal response” with the power to violate the laws of thermodynamics.

            Taking the human body (excluding the gut) as a closed system, any food digested by the body represents a metabolic energy input that must be balanced by either a metabolic energy output or by the production of new tissue. I can easily see hormones modifying the right-hand side of that equation, and I can see them modifying appetite so as to change the energy input if you aren’t paying close attention, but you’ve got the mysterious hormonal factors working in the one place where they can’t work.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            We aren’t perfect consumers of calories, are we? We do excrete things. As a clear but gross example of this, dogs tend to love eating cat poop because it is high in fat.

            Nor are calories anything like a perfect measure of the limits of what a human body is capable of extracting from a food source.

            So the idea that we are playing around with laws of thermodynamics ignores some crucial factors.

          • Corey says:

            Calorie measurements on intake are pretty good, but not perfect. Calorie estimates for exercise and other exertions have much more variation (e.g. exertion from walking depends on weight, obviously). You can count calories to get a good estimate of intake, but unless you’re going to live in a calorimeter for weeks, the most accurate way to measure burn is to measure intake and fat loss, then compute from there.

            So I think a lot of people who think their diets violate thermodynamics are just counting their exercise wrong (i.e. at all).

          • John Schilling says:

            @HBC: I did explicitly exclude the gut from my analysis, didn’t I? It seems unlikely that hormones are going to greatly influence the efficiency of the gutside digestive processes. And humans aren’t cats; as omnivores we (and our gut flora) are evolved to digest everything this side of raw cellulose, as efficiently as possible. For modern obesity to be related to changes in the gut, you’d need to argue that postindustrial man has suddenly figured out how to operate a gut more efficiently than our ancestors who lived through ice ages and famines on a regular basis.

            And once calories (be they fat, protein, carbohydrate, or alcohol) make it out of the gut and into the bloodstream, my understanding is that they are very efficiently channeled into converging metabolic pathways that treat them as pure chemical potential energy and has no way to dispose of them other than to use that energy in some way. We don’t, e.g., dispose of excess adenosine triphosphate in our urine, or sweat unneeded glycogen.

            Thermodynamic still applies.

          • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

            “That equation appears to imbue “hormonal response” with the power to violate the laws of thermodynamics. ”

            No, not really.

            Say you have two people who consume 2,000 calories a day. Person 1 has hormone makeup A and Person 2 has hormone makeup B. Hormone makeup A is something like “out of 2,000 calories, store 10% as fat because WINTER IS COMING” and hormone makeup B is something like “out of 2,000 calories, store 1% as fat because really who needs that crap?”

            If there’s some environmental change that makes people move from hormone makeup B to A, there’s no need to posit breaking any laws of thermodynamics to account for the differences in weight gain/loss.

            Similarly, I wouldn’t put forth the breaking of laws of thermodynamics for the differences between a metal spoon and a cup of water after subjecting them to a 100 C stove for 1 minute.

          • Corey, calorie measurements are much less accurate than you might think.

            I’m not sure what rationalist hell looks like, but there’s a place in it for people who use significant digits to imply more knowledge than they’ve got.

          • Heelbearcub, another factor is heat production– some 85% of people’s calorie intake goes off as heat. Presumably, a small change in body temperature has a large effect on whether a person might gain weight.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Tyrant: But your person A has 1800 calories of non-fat-synthesizing metabolic output, where your person B has 1980 calories of non-fat-synthesizing metabolic output. The claim was that the same metabolic input could result in different levels of fat synthesis without changing the metabolic output, because of some hormonal magic making one 2000-calorie input different than another.

            Hormones, in this context, are modifying outputs, not inputs.

          • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

            “Hormones, in this context, are modifying outputs, not inputs”

            I (hope I) wasn’t implying anything different.

          • Corey says:

            @Nancy: thanks! I didn’t realize they don’t even factor in *cooking*, which makes a huge difference in digestibility!

          • The Nybbler says:

            One of the studies mention in the SA article seems terrible:

            In a 2010 study people who ate 600- or 800-calorie portions of whole-wheat bread with sunflower seeds, kernels of grain and cheddar cheese expended twice as much energy to digest that food as did individuals who consumed the same quantity of white bread and “processed cheese product.”

            The idea is to change just one variable at a time, not to hold just one thing constant! Show me white bread compared with whole wheat flour bread, or cheddar vs. “cheese product”, or whole wheat flour bread vs similar bread with some of the calories in the form of wheat kernels. With the study as it is, it could be that sunflower seeds are hard to digest and everything else is distraction.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            “It seems unlikely that hormones are going to greatly influence the efficiency of the gutside digestive processes”

            Citation needed? Our bodies are very complex systems, and we have up until this point ignored many of the symbionts that reside on us and in us.

            It really isn’t obvious to me that a follow on effect of hormonal changes wouldn’t be to change our regulation of various body properties such that we lose or put on weight. I mean, late summer and fall is get ready for winter time (add fat to last though the lean months). Late winter and spring is get ready for ready for the rut (mammalian evolution, not specifically) why wouldn’t hormonal changes be involved in this process?

            In any case, regardless of whether hormonal changes themselves are responsible, the idea that two different people could somehow react differently to the same food intake without violating the laws of thermodynamics doesn’t seem to be ruled out in any way.

            And excluding the gut from your analysis is, frankly, bizarre, as that is where all of the caloric intake occurs. And it really is not obvious to me that hormonal signals can’t effect what happens in the gut. In fact I’d be surprised if it were the case that hormones were proven to not effect gut activity in any way.

          • John Schilling says:

            I mean, late summer and fall is get ready for winter time (add fat to last though the lean months). Late winter and spring is get ready for ready for the rut (mammalian evolution, not specifically) why wouldn’t hormonal changes be involved in this process?

            They might well be, and I’ve never said otherwise. I am, and I thought I was being clear about this, NOT SAYING THAT HORMONES DON’T MATTER. I am saying, that if we want to understand this, we need to be careful in our consideration of WHERE hormones might matter.

            two different people could somehow react differently to the same food intake without violating the laws of thermodynamics doesn’t seem to be ruled out in any way

            This, also, is NOT A CLAIM I HAVE MADE. Again, my claim is that we need to be careful with WHERE we think such differences are occurring.

            People can react differently. The laws of thermodynamics place bounds on how and where these differences can manifest. So can the fact that hormones work through the circulatory system, not the gut. That is useful information that I would not want to throw away with a handwave about “hormones”.

        • Techno-Satanist says:

          On this subject, does anyone here have any papers, either debunking, or replication, of the AD-36 causes obesity idea? Wiki has a decent overview of the subject matter. It seems like there’s a lot of self-consistency, so that is a plus – e.g., there’s monkeys getting infected and then gaining weight compared to uninfected monkeys, there’s that the antibodies to the virus are more often found in people with obesity, etc., However, one of the original authors has a kooky past, and most of the papers I could find had at least one author related to the original group of authors.

    • Acedia says:

      I was morbidly obese for 10 years due to emotional overeating but managed to get thin and fix my eating habits. I’ve noticed one problem with public discussion of the obesity issue is that people tend to have the cause-effect relationship between mental health and obesity reversed. Everyone’s like “you must be so much happier now that you’re thin”, but it was exactly the other way around. I became happier and felt better about myself first, and that was what enabled me to stop eating.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Of course diets work. If you actually stay on them. If you reduce calorie intake below calorie expenditure, you will lose weight. That calorie expenditure is a function of intake doesn’t change this; you CAN eat less than your body will burn. It’s blatantly obvious to anyone who has observed fat people who claim to be on a diet that many of them are simply fooling themselves. They decide certain foods “don’t count”, they snack constantly (and don’t count that), they decide “healthy” foods (like salad with a ton of dressing) don’t count either, etc.

      Whether one should accept being overweight/obesity is a personal choice, not a medical question. It’s certainly true that it’s more pleasant to eat what you want whenever you want, at least day-to-day. But pretending that diets don’t work is just providing an excuse for that choice.

      • Anonymous says:

        This is correct. I’ve never seen a fat person not lose weight 30+ days after a real lifestyle change. Thermodynamically impossible.

    • Fahundo says:

      Diets Do Not Work: It’s time to stop telling fat people to become thin.

      Is the second statement a necessary consequence of the first?

      I’ve never followed a diet or counted calories, and very rarely have I decided against eating something fattening once the idea strikes me. However, I can point to various periods in my life where I was thinner, more muscular, or fatter depending on my current level of physical activity and workout routine. Even if I believe that diets never work, why can’t I tell a fat person to hit the gym more?

      • Corey says:

        It’s counterproductive, in a similar sense that telling a Republican evidence on global warming makes them disbelieve it harder. And to someone not a friend, it’s just dickish (e.g. Twitter randos pinging Lindy West about “health concerns”).

        Exercise helps with mood, base metabolic rates, and general fitness, but makes little difference for weight loss because of the numbers (one can demolish an hour of very vigorous exercise with a slice or two of pizza).

        • Loquat says:

          Counter-anecdata: my husband’s weight has tended to fluctuate in direct response to the amount of exercise he gets. He was at his thinnest when working a security guard job that had him walking 5 miles a day, moderately obese while working a job that involved a fair bit of walking around but lots of desk time, and most obese when working jobs that were all desk time with zero required activity. Exercise does generally work when people can both stick to it and refrain from upping their junk food consumption to compensate.

        • John Schilling says:

          I lost seventy pounds in a little over a year, when I could consistently exercise half an hour a day and an hour on weekends, and spend an afternoon hiking or diving every other week. And no exhausting or painful toil, just a conscious effort at engaging in enjoyable physical activity. In the five years since, I’ve been able to maintain maybe half that pace, and it’s been a struggle even to maintain what I once relatively easily achieved. And I have noted that my weight rather clearly tracks the extent to which I am chained to my desk.

          As for “the numbers”: Is this the same community that is willing to invoke some hormonal miracle that transcends the laws of thermodynamics to handwave away the bit that some people apparently pack on fat with the same caloric input as the skinny person next door, that will now do a bit of simple arithmetic and dismiss the benefits of exercise as Mathematically Impossible?

      • You can say anything you want. However, there’s a lot of evidence that on the average, being told to eat less and exercise more doesn’t cause fat people to become thinner.

        Since some people end up gaining extra weight after losing it, I find it plausible that efforts at weight loss have caused some fraction of the tendency to become fatter.

        I’ve read accounts by people who gained 25 pounds after each temporarily successful diet. Go through the cycle four times, and that’s 100 pounds.

        • John Schilling says:

          However, there’s a lot of evidence that on the average, being told to eat less and exercise more doesn’t cause fat people to become thinner.

          It worked for me, roughly speaking. But for most (fat) people, being told to eat less and exercise more I think causes them to eat less and not exercise more, not become thinner, get frustrated, and go back to eating more. It is frustrating seeing “diet and exercise” truncated to “diet”, almost every time the subject is brought up.

          • It could be, but it seems to me there are a lot of people exercising to lose weight.

            Meanwhile, we have (as far as I can tell) *no* information about what people in general do to lose weight and what the outcomes were. I looked, and it seems as though the admittedly expensive research hasn’t been done.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Many people “exercise” to lose weight the way they “diet”. Which is to say, they do a tiny little bit of exercise (like walking on a treadmill while drinking an energy drink or eating a snack) and call it a week. The amount of exercise or diet required to effect a significant change in weight is IME large. I suspect this is because of feedback; if you actually cut 100 calories a day in intake, you’ll likely manage to also cut 100 calories a day in output and see no change. Similarly if you do a little more exercise and burn more calories, you’ll end up eating more if you’re not extremely careful.

            I basically had to cut my portions in half to drop 15 pounds over a few months. And I already didn’t snack. To be able to eat what I want without gaining requires thousands of calories of exercise a week (and when I was doing that, I was heavier than I am now, but more muscular)

          • Corey says:

            @Nancy: Oh, there’s been plenty of research, but most of it contradictory and/or inconclusive.

            Where the latest spate of “diets don’t work” news comes from is in fact a meta-analysis showing that success rates (defining success as losing a significant fraction of excess weight, and keeping most of that off for 5 years or longer) for all weight loss strategies are similar, and in the low-single-digits-percentage range.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Corey:

            That is a good point. The statement “intentionally trying to lose fat is really hard, and we should focus more on general healthy lifestyle and hope fat loss follows from that” is obviously true.

            Somehow it gets turned into “fat loss is impossible, because your body turns thermodynamics on and off in the console settings” (not charitable, I will admit).

            Likewise, “some people absorb calories more readily than others, and so will gain weight on what should by the numbers be a maintenance diet, etc” is quite possibly true, but it gets turned into the far less plausible “there’s little to no connection between caloric intake-output and body fat”.

          • The Nybbler: Considering that a good many people regain the weight they lose, some (but I think fewer) regain more than they’ve lost and end up with a higher default weight, and a smallish percentage develop eating/exercise disorders which cause a great deal of misery and physical damage, making a casual ineffective non-effort to lose weight may actually be evidence of good self-protective instincts.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Nancy,

            Perhaps, but even if it’s a good idea, that casual ineffective non-effort still won’t work.

          • The Nybbler: remember the two definitiions of “work”– losing weight is one definition, and improving (or at least not worsening) quality of life is the other.

            I’ve gotten a lot of my information about the effects of trying to lose weight from the fat acceptance movement, and it doesn’t have a lot of people who tried a little and didn’t lose weight. Instead, it’s got a lot of people who tried very hard, lost weight, and found that their lives got worse.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The focus on “weight” is a big part of the problem. The scale can’t tell the difference between muscle, fat, and water.

            The ideal situation is for someone to eat better, exercise, and end up with more muscle and less fat. I’ve lost probably about 75 pounds over the past 5 or so years, but probably more than 75 pounds of fat, when muscular gain is counted.

            Unfortunately, it is really hard to measure body fat %, and focusing on scale weight is much easier. But it leads to things like people losing water weight and thinking diet/exercise is successful, gaining water weight and thinking it isn’t, gaining muscle while losing fat and thinking they’re losing weight more slowly than predicted, etc.

            By manipulating water, sodium, and food intake, I could weigh 10 pounds less on the scale in a week or so, without any change in the actual composition of my body other than water loss. Perhaps I should sell this miracle diet to one of those magazines you see in checkout lines.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’ve never followed a diet or counted calories, and very rarely have I decided against eating something fattening once the idea strikes me. However, I can point to various periods in my life where I was thinner, more muscular, or fatter depending on my current level of physical activity and workout routine.

        Someone call Nature, we’ve got a slam dunk here for the Nobel Prize.

        Why does the rational-sphere abandon all pretense of epistemological hygiene the second dieting comes up?

        • Anonanon says:

          I have a theory, but it involves some spherical cow assumptions.

        • Fahundo says:

          I don’t think the anecdote was crucial to what I was saying. Just pretend it isn’t there, if you prefer.

          And not everyone who comments on this blog is part of the rational-sphere.

        • Corey says:

          Everyone’s first instinct when dieting comes up is to scream “put down the fork!” and it’s hard for anyone, however rationality-aligned, to go past that and consider what might be getting in the way of that.

          • The Nybbler says:

            That’s because “put down the fork” is the ultimate answer. It doesn’t matter how you get there; if you don’t get there you won’t lose weight, and if you do you will. Doesn’t mean it’s not hard or painful or that you won’t be miserable or actually impaired as a result of doing it. Just that it’s at least very close to necessary and sufficient.

    • Corey says:

      Keeping weight off long-term is pretty rare, because a porker (disclosure: such as myself) *will* get extremely hungry. There’s a feedback system between hunger & calorie balance (evidence: put someone in a job that burns 4000 cal/day, none of them ever starve to death), and in some people that’s broken. Oprah is a high-profile example – someone with infinite money and significant desire to keep weight off, can’t.

      As for increased obesity prevalence, there are lots of possible causes besides People Today Just Suck (which is usually a BS argument regardless of where it’s applied). Superstimulus food is one avenue, genetics plays at least some part (BMI correlates better to bio-parents than adoptive parents), could be an environmental factor messing with regulation, etc.

      • The thermodynamic argument seems pretty straightforward. One might extract less energy from food than is in it and excrete the rest or turn it into heat rather than useful energy. But one cannot extract more energy from food than is in it. So a sufficient reduction in calories in ought to result in weight loss, however efficient or inefficient the metabolism.

        As to the cause of increased obesity, the obvious one is rising real income, with some time lag for people to adjust their behavior to changed circumstances.

        • Corey says:

          Yes. The interesting question is what is driving people to eat more than they should. Within the US context porkitude negatively correlates with income (though most everyone *can* afford to get fat). A baseline income of “can get hold of enough Twinkies” combined with income insecurity e.g. “who knows when I’ll be able to afford nachos again” may fit the distribution better.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          You are a) assuming that reducing food intake has no effect on metabolism or efficiency of digestion, and b) ignoring the essential argument which is that different people react differently to the same food intake.

          The arguments around the idea that dieting is “just” willpower seem to imply that there is a difference in willpower between the fat person and the thin person, whereas the real difference may be that the thin person does not need to expend any willpower at all to stay thin.

          • Corey says:

            My own model agrees; based on a few of my readings plus personal experience, it seems that the major difference is in the thing the willpower is pushing against (hunger and/or psychological issues). There have been experiments (marshmallow tests even, for 100% RDA of irony) showing fat people don’t have less overall willpower than the skinny. (There can be food-specific willpower failures though, like in junk-food addicts).

            Though I tend to think the differences act more straightforwardly, pulling fat people into eating more calories.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I don’t see any assumption of either one. It’s true that calories in – calories out = gain. It’s also true that this is a nonlinear multivariate differential equation, and calories out may depend on calories in.

            But while we can’t solve this equation, we can certainly say a few things about it. We can change the equation (without loss of generality) to

            food intake * efficiency of digestion – (maintenance metabolism + other metabolism) = gain.

            Efficiency of digestion is still unrestricted and can be a function of anything else; so is “other metabolism”. But food intake is a free variable; the only restriction on it is that it is non-negative. And maintenance metabolism is defined as “the minimum amount of energy required to maintain the body at its current weight”. We know that “maintenance metabolism” is greater than zero. We know that “other metabolism” is finite and non-negative at all points. We know efficiency of digestion has a maximum of 1. Thus we can show that if food intake is reduced to less than the maintenance metabolism, gain will be negative.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Calories in through the gut wall, yes.

            Calories in through the mouth, needs to be proven, probably not true.

            There have been studies that show that simply doing a fecal transplant from a skinny person to a fat one will cause the fat person to lose weight. Although it is very early days on that front, and the mechanism is very much not clear, as I understand it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            My free variable “food intake” is calories in through the mouth. Whatever those gut bacteria do, they cannot raise efficiency of digestion to greater than one, so a limit in food intake puts a hard limit on calories in through the gut wall.

      • Rusty says:

        I am a big fan of Allen Carr’s Easyway to lose weight. Basically all diets fail because they are based on depriving yourself of things you like. So his approach is to persuade you that the food you really like is the healthy unprocessed stuff (its what evolution/god/whatever designed you to like) so after you go back to eating it for a while you’ll begin to really like and hey presto no feelings of deprivation. Anyway, worked for me.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Scott had an article here a week or two ago where mice who *liked* sugar more got fatter on equal calories. Suggesting that enjoying the food was causing the weight gain. Bizarre to me, too.

    • Psmith says:

      So here’s a thought that occurs to me regarding these sorts of conversations generally. What folks will often claim they’re arguing for is a conclusion like “the energy balance equation is a myth” or “diets don’t work.” And they’ll usually do a whole lot of rhetorical tap-dancing to justify those conclusions, often citing some research to highlight some semi-surprising or counter-intuitive aspect of metabolism which, while interesting and potentially significant, never actually leads to their stated conclusion.

      But when you boil it down to its essence — which can take a whole lot of effort, considering how thick some of these people like to lay it on — the argument they are actually making is quite distinct from the one they claim they’re making. The argument they’re really making is “free will doesn’t exist.” They’re saying that the sum total of the forces acting on an individual are such that the exercise of choice is merely an illusion.

      And the thing is, I think they’d be on much more solid footing if they just made that argument directly. Instead of gesturing at the vagaries of metabolism in an attempt to justify a conclusion that directly contradicts observable cause and effect, they should admit that they’re making a metaphysical/philosophical argument: that people are essentially biological machines and have no real agency. And I think they may well be right; or at least, I think challenging them on those grounds would be a lot more difficult than when the argument is about the metabolic adaptation to dieting. They could then argue that a sense of superiority held by a person who has successfully lost weight or become fit is unearned, because their condition is no more the result of individual agency than the fat person’s is.

      But I think they’d face a problem of messaging in that case. I suspect that the people who are enthusiastic in their embrace of e.g. blog posts about how “calories in vs. calories out is a myth” or that “diets don’t work” would be much less readily accepting of the argument that they actually have no agency with regard to anything. Because while I think the idea that they never actually had any choice to be other than the way they are resonates with their experiences in the realm of nutrition and fitness, I also think that most people still want to maintain the notion of free will in other aspects of their lives. And maybe there’s a case to be made for that scenario, in which free will both exists in some ways and doesn’t in others, but again I don’t generally see anyone making that argument.

      So that’s what I’d like to see. Don’t tell me that my observable, predictable success in effecting wide variations in my bodyweight, in both directions, through intentional manipulation of diet and exercise is somehow physically impossible. Tell me that I was only able to do it because I had no other option, because it was set in motion at the beginning of the universe, and my sensation that I could have chosen otherwise is illusory, and that it could’ve been predicted at any previous point in the history of time, given complete and perfect information; and that other people fail to do the same things for the very same inescapable reasons, not because of the impossibility of it based on metabolic function.

      From reddit.com/u/doctor_mirin_gainz

      • Corey says:

        Surely since some people can spend their lives voluntarily celibate and/or monogamous, everyone can do it, and people that have ever had {adulterous/premarital/any} sex are just morally inferior.

        • “and people that have ever had {adulterous/premarital/any} sex are just morally inferior.”

          You don’t seem to allow anything between “I had no choice” and “I did it because I am morally inferior.” How about “I had a choice, I chose to do it, and the reason was not that I am morally inferior.”

          Suppose I agreed that some activity was immoral, as I pretty much do for adultery within a conventional marriage. The fact that Bill committed adultery implies that he is not so morally perfect as never to commit an immoral act. It does not imply that he is morally inferior to Charles, who did not commit adultery, because there are lots of other differences that might explain it. Perhaps Charles gets along better with his wife or had less tempting opportunities to stray.

          Similarly here. Even if most fat people could lose weight if they chose to, their failure to choose to need not be due to moral inferiority.

        • Psmith says:

          1) You don’t think adultery is a moral flaw?
          2) Many people unapologetically don’t want to be celibate/monogamous/etc. Which is fine. (Not everyone will agree, but I think this is a plausible claim, modulo being honest with one’s prospective partners and so on.). But they would (indeed, do–I’m sure examples spring to mind) catch a raft of shit for claiming that they want to be celibate/monogamous/etc but conspicuously and constantly failing. Or for demanding the predictable benefits of celibacy/monogamy/etc without actually being celibate/monogamous/etc. I make no claims about grand cosmic-level just deserts, but merely within the realm of normal human interaction the raft of shit strikes me as basically reasonable. So too for fat.

          In any case, I’m not sure how this is responsive to my post as opposed to anti-fat-acceptance attitudes in general. If you believe that relevant evolutionary history and so on render the promiscuous blameless, you’re putting forward another plank of the *determinist platform that the guy I quoted is laying out as a hypothetical case for the fat acceptance types. Knowing the general attitude to moral philosophy around these parts, I would have expected the community to straightforwardly embrace the claim that fat and skinny or promiscuous and faithful alike are equally morally worthy in virtue of hard determinism (or a softer biodeterminism) being true, or, isomorphically, that concepts of human moral worth are incoherent for the same reason.

          • Corey says:

            True enough, I’m just annoyed at prevailing attitudes around fat, and I’m also rather unrepresentative of the SSC commentariat.

            My point, if I had one, is that basic biological drives vary in strength between individuals, differing levels of hunger/sex drives don’t mean free will is an illusion.

          • John Schilling says:

            1) You don’t think adultery is a moral flaw?

            (Willingness to commit) adultery is a moral flaw, but nobody is morally perfect. It is possible that an adulterer might nonetheless be morally superior to the human average, and a single known incidence of adultery would be only weak evidence of moral inferiority – unless you set the baseline at perfection, but it seems pointless to have a category of “morally inferior humans” that is identical to the category of “humans”.

            Likewise gluttony.

          • anonymous says:

            @john schilling

            “gluttony” primarily hurts the person who does it, and hurts a lot if it gets to a serious point. -It’s a victimless crime that is on top of that way more self punishing that it needs to be.

            Adultery involves acquiring and betraying the (literally sacred) trust of another person -who expects to be able to lean on your end of the commitment as you lean on theirs.

            Comparing gluttony to adultery is more like comparing driving drunk in a deserted area with climbing a kerb to mow down your kindly mother, than is to something where you can just transpose reasoning about one thing over to the other.

            Putting a gun to your own head might be morally “wrong” by a very inclusive definition of wrong, but it is a symptom of weakness, not malice, and those are COMPLETELY different things. The difference here is the difference between personal weakness (for which the person suffers), and (more than malice) betrayal of a sacred trust entered into of one’s own will.

      • Alex says:

        How can this be controversial at all? It seems to be obviously true that:

        a) technically you can have a negative energy balance (for some finite time)
        b) this can be hard to accomplish in real life
        c) there is no “one simple trick” that magically makes it easier for a majority of people

        I do not see how arguments affecting one of these points should affect the other two. The argument from thermodynamics (a) and the argument contra dieting (c) can peacefully coexist. The author of the quote seems to be making the point that (b) is the missing piece by which this coexistence becomes possible, but in what way is that piece “missing”? Is this really surprising to anyone? I disagree that one has to go all the way to denying free will to acknowledge (b).

        Also: when someone says “I can eat anything I want and do not gain weight” why is this commonly taken as a statement about their metabolism [for a very vague notion of what that is] rather than their comparatively low appetite? And if that person were to answer “No really, I eat loads” to my objection, why should that be any more credible than an obese person self reporting that they eat “next to nothing”.

        • I don’t know how common this is, but I witnessed a conversation which included a man who was thin and said he ate so much he was losing girl friends.

          Another man suggested that the first man should pull a layer of a napkin and drape it over his own hand. The napkin made a microtremor visible– and that’s a symptom of hyperthyroidism.

          Less dramatically, it’s a cliche that a lot of men can eat what they please without gaining weight until their thirties. Then their metabolisms slow down. I haven’t checked this. Is it true?

          • ReluctantEngineer says:

            Less dramatically, it’s a cliche that a lot of men can eat what they please without gaining weight until their thirties. Then their metabolisms slow down. I haven’t checked this. Is it true?

            Based on my own personal observations, this seems to be true — a lot of my male friends started putting on a lot of weight in their mid-to-late twenties.

          • Nornagest says:

            I witnessed a conversation which included a man who was thin and said he ate so much he was losing girl friends.

            I’ve been the thin guy who can pack away an impressively large meal, though I never lost girlfriends because of it. The hidden factors there were, first, that I’m tall and physically active (less so then than now, but still true then); and, second, that I usually didn’t snack or eat breakfast. When the meal represents half your daily calories and your lean body mass is half again as much as your girlfriend’s, eating a lot more at a sitting is no surprise.

            But that, of course, is no disproof of “calories in, calories out”.

          • Amanda says:

            Anecdotally, this seems to have been true for my husband. He has always been lean, and ate enormous quantities of food in his teens and twenties. He’s not especially active. He didn’t gain weight in his thirties, but his appetite dropped off dramatically, and he eats less than half as much as he used to. He also complains of being cold in the winter, which he didn’t use to do, and could be metabolism-related.

          • Matt C says:

            Pretty much true for me. I’ve eaten what I pleased and been trim my whole life. I still eat what I like, but like Amanda’s husband, my appetite has dropped off as I’ve gotten older.

            When I was in my early 30s I would routinely have 3 eggs and a couple slices of buttered toast for breakfast, maybe something else on the side. Now (mid 40s) I have a yogurt smoothie most mornings, and that’s enough until lunch.

            Also like Amanda’s husband, winters feel much colder than they used to. In the last couple years I’ve started using a heating pad for my feet as I’m getting ready to go to sleep. I’m very glad I figured this out, it made bedtime much more comfortable.

    • It depends on what you mean by a diet “working”. If working means causing a person to lose weight if only they’ll stick to the diet, that’s one thing. If working means causing a net increase in quality of life for the dieter, then I think revealed preference shows clearly that the vast majority of efforts at weight loss don’t work, and this is in spite of extreme social pressure to not be fat.

      Further discussion and a bunch of links

      • brad says:

        It depends on what you mean by a diet “working”.

        Reminds me a bit of the different ways to talk about birth control effectivessness. On the one hand you can look at how well e.g. birth control works when taken exactly as directed. On the other you can look at how many women get pregnant despite having been prescribed birth control pills.

        • Kevin says:

          Perhaps I’m overextending this metaphor, but I agree: we need an IUD for weight loss.

          • The Nybbler says:

            That’s a gastric band.

          • Corey says:

            Bariatric surgery (I’m looking at it myself) does well in the short/medium term for weight loss. In the long term one can stretch one’s stomach and eventually get back to pigging out.
            OTOH some of the procedures (e.g. VSG: actual *removal* of most of the stomach) can also reduce hunger cravings, which would help in the long term.

    • Suppose you were tasked with finding out which weight loss methods were most likely to work well (substantial stable weight loss with least aggravation) for particular obese people, what would you do?

      • Anatoly says:

        Why do you ask? I mean, how would my answer help answer the original question, if it’s meant to?

        Anyway, the word “particular” carries a lot of weight in your question. Without it, I’d say I would be doing RCTs, the way researchers in the field are doing. I don’t know a better way.

        But if the question becomes, what’s the best course of action for a particular person, then the answer has to be different, and the best one I know is what I’ve been trying myself, which is known to not be good enough (I’m obese, and have been trying to lose weight for a long time, with sustained but insufficient results). My list of lessons_learned would probably run like this:
        1. Exercise is useless without diet, and at best has a slight direct contribution with diet, but may help a lot with motivation and staying on course, so try doing it alongside diet anyway.
        2. Almost every diet works short-term, almost none are sustainable, and the vast majority aren’t worth your attention. Limit yourself to ideas that have at least some peer-reviewed support. Most nutrition science isn’t, but even when it’s junk it’s less of a junk than fad diets.
        3. Numbing the feeling of hunger is key. Apparently for many people *but not everybody*, hunger is much reduced on low-carb or carb-free diet compared to other calorie-equivalent diets. I belong to this group. The reasons for this are much debated (Taub, his detractors, insulin, etc.), but empirically, I consider the claim that for some people the effect is enormous and real to be established. It’s worth finding out if you’re in that group.
        4. More generally, there seems to be more individual variation in response to various diets than might be considered reasonable from a naive-scientific point of view. I don’t know why that is so, but the lesson from this is to be more open to trying something else than rationality skills might be telling you. The bad state to be stuck in is “This diet makes intellectual sense to me, but I couldn’t stay on it, must be because I wasn’t strong-willed enough, and so I will try again”.
        5. Sentiments like “don’t look for a diet, look for a new set of long-term healthy eating habits” are common, but aren’t particularly helpful, and look a lot like applause lights words to me.

        • Mary says:

          On the other hand, exercise is good in itself, and also may make you skinnier if not lighter.

        • Corey says:

          Sentiments like “don’t look for a diet, look for a new set of long-term healthy eating habits” are common, but aren’t particularly helpful, and look a lot like applause lights words to me.

          My take on this is that that strategy might be helpful for a “maintenance mode” once you’ve lost the excess weight, but it’s useless for the losing. Losing fat is always going to require unsustainable deprivation (almost by definition – if you run a calorie deficit forever, eventually you wake up dead).

    • Outis says:

      I’m thin at the moment, but after reading what you fatsos are writing, I’m becoming scared of getting fat. How can I avoid that? What is definitely known to cause people to get fat?

      For example, if I want to lose a little weight because I want to see abs, am I going to mess up my self-regulation so that I get fatter later? If I exercise to put on muscle, and eat a lot to fuel it (hard gainer), am I going to end up with my hunger level permanently increased?

      • As far as I can tell, more exercise doesn’t lead to permanently increased hunger. The big risk from exercise seems to be joint damage.

        Scott Sonnon has a system of meticulously grading up exercise so as to avoid injuring yourself. He’s got a congenital connective tissue disorder, so his personal incentives are aligned with being very careful. However, the system does include plenty of room for athletic ambition.

        I haven’t pursued that part of his system, but I’ve liked his joint mobility exercises.

        I have no idea whether Sonnon has the only system which is notably good in this way, it’s just the one I’ve run across.

      • Corey says:

        Probably the rationalist way: precommit to dieting back down if your body fat goes over “X” (if you want to bulk up muscle, you can’t just use weight as a proxy, I guess). Then measure it regularly (monthly?). I don’t have a good idea what X might be, but I *think* as long as you don’t get up into the “obese” ranges then The Hunger won’t surface.

        And to be fair, some of my fat drivers began before I was able to overeat. Growing up poor was one (and a recent experiment (not involving me) confirms it leads to more snackiness than being presently poor). I was never hungry in the food-bank sense, but was also rarely satiated, and to this day I have no sense of satiation other than being mechanically full (hence my consideration of partial stomach removal). Some people just lack risk factors, and you might be one.

  6. ShuffleDuffleRuffleRoh says:

    I decided to research the usefulness of mindfulness and now I am confused. I googled mindfulness cochrane review and mindfulness cochrane and ended up reading these two overviews of meta-analyses and reviews on mindfulness: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4400080/ https://www.researchgate.net/publication/299127127_Evidence_Based_Mindfulness_An_overview_of_Cochrane_systematic_reviews?channel=doi&linkId=56eedeca08aed17d09f849c6&showFulltext=true

    The one on pubmed concluded, that MBSR and MBCT are effective for about everything. The 2nd overview analyzed 7 relevant Cochrane systematic reviews on mindfulness and concluded that there is no evidence that mindfulness is useful for anything (except for maybe chronic neck pain).

    I am very confused by these results. Halp!

  7. The Nybbler says:

    I remember directly after 9/11 it was quite clear who the Philadelphia security people singled out for extra screening. Not Muslims. Black people of all ages and gender. But that’s Philadelphia, long known for its racism.

    It’s interesting that some of Scott’s experiences are in a majority black city with a majority black police force that has had black leadership. (Though this does not apply to the separate Capitol Police)

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Reply to a deleted comment? Or just misplaced?

      Or perhaps the comment tree should be here instead of on the OP?

      • Guy says:

        I kind of like this comment out of context. Just talking about some unspecified experiences of Scott’s. How are they interesting? What does the racial makeup of the (unnamed) city have to do with them? We may never know.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Reply to a deleted comment I’m afraid. (Also, Senator Tim Scott, not Scott Alexander; the grandparent comment is still up there)

  8. cam out says:

    On one hand, I sympathize with the Alternative Right–with whom my political preferences tend to align–and the GOP electorate in general for being exploited yet otherwise ignored by the GOP establishment and conservative pundit class for so many years. I sincerely would like to see Donald Trump herald a departure from that pattern.

    On the other hand, I’m strongly unconvinced that Trump will herald a departure from the aforementioned pattern. (I’m literally willing to bet that he won’t.) Because I’m strongly unconvinced while most of the Alt Right and GOP electorate in general seem to range from weakly convinced to strongly convinced, this means that I must see myself as being in the elite position of knowing something they don’t.

    Are these two things contradictory?

    Are any of you either in the same position as me, or in an analogous position in another part of the political spectrum?

    • Sandy says:

      The GOP establishment and conservative pundit class is made up of people like Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Bill Kristol et al — the kind of figures Trump has incited scorn toward and open rebellion against. Many (most?) of his policies are things they cannot reconcile with their view of right-wing politics, so unless Trump just discards all of the things that made him popular in the first place, odds are that these people will either keep their mouths shut or sing a different tune, because Republicans who bash a Republican President are likely to get sidelined and/or drummed out of the party quickly.

      On the other hand, while the other side may subscribe to the “no enemies to my left” principle, the GOP has long since abandoned the idea that they have no enemies to their right. Hence why alt-right people have been exploited and ignored by the party and conservative elite for so many years. The GOP may pinch their noses and concede that such people vote for them, but they frown on courting or associating with the alt-right.

    • Randy M says:

      Same position. The most convincing argument for him isn’t that he will accomplish anything, but that electing him will be a signal based upon what he claimed.

  9. stargirlprincess says:

    How bad will the wikileaks DNC scandal be for Hillary?

    • Sandy says:

      Not that bad, if I had to guess. Anything really troublesome can be blamed on proxies and intermediaries, like Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

      • Vaniver says:

        Not that bad, if I had to guess. Anything really troublesome can be blamed on proxies and intermediaries, like Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

        Who… Hillary just gave a glowing review and hired.

        • Loquat says:

          Oh wow, that’s blatant. I would have expected something a little subtler, like having her lay low for a few months then getting her a job at a Clinton-friendly think tank.

          • hlynkacg says:

            It’s kind of expected at this point.

          • Mary says:

            It’s still idiotic. Bad enough that they used their influence on her behalf, but now Hillary’s explicitly giving it here blessing.

          • Corey says:

            Much of the Clintons’ “shady” behavior can be explained charitably (for those inclined to be charitable) as total unconcern for bad optics, and this fits that theory.

            Given the usual Clinton Rules for press coverage, this seems like a rational strategy for them. E.g. if she hadn’t hired DWS the headlines would be “Crooked Hillary doesn’t even reward loyal hacks.”

          • Agronomous says:

            Maybe she’s sending a message: “Those who help me, even through blatant cheating, and even if it’s publicly exposed, will be rewarded.”

            To people with an opportunity to help her, this removes downside, and they’ll do it.

            To people with an opportunity to hinder or expose people cheating for her, this makes the exercise seem pointless, and they won’t do it.

          • Artificirius says:

            At what point does stretching out in ostensible ‘charity’ become rationalization.

            And I will say that I doubt they would have been headlines about DBS not being hired. It might have been bandied about, but no major headlines.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Agronomous,

            I think that’s right. You reward those who help you and you punish those who harm you or refuse to help you. That’s politics; Bill and Hillary know it, Trump knows it, and if Trump didn’t know it, Chris Christie could explain it to him.

          • Artificirius says:

            And yet, if you are struggling under the perception of being corrupt and venal, it would at least behoove the moderately intelligent person to avoid actions that reek of corruption and venality.

            Upon hearing the hiring of DWS, I was left with trying to figure out if Hillary is simply inconceivably stupid, or utterly corrupt.

          • Loquat says:

            Rewarding her right after the scandal broke while it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind, though… I would think anyone likely to mock Hillary for NOT rewarding the loyal hack would be aware that the smart thing to do is wait for public attention to move on first, and then ideally make it something not quite so obviously A Gift From Hillary.

            Total unconcern for bad optics does seem correct as a general rule, though, regardless of whether or not there’s any actual corruption behind any given situation.

          • Anonanon says:

            The message you want to send isn’t “I’m not corrupt”. That ship sailed a long time ago.

            The intended message is “you can’t do anything about my corruption. Aren’t you pathetic and powerless? You’d better fall in line, before we send in the SWAT teams on the last Sanders holdouts.”

    • Zombielicious says:

      Probably insignificant. The people most likely to be affected by it would be former Bernie supporters, and I think most of those were already well aware of the heavy DNC and MSM bias towards Clinton. Pro-Clinton Democrats will just be happy Clinton won by any means necessary (these are the same crowd who have been calling Sanders supporters “misogynistic BernieBros who can’t do math” for the past six months), and for everyone else (Republicans and Independents), if the email scandal didn’t make a difference to them, anti-Sanders bias in the DNC certainly won’t either.

      Some tiny, tiny amount of people may be further pushed to go for Jill Stein over Clinton, but given that the type of people who would even know Stein exists are the ones who have disproportionately already been following the DNC’s anti-Sanders shenanigans for the past year, I doubt there’s much room left for conversion because of the leaks.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        I’m not so sure about media bias towards Clinton. They may have treated her eventual victory like a fait accompli, but coverage of her has been pretty relentlessly negative.

        • Zombielicious says:

          That’s interesting, and surprising. I’ve seen the opposite claim made against the NYT, WaPo, and Slate, among other examples. My hypothesis is that Trump and Clinton won mainly on name recognition and media exposure, of which it says they both got the most (Clinton ~75% of Trump’s) – and in Trump’s case the added benefit of a FPTP voting system in a primary with 17 candidates.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            surprising

            Really? Did you miss the thousands and thousands of articles about the email scandal?

          • hlynkacg says:

            As I recall, a lot of those articles were arguing that it wasn’t a scandal.

            I’d kind of like to know is how they decided weather an article was “positive” or “negative”.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            “This paper evaluates news media coverage of the invisible primary phase of the 2016 presidential campaign through the lens of the election reporting of eight news outlets—CBS, Fox, the Los Angeles Times, NBC, The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

            The data were provided by Media Tenor, a firm that specializes in collecting and coding news content. Media Tenor’s coding of print and television news stories is conducted by trained staff members who visually evaluate the content. Computer-based coding is less reliable and is not used in Media Tenor’s research. Coding of individual actors (e.g., presidential candidates) is done on a comprehensive basis, capturing all statements of more than five lines (print) or five seconds (TV) of coverage for a given actor. Coders identify relevant themes (topics) for all actors in a given report and evaluate tone (positive or negative) on a six-point scale. These tonality ratings are then combined to classify each report for each actor as being negative, positive, or having no clear tone. Coding quality is maintained through comprehensive spot checks and inter-coder cross checks to maintain a minimum 85 percent inter-coder reliability rate.”

        • gbdub says:

          Note that your link only covers 2015 – I think that probably skews it a lot (Trump was a novelty, Sanders a non-entity in the mainstream media). So I’m not sure we can apply it to the race as it stands today.

          I’m wary of any study that thinks Trump got more positive coverage than Hillary – yeah, maybe Hillary got a high volume of talk about her various scandals, but trump is literally called a fascist bigot and compared to Hitler on a regular basis.

          Trump’s coverage has also been much more negative and prevalent in the non-news media. Maybe the straight news section of CBS covers Trump in a neutral-ish manner. But your Slates, Daily Shows, etc., which make up a large portion of people’s total media consumption, are in many cases relentlessly and viciously anti-Trump.

          For the Sanders camp, he got little negative coverage – but he’s probably a real case of no coverage being worse than negative coverage, because it was pretty late in the game before he was even considered viable.

          • Corey says:

            It’s actually kind of nice to see the mainstream media *finally* letting go of “opinions on the shape of the Earth differ”.

            your Slates, Daily Shows, etc., which make up a large portion of people’s total media consumption, are in many cases relentlessly and viciously anti-Trump.

            To be fair, nobody who might conceivably be inclined to vote Trump is going to pay such sources the slightest bit of attention. There are separate and disjoint media universes – what Slate says about Trump, and what talk radio says about Clinton, don’t matter at all.

          • Zombielicious says:

            @gbdub:
            If you follow Earthly Knight’s link, it links to their follow-up covering 2016.

            Fwiw, I followed the Sanders stuff fairly closely and saw plenty of negative coverage, primarily from the left (e.g. NYT, Vox, Slate, etc). A bit too lazy to hunt down a dozen examples just to make the point, though.

    • hlynkacg says:

      Not bad at all.

      Compared to most of the shit that she’s already gotten away with it’s a drop in the bucket.

    • BBA says:

      If nothing else it strengthens the Trump/Putin conspiracy theories.

    • Wikileaks probably got their information from Putin. Putin probably has all of Hillary Clinton’s “deleted” emails. The current release of information might be a tiny taste of what is to come.

      • Zombielicious says:

        What’s the actual evidence Russia was the leaker? Don’t anonymous leaks always get blamed on the most politically advantageous target?

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I’ve heard several times that “cyber-security specialists” agree, but I’ve never seen the evidence. I’d love to know that. It’s not like the files pick up a scent of vodka or whatever.

        • Lumifer says:

          See e.g. here and for a more primary source, here.

          • Nornagest says:

            I like Schneier — I have one of his books on my desk right now — but wow, there’s a lot of tinfoil in those comments.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Nornagest

            Schneier’s commentariat is… not the best, but perhaps that’s inevitable. The real info is in the Alperovitch’s blog post and I guess that interested parties can google further if they want to.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Today you call it tinfoil; after the next Snowden-style revelation, you’ll call it “obvious all along”.

          • John Schilling says:

            It is partly because of following Schneier – and, yes, his commentariat – that for me the Snowden revelations were themselves obvious all along.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I thought that most of Snowden’s revelations were actually points people raised when they objected to the passing and renewal of the Patriot act. I wasn’t surprised by anything Snowden revealed because the government was doing what most everyone said they would be doing when the act passed.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I read CrowdStrike saying “trust us, we know it’s the Russians,” but I’ve spent too long watching the computer security industry to trust anything they say.

            I don’t mean to say it’s not the Russians. But there is a much simpler explanation than “the Russians did it because they want Trump to be POTUS” which is “hackers did it for the lulz.”

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Edward Scizorhands

            Oh, the Russians didn’t do that because Putin thinks Trump is his BFF. They did this because it’s useful to hoover up all the information you can get and influencing the US poltiical processes now is good practice for when they will be doing for real.

            While it is possible that this is just lulz, I would be *very* surprised if several teams of Russian government-paid hackers weren’t trawling through the US servers looking for any juicy bits they can find. And I guess you know the average state of computer security…

          • John Schilling says:

            “hackers did it for the lulz”

            Security professionals are pretty clear that this wasn’t an amateur hack. And Russian professionals, or the sort of quasi-amateurs who get to play with Russia’s professional hacking tools, aren’t going to do something A: high-profile that B: will annoy Vladimir Putin.

            Putin is unlikely to be indifferent to the US’s choice of presidents, and Wikileaks happened. It is reasonable to assume that the he at least let it be known he would be pleased to see Clinton taken down a notch.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m tempted to say the days are long past when anything significant got done for the lulz. That wouldn’t quite be true, but it is true that state actors and organized crime — or nominally independent groups with close links to one or the other — are a lot more significant to the security landscape than they were ten years ago.

            And between the two, state-backed groups are by far the more likely to go after the DNC.

      • erenold says:

        Meh… Does anyone seriously doubt that Putin would’ve, if he could’ve? He’s been doing this all over Europe for years now.

        In any event, Americans have been buying and selling elections all over the world for so long and so brazenly, including overtly bribing dissident and opposition elements – sorry, I mean funding civil society and democratic debate societies – that it’s hard not to feel some schadenfreude at the wailing and gnashing of teeth by Mook et al. He who lives by the sword dies by the blowback, and all that.

      • anon says:

        The fact that Hillary is saying this is Putin’s fault strikes me (given her mendacity) as evidence against the proposition.

    • onyomi says:

      If Wikileaks and the like make it harder for politicians and diplomats to arrive at backroom deals, will that be a good thing or a bad thing, on net?

      • Lumifer says:

        That depends on how much you trust those politicians and diplomats, doesn’t it?

        • Anonymous says:

          And a little bit of whether you think “things should be done in government”. Recently, we had the Atlantic article praising the old party machines, and I have a coworker (blue tribe through and through) who rails that getting rid of pork was one of the worst things we did, because pork got things done.

          If they’re fundamentally good, backroom deals and party machines are good. If they’re fundamentally decent (such that they’ll acquiesce to what they know is good once they’ve secured something in exchange that can be useful for re-election or whatnot), then pork is good. If they’re fundamentally evil, then all these things are Satan’s Brew.

    • Chalid says:

      Does this Vox article pretty much sum it up, or is there anything more to it? Looks like a nano-scandal to me.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Not at all. It only confirms what was blatantly obvious a long time ago.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      It ensures she’s almost certainly not winning over the sort of left-leaning still undecided ex-Sanders voters she needs to get to 50%. But Trump’s so unpopular that she may not need to.

    • Corey says:

      Hard for any scandal to hurt Hillary, since after enough wolf-crying, it becomes rational to start doubting the existence of wolves.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Reminds me of Lewinsky. It was a real scandal, but I doubted it up to the dress reveal.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The thing about Bill Clinton’s sex scandals is they were all true, and that made it hard to believe.

    • gbdub says:

      I just find it amusing to watch Democrats suddenly care about email security.

    • onyomi says:

      *I would have posted this as a new thread, but am posting it here partly as a way of saying that every completely new thread I attempt to post here disappears mysteriously, but I can still, for some reason, reply to existing threads.*

      All election related posts on my Facebook right now are some variation of “you idiot, don’t vote for third parties!” “you may have wanted Bernie, but now it’s time to vote Hillary to stop Trump.”

      Is it a bad sign for Hillary that not many people seem to be making a positive case for her so much as a negative case that she’s better than the scary alternative?

      On the one hand, I can imagine a lot of would-be Hillary voters staying home due to lack of enthusiasm for her candidacy.

      On the other, fear is a powerful motivator–maybe even more powerful than enthusiasm pro-someone.

      • Corey says:

        AFAICT that’s been true of most every election (even other than Presidential) in my lifetime: way more people are voting against an opponent rather than for their candidate.

        Hatred of Hillary on the right is pumping up Trump’s numbers also, relative to if he was running against Generic Democrat. That effect is probably smaller though.

      • Chalid says:

        bad sign for Hillary that not many people seem to be making a positive case for her so much as a negative case that she’s better than the scary alternative

        Why specify Clinton? Isn’t this how every US presidential candidate in either party has gotten their support, for decades?

        • onyomi says:

          There was a lot of excitement for President Obama in 2008.

          • Corey says:

            True, though I bet that’s the outlier.

          • onyomi says:

            I think the usual pattern is:

            New nominee–>get people excited for your nominee

            Incumbent–>get people worried enough about the alternative to stick with what they know.

            I think Hillary is going unusually negative for a non-incumbent. That said, there is a sense in which she is running for Obama’s third term.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think Hillary is going unusually negative for a non-incumbent. That said, there is a sense in which she is running for Obama’s third term.

            I think it’s more that Hillary has name recognition as good as an incumbent’s. (Though for that matter, so does Trump — but his name recognition isn’t from politics. Trump might be more comparable to e.g. Schwarzenegger in this respect.)

      • This may depend on your friends list– mine seems to have a fair number of people making a positive case for Hillary, though there are also people (I’m one of them) who are more on the “just defeat the scary Trump” side.

      • anonbombulus says:

        That may be anecdotally true on social media, but polling apparently indicated that Clinton supporters were actually more enthusiastic about their candidate than Sanders supporters. I’m quoting the 538 livetweet of all things, but I cant find the original source.

        “Back in March a Gallup poll came out showing that, among registered voters who leaned Democratic, Clinton supporters led Sanders supporters in enthusiasm. Fifty-four percent of Clinton supporters said they were “extremely” or “very” enthusiastic, compared with 44 percent of Sanders supporters.”

  10. ediguls says:

    Does anyone know the state-of-the-art for conversation with NPCs in video games? The kind of situation where you don’t need an entire chatterbot because you want the AI to spit specific pieces of information while limiting the possible inputs by a player? Are dialogue trees still widely used?

    I’m asking because I just woke up from a weird dream involving me discussing a possibly new approach to this problem, using a stochastic version of such a dialogue tree with changing probabilities over interactions and the ability to wait any amount of time after the NPC starts speaking, enabling the use of interruption and [Awkward silence] as communication strategies. Might be useful to build e.g. a psychotherapy simulator or simply engineer more realistic communication in video games. I’m not an avid gamer or video game builder so I wanted to ask if there’s any value in this approach or whether it’s been tried before. Specifically, I’ve been pretty frustrated with the simple dialogue trees in my childhood (for example, in a detective game).

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      Are dialogue trees still widely used?

      I think most games focused on dialogue use dialogue trees.

      If you are looking for a game with good (although very simplified) conversation try Deus Ex Human Revolution. Half of this is the fact that the dialogue is exceptionally well written. The game basically divides personalities into Alpha, Beta and Omega (Yes, I am aware of the jokes) which can be guaged either manually or through a specific cybernetic augmentation with each of these traits.

      Examples, containing massive spoilers:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyJBneXwPoo

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdtGrddKqKI

      • Fahundo says:

        I was going to mention Human Revolution as well. For the most part, games still seem to use dialog trees, or the Dialog Wheel™, which is basically a dialog tree that obscures your possible responses until you’ve chosen one. I’ve seen a couple games that allow you to interrupt people in dialog, but it’s always a contextual action that can only be used in a handful of instances.

      • ediguls says:

        Thank you! This system is exactly what I mean – you get a preset amount of answers that does not vary over time. Choosing an option early or late has no impact on how the characters respond, you can’t [Awkward silence] or interrupt them. Sounds like there’s room for innovation.

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          I believe that the dialogue / personality profiles changes in some situations between playthroughs.

          • Leit says:

            The dialogue battles are more or less dynamic, and the “right” answers will change every time you have the conversation, whether on a new playthrough or just reloading the save because you screwed up.

            What I like about the HR conversation battles – apart from the fact that looking up a guide will get you nowhere – is that you can actually feel your way through them by the body language of the person you’re talking to, weighted by the personality type. David Sarif, for example, is very much the man in charge so you need to press him and keep him on point without giving him grounds to shut you down outright. If you pick certain options, he’ll change his approach as well.

            Oh, and the dialogue augment will get you in trouble a couple of times. Makes sense that people wouldn’t be interested in being manipulated like that.

            Looking forward to Mankind Divided next month.

    • Matt C says:

      Dialogue trees are still quite common, and in the games I’ve played, not fundamentally different than what you might have seen 20 years ago.

      I haven’t actually played Alpha Protocol, but’s noted for a having a timed dialogue (or sort-of dialogue) system that tried something different. You can find YouTube videos of it if you’re curious.

      I’d like to see more experiments here, but I’m sympathetic to developers who are hesitant to bet heavily on an untested new idea. The standard dialogue tree we have now works pretty well.

      That said, there’s a lot of new little indie game studios now, and figuring out something new and clever in NPC interaction could be a way for one of them to make its mark. It’s a good time for new ideas in games.

      • ediguls says:

        Thanks, I’ll look into it.

        20 years ago, there was “you don’t know Jack”, a quiz game with very immersive narration. Now that I remember this game, it’s pretty much what I’m looking for. I found it brilliant when I played it and am surprised that it’s so old and still the principle hasn’t been applied to other games.

        Maybe it’s a good idea to try the idea on a small scale. Like “A small talk at the back of beyond” (sorry for not linking, am on mobile), that was pretty good for a flash game with one screen and a text console only.

      • erenold says:

        Alpha Protocol had a good idea – make conversations feel like real conversations – but executed it poorly. For one thing, the time allotted is way too short for the average person to read four sentences and choose between them. I ended up just pausing the game every time it was my turn to choose. For another, the sentence given to you is merely a truncation of what your char, Mike Thorton, is actually going to say, and quite a lot of times it’s quite a poor truncation at that.

        Most of all, it doesn’t work because human conversations don’t work like that. I don’t patiently wait my turn to speak and then choose randomly between three wildly different options, and putting a clock on my response makes it less immersive, not more. Basically I completely agree with the ever-watchable Yahtzee here.

        I hope your game idea works out!

        • ediguls says:

          Theres two more important points which have annoyed me – truncation of responses and insufficient time to read them all. Just as I rehearse possible things to say next before my partner even starts speaking, perhaps offer some options beforehand and auto-pause the game whenever a new option appears?

          Implementing all this will have to wait several months though – I’m currently a grad student in Japan, which means about 60 hours work weeks and little free time. The fact that it’s totally unrelated to games doesn’t help.

    • Guy says:

      Don’t Telltale games usually have a dialogue tree with a timeout, where letting time run out means staying silent?

      • ediguls says:

        Yes, but with the caveat that letting time run out is almost always a bad thing, the options on the dialogue wheel are fixed and don’t change while the NPCs are talking, and their reactions are always the same, as dictated by the mostly linear narration style.

    • fasdfasdfa says:

      Sadly, modern games don’t push the limits of AI much. We may be even regressed a little.

      Here’s an ancient Atari ST game in which you have to communicate with aliens by combining preset icons into sentences: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captain_Blood_(video_game)
      You can see it here in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hkpo4RBSqoU

    • roystgnr says:

      The use of voice precludes any more intelligent dialogue systems, doesn’t it? These days if a game is high-budget, then every single sentence is read by a professional voice actor, which both limits the amount of dialogue you can afford and prevents you from splicing it willy-nilly in reaction to user input. Low budget games use text, which can be more flexible, but then they don’t have the budget to take advantage of that flexibility.

      Things could change in a hurry if/when voice synthesis crosses whatever threshold of realism is necessary for it to become a viable alternative.

    • Aegeus says:

      The standard tools for most games are still dialogue trees, event flags, and relationship stats. And I think those will always be the main tools, because they allow you to plan out the script more easily, and do prerecorded dialogue.

      That said, you can do some really really complicated things with those simple tools. Alpha Protocol had dialogue for nearly everything about your character. If you go on one mission in civilian clothes, a character will compliment you for trying to blend into the crowd. If you have a history of choosing snarky responses, one character will refuse to believe you because he thinks you’re messing with him. The villain in Rome will talk about your dossier when he’s trying to intimidate you, mentioning your character class and the other missions you’ve completed.

      Real-time conversations have been tried, but I don’t know if they’re going to become common. On the one hand, it can feel more natural, on the other hand, dialogue is essentially a puzzle game and puzzles don’t always improve with time pressure. It can feel unfair to demand that players figure out what the right dialogue choice will be in four seconds, especially if the choices are vaguely worded.

      If you don’t want to make your conversations timed, [Awkward silence] could just be an explicit dialogue option on the list. Or you could only force timed conversations in places where it makes sense. The Witcher 2 was like this – most of the time it was normal dialogue trees but every so often something critical would happen and you’d have 5 seconds to pick a side.

      I don’t know how interruptions would work, aside from Mass Effect’s approach of pre-scripting cool moments, because the interrupt has to make sense in the context of the NPC’s speech, you can’t interrupt the NPC when they’re revealing plot-critical information, and so on.

      Maybe you could expand on the Mass Effect approach by having a full dialogue wheel available instead of just a Paragon/Renegade interrupt, and then when they move on to the next subject the dialogue wheel changes, but that could get rather busy, and the player might have to react too quickly. The same problem as real-time dialogue, but multiplied.

      Phoenix Wright has an interesting approach: You can review everything a witness says in paused time, and review all the facts you like, but you can still interrupt them anywhere in their speech – you select the appropriate statement, shout out “OBJECTION!,” and the dialogue goes naturally from there. It works naturally for that game because it’s set in a courtroom, but I bet you could adapt it to other situations.

    • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

      “Commander! How should be go about repelling the Orc invasion? Make an alliance with the black mages, increase the taxes in our holdings, or undertake the most likely fatal quest to retrieve the Kingsglaive Codex?”

      [Awkward silence]

      “C-Commander? What should we do?”

      [Awkward silence]

      “Commander, we need an answer!!!”

      [Awkward silence]

      “You’re obviously not serious about this, we’re going to choose one of your subordinates to lead us!”

      GAME OVER

      I played a game like this once, where if you don’t answer the game ends. My buddies and I would do this over and over again because we liked laughing at how angry the guy gets when you don’t respond and the game ends.

      • ediguls says:

        The more realistic approach I’m talking about is using silence as a legitimate conversational strategy (though not as a panacea). Channel your inner psychotherapist when it makes sense!

    • Iceman says:

      Most games just use dialogue trees.

      Now if you want to look at more exciting systems, you might be interested in the works of Emily Short, who designed a system called Threaded Conversation. The system tries to model the flow of conversations, including context, the knowledge of the participants, etc.

      Emily Short worked on such systems for much of the 2000s. If you want to see Threaded Conversation in action, Alabaster is free to play online. (You might also want to look at some of her other conversational experiments, such as Galatea.)

    • Teal says:

      Name? Job? Mantra? Shrine?

  11. Anon. says:

    So twitter removed the #DNCLeak hashtag from the “trending” section. At what point does twitter “curating” its platform turn into a campaign contribution? They’re clearly not a news organization, so they can’t get away under that loophole.

    • Guy says:

      Does twitter make money? Do they have a plan for making money? Twitter confuses me.

    • Anonanon says:

      When they do it for the republican party.

    • Jaskologist says:

      The point at which a Republican wins the presidency and replaces a sufficient number of people in the relevant agencies with his people.

    • Pete says:

      Is there any evidence that they did this, rather than the algorithm removing it automatically, the way it removes any other trending hashtag after a certain amount of time?

      I’ve no trouble accepting any actual evidence, but so far, all I’ve seen is before and after screenshots of it being in the trending topics and then not.

      • Chalid says:

        I googled for a while and found nothing that I’d call “evidence.” Basically the hashtag vanished from the trending bar for ~20 minutes, then reappeared.

        • Pete says:

          Yes. That’s the same ‘evidence’ I found too. And the one that reappeared had 1 letter different.

          Things appear and disappear from Twitter’s trending list all the time. I’m not sure there’s a big conspiracy here.

          • Urstoff says:

            Hanlon’s Razor needs to be modified to “Never attribute to malice what is adequately explained by the actions of an algorithm.”

    • brad says:

      Under current law, never. Even expenditures which expressly advocates for the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate don’t constitute in kind contributions unless they are coordinated with the candidate, the party, or agent of the one of the two.

      • gbdub says:

        Which sucks, but the alternative (news organizations get to do mostly whatever they want, everyone else can do basically nothing) seemed worse, given the potential for abuse in determining who counts as news (the rich can’t create any more speech than the poor – unless they are rich enough to buy a newspaper. And if a few poor to moderately rich people want to pool their resources, too damn bad).

        • brad says:

          You’re preaching to the choir. I’m left-ish, but very much in the ACLU camp when it comes to things like Citizens United.

          • gbdub says:

            Glad you’re singing along. I really wish more of the talk about the CU decision discussed, or at least was cognizant of, the actual situation that brought about the case.

            Sure, we can talk about whether going to more or less open season for Super PACs is a good thing, but at the core I think CU winning was just.

  12. daronson says:

    Curious what people here think of the Kickass Torrents bust (https://www.wired.com/2016/07/kickasstorrents-piracy-case/). This site seemed particularly decent to me: tasteful advertising, friendly community (not that I knowingly used it for anything illegal, obviously), which would make it all the more unfortunate if the owner were charged. Are there people here who know about the case? Is there something that could be done to help financially with the defense? Also curious what people think about torrent culture more generally.

    • Jiro says:

      The answer is that probably most people use it for piracy, but ultimately piracy is a minor crime that should be prosecuted about as much as going a few miles over the speed limit, except that there are large businesses with lots of money able to buy law enforcement against piracy.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’ll miss Kickass. Intellectual property is stupid and evil. Torrent culture is great, I personally owe them a lot.

      It would be catastrophic if they managed to stop piracy.

    • Pku says:

      I’m getting schadenfreude, since Kickass Torrents always led me to believe they had the torrent I was looking for, but never actually let me get to the torrents (I’d end up clicking my way down a rabbithole of ad links or redirects).
      I guess this is an interesting ingroup/outgroup casee – my outgroup isn’t so much anti-torrent people as people who make unusable torrent sites.

      • Jiro says:

        I never failed to get a torrent from Kickass Torrents.

        It’s too late now, but you had to
        1) Make sure you actually were on Kickass Torrents, not an imitator that sent you through to ads.
        2) not clicked the large Download button in the ad–torrent sites are notorious for having fake download buttons in the ads.
        3) Ignore a number of ads that open when searching

      • Protagoras says:

        Also never had a problem with Kickass Torrents. I’ve encountered sites that are as Pku describes, but Kickass just worked for me (as did Pirate Bay; I suppose the new Pirate Bay will get more traffic now that Kickass is down. I mostly used Kickass because a lot of people seem to have switched when Pirate Bay was down, so the new Pirate Bay didn’t have quite as much stuff as the original).

        • Urstoff says:

          Indeed, the authorities are just playing whack-a-mole with torrent sites. TPB will be next, and then some other site.

  13. onyomi says:

    If Wikileaks and the like make it much more difficult for politicians and diplomats to strike private deals in the future, will that be a good thing or a bad thing, on net?

  14. onyomi says:

    If Wikileaks and the like make it harder for politicians and diplomats to arrive at backroom deals, will that be a good thing or a bad thing, on net?

  15. Loquat says:

    In the tradition of people asking SSC for informal medical advice, does anyone have any advice for dealing with joint pain, specifically hip joint pain that is almost certainly a side effect of third-trimester pregnancy? I’ve only got a couple of months to go, but it’s really annoying feeling like I have arthritis every time I get up after sitting or lying down for more than a few minutes.

    • Guy says:

      (I am incapable of becoming pregnant. Take with appropriate salt.)

      For minor joint pain resulting from poor posture and/or sitting/lying wrong, I have had good results just flexing and pulling on the joint in question. Hips are hard to work with, but sometimes just pushing it forward with a hand works. Deliberately and consciously relaxing associated muscles is also sometimes useful.

    • Julie K says:

      Ooh, ooh, I had the exact same thing in one of my pregancies! My interpretation was that changing position triggered a Braxton-Hicks contraction that took the form of hip pain.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      My wife, a WHNP, says that this is common as the baby shifts lower and sits on the pelvis. Wearing a pregnancy girdle/cradle with the straps on the shoulders will help lift the baby off of the pelvis and provide relief if this is the issue. They are available on Amazon (as a for instance). Also, talk to your healthcare provider.

    • Urstoff says:

      My wife had this exact issue. Aside from the pregnancy girdle, as HBC mentioned, it’s pretty much lying down as much as possible and hoping for an early delivery.

  16. Guy says:

    I have some questions for the thread! I will ask them in reply to this comment because they are not related to each other.

    • Guy says:

      First question –

      People who don’t like asking other people out (and want to talk about it): why? Are you worried about being turned down (traditional explanation)? Are you worried about the consequences for your current relationship with the person in question? Their immediate reaction? How other people would react?

      Special bonus round, does anyone (else) consider as relevant the risk of obligating someone into a relationship neither of you actually wants because they feel like they can’t say no, and the only reason you’re asking in the first place is because you suspect they want you to? (high school communication experiences…)

      • Alex says:

        Your question made me realize that my brain stores, as a translation for “asking someone out”, “making the first step towards a relationship” while abstracting over all the details. So I have to ask: Is literally asking someone out (and if yes: to do what? have dinner?) the universally accepted and understood first step like Hollywood wants to make me believe? Or is the term used figuratively?

        • Guy says:

          I think I would clarify to “be the first person to explicitly take a step towards a relationship”. So “let’s go on a date” works, but not setting up psuedo-dates where the person in question just happens to be the only one you’re hanging out with.

          • Tibor says:

            I think this might be quite US-specific. I’ve never in my life said “let’s have a date” or anything like that. I only have experience with this in Bohemia and Germany but I think this is quite universal in Europe. You don’t explicitly invite anyone on a date and I think that it would be considered strange and maybe even pushy if you did so. I guess that the point is that there is less pressure on both of you that way and if the date does not turn out to be so great you can pretend that it was not really a date after all (or something in that vein).

      • ediguls says:

        Every time I’ve tried it so far it didn’t work so I don’t want to repeat the experience. I’m afraid of doing anyone psychological harm, which apparently happened once (although I haven’t been explicitly told), and I don’t want to repeat that either. Plus I’ve been at the receiving end once and experienced strong discomfort, so I can empathize with those I’m (not) asking out. Also I’m anxious about what might happen if they actually say yes. In my current life it would probably just add another temporal and psychological burden which I’m not willing to bear. Having no experience with relationships only exacerbates this.

        I would also not ask anyone out when I don’t want to but feel like I’m expected to. That goes against my principle of never going full retard.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Asking other people out requires you to put some of your most intimate feelings out there. That’s always going to be nerve-wracking, even if you’re reasonably certain the person reciprocates. If there’s some doubt as to how they feel about you, that’s going to be even more scary.

        • smocc says:

          Indeed, I learned to enjoy dating when I trained myself to shift from thinking of asking for a date as a declaration of love to thinking of it more like “You seem like an interesting person and I’d like to spend an evening finding out if I’m right or not. Maybe someday that could lead to romance, but who knows, and it doesn’t really matter right now.” My impression is that the former interpretation is a contemporary phenomenon that did not exist in my (grand?)parents’ generation, but that could be wrong.

          I trained my self to think this way by following a rule: if I met someone and had the thought “I should ask her out” then I had to do it.

          • “from thinking of asking for a date as a declaration of love to thinking of it more like “You seem like an interesting person and I’d like to spend an evening finding out if I’m right or not.”

            Assuming you are right about the former pattern replacing the latter over time, might that reflect the increasing acceptability of casual sex? If you interpret asking someone out as implicitly propositioning her, that makes it a more serious act than if you assume that romance involves a very gradual process of increasing intimacy.

          • Alex says:

            In some discussion of Aumann’s theoreme / common knowledge the example of “coming to ones apartment for some coffee” was brought up. The idea being that even though both parties know that this is code for having sex it maintains sufficient plausible deniability, so that it is socially accepted to ask in code but not in plaintext. I admit that I find this utterly confusing.

            Re: David I think the same thing is going on here. Having casual sex is better accepted socially than admitting the fact. The fig leaf (?) of declaring eternal love prior to casual sex does in no way change the realities of the situation, but somehow makes it more acceptable.

            My only explaination is that people simultaneously operate on two distinct models of morality.

          • Corey says:

            I learned to enjoy dating when I trained myself to shift from thinking of asking for a date as a declaration of love to thinking of it more like “You seem like an interesting person and I’d like to spend an evening finding out if I’m right or not. Maybe someday that could lead to romance, but who knows, and it doesn’t really matter right now.”

            I used this logic successfully once in the closest thing my life has to dating (I’ve been married approximately forever): job hunting.

            My response to an interview question about whether I, an embedded Linux dude, could be happy performance-testing Windows Phone, was “it’s a 6 month contract, not a marriage”. Got the job, stayed about a year IIRC.

        • Pete says:

          I remember how nervous I was when I asked my wife to marry me. I was 99% certain she’d say yes, but it was still terrifying.

      • Pku says:

        The first two are obvious factors, but for me I think the main factor is the fear of getting stuck in a relationship I don’t really want.
        I’d be tempted to dismiss this as an excuse, but when I (for complicated reasons) was in a situation where I didn’t have to worry about it (but did about the first two), I actually started asking a lot of people out.

      • Anonymous says:

        Can’t really tell you why. It’s sub-rational. Right before I go to do it, my heart starts racing and I can feel my pulse in my head, my vision and hearing dims a little, I feel a bit nauseated, and my throat tightens up.

        It isn’t a pleasant sensation and so naturally I try to avoid it. Some guys do a ton of asking to normalize it and reduce that reaction. My preference is to go at things sideways instead. My last few relationships started in drunken hookups where I didn’t need to go through all that.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Even in an overall “ask” culture, asking someone on a date is often very much a “guess” thing. Which means you’re supposed to know the answer is “yes” before you ask. If you don’t, you’ve committed a serious social wrong and are likely to receive scorn and ridicule… and you’ve disqualified yourself from asking someone else within the same social group.

        You’re supposed to interpret more subtle signals as to whether or not the woman is interested in you; you can send out signals of your own, but only if they’re sufficiently subtle or she’s sufficiently interested already (but lower penalty than a failed “ask” if she’s not); this is “flirting”. To make things worse, some women are generally flirty even when they’re not interested, and other women refrain from responding when they are, or send out mixed signals; you’re supposed to figure this out too.

        All this can be impossibly difficult for one who is not naturally socially skilled and unattractive enough (which actually goes along with the lack of social skill) that there are very few women who would be receptive in the first place.

        • Tibor says:

          I don’t think it is such a faux pas. Also, mostly you would first ask for a phone number (after some prior conversation) If you don’t get it, nobody will think that you are some kind of a “creep” and nobody will ridicule you for that. If you do and then a proposed date is met with a response like “I’m very busy at the moment, maybe some other time” and no indication as to when that other time might be then you are pretty much supposed to stop but it is again no faux pas that you asked.

      • Lysenko says:

        1) I am currently morbidly obese (developed in my mid 20s post military separation). I carry it very well and have not yet developed most of the more ugly comorbidities associated with it, but I harbor no illusions about how this affects my physical appearance. To my mind this takes me out of the dating pool. (side note: funny, that was much harder to type than one would expect. Shame?)

        2) Even were that not the case, my prior dating history, both long-term relationships and one-night stands, combined with my knowledge of the world as it is now, tells me that the odds of finding a compatible personality type whom I am also physically attracted to are very, very low.

        3) I am very sensitive to social risk. And as a subset of that,

        4) I am concerned by the cultural standards being pushed by certain segments of the population around male-female relations (I am mostly straight), consent, the perception of geeky males as “creeps”, harassment, and all the other crap that has been hashed over and argued about and referenced in other threads and posts here and elsewhere.

        Even ignoring 1, and in fact even if my current project is successful and I am able to lose most of the excess weight in the next 2-3 years, the combination of 2-4 make it very unlikely that I will ever approach another person with the intent of asking them out on a “date”.

      • blacktrance says:

        I second some of your explanations and other people’s answers, but another part of it for me is something like the Golden Rule: many people (myself among them) find it unpleasant to be asked out by someone they’re not interested in, so I don’t do it to others.

      • Anatoly says:

        This was long in the past (happily married for many years), but I remember it well. In descending order of importance:

        1. I had crushingly low self-esteem and very low opinion of my own attractiveness, to the extent that I would avoid even considering the idea that someone might be expressing romantic interest in me, because that would lead to a very depressing inner monologue. At the same time, I (male, straight) was socially active, had many female friends and was fun to hang around with (and knew it, just didn’t connect it to anything romantic/sexual). As a result, I ignored a number of what in retrospect were clearly hopeful messages or near-explicit invitations.

        2. When it did occur to me to express romantic interest on my own, it felt like doing so would be an impossibly rude imposition, because that person, even though they liked hanging out with me, could not possibly be interested in me that way, and I would put them into a very awkward and unpleasant situation. I think I empathized more with what I imagined would be the hurt experienced by the friend/acquaintance than by the anticipation of my own hurt or disappointment.

        3. I was very inexperienced romantically and sexually, and was very sure that all girls I knew were vastly more experienced. I presented a confident persona (though didn’t brag or anything), and was terrified of bumbling in situations where I’d be expected to know what to do, emotionally and physically.

      • Anonymous says:

        Empirically, that I don’t like most people.

        I mean, I get interested in members of the appropriate gender as easily as the next twenty-something virgin, but it tends to go: I get to know them a little, I generalize very optimistically, I get to know them a little better, and I find out disappointing things until one of them kills my interest. Put down the pedestal, Lancelot!

        I don’t mind this too much—it switches up my fantasy life, if nothing else. But I’m not impulsive and it does mean I err on the side of caution. I spent a semester mulling over whether to cold-approach one of my classmates and ask for his number, he was so darn cute. But I kept imagining going on one date, realizing he was totally boring, and having to try to find some way of never seeing him again that wasn’t utterly, pointlessly cruel.

        (Eventually I gave up trying to talk to him and just looked him up on Facebook. Turned out he was a nitwit. I know myself, you see.)

        I did genuinely stay interested in somebody, once, but there was an age gap that seemed significant at the time and for logistics reasons I don’t think anything meaningful would have come of it even if he reciprocated. It’s quite easy to say ‘oh, I’m kicking myself, I should have gone for it’ (whatever ‘it’ was), but in all honesty I think I probably made the right choice. Fond memories of acquaintance and the knowledge that you are in fact capable of love really isn’t a bad outcome. (The worst case if I had asked was likely ‘somewhat disappointing’, but I don’t see much appeal in short-term arrangements or much comfort in ‘at least you tried!’)

        Also—mostly, but not entirely, unrelatedly—my friends had made enough of a hash of their love lives to fill me up on drama for the next several years. ENOUGH!

        Tangentially:

        For reasons I don’t understand—possibly just bad luck—I have repeatedly ended up friends with men whom I was pretty sure were interested in me, but who never quite (or only very eventually) got around to making a move. Which would have been fine, if I were inclined to do it myself! But… well… see opening statement. It makes me very unhappy.

        So I end up with the mirror universe variant of the asking-people-out problem. If I can somehow find a way to preemptively decline (as gently as possible, to be sure!), and they were interested, I will save myself a lot of discomfort and them a lot of time and heartbreak (unless they were playing the same genuine no-initiate strategy I did and just didn’t hide it that well, in which case, uh, oops). If I do it and they weren’t interested, I will get whatever social sanctions there are on expecting a yes and receiving a no, on egotistical bitch steroids.

        Am I not approachable enough? Too approachable? It seems like it must be something I’m doing, but I don’t know what and I can’t see how to unilaterally disarm the situation without making myself the asshole. (Short of scorched-earth solutions like declaring an incompatible sexual orientation, which seem like poor long-term choices.)

        Part of me wants to say: Please hit on me. It is OK. I will probably say no, but I will not get mad at you, even if you do it badly. But most of me knows that a) not all women are going to share my feelings, and b) this is trying to combat the effects of scrupulosity-induced anxiety by waving around a cudgel made of further scrupulosity. I am the asshole again! A winner is me.

        • Corey says:

          Many men (especially nerdy ones, if that’s your thing) will not notice your interest unless you climb into their laps and begin dry-humping.

          • Anonymous says:

            That’s not the problem that I have and I’m not sure where you got the impression that it was. I don’t want to be asked out so I can say “yes” (I can be pretty aggressive on my own initiative); I want to be asked out so I can say “no”. Otherwise, IME, things will drag on for months or years with needless unpleasantry for all involved.

    • Guy says:

      Second question – (CN: it is very plausible that people will bring up eating disorders in reply to this question)

      Is anyone else really uncomfortable with the veganism focus in EA? I’m not even an effective altruist, but I get very uncomfortable when people start making normative claims about my diet. I was especially surprised to hear Ozy speaking positively about food shaming on their blog, given the conversation discussed in the universal experiences post. That post made me realize how freeing it is to be able to eat foods that I like without being shamed about how often I eat a particular dish, or how my tastes are too narrow, or how there isn’t enough of this or that on my plate. So when I hear claims about how the correct, moral diet is a vegan one, and especially when I hear people talking about diet shaming as a correct thing to do in response to this idea, I interpret that as “people do not like my food freedom”. And that’s bad.

      Anyone have a similar experience?

      • bluto says:

        Make a point of eating some very rare steaks in front of them, and if someone tries to shame your diet, make either orgasmic pleasure noises and say your utility from their consumption exceeds the utility of eating a vegan diet. That or take your donations to groups that don’t condition your diet on graciously accepting them.

      • Loquat says:

        I wasn’t part of EA anyway, but I pretty much expect vegans to be preachy and try to food-shame the non-vegans around them, especially when the vegans in question are animal-rights activists, especially especially when in an environment where people are encouraged to talk about their activism. Given the kerfuffle over vegan vs non-vegan menu options at the last EA conference, I’m kind of surprised they decided to stick with the model of including meals rather than telling attendees to fend for themselves at local restaurants, and if they’re going to continue to do that it’s going to be interesting to see how the vegan/non-vegan population balances out in the future.

      • Anonymous says:

        Well, if you are a vegan for real you obviously want to food shame… You think there’s no moral difference between a dog and a mentally retarded human being / small child, so we shouldn’t kill dogs or whatever. Another view is that killing retarded human beings / small children might be less wrong than killing normal humans, or that humans are somehow “special” by virtue of us willing it so, “irrationally”.

        Makes sense that this issue is going to divide people, it ties to deeper differences

      • MicaiahC says:

        I hang out with vegan EAs and this has not been my experience at all and I suspect you are overly pattern matching to what other vegans do.

        Most of the vegans I know are negative / hedonistic utilitarians who believe that it’s unethical to cause suffering on such a large scale (mainly factory farming) and also disagree that diet shaming is effective (they do think that leftletting might work based on some studies that they are skeptical of). At most they wish for factory farming to end soon and at least they wish for lab grown meat to come sooner than it otherwise would, hardly the mark of moral zealots.

        I’ll admit the EAs I talk with are perhaps irregular, but at least this is direct experience of EAs rather than… well, baseless speculation about them.

      • Lumifer says:

        Well, food shaming me is… a losing proposition.

      • Zombielicious says:

        If you’re EA and you think ending factory farming is the most effective thing, someone talking about their “food freedom” will sound not much different from someone talking about their “homicide freedom.”

        There’s also the conflict that most EA requires a positive action to contribute (donate to a cause) – i.e. doing something – whereas veganism requires a negative action (don’t eat meat) – i.e. not doing something. Other EA subgroups don’t have the problem of being around “EAs” actively doing the least ethical thing, since the default thing with charity is neutral while the default thing with diet is harmful. Plus the tactics are fundamentally different since one side is about promoting an ethical behavior while the other side is about discouraging an unethical one.

        Plus one of the the easiest ways to be vegan is to not hang out with non-vegans – otherwise you just end up in situations where there either isn’t vegan food around or if there is it’s really shitty (e.g. bread and tortilla chips). “Everyone get their own food” isn’t necessarily a better option for them than just providing vegan food specifically for the vegans.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          If you’re EA and you think ending factory farming is the most effective thing, someone talking about their “food freedom” will sound not much different from someone talking about their “homicide freedom.”

          That’s an emotional argument, not a rational one.

          • Zombielicious says:

            It’s an analogy, not an argument. There are actual arguments against both homicide and eating animals. “It infringes on my freedom!” is not, for most people, a reason against restricting any behavior whatsoever. Particularly if you think it harms other stuff that matters.

        • Lumifer says:

          someone talking about their “food freedom” will sound not much different from someone talking about their “homicide freedom.”

          …and will sound very similar to someone talking about how freedom from baptizing children abandons them to eternal torture…

          • Zombielicious says:

            … yes? If you’re confident that not baptizing children leads to their eternal torture, then you’d probably think that “freedom” wasn’t worth the cost. People don’t think they should be able to not baptize their kids because eternal torture is fine, but because they don’t think it leads to eternal torture.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Zombielicious

            Yes, you would think that the freedom is not worth the cost.

            I am not doubting the vegans’ sincerety, but the parallel really works against them. Their beliefs do not obligate me to do anything, and, as should be obvious, you can’t please everyone who knows how you should lead your life.

          • Zombielicious says:

            Except the parallel ends if vegans have better arguments for their case than anti-vegans or the “not baptizing = eternal torture” people do for theirs, which is part of why I started the other thread asking what the best anti-vegan arguments are.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Zombielicious

            These arguments boil down to different values, anyway.

          • Zombielicious says:

            @Lumifer:
            Sure, if by “different values” you mean that some people think causing suffering is a bad thing, regardless of who experiences it, while other people only think it’s bad when it’s experienced by some arbitrary ingroup.

            And assuming those people would probably also be ok with eating (factory farmed-) meat, but maybe less ok with people torturing animals just for fun (or maybe they would, idk), then their values aren’t even consistent and are definitely based on some kind of non-analytical emotional aesthetic, as Keranih called it, so the appeals to rationality over emotion ring kind of hollow.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Zombielicious

            while other people only think it’s bad when it’s experienced by some arbitrary ingroup.

            This is always so, it’s just that often people do a bit of semantic trickery defining “suffering” as “bad experiences of the ingroup”. And if you’re not in the ingroup (say, you’re an insect), you don’t suffer and therefore don’t count.

            I’m actually not appealing to any rationality. I’m just outright stating that this is a difference in values (which have nothing to do with either rationality or emotions).

      • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

        To me, the only thing worse than forcing veganism on everyone is forcing everyone to date interracially or date their same sex if they’re straight.

        Imagine a world where someone is shamed for dating in their own race or for being heterosexual. That’s how I feel when vegans try to shame me out of eating meat.

      • Wrong Species says:

        “Is anyone else really uncomfortable with the cannabilism focus in EA? I’m not even an effective altruist, but I get very uncomfortable when people start making normative claims about my diet. I was especially surprised to hear Ozy speaking positively about food shaming on their blog, given the conversation discussed in the universal experiences post. That post made me realize how freeing it is to be able to eat foods that I like without being shamed about how often I eat a particular dish, or how my tastes are too narrow, or how there isn’t enough of this or that on my plate. So when I hear claims about how the correct, moral diet is a non-cannibalitic one, and especially when I hear people talking about diet shaming as a correct thing to do in response to this idea, I interpret that as “people do not like my food freedom”. And that’s bad.”

        I’m not saying they are necessarily equivalent. But if you’re a vegan then food shaming is really the bare minimum that you should be doing to make the world a better place(and that still might not be enough). It’s like complaining about Christians proselytizing. People’s souls are on the line. Of course, they are going to do what they can to help.

        • hlynkacg says:

          That parallel had occurred to me as well but I had concluded that discretion was the better part of valor.

        • Jiro says:

          That is a problematic comparison. For instance, you probably want to be able to fire people for being cannibals. You also probably want to exclude them from polite company and not let them in your house. Does that then mean you also think it is right for vegetarians to do such things to meat eaters?

          • Wrong Species says:

            It’s not about what I think is right. It’s about whether it makes sense from the perspective of their values. And it absolutely does. If you think eating meat is the equivalent of condoning mass murder then you should absolutely should try to do whatever you can to stop it from happening. That includes social exclusion. So to your answer your question, yes absolutely. If a vegan told me that they didn’t want anything to do with me because I eat meat, then I might be upset but it would be understandable. I certainly wouldn’t hold it against them. My argument might be that social exclusion isn’t the best way to promote veganism but that’s an empirical question rather than an ethical one.

          • Lumifer says:

            If you think eating meat is the equivalent of condoning mass murder then you should absolutely should try to do whatever you can to stop it from happening. That includes social exclusion.

            Heh. “Whatever you can” includes a lot beyond “social exclusion” and involves things like explosives and firearms.

        • John Schilling says:

          EA’s disputed actions are rational iff they wish to treat the set of all people who are currently omnivores as a Permanent Outgroup, as the rest of us treat cannibals. Cannibals make for an inconsequential outgroup, whose absence will not weaken your cause and who cannot by their actions substantially harm your cause. And if your goal is to eliminate cannibalism, you can do that by convincing the vast majority of people who are presently non-cannibals that they should step up to active anti-cannibalism and force the cannibals to stop eating people.

          Omnivores represent the vast majority of humanity. The absence of otherwise-sympathetic omnivores will almost certainly weaken your cause. They can substantially harm your cause by, e.g. ridiculing you to broad effect. And if your goal requires the elimination of omnivorism, then barring a Lone Genius Vegan Mad Scientist with a Death Ray, you cannot do this except by mass persuasion.

          How is it ever rational to treat the currently omnivorous as one would cannibals, as a Permanent Outgroup? Even if one privately believes that omnivores are Disgusting Creatures of Pure Evil, it would seem that reason almost demands that you pretend they are people you can get along with.

          • Wrong Species says:

            That’s a good point and probably one most vegans agree with. They are still a small minority of people so proselytizing is probably more effective than shunning. I think the argument can be made on trying to raise the issue with EAs in two ways. The first is the more mundane argument that you want a group of people dedicated to promoting welfare with their money to spend their money on issues you believe are important. In this instance, maximizing the money spent to your cause is the main goal.

            The second is a little more controversial. If you believe that EAs will eventually be an incredibly important and influential movement, then you want to try to take over while they are still a relatively small group of people. Then, when they grow to have more power, their beliefs should trickle down to the rest of the population. In this instance, you’re willing to risk a backlash in order to take control and enforce ideological purity.

          • John Schilling says:

            In this instance, you’re willing to risk a backlash in order to take control and enforce ideological purity

            And in so doing ensure that EA will never be an important and influential movement.

        • Agronomous says:

          I’m a vegetarian, and I can put up with a lot of different dietary weirdos: vegans, meat-eaters, fructarians, raw foodies.

          But cannibals? They can bite me.

  17. James Bond says:

    Is a feeling that men have gotten a lot less tough and manly correct? I mean my granddad went to fight in WW2, and I get a bit nervous when im in a bad neighborhood in a nice car. 2 generations ago 18 year olds stormed the beaches of Normandy, and now they need “safe spaces” in college to prevent mean opinions. We have a ton of anti-bullying legislation that bans mean opinions in high schools, while there was a time when every 18 year old would sign up in uniform ready to fight and die for freedom. BTW im not excluded from this loss of toughness and masculinity, I feel my ancestors had a lot more courage than me ( like the grandad who fought in WW2).

    • Alliteration says:

      If military training increases toughness, we would expect that a generation that fought in a war would be on average more tough than one that didn’t. If toughness is a trait that can be increased by personal will, we would expect that as the world became nicer, toughness would decline because toughness would be less useful. So it seems likely that people (including men) are less tough now than they were during WW2.

      • hlynkacg says:

        I think a better explanation would be a sort of “conservation of drama” where “micro-aggressions” might feel really important when you’re living a comfortably genteel middle class sort of life but loose much their kick when you aren’t insulated from the meaner parts of life.

        • Fahundo says:

          I don’t think I’m the only person who has lived a mostly comfortable middle class life and still finds micro-aggressions silly.

          • hlynkacg says:

            You don’t necessarily have to have stormed the Beaches at Normandy. In my experience even something as mundane as having to worry about how you’re going to pay rent or get your next meal, is enough to put a lot of shit in perspective.

          • Fahundo says:

            even something as mundane as having to worry about how you’re going to pay rent or get your next meal

            I’ve never really had to struggle with either of those things either though.

          • autonomous rex says:

            I remember, a while back, a friend had a job at some place where a guy whose step-brother was half black said something like “i guess everyone’s a little racist” at a company picnic to de-escalate a fight between a black and white homeless guy who’d wandered into the park, and was let go on the next tuesday (monday was a holiday) with zero explanation. Every HR dept is crawling with cultural marxists and SJWs bent on exterminating things like morning zoo radio and such.

            Anyway we’ve stormed those beaches thousands of times in our games. They only did it once. The brain doesnt know the difference.

            Today, the brains of white men in their twenties are the most powerful objects the universe has ever seen. ~shivers~

          • Mr Mind says:

            If he was let go without explanation, how do you know it was for that remark and not for some other thing? Proximity bias?

            And if the brain doesn’t notice the difference between the real thing and a videogame, how comes we do not have legions of gamers with PTSD?

          • Anon says:

            @MrMind

            And if the brain doesn’t notice the difference between the real thing and a videogame, how comes we do not have legions of gamers with PTSD?

            (Possible explanation, unsure) Maybe because when you’re playing a game you know you are physically safe and can exit at any time? Additionally, because such experiences are experienced through a window, rather than full immersion?

            Though I personally don’t think that “having seen/experienced war in games” makes you think less of microaggressions. … But I can see how being called various things in multiplayer games can give you a thicker skin.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Micro-aggressions can’t be dismissed by reference to real (or at least mini-) hardship because of the whole oppression hierarchy thing. An accidentally trod-on woman’s toe is more important than a severely beaten white man, and he’s supposed to accept that.

          • Irri says:

            An accidentally trod-on woman’s toe is more important than a severely beaten white man, and he’s supposed to accept that.

            It is known.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Mr Mind:
            I was going to ask the same question about proximity bias, but based on their closing sentence, and posts else where I am reasonable confident that Rex is trolling you.

            @ Nybbler:
            Good thing I don’t buy into the whole “Oppression Olympics” thing.

            That said there is something to that last bit. We are all meat for the machine after all, and I think a large chunk of my frustration with “social justice” and would-be revolutionaries of all stripes is that they don’t seem to understand the reciprocal nature of a lot of those norms that they are trying to end.

          • Sfoil says:

            Playing violent video games is nothing like actual combat. Is watching a video of a roller coaster like riding one? And a roller coaster is still explicitly designed to keep within your body’s performance specs.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes. I suspect it’s a mix of a “stabilizing” biologic mechanism that activates in specific conditions (See other animals) + cultural optimization for feminine behaviour (Ongoing for a long time, probably exacerbated in times of “peace”, degenerate abundancy, etc.) + Maybe chemicals? (Only in some places, hopefully).

      Not good if all that gets ingrained in our systems and/or starts spiraling out of control. Could be fun though 🙂

    • Cadie says:

      I think (a) culture has changed and being tough in that way is less highly valued for everyone (and this could be more noticeable for men), and (b) people are more likely to talk about unusual things in their lives that they’re proud of than things that they’re ashamed of or the events that were simply unremarkable and boring. The bits that we hear about now, either through older people’s retellings or in books/movies/newspapers/etc., are not a randomly selected sample.

      There had to be a substantial number of young men in the WW2 era who didn’t want to be soldiers, even outside of strong religious prohibitions. However, it’s very believable that the ones who were scared or otherwise opposed to going aren’t/weren’t eager to tell everyone about that, due to gender role expectations, others’ ideas about patriotism, and general social pressure. Nowadays it’s more socially acceptable to be ambivalent or or opposed to going to war, so those who came of age in 2012 instead of 1942 and whose answer would be “um… maybe?” or “no thanks” are more willing to be honest about it. And the 1940s group may well have had fewer such individuals than the 2010s group – just not none or almost none.

    • autonomous rex says:

      Our forefathers never experienced an enemy as sick and rapacious as the SJW.

      Or any obstacle to the pursuit of happiness as dumb and unresponsive as our bloated federal government.

      We live in a world where an HR dept will tell you to clean out your desk for a pronoun error, while a black, fired from the same job for actual incompetence, will simply call a sinister trial lawyer and be awared millions of dollars and the complete run of society with her black “pals”.

      I dont care where you’ve served or what kind of sacrifice you’ve made. If you haven’t
      sat in an employee break room and feared for what would happen to your job if you couldnt stop yourself from standing up and chanting “n****r c**t n****r c**t n****r c**t n****r c**t n****r c**t n****r c**t n****r c**t n****r c**t”, then don’t try to tell me you understand hurt feelings and worrying.

      The generation that lived through Brendan Eich’s disemployment knows what hurt feelings are. We know what career bumps can do. Leave us be with our elderly politics and infantile comic book culture. We are SSC.

    • Mr Mind says:

      It’s a complex issue to analyze, but my opinion is that we haven’t changed much.
      On one side, clearly the genetic component of the emotional structure in males cannot have mutated much in two generations, although there can be some selection effect due to WW2 killing dozens of millions of people. But who knows what this selected? Jumping to any conclusions without data would be wrong.
      On the other side, let’s not equate soldier = badass. Many many soldiers didn’t want to be there. They were forced to face war and, while undoubtedly they exist, it’s a rare veteran those who do not prefer the present time (both my granddads and my fiancée’ were soldiers in the Italian Resistance). Possibly we also face a lot of availability bias: those who were more sensitive back in the day had simply to shut up and suffer in silence. Now we have the resources to let those people express more, just like when you see an increase in cancer statistics when you improve diagnostic methods.
      More generally, I think the archetype of masculinity is a conflation of positive and negative traits, not necessarily pertinent to maleness, and the risk of treating it as a whole is to resurrect the negative sides along with the positive, while also failing to teach the positive to anyone who would need it.

      • James Bond says:

        Wow that is depressing, anyway to make sure that doesnt happen to me? I have naturally high testosterone levels ( ty genetics) and I wanted to make sure that i preserve them.

        • Psmith says:

          Avoid chronic stress and don’t get fat. Failing that, inject.

          (I should note that absolute levels aren’t the only metric of interest–sensitivity to a given level also varies. But this is so difficult to measure that it’s not clinically useful. Usually.).

          • James Bond says:

            Well i get easily stressed out but i do workout a lot. Ill avoid BPA and stuff too but ill just head to the gym even more often to make sure i stay in shape and high test. Personally I dont feel the risks of injecting are worth it. I have good enough genes that i can be pretty muscular and stuff natty. Why risk it.

    • Pku says:

      I wouldn’t take this too seriously. People respond hugely to situations. A lot of people who feel scared in a bad neighborhood would be able to deal with war, once they were forced to be there and there wasn’t any realistic alternative.

    • Nicholas says:

      1. WW2’s US army had the worst draft dodging and desertion rate of any American war in the 1900s.
      2. The only justification I’ve really heard in person for safe spaces is “in an earlier era if you’d said that, I would have beaten you unconscious. Today two men can’t get into a fistfight like that without going to jail, so instead of punching you in the mouth I’m going to file an HR complaint.”

      • Lysenko says:

        Interesting, higher than Vietnam? What’s your source for that? I have no doubt it was a higher total number given the size of the draft, but if the overall rate was higher even in an era where draft dodging had A) less top cover from nations like Canada accepting dodgers and B) far less sympathy from mainstream society, that’s very interesting.

        • Pku says:

          Worth noting that in Vietnam, you could probably avoid going into actual battle if you didn’t want to: Draftees were usually sent to european or domestic bases, the guys who actually went to Vietnam were mostly volunteers. In WW2, if you were drafted you were probably going to be sent into battle, so different priorities.

          This reminds me of the statistic that upper-class (very liberal) Tel Aviv has one of the highest conscription rates in Israel (along with other measures, like rate of joining top combat units or signing on to be officers). This tends to surprise people who hear it.

          • Anonanon says:

            Didn’t a lot of the Orthodox types get an exemption from military service?
            In a nationalistic country that doesn’t seem like a particularly good political move, but hey.

          • Anonymous says:

            The haradi (black hats) don’t go into the army but the national religious (knitted yamakas, often settlers) do serve.

          • Lumifer says:

            As far as I understand, an Israeli who didn’t serve in the army severely lacks in networking capabilities and is considered to be somewhat of a second-class citizen.

      • John Schilling says:

        Where’s the safe space for having HR complaints filed as part of someone’s personal vendetta?

      • Lumifer says:

        Today two men can’t get into a fistfight like that without going to jail, so instead of punching you in the mouth I’m going to file an HR complaint.

        Notice how one of these options involves considerable personal risk and the other one is quite riskless.

        • Zorgon says:

          They both contain implicit and unspoken status claims.

          Today two men can’t get into a fistfight which I expect to win, as I am higher-status like that without going to jail, so instead of punching you in the mouth I’m going to file an HR complaint which I expect to win, as I am higher-status.”

          Which goes some distance to reinforcing my view that “safe spaces” are actually “status spaces”.

      • bean says:

        WW2’s US army had the worst draft dodging and desertion rate of any American war in the 1900s.
        Really? I find this hard to credit, unless you’re using definitions cooked to give this result, and my attempts to get numbers failed (which is very odd). For instance, defining ‘draft dodging’ as illegally avoiding the draft would dramatically deflate the figures for Vietnam (as there were fewer exemptions in WWII, and a lot less willingness to abuse the ones that were there). Desertion is a more complicated question, and one greatly influenced by environmental factors. During WWII, desertion was relatively common in ETO, and nearly unknown in the Pacific, and it wasn’t because the soldiers sent to the Pacific were better. Vietnam is a lot more like the Pacific, so if you only count overseas desertions, then WWII looks worse again.

    • Corey says:

      You’re comparing the best of the 1940s to the worst of today (on a manliness scale). Lots of men volunteered for military service after 9/11.

      Also, consider African-American males – much “black on black crime” stems directly from a culture of having to meet any slight with violent retribution. So at least 6% of the country is keeping manliness alive 🙂

    • Lysenko says:

      Let’s unpack “Toughness” a bit:

      A) Courage, the ability to take an action despite fear of that action or its possible consequences. Aside from the sort of training intended to drill responses in so deeply that they bypass conscious reactions like thoughtful fear, lot of what instills and drives physical courage is cultural. Not ALL of it, but a LOT. People don’t want to be labeled as contemptible cowards. They don’t want to let their friends down. We have reduced that cultural pressure by changing the standards of how both men AND women should respond to physically threatening situations. “Be Smart, Don’t Be A Hero”, etc. At the same time, we have placed an increasing premium on certain forms of emotional courage. Admitting vulnerability. Facing our flaws and imperfections and striving to improve on them.

      On the whole, I think it’s not that we don’t care about the ‘courage’ aspect of toughness than that we have turned it from outward-facing to inward-facing. And that is consonant with most men and women facing fewer and less serious external, physical threats as part of their lives.

      B) Stoicism, the ability to endure physical, mental, and/or emotional hardship and still meet one’s obligations. I think that people have touched on the answer to this one, and it’s a combination of changing cultural values (hardships are no longer seen as part of life you just have to deal with), and baselines. One thing initial recruit training in most military organizations does is provide a calibrated stressful, difficult experience. This serves a LOT of purposes, and one of them is to provide the foundation for a level of resiliency. “I made it through Boot/Basic/etc, I can make it through this”. To some recruits, that experience might be less stressful than their pre-entry lives, but it gives everyone else a basic sense of “this was -hard-, but you made it through”.

      The thing is, military training might give one a sense of perspective compared to the life of a middle-class white suburban teenager, but I am not sure it recalibrates the baseline of a young hispanic man who grew up travelling with his family as migrant seasonal labor nearly so much. And on the whole, economic growth and technological development has rendered high physical stress lifestyles unnecessary and restricted to smaller and smaller segments of the population.

      So while I think that military training might play a role, I think that life is simply EASIER for most people is the bigger reason. And that’s not a bad thing, though if we decide as a culture that we value stoicism it is then incumbent upon us to deliberately foster its development in other ways.

      Finally, the way people react to war is pretty damn complicated. The last I checked there were still arguments over the actual incidence rates of PTSD due to claims that military and popular culture and fear of stigma and persecution have led to massive under-reporting. And we still can’t explain why a certain percentage of people simply don’t seem to GET PTSD, no matter how much and how repeatedly they are traumatized.

      The people who have severe PTSD or TBI-related coping issues are probably not “Tougher” than they were before going to war. Neither (probably) are the ones who fall into that category of being apparently immune to PTSD.

      So beyond that idea of providing a new baseline for what one can take without breaking down, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable making sweeping claims about how war strengthens or “toughens” a generation.

  18. CatCube says:

    Something I’m curious about: is there anybody else that likes listening to the same song over and over? For example, the Disturbed cover of “The Sound of Silence” is sitting at a playcount of 162 in my iTunes, and a significant fraction of that is from single-track repeat.

    The “typical” story I hear is that this is typical of children, but that most adults can’t stand this–normally discussion is of their kids get a song that they’ll play on repeat and drive their parents up the wall. Is this due to the repetition, or the fact that most songs that appeal to kids don’t appeal to adults?

    My enjoyment of doing this is one of the reasons that I don’t have a roommate. I don’t like headphones, and my expectation is that this would drive anybody I’m living with absolutely bonkers.

    • Anonymous says:

      I do the same thing. I try (with moderate success) not to because it ruins songs eventually.

    • Cadie says:

      Rarely… so that’s a qualified yes. If I encounter a song that appeals to me in just the right way – makes me feel creative, I was in a very good mood when I first heard it, I like the sound a lot, etc. – I might enjoy listening to it on repeat for an hour or so. Then it’ll lose its appeal for extended listening but I’ll still like hearing it as part of a playlist.

    • ediguls says:

      I do this, too. Mostly because I lack the will to find new music I actually like (I have developed a taste which is relatively hard to satisfy), but also because some of the pieces are relatively short video game loops that actually loop in such a way that you might not really notice the repetition immediately. Also I use this looping to play other games to.

    • Mr Mind says:

      I sometimes listen to music critics on Youtube, and one of the dimension along which a song is often judged is how well it resists, or increase or decrease in likeability, against repeated listening.
      So I guess this is a general, and important, feature of a song.
      Personally I follow a trend where a song I really like will be listened to dozens of times in the first few days, then it will go quiet for weeks and possibly be resurrected with more runs or completely despised.

    • Jugemu Chousuke says:

      I do this sometimes, especially while working – the same song over and over can be less distracting. But sometimes I just really like the song and it’s easier than finding something else to play, as one of the other commenters mentioned. My most-played song on last.fm has 486 plays.

    • stargirlprincess says:

      I listened to the “Tales of the Abyss” opening theme about 30 times yesterday (maybe 20 in a row). The first time I heard “There is a light that never goes out” I listened to it on repeat for multiple days in a row.

      In general I mostly loop songs instead of listening to playlists/albums. Though I nromally limit the loops to 10-20 repetitions.

      Tales Theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yzTJYM4p-s

      There is a light: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-cD4oLk_D0

    • FacelessCraven says:

      I do this constantly. One thing, though; I’ve discovered that I get tired of the song much faster if I put it on automatic loop than if I manually reset it each time.

    • gbdub says:

      I tend to listen to an album, or a few songs from an album, till I’m sick of it, but not usually just one song.

      Also that Disturbed cover of Sound of Silence is awful, but no accounting for taste 😛

    • switchnode says:

      I do this.

      As a child I had a great deal of tolerance for repetition (of movies, cartoons…) but it quickly disappeared as I got older, except for songs.

      I don’t usually use automatic repeat, but I do play the same song (or in a couple of cases, the same two closely linked songs) over and over. There are usually about half a dozen I will do this with. They rotate in and out from time to time.

  19. Mr Mind says:

    YAPAT alert (yet another post about Trump).

    To be elected as the Republican candidate, Trump had to appeal to the Republican electorate, with strong and polarizing arguments.
    Am I wrong in thinking that to run for presidency he will need to widen his appeal? GOP average voter strikes me as belonging to a somewhat elitary group.
    Do you think that, as far as anyone can be modeled as a rational agent, he will change his campaign and if so, how? Or do you think (that he thinks) he already has a grip on a demographic segment large enough?

    • Johnjohn says:

      I think he’s gonna continue down his current path without restraint.
      Mostly because I don’t actually think he has any real strategy whatsoever. His success has more to do with the zeitgeist than of his own volition (he really couldn’t have done what he’s done now any other election year, technically he’s tried to run for president twice before using pretty much the same tactics, once in 2000 and once in 2012)
      But also because he seems to be banking on Hillary burying herself more than trying to win over people. Which is pretty funny as that’s the exact same tactic Hillary is using.

      • cam out says:

        He used the same tactics in 2000 and 2012? I’m genuinely interested in evidence supporting that claim.

        My model of Trump is that he’s a sharp guy behind a one-way mirror. He doesn’t have any strong political ideology of his own, but is very good at spotting opportunities to put on this or that ideological facade and executing on it both strategically and tactically.

      • “Mostly because I don’t actually think he has any real strategy whatsoever.”

        That was a plausible belief early in the campaign, when it looked as though Trump was doing lots of stupid things that would doom his efforts. But after observing that almost the entire commentariat was wrong about what strategy would succeed and Trump was right, it becomes a lot harder to view him as stupid.

        So my guess is that he will change his approach for the general election, although probably not to something more conventional.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          You are dismissing the possibility that most of what we see is just Trump being Trump, and that it happened to be a winning position for the Republican primaries.

          Frankly, the left has been warning the right about the potential for a rise in a figure like Trump for quite awhile, and so have many figures on the right (Frum and Sullivan for starters). If you look for analyses that talk about how Republicans have entered a “post-policy” phase, you will see what I am talking about.

          • gbdub says:

            On the other hand, I think the right has also been warning about the left “crying wolf” for awhile, or at least enjoying a bit of dark schadenfreude over “The Republican candidate is racist and as bad as Hitler – no, we really mean it this time!”

            Bernie is in a way a reflection of the same issue – basically the useful extremists the central establishment took for granted suddenly asserting that they actually want their preferred policies implemented.

          • “You are dismissing the possibility that most of what we see is just Trump being Trump, and that it happened to be a winning position for the Republican primaries.”

            If many people had predicted in advance that Trump being Trump was likely to get him the nomination, I would be less willing to dismiss it. But when 99% of the population confidently says X is true and one person confidently acts on X being false and turns out to be right, “he was just lucky” is an implausible although not impossible explanation.

          • onyomi says:

            “Post-policy phase…”

            Implying that either party ever had a “policy phase”…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @gbdub:
            The “like Hitler” thing is universal. We have Godwin’s law for a reason. If you think people on the right aren’t comparing people to Hitler …

            Bernie lost. By a hefty margin. And, while he does engage in some magical rainbows and unicorn farts type thinking, he actually had detailed policy positions that he ran on. And he was very consistent on those issues, because the whole reason he entered the race was to try and push those issues. He didn’t go in thinking he was going to win.

            Whereas Trump is basically “White Hot Ball of Inchoate Rage – 2016”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Come off it man. That’s bullshit. Obama had detailed policy positions going into 2009 and he delivered on as many of them as he was able to push through.

            When the Dems were in the majority during the Bush administration, the wheels of government didn’t grind to a halt. Dems didn’t have to regularly pass routine required budget legislation using mostly votes from the minority Republicans.

          • onyomi says:

            “Obama had detailed policy positions going into 2009”

            How many of the people who voted for him knew those details?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            What, exactly, does that have to do with whether the party, through its representatives and others in party positions both official and unofficial, can be classified as “post policy”?

            But the answer is “enough”.

            Obama was actually very clear about the positions he was taking, and the debated them both with opposing candidates and with the media, giving detailed substantive responses.

            And that is what the Democratic Party has continued to expect of its candidates and its elected officials. This is what is normalize by the party and within the party.

            The most passionate, most hard working grass roots members of the party are the ones that do this. They are the ones that do the early work in any campaign (for your average party candidate at any level).

            There is a certain push-me-pull-you aspect to the relationship between representatives and the public that votes for them. To the extent that there are enough voters corralled by the party who don’t care whether the proposed policies are workable, or even actually exist, a party can enter this post policy phase.

          • John Schilling says:

            If many people had predicted in advance that Trump being Trump was likely to get him the nomination, I would be less willing to dismiss it.

            Most people predicted in advance that Trump being Trump would win ~30% of the Republican primary popular vote so long has he was still contending for the nomination; he wound up with IIRC 40% of the popular vote at the point where everyone else dropped out, which I think is within the error bars for the consensus prediction.

            What nobody predicted was the persistently fratricidal behavior of all the other Republican candidates, most notably Kasich, such that their ~60% of the vote was divided two or three ways in a particularly unfavorable electoral landscape. And I count myself among the people who missed the call on that one.

            But I’m not sure that the particularly ability or inability to predict Stupid GOP Mainstream Candidate Behavior is of much significance as we go into an election that doesn’t have any stupid GOP mainstream candidates. It probably should greatly reduce everyone’s prior for “The GOP establishment will act to prevent campaign stupidity”, but is anyone really predicting the GOP establishment as a major player in this campaign?

          • Mary says:

            “The Republican candidate is racist and as bad as Hitler – no, we really mean it this time!”

            Meanwhile, I have seen wise guys posting about Hitlary.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The “Hitlery” moniker is inevitable given the name. (c.f. “Chairman Pao” from former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao).

          • Lumifer says:

            So the American people get to pick between Hitlary and but-this-time-he’s-actually-Hitler. Awesome.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Well, you guys could always vote for Gary Johnson.

          • Zombielicious says:

            Or, you know, choose between two marginally-worse-than-usual candidates who will nonetheless be empowered because neither side is remotely incentivized to concede that their opponents are anything less than Literally Hitler.

          • Lumifer says:

            I prefer the Giant Meteor myself.

          • Anonanon says:

            Yes, Gary “taxes are slavery but we’ll arrest you if you don’t bake a cake on demand” Johnson. Definitely a prime candidate for president.

          • Skivverus says:

            In a sense it’s as if we have a dollar auction here, only instead of the top two bidders paying, it’s everyone.

        • Johnjohn says:

          Whether Trump is stupid or not is not that important. I heard a couple of interviews before this election where people have described their interactions with Trump and the picture they painted fits perfectly into the narrative that Trump is just being as Trump as Trump can be.

          I mean, look at his twitter feed from several years ago. Is it really all that different?

    • Anonymous says:

      The outside view is that candidates move to the fringe to win primaries and move to the center to win generals. Party machinery is often focused on trying to get candidates through the primary who can be center enough in the general. This year, the Democrats did that, and the Republicans didn’t. Judging solely by that, you would think that Hilldawg has a sizeable advantage. As an underdog, Trump’s rational behavior may be to pursue high-variance strategies. Right now, his current strategy kind of looks like this. Rather than run to the center and fight a traditional battle, he’s going hard at the split within the Democrats and trying to connect with Bernie’s supporters. This is likely very high variance (if it fails and he doesn’t have any other strategy and doesn’t otherwise get lucky, he’s going to lose badly).

      • Vaniver says:

        Trump is now leading in polls, on average. I’m not sure it makes sense to call him the underdog.

      • gbdub says:

        Part of the problem is that the “extremist’s” supporters are expected to fall dutifully into line behind the center-friendly candidate, perhaps with the sop of a VP slot or a cabinet post, and this go ’round the Bernistas aren’t having it. Partly because of the same anti-establishment anger that got Trump nominated, partly because Hillary has unusually high negatives for someone essentially centrist policy wise. And now real or perceived DNC shenanigans.

        We’re in the unique position of having two uniquely bad candidates. A boring white guy centrist Democrat would beat Trump handily, and a boring white guy centrist Republican would probably beat Hillary handily. Yet one of those two is going to win.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Yup.

          Makes you miss McCain don’t it 😉

          • Gbdub says:

            McCain I was eh on, but I actually think Romney was one of the better candidates anyone has run since at least Bill Clinton and would have made a very competent president.

            But yeah I’d gladly take McCain or Kerry over either of these two (or three, counting Bernie).

        • cam out says:

          That doesn’t seem right to me. Republican voters are sick of boring white guy centrists, because to them, boring white guy centrist is just another term for insidious RINO traitor who sells out his country’s hardworking citizens to big donors and international lobbies.

          Imagine if Trump had never come along and somebody like Kasich had won the nomination. Do you think he’d beat Hillary? I think he’d lose because Republican voters would be so uninspired and jaded they’d just stay home on election day. (See Mitt Romney’s presidential bid. Or McCain’s for that matter!)

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Do you think he’d beat Hillary?

            Quite likely, because US voting is weird. Red states are going to stay red because even if the white moderate centrists are unpalatable to the avg. republican voter, Hitlary is intolerable.

            Then, all he has to do is campaign on his administrative experience and moderateness, and he steals a whole bunch of swing states.

            Hell, Romney could’ve probably beaten Hillary too, it’s a pity (for republicans) that he got sacced against Obama.

          • John Schilling says:

            Do you think he [Kasich] would beat Hillary? I think he’d lose because Republican voters would be so uninspired and jaded they’d just stay home on election day.

            Instead of idly pondering, you could try asking the Republican voters.

            Which was done, extensively, back when Kasich vs. Clinton was still a realistic possibility. Turns out that more Republican voters expressed a willingness to vote for Kasich over Clinton, than were willing to vote for Trump over Clinton.

            Because, as has been pointed out already, it is OK if voters are jaded and it doesn’t matter whether they are inspired. The only thing that matters for getting Republican voters to vote for the Republican Nominee is:

            I – Do they hate or fear the Democratic nominee, and

            II – Do they hate or fear the Republican nominee more?

            Part I is always a big “yes”, and it is an extra-specially big “yes” for Hillary Clinton.

            Part II is almost always a “no”; nobody in the GOP may be inspired by Kasich but nobody really hates him either. Certainly they don’t hate or fear him as much as they do Hillary Clinton.

            But some of them do hate and/or fear Trump at least as much as they do Clinton.

          • cam out says:

            @John Schilling:

            According to your model, Romney should have beaten Obama in 2012. But he didn’t, because the GOP electorate stayed home on election day–even though they couldn’t stand Obama. The GOP can’t count on fear/hatred of the Democrat.

    • Aegeus says:

      Am I wrong in thinking that to run for presidency he will need to widen his appeal? GOP average voter strikes me as belonging to a somewhat elitary group.

      Last I read, Trump will need to win at least 63% of the white male demographic in order to balance out his current losses among women and minorities. That’s a tall order, and the conventional wisdom is that it would be easier to widen his appeal than to try and squeeze his base even further.

      There’s been several moments where people have said “This is it, he’s pivoting to center,” only for him to go crazy again, so I don’t think he’ll permanently center himself. I think he thinks he has enough to win. That said, he’s also said that he can compete in New York and California, so I don’t think he’s correct to think that.

      • ” I think he thinks he has enough to win. That said, he’s also said that he can compete in New York and California, so I don’t think he’s correct to think that.”

        I don’t think what Trump says is very good evidence of what he thinks.

  20. Zombielicious says:

    So I’m wondering what the strongest argument that can be made against EA veganism is. Assume “veganism” here includes utilitarian mostly-vegan-flexitarianism, not necessarily puritanical religious commitment.

    This seems to require at least two justifications: why the economic and environmental impact of animal agriculture isn’t significant, and why animal suffering isn’t significant. People talk a lot about non-human animals lacking an “inner listener,” but what specific brain structures or functions do e.g. a pig or a dolphin lack to make them so confident about this? The “other causes are more important” and “I really enjoy meat” cases seem to fail too, since not eating meat (+ dairy etc) doesn’t generally detract from commitment to solving other problems, dietary preferences are malleable, and people optimize their diets for other constraints than pure hedonistic pleasure all the time.

    Given the number killed globally each year (~56 billion farmed, ~100 million tons fish), plus the economic and environmental impact of animal farming, it’d seem like you need really, really high confidence in a long series of questionable assumptions to consistently justify it.

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      So I’m wondering what the strongest argument that can be made against EA veganism is.

      Just so we’re clear, what you want is an EA based argument against focusing on veganism/animal suffering, rather than just a general argument against it, right?

      • Zombielicious says:

        Yes. Why do people think EA vegans/AR people are wasting their time – not stuff like “veganism is a creepy religion I wouldn’t want to be associated with.”

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          Well, the biggest problem comes from our inability to measure animal utility (well, any utility, really, but particularly animal since they can’t tell us anything). The assumption is that farm animals have negative utility lives, but we really can’t know for sure. If there’s a state of farm life existence that is better than living in the wild (which is not a pretty high bar, the whole hunger and predators thing is not super fun), then the whole world going vegan doesn’t make a lot of sense.

          • Zombielicious says:

            Ok, but the choice isn’t really between “exist in the wild” vs “live on a farm,” it’s whether existence on a (factory-)farm is preferable to not existing at all. And since we’re talking about bringing animals into existence in the first place, not killing them once they already exist, it also assumes to be born is better than not to be born. So is it fair to state the argument then as “existence > non-existence, so factory farm animals are lucky to have been born at all”?

            This still doesn’t address the economic or environmental aspect, e.g. resource expenditure for meat that could be used for other causes, or contributions to climate change, anti-biotic resistance, etc.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Ok, but the choice isn’t really between “exist in the wild” vs “live on a farm,” it’s whether existence on a (factory-)farm is preferable to not existing at all.

            Initially, but when you’re done preventing the existence of every farm animal there is, do you then go on to delete wildlife?

            it also assumes to be born is better than not to be born.

            You’re the one that wanted an EA focused argument, if you’re not going to buy into utilitarian premises, what’s the point? As long as an existence is net-positive in utility, it’s better for it to happen than not, at least according to Bentham & pals. And that’s what I’d say is the issue with the EA argument, it hinges on an assumption that is really hard to prove either way.

            This still doesn’t address the economic or environmental aspect, e.g. resource expenditure for meat that could be used for other causes.

            This applies to literally everything.

            or contributions to climate change

            It’s significantly less than fossil fuels, plus here you have an issue: chicken production is really sustainable and produces very little emissions when compared to beef, but the latter is far less “bad” from an “ethics” persepctive.
            Besides, Global Warming is not a big thing among EAs, for whatever reason.

            anti-biotic resistance, etc.

            Fair, I guess.

          • “This still doesn’t address the economic or environmental aspect, e.g. resource expenditure for meat that could be used for other causes, or contributions to climate change, anti-biotic resistance, etc.”

            The expenditure for meat shows up in the cost of meat. If consumers are willing to pay that cost, that’s evidence that the benefit to them, as they see it, is greater than the cost, which they are paying.

            I don’t know how good the argument for a link between meat eating and warming is, and am generally distrustful of popular discussion in that area, since much of it is of very low quality. But my view is that the claim that warming will obviously make us much worse off has little scientific support, despite its popularity–very much like the similar view on population growth fifty years ago.

            So you are left with the question of whether it is better for a cow to exist to be eaten or never to exist at all.

          • Keranih says:

            contributions to antibiotic resistance

            The most startling and concerning rises in AMR have been in humans, for pathogens that are human-only or close to it, and against drugs that are generally restricted to human use.

            Think TB, goneria, MRSA, etc. This is not a problem of use in animals. At best the livestock component is a minor factor, at worst it is blame shifting that distracts from a better examination of the problem.

            Having said that, it is one globe and one biome with microbes swapping spit faster than we can find new drugs. Regulation of drug use in livestock and pets will be a part -abet a small one – of extending the era of antibiotic utility as long as we can.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Ok, but the choice isn’t really between “exist in the wild” vs “live on a farm,” it’s whether existence on a (factory-)farm is preferable to not existing at all.

            I don’t think this matters at all, in fact. Imagine we discover a farming operation in remote China where human children with congenital intellectual disabilities are raised for mass slaughter (for food, for organs, for stem cells– whichever). We would never ask whether these children would have been better off not existing, or whether their lives generate positive utility on net. The question just doesn’t come up: we would reflexively consider the farm a crime against humanity and demand that it be shut down immediately. Now, maybe this is an oversight in our ordinary way of thinking about such things, and maybe an utterly sincere utilitarian wouldn’t object to treating profoundly intellectually disabled humans like livestock. But until the apparent inconsistency can be ironed out, it’s disingenuous to make this the centerpiece of the case for meat-eating.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ keranih

            At best the livestock component is a minor factor,

            I doubt you have evidence that could support this claim. Tell me if you dispute any of the following:

            1. A majority of antibiotics used in this country are used on livestock.

            2. Only a small portion of antibiotic use on livestock has any medical rationale– antibiotics are used principally to promote the growth of the animals, i.e. the agriculturalist’s profit margin. Where there is medical need for antibiotic use, this is usually because the livestock are crammed together into unsanitary conditions.

            3. On top of pathogens with animal reservoirs like salmonella, resistance genes in livestock pathogens and commensalists may be laterally transferred to pathogens that afflict humans. We have no idea how often this occurs, only that it does.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Earthly Knight

            All your points are fully compatible with the claim that “the livestock component is a minor factor” in human pathogen antibiotic resistance. You need stronger points to make it not so.

            The West has been feeding its livestock antibiotics for quite a while by now and I haven’t heard of any smoking guns related to this. While future is uncertain, of course, keranih is talking in present tense.

            P.S. Oh, and [crazy idea] did anyone link the obesity epidemic with widespread antibiotic use in humans? Since that’s how it works in cattle, evidently… [/crazy idea]

          • Earthly Knight says:

            All your points are fully compatible with the claim that “the livestock component is a minor factor” in human pathogen antibiotic resistance.

            It’s a good thing that this wasn’t the claim I made, then. The claim I made is that we have no particular reason to think that antibiotic use on livestock plays a trivial role in antibiotic resistance among human pathogens. And, indeed, we do not.

          • Keranih says:

            antibiotics increase obesity because they do in animals

            Except they don’t.

            Chemicals have been known to alter metabolism in both humans and animals. However, the metabolism of avians, hindsight fermenter (rabbits) and ruminants are all pretty different from simple stomach critters like people and pigs. The ‘antibiotic’ given to cattle is ionophores, which controls coccidia (minor use) and shifts the metabolism to promoting increased muscle mass (major use) so that in the same amount of time and about the same amount of feed, the cow critter gains more muscle. Not fat. Some fat finish is desirable but that is almost entirely manipulated by genetics. Excess fat is waste.

            In pigs, the chemical used for the same effect is a beta blocker.

            In all modern conventional agriculture the emphasis is getting young animals to max muscle mass with appropriate fat coverage with as little feed as possible. These are not fat animals – those are over fed old animals, for which the market decreases the sale price.

            Antibiotics impact growth by reducing illness in the animals so they are not ill and stunted. Antibiotics are used more in confinement systems than in non confinement not because nonconfined animals do not need them, but because there are more efficient ways of improving gain in extensive animals – feeding them better, reducing environmental stress from heat, etc, reducing parasites etc. Once those things are done antibiotics might be of use.

            So, no, antibiotics don’t make animals fat, no more than dewormers make children fat.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Earthly Knight

            I think you’re engaging in what on LW used to be called privileging the hypothesis.

            It is indeed true that we cannot with full confidence assert that “antibiotic use on livestock plays a trivial role in antibiotic resistance among human pathogens”. However the number of things that we cannot assert with full confidence is rather huge. Since you are suggesting we should be worried about it, it falls on you to show reasons why should we be worried. If it’s just a general “but we can’t be sure”, I can find many more interesting things to worry about on the same basis.

          • Keranih says:

            @Earthly Knight –

            I invite you to again consider the specific pathogens for which we have concern regarding antibiotic resistance. Cross-species concerns such as salmonella are the exception not the rule – the common factor is humans not livestock or other animals.

            The second factor is the pattern of incidence – these resistances arise in connection with human antibiotic use – the poor, non compliant patients and large antibiotic use. We have not found sustainable evidence of increased resistance patterns in farm workers farmers or veterinarians. If livestock use was so large a factor, we would see them there and inner city goneria would not be battling Hatian TB as the most significant resistant pathogen.

            Finally, unless one accounts for the mass of the livestock which has been administered the drugs in question, direct comparisons are difficult to make accurately. And one must also be careful to not put ionophores in with drugs of actual significance when counting “antibiotics used in livestock.”

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Lumifer

            If it’s just a general “but we can’t be sure”, I can find many more interesting things to worry about on the same basis.

            This obviously isn’t going to work. It’s true that, for all we know, needless overuse of antibiotics in livestock may play a small role in the antibiotic-resistance crisis. But it also true that, for all we know, needless overuse of antibiotics in humans may play a small role in the antibiotic-resistance crisis. More generally, it makes no sense to endorse the rule “ignore potential causes of a problem if there are large uncertainty intervals surrounding our estimate of the contribution made by those causes”, because this ensures that when all potential causes of a problem are attended by large uncertainty intervals we end up doing nothing.

            @ keranih

            If livestock use was so large a factor, we would see them there.

            Why think that? Antibiotic-resistant livestock gut flora might more readily enter the human biome through agricultural runoff or meat consumption instead. Pathogens might also acquire resistances to most classes of drugs through agriculture, but only cause outbreaks once they evolve a final immunity to carbapenems in hospitals.

            And one must also be careful to not put ionophores in with drugs of actual significance when counting “antibiotics used in livestock.”

            Turns out overuse of ionosphores also causes bacitracin resistance.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Earthly Knight

            More generally, it makes no sense to endorse the rule “ignore potential causes of a problem if there are large uncertainty intervals surrounding our estimate of the contribution made by those causes”, because this entails that when all potential causes of the problem are attended by large uncertainty intervals we end up doing nothing.

            I think it makes perfect sense when you’re resource-limited and there are a lot of other problems around, with causes not surrounded by large uncertainty intervals.

            And in general, if you have no idea about the causes, doing nothing (excluding research) is often the best path.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            We are not really resource-limited. Banning non-medical uses of antibiotics in livestock might have minor economic consequences, but all things considered it would be much more effective and less costly than additional efforts to reduce antibiotic use in humans. And, on an individual level, it costs you you almost nothing to not eat meat.

          • The Nybbler says:

            all things considered it would be much more effective and less costly than additional efforts to reduce antibiotic use in humans

            How do you know, considering there is great uncertainty and much available evidence points away from farm antibiotic use being significant in antibiotic resistance of human pathogens?

            And, on an individual level, it costs you you almost nothing to not eat meat.

            Speak for yourself; it would cost me a great deal. Meats are a staple of my diet and there’s no palatable substitute.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Earthly Knight

            I’m afraid I’m not going to take your word for it, especially concerning costs to me. After all, it would cost you “almost nothing” to start eating meat and not waste your time on this subject : -P

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ The Nybbler

            much available evidence points away from farm antibiotic use

            Please cite.

            Here is a bill currently before congress that would significantly curtail unnecessary use of antibiotics in meat production. Even if livestock use ultimately proves to play a small role in producing antibiotic-resistant human pathogens, the costs are small enough that the bill is still almost certainly a good idea.

            Speak for yourself; it would cost me a great deal. Meats are a staple of my diet and there’s no palatable substitute.

            Me too, once upon a time. I used to eat large servings of meat with every meal. It’s really not a big deal cutting it out of your diet. Going vegan might be substantially harder, I don’t know, I still eat cheese.

          • Wrong Species says:

            We have a problem trying to measure human utility but that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything. Wouldn’t it be worse to assume that animals don’t suffer and still cause them pain instead of assuming animals do suffer and stop eating meat?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Lumifer

            I’m afraid I’m not going to take your word for it, especially concerning costs to me. After all, it would cost you “almost nothing” to start eating meat and not waste your time on this subject

            You claimed, as a rather lame last-ditch effort to avoid accepting the conclusion that we ought not to use antibiotics on animals except where medically necessary, that we should not worry about it because our resources are limited. But it is false that your resources are so limited that you cannot help but eat meat, and false that our society’s resources are so limited that restricting antibiotic use would cause any kind of significant hardships. I don’t need you to take my word for anything, only to apply standard decision-theoretical reasoning to your own values.

          • Zombielicious says:

            @Whatever Happened to Anonymous:

            I don’t see much of a case that factory farm life = life in the wild – for one thing, farm animals are domesticated while wild animals are not. It seems pretty reasonable that animals can be reasonably content in their evolved habitats while net-negative utility due to massive suffering in factory farms.

            As long as an existence is net-positive in utility, it’s better for it to happen than not

            Not necessarily wrong, but this argument would also seem to dictate veganism is specifically unethical (since it’s reducing the number of farm animals), and that (ceteris parabus) Down syndrome babies shouldn’t be aborted, or that there’s nothing wrong with throwing a newborn into a dumpster.

            This applies to literally everything.

            I’m not sure how this justifies it, since not wasting resources that could be better spent on more effective goals is kind of the point of EA, afaik.

            @David Friedman:

            The expenditure for meat shows up in the cost of meat. If consumers are willing to pay that cost, that’s evidence that the benefit to them, as they see it, is greater than the cost, which they are paying.

            Meat is actually subsidized (see wikipedia) through corn and soybean subsidies, among possible others, so the full price isn’t necessarily reflected in the cost.

            There are also the negative externalities from it – the main one being contributions to climate change, which I’m aware you don’t buy into, but also others I’ve never seen quantified like higher demand (and hence cost) for resources used in animal agriculture, including the large amount of land used for agriculture vs other purposes.

          • Jiro says:

            More generally, it makes no sense to endorse the rule “ignore potential causes of a problem if there are large uncertainty intervals surrounding our estimate of the contribution made by those causes”

            You can endorse a narrower rule: “Ignore potential causes of a problem if the emphasis being placed on those causes amounts to an isolated demand for rigor when compared to other potential causes of similar contribution and uncertainty”.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            We take antibiotic overuse in humans pretty seriously– the FDA, the CDC, and the medical guilds have been fighting for decades to clamp down on it. On a personal level, you could go to the doctor whenever you get the sniffles, tell her that you’ve been sick for at least eight days, and be rewarded with amoxycillin every time. It would probably be in your best interests to do so, on the off chance that you have strep or would later contract an ear infection. So this is not an “isolated demand for rigor” so much as a demand that we hold the agriculture industry to the same standard we already hold medical providers, and abide by the same moral norms when it comes to our food choices that we already follow when seeking health care.

            (I should mention that some restaurants, notably Chipotle, already serve only antibiotic-free meat)

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            I used to eat large servings of meat with every meal. It’s really not a big deal cutting it out of your diet.

            And it’s also really not a big deal for you to put it back into your diet. So who wins?

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Earthly Knight

            as a rather lame last-ditch effort to avoid accepting the conclusion

            Sigh. And here I thought we were having a polite conversation.

            The reason why I’m not accepting your conclusion is because I don’t share your values. You start with the conclusion and then marshal some arguments as soldiers to go browbeat me into submission. That, um, doesn’t work well with me.

            I eat meat because I like it. I will continue to do so because I don’t see anything wrong with it.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Earthly Knight

            you could go to the doctor whenever you get the sniffles, tell her that you’ve been sick for at least eight days, and be rewarded with amoxycillin every time. It would probably be in your best interests to do so

            Oh, not in your best interest at all. Antibiotics are wide-spectrum drugs which means that after that amoxycillin your microbiota is screwed up (notably including your gut flora and fauna) which opens you up to a variety of ailments. Human bodies are symbiotic with bacteria — there are more bacterial cells than human cells in a standard human — and periodic nuking isn’t doing that symbiosis any good.

          • Zombielicious says:

            @Lumifer:

            I eat meat because I like it. I will continue to do so because I don’t see anything wrong with it.

            You think there’s nothing wrong with it, or you think it’s wrong but you just don’t care about non-human species because your values are different? The first one seems like it requires some actual argument to back it up, which isn’t necessary if you just don’t care.

            Also people keep going on about the antibiotic stuff, but no one has really addressed the contribution to climate change except for David Friedman, who disagrees with the scientific consensus, and Whatever who just said it’s less than fossil fuels (I’m not sure that’s actually true – at the very least it’s one of the largest contributors), and that EAs don’t typically care for whatever reason. Does the anti-vegan EA position typically depend on rejecting typical climate change research?

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Zombielicious

            You think there’s nothing wrong with it, or you think it’s wrong but you just don’t care about non-human species because your values are different?

            Both cases are the result of my values being different. I am not sure what do you mean by the second case: on which basis would I think it’s wrong if I, in fact, do not care about non-humans?

            Actually, I simply think there’s nothing wrong with eating meat. Of course that’s a consequence of the values I hold.

            no one has really addressed the contribution to climate change except for David Friedman, who disagrees with the scientific consensus

            FWIW I also disagree with the scientific consensus.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I don’t see much of a case that factory farm life = life in the wild

            Of course not, wild life is probably worse.

            It seems pretty reasonable that animals can be reasonably content in their evolved habitats while net-negative utility due to massive suffering in factory farms.

            And it seems reasonable that animals that were selectively bred for farming for hundreds of years are content with their living conditions in farms, evolution is a slow, dumb process, after all.
            But unless we get some evidence going, we’re both just making up just so stories. And the problem is that evidence in this case is extremely hard to produce.

            Not necessarily wrong, but this argument would also seem to dictate veganism is specifically unethical (since it’s reducing the number of farm animals), and that (ceteris parabus) Down syndrome babies shouldn’t be aborted, or that there’s nothing wrong with throwing a newborn into a dumpster.

            Again, utilitarianism… if you don’t like it, then we can’t stop arguing from an EA perspective and I can just tell you that I sincerely don’t really give a damn, but that’s not what you seem to have started the thread for.

            I’m not sure how this justifies it, since not wasting resources that could be better spent on more effective goals is kind of the point of EA, afaik.

            Now you’re just picking whatever EA arguments you like! Seriously, though, the optimization in EA is about their charity money, not just vague “resources”, since they really don’t have control over them. Inasmuch producing meat is “wasting” resources, there are far bigger sources of waste, which according to this logic should have precedence: Forget about factory farming, we should try to bring down Hollywood!

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ ThirteenthLetter

            And it’s also really not a big deal for you to put it back into your diet. So who wins?

            Whichever diet has less negative consequences, presumably. And, given the potential of meat to contribute to antibiotic resistance, along with the other considerations Zombielicious has adduced, vegetarianism seems to come out a clear winner.

            @ Lumifer

            The reason why I’m not accepting your conclusion is because I don’t share your values.

            Really? You don’t value combating the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria? I suppose it’s true that if you’re a generally amoral person you won’t see this as a reason not to eat meat, but for anyone who places value on the lives and well-being of others…

            Antibiotics are wide-spectrum drugs which means that after that amoxycillin your microbiota is screwed up (notably including your gut flora and fauna) which opens you up to a variety of ailments.

            Any sore throat you have has about a 10% chance of being strep, along with a smaller chance of being some other bacterial infection. I doubt that the negative repercussions of a short run of antibiotics are more common or more serious.

          • “David Friedman, who disagrees with the scientific consensus”

            What is the “scientific consensus” with regard to the net human cost of warming? The latest IPCC report had a graph showing estimates of the net cost of various levels of warming. For warming of three degrees C, above the supposed two degree limit, the estimated costs, measured by the equivalent reduction in income, were from zero to three percent. Spread out over most of a century that’s tiny. One of my favorite IPCC quotes was the one that costs of SLR for island nations and low lying coastal areas could be as much as several percentage points of GNP.

            William Nordhaus, possible source for the two degree limit and prominent economist concerned with warming, had a piece of a few years ago estimating how much worse off we would be if did nothing for fifty years instead of taking the optimal policies immediately. By my calculations, it came to an annual loss of about one twentieth of one percent of world GNP. But that wasn’t how he described it.

            That AGW is real is current consensus and probably true. That its net effect will be negative is probably the view of most who have looked into the subject, although I have my doubts. But the idea that it will be very bad is almost all rhetorical puffery.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @Earthly Knight

            Whichever diet has less negative consequences, presumably.

            If you want the least amount of negative consequences, you shouldn’t eat anything. Soon you’ll be having no harmful effects on Mother Earth, ever. And think of the fast weight loss you’ll soon be experiencing! If that’s too much, then just eat meal squares and vitamin pills. Should get you by just fine.

            Wait, what’s that? You value your own life and you want to eat food that tastes good? Then I guess we’re not judging by “whichever diet has less negative consequences” after all; we’re just arguing about our own preferences, and claiming that science proves Kirk is better than Picard mint chocolate chip is the best ice cream flavor veganism is better than being an omnivore.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Uh, my dying of starvation counts as a negative consequence. Is there any reason to think that meal squares contribute less to antibiotic resistance or global warming or whatever than a standard vegetarian diet?

          • Anonanon says:

            I have little to add, except that this thread has been very interesting.

            Have any vegan/anti-meat activists ever laid awake at night hearing the shrieks of rabbits and little field rodents being torn apart or eaten alive by nocturnal predators?

            Have they ever seen a starving baby deer so weak and helpless that it can’t stop carrion birds tearing out its eyes? A pregnant doe so roundworm-ridden she died from infected intestinal ruptures?

            Have they ever watched an Alaskan bear rip an entire family of ground squirrels out of their burrows and crush them with one swipe of its paw?

            Nature’s a bitch, and humanity is a kind master, no matter what story books city people like to believe.

          • Zombielicious says:

            @Whatever Happened to Anonymous:

            Of course not, wild life is probably worse.

            And it seems reasonable that animals that were selectively bred for farming for hundreds of years are content with their living conditions in farms, evolution is a slow, dumb process, after all.

            This is at least, I guess, a consistent argument, but it seems a really weak one. Selection doesn’t work fast enough to select for any combination of traits, regardless of what major changes to whatever large gene systems they may require, over only a few decades or centuries, especially since the structure of farms has changed rapidly over the past century. Domesticated animals have typically been selected for traits beneficial to humans, like size and growth rate, not for their ability to experience happiness under any conditions. And while nature no doubt inflicts unfathomable amounts of cruelty on organisms in the biosphere, not every moment of life for every wild animal is spent in poor and painful conditions.

            As one piece of actual evidence, if animals in factory farms were actually experiencing higher quality life than wild animals, they probably wouldn’t show behavioral signs of stress disorders that wild animals don’t.

            I’d gladly look for ways to improve the quality of life for morally relevant organisms in the biosphere, but that seems basically impossible with current technology, compared to the relative ease of switching to a mostly vegan diet.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ Earthly Knight

            I suppose it’s true that if you’re a generally amoral person you won’t see this as a reason not to eat meat, but for anyone who places value on the lives and well-being of others…

            Ah, there we go, why didn’t you start there? it would have saved much unnecessary verbiage. So I’m a generally amoral person who does not place value on the lives and well-being of others. All we’re missing is the promise that when the revolution comes I’ll be one of the first up against the wall.

            I don’t recommend you interact with me too closely, you might catch the cooties of amorality or absorb a bit of the stench of sin.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Nature’s a bitch, and humanity is a kind master, no matter what story books city people like to believe.

            Nature is pretty unbearably cruel to our conspecifics, too. Does this go any way towards excusing us from treating other humans decently?

          • Nadja says:

            if animals in factory farms were actually experiencing higher quality life than wild animals, they probably wouldn’t show behavioral signs of stress disorders that wild animals don’t.

            .

            Stress disorders in humans are considered to be linked to our modern way of life, and to be much more of a problem now than they were in hunter gatherer societies. That doesn’t mean our quality of life today is worse than the quality of life of hunter gatherers. The nature of stressors is different and we (as well as farmed animals) might be biologically less adapted to dealing with chronic low level stress, but that doesn’t mean we’re worse off overall.

    • Johnjohn says:

      “since not eating meat (+ dairy etc) doesn’t generally detract from commitment to solving other problems”

      This is not true. Changing your diet is a major lifestyle change that can take up a lot of time and effort.

      “and people optimize their diets for other constraints than pure hedonistic pleasure all the time.”

      And this is even less true. The vast majority of people do not adjust their diets at all, even though they want to be thinner. And of those that do try to change their diet, a minority accomplishes their goal.

      Technically not an argument against, I guess, but an argument for why some people would do more good focusing their attention elsewhere

      • Zombielicious says:

        This is not true. Changing your diet is a major lifestyle change that can take up a lot of time and effort.

        I meant after the initial switch. Convenience vs the difficulty of the initial transition is an issue, but is the inconvenience of developing a new dietary habit really the end-all argument against EA veganism? This is on par with cutting processed sugars from your diet. If someone could make it really easy and convenient, would all the anti-EA-vegan people switch? Does it outweigh the other problems mentioned above? You can add in arguments to try and reduce the effect of those problems to where convenience > veganism, but then you run into the “high confidence in long series of questionable assumptions” conjunction fallacy issues.

        The vast majority of people do not adjust their diets at all, even though they want to be thinner.

        But lots of people are optimizing for something like that at some point – no sugar, no alcohol, low fat, low carb, keto, lose weight, save money, more vegetables, sheer availability and convenience, etc. If you’re willing to give up fine dining for reasons like that, it makes it hard to argue that the taste of particular foods is of such great pleasure to you that it outweighs your EA concerns.

        • Johnjohn says:

          I only took issue with those two statements I quoted and I’m not making a strong anti-vegan case, I have no issue with not serving meat at EA events and EA pushing for veganism, though personally I am not a vegan for the reasons stated above.

          “If someone could make it really easy and convenient, would all the anti-EA-vegan people switch?”

          I personally would switch if it took no effort.

          “But lots of people are optimizing for something like that at some point – no sugar, no alcohol, low fat, low carb, keto, lose weight, save money, more vegetables, sheer availability and convenience, etc.”

          I really wouldn’t lump save money, availability and convenience in with the rest. That’s situations where people would have to continue with their diets despite of something and not because of something.

          Regarding the rest, lots of people (but still a minority I would bet) try lifestyle changes like that, of that minority how many are successful? Take a look at studies showing how good(bad) people are at following diets, most people commit to something for a couple of months and then revert back to their old lifestyle

          • Zombielicious says:

            There was a comment a few OTs back along the lines of “EA vegans suck at math,” implying EA veganism was wrong, which is why I’m asking the question – how strong and consistent are the arguments for that kind of anti-vegan position. I don’t really expect people to go vegan and am not specifically trying to convince them for that reason.

            If the best argument ends up being that EA veganism is a good idea, but doing it is too difficult for most people to justify, that’s one thing – but that also seems like admitting that EA vegans are right, and they’re only ignoring it for a sort of “comparative advantage” on other issues.

    • Lumifer says:

      You need to assume certain values (like animal suffering) which do not naturally fall out of EA.

      The core feature of EA is that it optimizes. What it optimizes for is a function of values and it so happened that EA absorbed some vegan values, thus making it concerned about veganism. But EA could have perfectly well been founded by committed carnivores and focused purely on human lives.

      Basically it’s a historical accident that EA has a strong connection with veganism.

      • Zombielicious says:

        It seems like this is reducing “EA” to simply “rationality,” if EA is claiming to be simply an optimization process that is value-agnostic. If it’s truly value-agnostic, then either literally anything can be EA (“make Zombielicious filthy rich, torture his enemies, and worship him as a God” as a terminal value) or it’s just a code word for “the values this particular group cares about.” Neither of these are necessarily altruistic or effective.

        It seems way more likely that there can be legitimate disagreement, but there has to be some common ground if terms like “altruism” and “effective” are to have any meaning, and most people’s ethics would include something along the lines of “suffering is bad.” You can, I guess, exclude entire groups and say your values only involve preventing suffering outside of those groups, but then what justifies ignoring animal suffering and not the suffering of other groups of people, e.g. different races, religions, foreigners, non-family members, etc?

        • Lumifer says:

          EA is not value-agnostic because of that “A”. So it’s not quite true that everything can be made to fit.

          Altruism is also not the whole ethics, but a fairly specific part.

          As to what can I exclude, I have a nice bright line called “species”. I care about suffering by my own species much MUCH more than I care about suffering by the multitude of other species. I think I’m very unremarkable in this aspect.

    • Keranih says:

      I think to find “the best argument against EA veganism” one should ask an EA vegan which counter arguments they find most persuasive. Ask me, f’zample, won’t do much good.

      I find EAV to be NON persuasive because:

      1) It is rooted in non-analytical personal emotional aesthetics, in contrast to the utility function of most of the rest of EA.

      2) It depends on inaccurate information – for example the claim that “factory farmed” animals are “in misery their entire lives”, and in imprecise and aesthetic-driven definitions of such basic principles as “what is a factory farm”.

      3) It rests on math of exceptionally poor quality – starting with the exceptionally badly done UN report “Livestock’s Long Shadow” and pressing on through the rest of the calculations of “lives lost per calorie” of vegetable vs meat production.

      4) It fails to keep a consistent measure of “animal” when talking of utilities, suffering, and moral responsibility. To highlight this – is a rat a being that suffers? What is the moral responsibility wrt rodent abatement?

      5) EAV is a cultural/tribal value of a specific group of people. I am of the tribe of people who live their lives with livestock. I reject the degradation and demonization of my people’s way of life and insist on being able to keep to my cultural heritage. I hold that the Venn overlap between the sort of people who get worked up over “Western colonialism trampling traditional values” and who would insist that I not be permitted to eat meat – me, and all the Chinese duck farmers, and Argentinean ranchers, and all the rest of the world – to be an irony too rich for words.

      And there are other reasons still.

      But as I said, it is not me who needs to find these arguments persuasive.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        3) It rests on math of exceptionally poor quality – starting with the exceptionally badly done UN report “Livestock’s Long Shadow” and pressing on through the rest of the calculations of “lives lost per calorie” of vegetable vs meat production.

        Actually, almost no math is required, because the number of lives lost per calorie in meat production dominates the number of lives lost per calorie in raising crops. Whatever animals are killed as a byproduct of agriculture also must be killed in raising livestock, because the livestock take in more plant nutrients than they generate in meat. The only exception will be animals which are pastured year-round, which are exceedingly rare in temperate climes.

        • Keranih says:

          Not quite true.

          First, livestock are fed more efficiently than humans, and with less waste. The humans eat the Orange juice, the dairy cow gets the rest. Cows eat the whole corn plant, not just the corn kernels.

          Secondly, animal feed is more tolerant of pests and spoilage.

          Thirdly, animal feed can more easily be grown on low or no till systems, while veggies require intensive seeded prep and cultivation/weeding.

          It is true as you say that pasture-based systems are best at avoiding ground disruption, but they as a practical matter require some hay cutting, seasonal food hours, weather related losses, and more non wilderness land.

          My best pref would be to increase grass farming and reduce confinement feeding, but the right balance would be difficult to identify without trial and error.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            If we care about animal welfare, there is not really any balancing act to perform. Eating animal products that don’t come from livestock pastured year-round is always wrong, except where needed to preserve human life and health.

          • Zombielicious says:

            Adding to what Earthly Knight replied, the fact that the majority of soybeans and corn (47% and 60%, respectively) produced in the U.S. go to animal feed seems to show that animals aren’t even coming close to being fed on human waste byproducts.

            Not necessarily relevant to the EA argument, but grass-fed livestock is also vastly less efficient, in terms of land use and deforestation, than factory farming. It’s more ethical wrt the animals, but again has a much higher economic and environmental cost. Iirc, the U.S. wouldn’t even be able to sustain meat consumption at current levels if all livestock were range-fed.

          • Jiro says:

            If we care about animal welfare, there is not really any balancing act to perform. Eating animal products that don’t come from livestock pastured year-round is always wrong, except where needed to preserve human life and health.

            Why should utility to humans that does not endanger life or health be ignored? It’s all utility. You don’t have two categories of it.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I don’t know what you think I’m ignoring. The caveat is just to indicate that I think that the welfare of animals is somewhat less valuable than the welfare of typical humans.

        • Tibor says:

          I would argue that to most people all calories are not created equal. Most would prefer an all-round tasty diet to a powder you mix with water which provides you with the exact same nutrition but which has no taste.

          Similarly, the utility from the taste of meat and animal products in general is something that should be accounted for.

          But my position here is simply that as long as I have a reason to believe that a life of a farm animal is worth living (that is that the utility it experiences exceeds the disutility) then eating that meat is unambiguously fine since the farm animals would not be born otherwise. I am convinced that this is the case with bio/organic meat production, less so with conventional farming (there it probably varies) and so I mostly buy bio meat (the meat is probably also healthier). Because of that, as long as animal welfare is the reason for it, I think that veganism is on a very shaky ground (at least from the utilitarian prespective). Of course there can be other reasons for someone to be vegan but that is different from using resources to spread veganism for utilitarian reasons (which is what the EA vegans probably aim for).

          In fact, the presence of EA veganism makes me a bit skeptical about the validity and trustworthiness of the EA (as an organization), even though I still like a lot of their ideas.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I said this up above, but it bears repeating: we would never allow humans to be raised for slaughter even if (a) they were intellectually disabled to the point where the were not appreciably smarter than food animals, (b) they would not have been born otherwise, and (c) they experience a preponderance of pleasurable sensations over the course of their lifetimes. Can you say what you think justifies the double standard?

          • Nornagest says:

            Squeamishness? We’d probably never allow humans to be raised for slaughter even if they were grown in vats without any substantial brain function, but it’s hard to make a utilitarian argument against doing so. (Leaving aside issues with e.g. economics or disease transfer.)

            I recognize there’s a double standard here, but you don’t get to invoke that double standard when it’s convenient and decry it otherwise. We are intuitively sensitive to harm done to human-shaped stuff. But that doesn’t make eating nonhuman animals right, and it doesn’t make cannibalism wrong either — it’s a bare fact of our psychology, nothing more.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            We have two situations which seem alike in all morally relevant respects– raising humans with extremely low IQs for meat, and raising cows and pigs for meat. If our moral views are consistent, we should either permit both or condemn both. It sounds like you’re saying that our squeamishness about killing anything with a human form (even when it amounts to no more than a vegetative husk) is irrational, and that we should permit the industrial-scale slaughter of dumb humans. That takes care of the inconsistency, but I don’t think many meat-eaters will find it at all plausible.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            If you can get Kuru sorted out, go for it man.

          • Nornagest says:

            It sounds like you’re saying that our squeamishness about killing anything with a human form (even when it amounts to no more than a vegetative husk) is irrational

            Think of it as a heuristic. Like all heuristics, it falls apart outside the domain it was designed (or as-if-designed) to cover. In a strict sense it’s unprincipled, and it’s definitely inconsistent around the edges, but that doesn’t mean it’s instrumentally irrational — at least outside a few seriously contrived scenarios.

            It does mean that it’s a bad idea to generalize it outside its natural domain.

          • Anonanon says:

            “We have two situations which seem alike in all morally relevant respects”

            That seem alike to you, using your moral assumptions.
            It should not be this difficult to get that acknowledged.

          • Jiro says:

            We have two situations which seem alike in all morally relevant respects– raising humans with extremely low IQs for meat, and raising cows and pigs for meat.

            And there is another pair of situations that seems alike in all morally relevant aspects–raising humans with no brain function at all for meat, and raising vegetables. (Indeed, we sometimes call such humans “vegetables” already.)

            By your reasoning, since there would be strenuous objections to eating such humans, that proves that it is immoral to eat vegetables.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Nornagest

            I am not sure what is accomplished by talk of heuristics. Offering a psychological explanation of why we’re prone to hold irrational views does not make them any less irrational, or absolve of us our obligation to repair the inconsistency. Carnivores really have two choices. They can stick by their belief that it is wrong to raise intellectually disabled humans for slaughter, in which case, by parity of reasoning, they must also accept that it is wrong to raise cattle for slaughter. Or, if their belief that it is okay to eat meat is closer to bedrock, they must follow Whatever Happened to Anonymous in endorsing the serial killing of retarded folk. I suspect few will choose the latter course, which means that most carnivores are acting wrongly according to their own values.

            @ Anonanon

            That seem alike to you, using your moral assumptions.
            It should not be this difficult to get that acknowledged.

            In what respect do you take the two situations to differ?

          • Zombielicious says:

            in endorsing the serial killing of retarded folk.

            Let’s not forget opposing euthanasia under any circumstances. After all, if all life is positive utility, regardless of the condition it exists in, then everyone is always happy to be alive, no matter what. Those people desiring voluntary euthanasia are just having some kind of mental illness or something.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Let’s not forget opposing euthanasia under any circumstances. After all, if all life is positive utility, regardless of the condition it exists in, then everyone is always happy to be alive, no matter what. Those people desiring voluntary euthanasia are just having some kind of mental illness or something.

            When did I ever say anything remotely similar to that? I only stated that, according to utilitarian morality (which I don’t follow, but whatever), a life that generates positive utlity is better than no life.

            The issue is determining what lives have postive utility.

          • Nornagest says:

            I am not sure what is accomplished by talk of heuristics. Offering a psychological explanation of why we’re prone to hold irrational views does not make them any less irrational, or absolve of us our obligation to repair the inconsistency.

            When a situation appears intuitively wrong but analytically benign, one way out is to observe that the underlying intuition acts heuristically.

            And in the presence of intuitive heuristics like that, it becomes possible to draw distinctions that would not be viable if everyone involved was a perfect analytical reasoner. Damning those intuitions as irrational does you no good there; they’re not going away.

          • Tibor says:

            @Earthly Knight:

            I believe that it is sensible to make a qualitative distinction between humans and animals. While we apparently do value animal utility (the evidence of that are for example laws against animal torture), we do not value it the same way we value human utility. I think very few people would see the value of a human live as simply a multiple of the value of a cow life.

            If you had basically cows in human bodies then it would make sense to treat them as cows from the utilitarian perspective. We would not do so however, for approximately the same reasons people have a tendency to treat robots which look almost human differently than other machinery.

          • John Schilling says:

            Thou Shalt Not Deliberately Kill Innocent Humans is a useful Schelling point to have in a world where killing people would often be so very convenient and rationalizations or cognitively-biased utilitarian calculations always close at hand. We’d like to go all the way to Thou Shalt Not Kill Humans, but accidents happen and the wicked sometimes call for lethal means of defense, but those have their own fairly stiff Schelling points.

            So if there are rare cases where killing an innocent human would be a net utilitarian positive, we will still A: refrain from doing it and B: punish anyone else for doing it, because maintaining that Schelling point is a very important utilitarian positive far outweighing the occasional tasty long-pig feast. And, as an evolved enforcement mechanism, yes, we are going to feel revulsion at the prospect.

            Killing animals is very often convenient or even necessary, and unless we do the sort of genetic engineering experiments the review boards frown upon, comes with its own very strong Schelling point to keep us from killing humans whenever convenience meets rationalization.

          • Zombielicious says:

            These arguments for the importance of defaulting to heuristics come off as very selective application of rationality to favor current preferences.

            The relevant moral fact here is capacity to experience suffering. Which is a cognitive trait. You can debate what has that quality and what doesn’t, but (integrated information theorists aside) I’m fairly sure most people don’t think a rock has the capacity to suffer. Rocks and plants lack a central nervous system, and hence probably lack the necessary cognitive capacity for it. No one really knows for sure whether pigs or dolphins or even other humans have that capacity, but they sure exhibit the behavioral traits of being able to suffer, and no one seems to be able to point to a particular brain region and say “this is what’s required to experience suffering” that only people have, and other mammals, at the very least, don’t.

            This is why no one really thinks you’re causing direct harm if you “kill” and eat a dead body, or a person who is irreversibly brain dead, although they may have some cultural taboo or evolved disgust reflex against doing it anyway.

            On the other hand, the fact that you don’t have an evolved disgust reflex against it doesn’t mean it’s ok. Evolution is a blind idiot god etc. Heuristics make sense in the complete absence of more reliable information, but if you have that information and you keep relying on your gut whenever it gives more convenient excuses, you might as well just abandon evidence-based reasoning completely.

            Killing animals is very often convenient or even necessary

            This is comparing apples and oranges because it conflates organisms at different levels of cognitive experience. Being required to do something out of “necessity” sometimes doesn’t mean it’s ethical to do it all the time, anymore than the occasional self-defense killing justifies regular murder, and killing animals with low moral relevancy (e.g. insects, probably) for convenience doesn’t justify doing the same to ones with high moral relevancy (e.g. apes, dolphins, pigs, etc).

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Jiro

            I certainly don’t have any objection to raising humans who are literally brainless for slaughter. I agree that if there are vegetarians out there who do, there’s a good chance they’re being inconsistent.

            @ Nornagest

            Damning those intuitions as irrational does you no good there; they’re not going away.

            I’m really not sure what you’re trying to say. Humans often apply heuristics in ways that lead them to draw irrational conclusions, and there is a cottage industry devoted to sussing out those heuristics and exposing their flaws. Pointing out the fallibility and context-sensitivity of our ordinary heuristics doesn’t guarantee that anyone’s going to take notice and change how they think, of course, although inevitably at least a few do. But what relevance does this have? We were discussing the normative question of whether there is any morally relevant difference between raising cattle for slaughter and raising humans with bovine-level intellectual capacities for slaughter which could underwrite the differing moral judgments that meat-eaters make about the two cases. There does not appear to be one, hence meat-eater’s beliefs are irrational and they are obliged to change their verdicts about one or the other case. I assume there is some psychological story to tell about the cause of the error, as with any piece of human cognition, but who cares? It’s still an error.

            @ Tibor

            We would not do so however, for approximately the same reasons people have a tendency to treat robots which look almost human differently than other machinery.

            This sounds like you’re taking the second horn of the dilemma and acknowledging that there’s nothing really wrong with raising profoundly intellectually disabled humans for slaughter. But you understand how there could be principled disagreement on this score, and that people who strenuously object to Soylent Farms are scarcely on “very shaky ground”, right?

            @ John Schilling

            So if there are rare cases where killing an innocent human would be a net utilitarian positive, we will still A: refrain from doing it and B: punish anyone else for doing it, because maintaining that Schelling point is a very important utilitarian positive far outweighing the occasional tasty long-pig feast. And, as an evolved enforcement mechanism, yes, we are going to feel revulsion at the prospect.

            Why think that the rule-of-thumb “don’t kill any humans” has better consequences than the rule “don’t kill anything with a brain” (or “don’t kill anything smarter than a pig”)? Why, moreover, should we adhere dogmatically to rules of thumb when it’s clear that the present case is one of the exceptions?

          • Artificirius says:

            Why, moreover, should we adhere dogmatically to rules of thumb when it’s clear that the present case is one of the exceptions?

            Possibly because, unless I’ve lost track of which point you are referring to, said case is not clearly an exception?

            anymore than the occasional self-defense killing justifies regular murder, and killing animals with low moral relevancy (e.g. insects, probably) for convenience doesn’t justify doing the same to ones with high moral relevancy (e.g. apes, dolphins, pigs, etc).

            Isn’t that just favouring your arbitrary lines over other’s arbitrary lines?

          • Lumifer says:

            I do find it amusing that Earthly Knight evidently considers mentally retarded humans to be more or less morally equivalent to cattle.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Artificirius

            Possibly because, unless I’ve lost track of which point you are referring to, said case is not clearly an exception?

            Sorry, my comment was slightly unclear. Schilling’s argument was that we should adopt “don’t kill humans” as a general rule or policy because in most situations this will lead to the best consequences. The natural question to ask is why we should follow that rule in situations where violating it would lead to better consequences, which (Schilling thinks) includes cases where humans no smarter than a cow are bred for slaughter.

            @ Lumifer

            I do find it amusing that Earthly Knight evidently considers mentally retarded humans to be more or less morally equivalent to cattle.

            I think the moral worth of an organism is tied very closely to its intellectual capacities. What do you think it’s tied to?

          • Anonanon says:

            Why think that the rule-of-thumb “don’t kill any humans” has better consequences than the rule “don’t kill anything with a brain” (or “don’t kill anything smarter than a pig”

            Do you want me to count how many times people have called my ingroup “brainless and dumber than pigs” in the last week?
            “Looks like a human” is a lot easier for normal people to verify than “science says they’re not really intelligent. Trust us this time.”

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Do you want me to count how many times people have called my ingroup “brainless and dumber than pigs” in the last week?
            “Looks like a human” is a lot easier for normal people to verify than “science says they’re not really intelligent. Trust us this time.”

            It’s a nice try, but perpetrators of atrocities typically brand their victims as subhuman cockroaches, not imbeciles or anencephalics (to whom mercy would be due). If you’re really concerned with minimizing risk for you and yours, “don’t kill anything with a brain” is your best bet, the presence or absence of a major organ being much harder to weasel your way around than the finer points of systematics.

          • hlynkacg says:

            It’s a nice try, but perpetrators of atrocities typically brand their victims as subhuman cockroaches, not imbeciles or anencephalics

            Assuming that you’re serious about the moral worth of an organism being tied very closely to its intellectual capacities, imbeciles and anencephalics ARE subhuman. It casts your line about “perpetrators of atrocities” in a very different light, don’t you think?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            What? How do you get from “all forms of intelligent life have moral worth” to “intellectually disabled people are subhuman”? You would need to add about eight premises before this qualifies as an enthymeme.

          • Lysenko says:

            @Zombielicious

            Are you starting from a premise that, absent evidence to the contrary, all evidence of suffering = suffering, and all suffering is equal and equally morally relevant?

            If so, can you explain why?

            Not trying to be difficult, but I thought it was fairly uncontroversial that in real world, practical terms we are generally pretty comfortable with tolerating a high level of the suffering of others for the advancement of our selves, families/friends/tribes/in-groups, etc.

            I just had a long and probably not terribly helpful ramble that I deleted, so let me try to restrict myself to more concrete examples:

            -Competition for limited promotions/bonuses/etc in the workplace.

            -all use of force. If -suffering- is the relevant moral value, then aggressor vs. victim is irrelevant, and self-defense is an evil if it would cause more suffering than simply allowing yourself to be abused/robbed/killed.

            -abortion. Are all vegans pro-life? pro-choice but against mid-to-late term abortions when fetal CNS development passes a given level of complexity and sophistication?

            Capacity for suffering, especially when the sufferer is a sympathetic person/animal/whatever, acts on both instinctive and socialized/programmed empathy, but I don’t think it follows that it is sufficient to guide moral reasoning.

          • Zombielicious says:

            @Lysenko:

            Are you starting from a premise that, absent evidence to the contrary, all evidence of suffering = suffering,

            Not that “any non-zero evidence of suffering” = suffering, which would cover everything if you were a strict Bayesian. “All” would be a hard case to make, but I think that the high cost incurred (for a utilitarian) if you’re wrong in a judgment about what actions cause suffering means you should strongly prefer to err on the side of caution, all other things being equal. The obvious calculation, averaged over all organisms within a group, would probably go something like:

            (weighted capacity for suffering) * (probability of capacity to suffer) *
            (utility gain/loss from suffering) * (number of organisms in group) = ?

            The number of organisms represented is huge (~56 billion livestock, ~100 million tons fish), the forms of treatment would be considered worse than Auschwitz if done to humans (see the AR documentary “Earthlings” if you want 2 hours of torture-porn animal abuse), so it would seem like the only issue is what probability you put on animals suffering and how much you think they actually experience it. And the product of those would have to be really, really low to not make veganism one of the most important issues as far as reducing global suffering.

            Even if no one really knows for certain what any other organism’s internal experiences are like, philosophical zombies etc, you’d think that if things have very similar brain structures, exhibit all the behavioral signs of having a capacity to suffer, including things like stress disorders from abuse or responding positively to antidepressants in captivity, that it’s a complete violation of Occam’s razor to assume they have no capacity to suffer despite strong evidence to the contrary. And again, considering the unfathomably high cost for a utilitarian if they’re wrong, compared to the relatively low cost of changing a lifestyle habit if they’re not, the obvious thing to do would be to cut out contributions to industries that have high probabilities of causing massive global suffering.

            and all suffering is equal and equally morally relevant?

            Yes, from an ethical standpoint I think suffering is suffering. It’s not special because it happened to a particular person or species. There are of course mitigating factors – by “suffering” I more meant “negative utility,” to avoid debating utilitarianism specific questions about dust specks, suffer vs pleasure vs meaningfulness of life, etc.

            Not trying to be difficult, but I thought it was fairly uncontroversial that in real world, practical terms we are generally pretty comfortable with tolerating a high level of the suffering of others for the advancement of our selves, families/friends/tribes/in-groups, etc.

            Even when we’re comfortable with it, that doesn’t mean that we should be. Some culture or another has been comfortable with just about everything, human sacrifice or slavery or eye-gouging, but it doesn’t justify those things on a utilitarian level.

            More importantly though, consuming (extremely) unethical products is not, in most cases, something required for advancement. If it was then it might be a net positive utility, as with market competition or reasonable violence for self-defense. And it would seem to require at least as much evidence that it was a net positive utility as the reduce-animal-suffering people have provided that it’s a net negative one. Most of those arguments, from what I’ve seen, are pretty shallow (e.g. “vegan diets are unhealthy!” “The inconvenience of switching distracts from my altruism!”).

            -abortion. Are all vegans pro-life? pro-choice but against mid-to-late term abortions when fetal CNS development passes a given level of complexity and sophistication?

            I’m sure a number of vegans are inconsistent in their beliefs, just as a number of non-vegans are. My personal opinion is that abortions are okay, except after the point where it qualifies as a conscious thing capable of suffering or has significant opportunity cost capable of being lost, and I defer to the latest medical research on that. The argument from opportunity cost seems harder to defend, but I doubt it substantially changes the result, or else I’m also committing a grave sin by not producing children at every possible opportunity anyway.

            Capacity for suffering, especially when the sufferer is a sympathetic person/animal/whatever, acts on both instinctive and socialized/programmed empathy, but I don’t think it follows that it is sufficient to guide moral reasoning.

            So then you disagree with utilitarianism, or you just disagree that suffering is relevant to utilitarianism? Why doesn’t this argument apply to human suffering, other than arbitrary cultural preferences? I don’t think we can even blame evolution here, given the problems with group selection.

            P.S. It’s kind of unfortunate this has turned into a pure debate about veganism vs non-veganism, when my initial goal was just to categorize consistent EA arguments against veganism, or see if any good ones even existed – not to try and convert people or anything, since that usually just makes them double down on their beliefs.

          • Jiro says:

            I certainly don’t have any objection to raising humans who are literally brainless for slaughter. I agree that if there are vegetarians out there who do, there’s a good chance they’re being inconsistent.

            But you’re appealing to the idea that “we” would not allow mentally disabled humans to be raised for slaughter. The same “we” who would not allow raising mentally disabled humans for slaughter would also not allow raising brainless humans for slaughter, and for pretty much the same reasons.

            If you would have no qualms about raising brainless humans for slaughter, your thought processes are so far from how most people think that you have no business putting that “we” in. You’re basically talking a few rationalists and nobody else, not we as a society.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Earthly Knight says:

            How do you get from “all forms of intelligent life have moral worth” to “intellectually disabled people are subhuman”?

            It is implicit in your assertion that “the moral worth of an organism is tied very closely to its intellectual capacities.” Reduced capability means reduced worth.

          • Artificirius says:

            Sorry, my comment was slightly unclear. Schilling’s argument was that we should adopt “don’t kill humans” as a general rule or policy because in most situations this will lead to the best consequences. The natural question to ask is why we should follow that rule in situations where violating it would lead to better consequences, which (Schilling thinks) includes cases where humans no smarter than a cow are bred for slaughter.

            I believe it was, actually, ‘Don’t deliberately kill innocent human beings,” on the basis that we generally feel people who accidentally or unknowingly kill people do not deserve the same regard as people who knowingly and intentionally kill people. And then specifically points out that we don’t violate this rule (or shrug at its violation) despite evidence that it might be a better option. See the Robert/Tracy Ladimer case, in Canada.

            This neatly precludes any instance where we might farm human beings, whatever their’ subhumaness’.

          • John Schilling says:

            It’s a nice try, but perpetrators of atrocities typically brand their victims as subhuman cockroaches, not imbeciles or anencephalics (to whom mercy would be due).

            They have to do this, because they are proposing to do things that essentially all of humanity wouldn’t allow them to do to imbeciles or anencephalics. And they are obviously lying when they do this, because everyone can count the legs. Once again, hexapodia is the key insight :-)

            If human societies generally allowed for killing and eating members of the species H. Sapiens whose IQ is below some cutoff, then branding one’s victims as imbeciles would be sufficient to justify an atrocity, and would be much harder to falsify. This would give the purveyors of atrocity an argument that would be more persuasive to marginal outsiders – at both the “maybe I should be a part of this?” and “Is it really worth making a big fuss about this?” margins.

            Against the cost of that increased potential for atrocity, what’s the utility gain that justifies a plan to raise anencephalic humans for food when you could just as easily raise pigs?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Earthly Knight:

            It’s a nice try, but perpetrators of atrocities typically brand their victims as subhuman cockroaches, not imbeciles or anencephalics (to whom mercy would be due).

            It should be noted that some of the first mass murder by Nazi Germany was of mental patients, the mentally disabled, etc, with it being done under the guise of mercy killing. Men involved in the euthanasia program (they generally used vans rigged up to kill the passengers with the exhaust fumes) were later recruited to operate gas vans and build and operate gas chambers in the camps.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m really not sure what you’re trying to say […] We were discussing the normative question of whether there is any morally relevant difference […t]here does not appear to be one, hence meat-eater’s beliefs are irrational and they are obliged to change their verdicts

            I’m saying that the intuition against killing human-shaped bodies, while epistemically irrational in some sense (I don’t think there’s anything magical about being a featherless biped), is instrumentally useful and very likely intractable, and therefore that pushing against it might be a bad idea. I’ve already said that in nearly as many words, but I’m not sure how much clearer I can make this.

            I do not feel any obligation to break down heuristics when we find their edge cases. That’s not what they’re for.

          • Anonanon says:

            I’ve already said that in nearly as many words, but I’m not sure how much clearer I can make this.

            You’ve summed up this entire thread for me.

          • Tibor says:

            To Earthly Knight defence – I am pretty sure he did not mean to compare mentally handicapped people to cattle. It would be inaccurate if nothing else. The way I understood it was that he was talking about hypothetical organisms who look physically human but are mentally cattle.

            I am pretty sure there would be a strong opposition to raising such animals for meat. But it would be more or less for the same reasons people don’t like cats being eaten. I would not eat a cat (unless my survival depended on it) and I would not eat a human-shaped cow either. But I don’t think that one can find good arguments against that other than that we are hardwired against eating animals which look cute and/or resemble humans.

            P.S.: Of course, there were cannibals, maybe still are somewhere. But that practice is more ritual than anything else so I would still not count it as eating humans in the same sense humans eat animals. Cats are also eaten in some places so perhaps not eating them is not universally hard-wired, but it seems to be too widespread to me to be cultural only.

          • Lysenko says:

            @Zombielicious

            Thank you for your reply. I’ll try to have a longer reply in a day or so (my free time and time to -think- is fairly limited by work and other factors.) since I need to consider some of your points and try to articulate some of my concerns.

            A basic one is my sense that if we take the utilitarian argument about non-human suffering seriously, it follows that we are equally obligated to worry all non-human life of similar CNS complexity, and it THEN follows that either now or at some point in the past the only moral, logical answer given what was known by humans at the time was voluntary extinction and/or abandonment of technological progress. The only way out of that is assigning arbitrarily small weightings to their capacity for suffering, which seems like a cop out to me. That in turn led me to reject the utilitarian argument as leading to absurd/unacceptable results from my 21st century human chauvinist position.

            But I don’t think I can be described as a utilitarian, no. I was attracted to the philosophy in the past, still am on an abstract level, but to me it all falls apart unless/until you have a reliable empirical measure for individual utility, and I’m not satisfied we do. That, and I tend to view it as fundamentally hostile to individualism.

            Side note on the whole human cattle thing: Assuming a sufficiently low level of CNS function and solving the health concerns, why -wouldn’t- it be fine? I mean, I probably wouldn’t be popping off to our local Long Pig chain (thanks, Transmetropolitan!) but that’s only because I don’t like pork, not because I object to the concept. I’m actually ok with the idea, assuming the humans being produced really ARE on a functional level with livestock animals. It would probably squick me to visit the slaughterhouse, but entirely for “eating your cat” reasons.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m more of a caribou eyes guy, myself.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Jiro

            But you’re appealing to the idea that “we” would not allow mentally disabled humans to be raised for slaughter. The same “we” who would not allow raising mentally disabled humans for slaughter would also not allow raising brainless humans for slaughter, and for pretty much the same reasons.

            I don’t think it’s for the same reasons. The scene in movies where the protagonist walks through a room full of deformed and mindless human bodies in tanks is establishing that the mad scientist is insane and playing God. There is never much concern for the abominations in the tanks. They are awarded mercy killings, if they are lucky.

            Forced-choice questions offer a more direct route to the same conclusion– we can ask a layman how many brainless husks they would trade off for the life of a single typical human. I expect the number will be quite large.

            @ hlynkacg

            It is implicit in your assertion that “the moral worth of an organism is tied very closely to its intellectual capacities.” Reduced capability means reduced worth.

            How do you get from “reduced capability means reduced worth” to “intellectually disabled humans are subhuman”? Don’t tell me you think it’s implicit, show your work.

            @ Artificarius

            This neatly precludes any instance where we might farm human beings, whatever their’ subhumaness’.

            Schilling believes, I take it, both of the following: (1) “Don’t kill humans” (inserting whatever qualifiers you deem necessary) is the rule of thumb with the best consequences, (2) Farming profoundly intellectually disabled humans in order to consume their flesh will, at least in some circumstances, have better consequences than following the “Don’t kill humans” rule without exception. If this is indeed his value structure, it is an open question why he should object to cannibals running a human breeding operation in those cases where doing so does have better consequences than slavishly obeying the rule (he has since given his answer to the question). This is a general point about rule consequentialism– even the best rules will be liable to exceptions (i.e. there will be cases where violating the rule has better consequences than following it), and it’s highly counter-intuitive that we should conform to a rule come what may rather than break it when we are certain to benefit.

            @ John Schilling

            If human societies generally allowed for killing and eating members of the species H. Sapiens whose IQ is below some cutoff, then branding one’s victims as imbeciles would be sufficient to justify an atrocity, and would be much harder to falsify. This would give the purveyors of atrocity an argument that would be more persuasive to marginal outsiders – at both the “maybe I should be a part of this?” and “Is it really worth making a big fuss about this?” margins.

            Maybe, but it seems to me that a there’s a parallel argument against raising animals for slaughter. Who knows how much the world could benefit from our cultivating a culture where all sentient life is seen to have value, where taking life always demands careful justification and meticulous scrutiny? Realistically, though, I don’t think imposing or relaxing either rule would make much of a difference– genocidal maniacs will always just come up with some new pretext for killing. The Hutus weren’t actually motivated by the false belief that the Tutsis belonged to an invertebrate phylum, it was just an excuse!

            @ Nornagest

            I do not feel any obligation to break down heuristics when we find their edge cases. That’s not what they’re for.

            Not a fan of the Tversky and Kahneman research program, then? You are holding me to an unusually high standard. Not only do I need to show that the belief that meat-eating is permissible proves inconsistent with other commonly-held values, I also need to show that I can persuade people to resolve the inconsistency and revise their behavior accordingly? Isn’t truth enough for you?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            @ Tibor

            To Earthly Knight defence – I am pretty sure he did not mean to compare mentally handicapped people to cattle.

            No one thinks that all or most intellectually disabled people have less moral worth than cattle. But I do think that there are some intellectually disabled people who lead lives of less value than your average cow.* Anencephalics, for instance (warning: graphic). Note that this is not because I think the lives of anencephalics count for nothing, it’s because I esteem cattle more highly than you.

            It’s pretty amusing that I’m getting flack for this while some of the other commenters here sound like they have a special knife and fork tucked away for their jubilant first trip to Soylent Buffet.

            *Strictly speaking this should be intrinsic value. Most profoundly intellectually disable folk, even anencephalics, have other human beings who place great value on their lives and would mourn their deaths. This is less often true of cows.

          • Nornagest says:

            Not a fan of the Tversky and Kahneman research program, then?

            I got this distinction from the Tversky and Kahneman research program. My whole point is that you’re trying to apply System 2 standards to a System 1 preference, and then acting all surprised when you find incoherence in it. Well, of course it’s incoherent. Everyone’s System 1 is incoherent.

            But I have a feeling that pursuing this any further will just lead to more of the same, so I’m going to bow out now.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I had thought that a key component of Kahneman’s program was that we can and should use the outputs of the more methodical and reliable System 2 to correct the errors of the automatic and affect-laden System 1. You seem to be promoting some weird hybrid view that agrees with him about the structure of the mind but not the normative implications.

          • hlynkacg says:

            How do you get from “reduced capability means reduced worth” to “intellectually disabled humans are subhuman”? Don’t tell me you think it’s implicit, show your work.

            When you describe a person or animal as “subhuman” you are saying that they are a lower order of being, less worthy of moral concern than a human is.

            As stated before, your assertion that “the moral worth of an organism is tied very closely to its intellectual capacities.” leads us to conclude that reduced capability means reduced moral worth.

            Ergo: intellectually disabled humans have less moral worth than non-disabled humans. Q.E.D.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            You’re affirming the consequent. We have:

            1. Subhuman –> Less moral worth
            2. Diminished intellectual capacity –> Less moral worth

            The inference to:

            3. Diminished intellectual capacity –> Subhuman

            is formally invalid.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Also, the bit you have after “ergo”:

            intellectually disabled humans have less moral worth than non-disabled humans

            …isn’t what you’re trying to show, it’s the thing I originally said. Jesus Christ, get it together!

          • Jiro says:

            I don’t think it’s for the same reasons. The scene in movies where the protagonist walks through a room full of deformed and mindless human bodies in tanks is establishing that the mad scientist is insane and playing God. There is never much concern for the abominations in the tanks. They are awarded mercy killings, if they are lucky.

            The reason the creatures in the tanks are shown as deformed in the first place is that the less they are human-shaped, the less they fall under the taboo of killing human-shaped things, so that example doesn’t show what you think it shows.

            Even then, “we” (meaning every member of the audience except you and a few rationalists) would still refuse to eat the creatures in the tanks, even assuming complete brainlessness.

          • Lysenko says:

            @zombielicious
            Taking my reply to the next OT, but short version is that I think there’s probably a fundamental parting of the ways on A) utilitarianism in general and B) the idea that suffering is a good metric and that all suffering matters (I don’t think all human suffering necessarily matters equally, to say nothing of expanding it to all mammals/vertebrates/etc).

            That said, I think I need to educate myself more on 20th century developments in Utilitarianism to be able to state my objections more clearly, so I’m going to work on that first.

      • Zombielicious says:

        1) I don’t really follow parts of this response, sorry. What “non-analytical emotional aesthetics” versus what EA utility function? Not being obtuse – assuming the utility function on some level involves “reduce suffering,” then how is reducing animal suffering just an emotional aesthetic different from people? (And if animals don’t suffer, that’d need support as well.)

        2) “Imprecise and aesthetic-driven definitions” – I’m not sure how this issue for “what is a factory farm” is any different from something like “what is poverty” or “what is suffering.”

        4) Re: rats and definitions of “animal” – Showing that some animals don’t have moral value isn’t the same as showing that all animals don’t have moral value. I.e. maybe rats lack moral value, but how does that mean it’s stupid for vegans to avoid killing pigs or dolphins?

        Gonna pass on (5) because it’s more your personal reasons for not being vegan, rather than an argument why EAs who want to EA shouldn’t bother with veganism. Re: asking EAVs, I’m not sure how compelling many would find the arguments, compared to anti-vegan EAs who would seem to need actual justification for why being vegan isn’t effective.

        • Keranih says:

          1) Sorry, was not being entirely clear. This references the clearly stated preferences of vegans in EA for veganism based on their “horror at being in the presence of animal bodies.” I don’t doubt that there are people who feel this way, but I can not lump this emotional response in with “analytical thinking.”

          2) If one can not say why something is bad, then it is difficult to logically explain why this this should not be done. And if one can’t accurately and repeatedly separate the sort of thing which is good and which is not, then it is even more difficult to explain why the ‘bad’ must cease.

          what is poverty

          This is in fact frequently debated in charity/development circles. It is not regarded as a matter of faith. And it is defined.

          4) The point is that there are trades-off for and against killing the pig, the rat, and the dolphin. Some times the choice to not kill results in more suffering. That an animal or even a person dies as a result of an action does not make that action immoral – the options must also be clearly on the table in order to make the judgement.

          5) I am confused. Why do people who eat normal human omni diets have to justify not changing to be part of EA, instead of the EA vegans having to demonstrate that this change is required?

          • Zombielicious says:

            Most vegans I’ve ever met, EA or not, were vegan for utilitarian reasons about reducing animal suffering. Any “visceral horror reaction” was something on top of that, similar to what happens to most people when they see a dead body or look at pictures from the Holocaust. The reaction seems irrelevant except maybe signaling non-analytical outgroup status, but the utility reasoning seems right in line with the rest of EA.

            I really just completely fail to see how poverty can be considered a well-defined thing but animals and factory farms cannot. People can disagree with the definitions, or have trouble categorizing particular cases (since these aren’t mathematically precise concepts), and I think most vegans would argue to err on the side of caution when unsure, but it seems a huge stretch to claim “vegans can’t explain why eating animals is bad.” You mean in all those books, Peter Singer et al completely failed to make basic definitions and explain why it’s bad?

            Yes, there are trade-offs, but unless I missed it no one has yet even tried to make some kind of quantitative argument that the tradeoffs favor eating meat. I don’t think anyone has argued that animals don’t suffer yet either. People have stated that any such calculation would favor them because they like meat, switching is hard, etc, but just agreeing with yourself isn’t particularly convincing.

            I’m not concerned with the general population – they’re not under any obligation to do anything ethical or not. But there seems to be a contradiction between being EA and not doing obvious, high cost/benefit ethical things. There are a ton of arguments in favor of veganism being a good EA thing to do, which are presumably well-known enough that I don’t need to explicitly argue them again myself. Presumably the anti-vegan EAs see huge gaping holes in them and think they have better arguments, with high enough confidence to justify the potential catastrophic amount of damage they’re doing if they’re wrong.

          • Mary says:

            how poverty can be considered a well-defined thing

            $1.25 a day.

            As defined by the World Bank.

            Point it out in a discussion of American “poverty” and you’re lucky if you don’t get an response that amounts to “well them furrieners ain’t really human.” Especially from leftists, in my experience.

          • Acedia says:

            Does it make any sense to discuss poverty as an absolute figure without reference to local cost of living and available social services?

          • Nornagest says:

            I believe that figure is in PPP dollars equivalent rather than nominal, which takes into account the local costs of services (with various caveats).

            The difference can sometimes be dramatic; Zimbabwe’s GDP per capita for example is half as high in nominal dollars.

          • Zombielicious says:

            $1.25 a day.

            As defined by the World Bank.

            Point it out in a discussion of American “poverty” and you’re lucky if you don’t get an response that amounts to “well them furrieners ain’t really human.” Especially from leftists, in my experience.

            You realize that you’re taking a fragment of a sentence completely out of context to say something off-topic that completely misses the point just so you can follow it up with some partisan snipe targeted at your political outgroup?

          • Mary says:

            I think you might want to rate your mind-reading skills a little less highly. Particularly when you want to snipe at people by imputing motives to them.

    • anonymous says:

      “when the stakes are the eternal future, don’t give up a useful tool unless you know you don’t need it, even if it’s killing and eating sentient beings ”

      -If all the nice demons in hell gave up human consumption, not just those who could do it without a major hit to their health/motivation/effectiveness, niceness would be a weaker force in that world.

      Replace hell for earth and niceness for (untrammeled) altruism.

      Before I became a vegetarian, I was so scared of the “convenience” of this argument that I could never make it seriously, but now that I’m free from fearing hypocrisy on the point, I think it’s just correct.

      -If the world is as bad as all that, and it appears to be, then you should be more concerned with your impact on the future trajectory of the world than on almost any amount of current suffering. Utility over all time is the important measure.

       

      Just because a game is negative sum (to put it in the most dramatic terms: fueling yourself with the suffering of your murdered animal compatriots) doesn’t mean you have a choice not to play. “Only bad people will have guns” obviously characterises the most negative sum kind of game possible. -Whatever else a “game”/world where that is trus is like, it must be on a downward trajectory towards bad orders that enshrine misery, possibly stably, possibly indefinitely.

      Unfortunately the same is true, perhaps to a lesser extent, of (again, max drama so no one can say I’m chickening out, no pun intended), “only bad people have blood sacrifice magic, the by far best way to gain energy” (with which to supercharge their health, happiness, and focus).

      It may sound ridiculous, but for some people that’s exactly what the situation is with regard to their meat consumption. Bear in mind that in this analogy, the vast majority of people have been raised on (and so adapted to) blood sacrifice, and have no experience of doing without, or how to, which means they have much less than no acclimatization, and all their experience of managing their energy/fuel intake is with the default system, plus also if they have additionally managed to make their meals into energising rituals, there’s a good chance the particulars would be tied up with blood sacrifice.

      So, imo sometimes giving up “bloodmouth carnism”, is as bad as giving up violence. It’s an indisputably good long term objective for the world/culture, but depending on the particularities of the situation -the actual mechanics, giving it up can be flinching from the cause of good. If there are bad people willing to be violent, there need to be countervening good people, and even if there aren’t there should be good people ready, for exactly the same reason. If the pleasure or nutritional value of meat eating is a serious crutch or support for the engine of your motivation, living, being, whatever, and if this is far from the only important thing wrong with the world, the default should probably be not disarming yourself of that tool.

      Keeping your soul pure is a very good thing, but some situations don’t allow for it.

      • anonymous says:

        -especially if you’re weak, you need to scrape your way to strength first, because good is a much simpler idea to hold onto than “how to become strong”. If you want to be good almost all you have to do is really stake your soul on it. Being strong requires less sacrifice, perhaps less self control, and potentially, internal-conflict-navigation, but is not really something that can happen automatically. If you can really set your soul on good, you’re 90% of the way there.

        Strength is it’s own reward, so fixing yourself upon the objective is not generally the problem. Plus below a certain level attempts to become strong have multiplying dificulties. Attempts to become good have the same multiplying difficulties below a certain level, but rather than fail, they tend not to happen, or first drift off course, then be forgotten about. There is an anthropic principle at work in any attempt to become good. If you really want to become good, you’ve passed the equivalent major hurdle of the black hole of trying to claw your way to a stable strength.

        Whereas below a certain level of good, attempts to become good simply do not happen. The larger part of the challenge, in being/becoming good, is identifying some basic pattern that enumerates that idea, (preferably self correcting, like it including something like a conception of an appropriate level of self reflection to check if you’ve drifted from the ideal) sure you are and really truly wanting it. The main obstacles are purity and internal alignments. In the case of becoming strong, the main obstacles are motivation, and external aligments.

        Which is why despite the fact that Strength devoid of good is a dangerous liability for the world, far worse than good without strength, (and far less likely to improve), I feel confident saying that if you’re weak but good, or really wanting to be good, you need to scrape your way to strength first.

        But, back to the point, 10 points of good and 1 point of strength does a lot less than 7 points of good and 3 points of strength. Imo many, possible even most, people’s motivation is quite marginal, to the point where it’s the main bottleneck on personal strength.

        I consider that the more important factor, so I’m gonna disreguard the issue of health for now: If you don’t have a significant motivational surplus, but you are able to put the issue out of your mind, i.e. you’re not compelled to become vegetarian (/able to cast that off/file that away if so), there is an obvious case for trying to acquire such a surplus first that probably should be examined before you make a commitment in that direction.

        Imo the answer is fairly often going to be “insufficiently long sighted disarmament”, but never mind that, the point is that it’s not a given that becoming a vegetarian, much less a vegan, is a clear and unalloyed good.

        -Generally when one is the only person to suffer from something, that means it can’t be morally incorrect, but if you were born and raised in a habit, it can (imo easily) raise to that level to take on a degree of risk/weakness in trying to rid yourself of it out of horror, insofar as that may deviate a long way from what cold hearted altruism would dictate

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      The sort of emotionally-driven veganism that leads to boycotts over the mere presence of a meat option on a conference menu is a fringe of a fringe of a fringe. By being seen to embrace it, EA alienates the vast majority of meat-eaters and people who are willing to tolerate meat-eaters, thus preventing it from being an effective force on any front and reducing the numerical QALY improvement for any species to 0. Therefore, EA should not focus on veganism. Quod erat demonstrandum.

      • Zombielicious says:

        This is an argument for not catering to “a fringe of a fringe of a fringe,” not why EAs shouldn’t care about veganism. Even calling them “a fringe of a fringe of a fringe” seems to imply that the majority of EA vegans aren’t using those tactics (not that I know the majority of EA vegans). Using it as an argument against all veganism is like saying EAs should also stop donating to poverty if a few members decide to stop attending until everyone is giving 50+% of their income to anti-poverty causes.

        (I really couldn’t care less about the conference, I was more just curious if anti-vegans EA-ish types have any consistent arguments whatsoever, what they would be, or if it’s just all tribal allegiance and self-serving rationalizations. I thought about offering $50 if anyone could convince me to stop being vegan, but I didn’t want the potential trouble of having to send the money anonymously.)

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          I really couldn’t care less about the conference

          Maybe you should, because the conference symbolizes EA’s inability to get its theoretical purpose done without being held hostage to the demands of that fringe of a fringe of a fringe. By preventing EA from functioning over their parochial concerns, they are keeping the QALYs it can supposedly generate at 0. It’s as simple as that.

          • Zombielicious says:

            On the other hand, veganism seems (to me) like such a blatantly obvious thing for EAs that I’d honestly have to consider them huge hypocrites if they chose to serve meat at a conference. I wouldn’t really consider “EAs” that are opposed to veganism to be EAs, and haven’t so far seen any convincing reasons to change my mind. The most consistent (so far) was probably Lumifer’s “different values” case, but I think (s)he and I would also just have different definitions of “EA.”

            The people who think the right to serve meat at a conference is the hill they want to die on would have to be at least as silly. Which is why I really couldn’t care less – a debate or negotiation over it is reasonable, but if you’re calling banners about the tyranny of vegans who are going to destroy the EA movement by not showing up at a conference that is sending a message it doesn’t support their values, you’re as bad as the fringe.

          • Anonanon says:

            “to serve meat at a conference is the hill they want to die on”

            It’s more like the hill everyone built their village on, and that you’re now attacking them on. It sounds like the metaphorical equivalent of walking up to a guy at the bar going “hey buddy, you’re in my seat”.

          • John Schilling says:

            It’s more like the hill everyone built their village on

            Who is “everyone”?

            I’m an outsider in this debate, but from what I’ve seen there are a lot of people who helped build EA and didn’t think they were setting up a vegan-only enclave, and just as many who helped build EA expecting that of course EA would be vegan by nature.

          • Zombielicious says:

            EA Global 2015 did attempt an all-vegan menu, but apparently failed for whatever reason and only announced the change at the last minute, upsetting people. I couldn’t find information on the 2014 or 2013 menu, but assuming they were similar, it sort of kills the attacking-our-way-of-life argument.

            In the U.S. vegans are about 2.5% of the population, with vegetarians another ~2.5%, and some significantly larger number that are flexitarian or “vegetarian-inclined” – significantly larger than the number of practicing EAs. So the alienation arguments swing both ways.

            But this is only tangentially related to what I was initially asking, which was whether or not EAs should be vegan or not be vegan. Unless you’re one of the organizers, or considering whether or not to attend, getting overly worked up over the specifics of a conference menu just comes off as archetypal toxoplasma culture war stuff.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Unless you’re one of the organizers, or considering whether or not to attend, getting overly worked up over the specifics of a conference menu just comes off as archetypal toxoplasma culture war stuff.

            Getting overly worked up over the specifics of a conference menu is irrational no matter whether or not you’re attending.

            The only situation where it’s at least slightly defensible (although even then you should act like a freakin’ adult when expressing your displeasure, not a small child throwing peas off his high chair) is if it’s an organization that everyone who belongs to it already agrees is entirely about menu choices. Which EA is not, or at least was not. Maybe it is now, in which case, have fun not buying any malaria nets.

          • This is a sidetrack, but what is the vegan food likely to be like at an EA conference?

            This is very hypothetical since I’m not at all likely to attend an EA conference, but I found I was thinking that vegan food might be likely to conflate two sorts of virtue and be low fat– something which would make it a lot more annoying to a lot of people.

            Just to be fair, my local LW meetup is at Su Xing— a vegan Chinese restaurant where I think the food is adequately satisfying. The restauarant was mostly chosen for being cheap, good, and quiet.

        • Tibor says:

          What about this (I am assuming that your reason to be a vegan is to limit the amount of animal suffering, otherwise the following argument does not apply):

          Assume that you get to choose – after you die you either stop existing or you are reborn as a cow (with all the mental capabilities and sensibilities of a cow) at a farm.

          My choice in that scenario would depend a lot on the farm conditions. I would probably choose to live a life of a cow in the Austrian mountains, walking on the hills most of the day, having a steady supply of food and medical care and then eventually being slaughtered. I would probably not choose a life of a veal bull at an industrial farm.

          From that perspective (and of course, I don’t know what the cows actually think or feel but I can make a guess), it seems to me that eating meat per se is ok, eating meat from some farms is less. The meat I buy personally is mostly bio meat (ideally it would be entirely bio meat, but I am not so principled). I also decided not to eat veal, again for the reason that I don’t think that the life of the bulls raised for veal is worth living. But I think that most of the lives of bio farm animals have positive utility even for the animals who live them and so on net it is a good thing.

          Obviously, what holds for meat, holds for other animal products as well. I only buy bio eggs for example.

          At the same time I would be opposed to banning factory farming because it would drive the animal product prices up and there are still many parts of the world where this would cause a lot of suffering to humans – about whom I care much more than about animals (although I cannot put it in an equation like “X cows = 1 human” or something).

          • Zombielicious says:

            This is why, in the OP, I mentioned the difference between “utilitarian mostly-vegan-flexitarianism” and “puritanical religious commitment.” There’s a much wider grey area surrounding those. If someone is only eating “humane meat” or whatever, at the very least they’d seem to be doing less damage than people eating factory farmed stuff, by standard utilitarian vegan arguments, whether or not it manages to actually hit positive utility.

            When I first went vegan I was planning on doing something like that – eating free-range meat and cage-free eggs and all that. I thought that would actually be better than veganism, because I’d be promoting ethical treatment of livestock, rather than just boycotting livestock altogether. After doing some research it seemed like that wasn’t actually much better, e.g. producers find ways to milk the system and do the minimum possible to get the “free-range” or “certified human” or “organic” label, such as pasteuring cattle up to a certain point and then turning them over to a typical intensive farming operation for slaughter. There’s also the economic and environmental aspects, though as you said they don’t really apply to this argument. I ended up deciding it wasn’t really very ethical, and even for situations where it was, too much trouble to constantly being worrying about which was which. Unless the situation is fairly obvious, like oysters lacking a central nervous system, and hence being more equivalent to eating a plant, despite being technically an “animal” and “meat.”

            So yeah, if you’re going to claim “I’m not technically vegan but I have defensible arguments for why my food preferences are high-utility,” then you may be in what I’d loosely call the utilitarian mostly-vegan-flexitarian group. Positions in that grey area are a lot more nuanced and require different arguments (“why eating this specific x is ok”) from simply saying eating meat is fine regardless of what conditions it was produced in.

          • Jiro says:

            Assume that you get to choose – after you die you either stop existing or you are reborn as a cow (with all the mental capabilities and sensibilities of a cow) at a farm.

            By that reasoning, breaking rocks is also bad (what if I was reborn as a rock?). Or playing video games (what if I was reborn as Mario?)

          • hlynkacg says:

            Or worse, a Koopa.

          • Tibor says:

            @Jiro: A rock? Is that a serious counterargument? My point was that if you can be reasonably sure that the cow’s total utility is positive (to the cow, not to mention the consumers) then there is no ethical problem with eating its meat, at least from the utilitarian prespective.

            Rocks are not sentient, neither is Mario, so they do not apply.

            One might of course still make a utilitarian argument that eating meat is always ok as long as you assume that only humans can experience utility and disutility or that it only matters when they do so. But I don’t find that very intuitive. We generally have rules against too cruel treatment of animals (perhaps not consistent, dogs are treated differently than pigs, despite being about equally intelligent), in many countries in Europe halal and koscher slaughter is illegal for example. And pretty much everyone would find someone who’d burn dogs alive abhorrent – while we do not feel the same when someone burns wood.

            I agree that intuitively there is a qualitative difference between animals and humans though. I think that very few people would rather save the lives of say 1000 cows than of one person (assuming that that action affects nobody else), so putting both on one scale where the worth of a human life is simply a multiple of that of a cow life does not make sense either.

            But if you can eat meat in such a way that the animal’s lifelong utility is positive then you can be pretty sure that eating meat, at least under some conditions, is ok.

            By the way, would you eat halal meat or for that matter would you eat meat produced by exposing the animals to a prolonged extensive torture? If not then it is an evidence that you assign some value to animal life as well.

          • Jiro says:

            A rock? Is that a serious counterargument?

            Yes. It makes as much sense to ask “what if I were a rock” as it does to say “what if I were a cow”. Both rocks and cows lack the mental structures that make me me.

            By the way, would you eat halal meat or for that matter would you eat meat produced by exposing the animals to a prolonged extensive torture?

            Would you eat meat from humans who had no brain function and were “vegetables”? Would this prove anything about the morality of eating literal vegetables?

          • Tibor says:

            @Jiro: I feel that you either do not understand my argument or are purposely avoiding it.

            As for human-vegetable meat, I would not have problems with people consuming it although I would not eat it for a stronger version of the reason why I would not eat cat meat. It is for reasons that are more aesthetic than moral.

          • Jiro says:

            I understand you very well. You think it makes sense to ask about me being a cow, but not about me being a rock, when I can’t be either a cow or a rock and still be me.

          • Tibor says:

            @Jiro: You can make an informed guess (based on what we know about cows) about whether a cow would like to life a particular life or not. I guess the personalisation just made it a bit more confusing.

            A rock is not alive, it is not even organic. I don’t know what is puzzling about the clear distinction between a cow and a rock.

            Huh? Why did my gravatar change?

          • Tibor says:

            Gravatar test…

            Oh, ok, I must have misspelled my email address in the previous post.

  21. Vaniver says:

    Welcome Scott Aaronson to Texas by coming to our party in Austin on August 13th! Details here.

  22. Tekhno says:

    Why do we instinctively curl our hands to form fists when angry if people break their hands all the time when punching?

    • Nornagest says:

      Either our ancestors learned how to throw a good punch more reliably than we do, or the alternatives at the time were worse. WRT the latter, kicks above the knee are slow and clumsy without extensive training, palm strikes are at least as technically demanding as punches, and everything else is highly situational.

      Probably both are somewhat true. The past was a more violent place; I’ve got a theory that a lot of anxiety disorders are the psychological equivalent of allergies.

    • Tekhno says:

      My friend suggested that the automatic fist clenching could be associated with weapons and not bare fisted fighting.

    • Because broken hands (knuckles, most commonly) suck but don’t necessarily prevent you from winning a fight, and fists are better than any unarmed alternative we have (sans extensive training).

    • This is from memory– I think Eric Raymond said that untrained fighters throw overhand punches at each others’ shoulders.

      This makes sense if you assume that fighting within a species is to establish dominance without getting anyone injured.

    • anonymous says:

      Maybe it’s just that when muscles tense they get shorter, and so things are pulled inwards?

    • cam out says:

      It could be defensive.

      If something is making you angry, there’s a possibility of violence–but you aren’t necessarily going to be the one to initiate it. Fingers are exposed, relatively small, and easily injured extremities, and your fingertips are very sensitive. A serious finger injury early on in a fight gives you a huge disadvantage.

      Pulling your fingers into a fist protects them pretty well. Maybe humans who did this instinctively lost fewer fights (I’m thinking really serious inter-tribal bloodbaths, before the weapons technology or hard accurate throwing got good enough to be decisive; animal attacks are also worth considering though) and lived to pass on their genes.

      I wonder if anyone knows whether chimps have the same response?

    • Tekhno says:

      @cam out

      I wonder if anyone knows whether chimps have the same response?

      I don’t know, but chimps do chew each others fingers off (and eyes, and genitals, and any extremities).

  23. Ruprect says:

    Seems like the scientists are making lots of progress with engineering nano-tech medicine/devices + all kinds of genetic jiggery pokery.

    Is there good reason to hope that the defences against horrible bio-weapons will emerge before the weapons themselves?

    Or is it all under observation/control?

    • Wrong Species says:

      I don’t think nanotech is going to be problematic for a while and this is why:

      http://toughsf.blogspot.com/2016/07/you-are-wrong-about-nanotechnology.html

    • Anonymous says:

      I wouldn’t worry about weapons, however I do worry about what the general incentives will end up producing with all this. I don’t think “the market” is aligned with my long term goals for civilization so…

      Ecological damage, atrophying and addictive technology, more technological/cultural/related-to-habits (Is there a word?) homogenization, etc. With some good mixed in, of course.

      • Lumifer says:

        I don’t think “the market” is aligned with my long term goals for civilization

        Really? Because “the market” got you to the present civilization level and I don’t see any good alternatives (the actively promoted throughout the XX century alternative blew up rather spectacularly).

    • billymorph says:

      There are a good number of projects devoted to combating bio-weapons, but as they’re untested we have no real idea if they’d be effective.

      Overall, though, I wouldn’t worry about biological warfare. While it has some truly scary potential it’s complicated, expensive and runs not just the risk of political blow-back but accidentally inflicting large casualties on your own population. There’s some argument for building a bio-weapon as a deterrent, but then you’re heading into the ‘nuclear deterrent’ school of diplomacy and the political logic of not using your nukes would apply in exactly the same way.

  24. Wrong Species says:

    I want to look at all of my comments I have ever made here. Is there a way to do that without manually going over every single page for the last 3 or so years?

    • Skef says:

      You could certainly write a little script to find them for you. A very easy way to do this would be a bit of processing of the “Archives” page to extract each link, downloading each of those pages (it’s polite to leave a couple seconds between each download) and looking for the string “Wrong Species” in each. For each file that has at least one occurrence, look at it with the “Find …” facility of your favorite editor.

      This would sort of be building a “robot”, which has its own etiquette rules (involving a file called “robots.txt” and other factors), but as an individual with the intent of finding their own data, any sins would be pretty venal.

    • Corey says:

      Google allows you to search a single site by adding “site:slatestarcodex.com” to your query, so try that with your nym.

  25. Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

    Anyone going to see “Batman: The Killing Joke” in theaters today? I’m doing it, just because I’ve never done anything like this before (going to see a limited showing in a movie theater).

  26. onyomi says:

    Are there any existing policies or proposals which amount to nationalized, single-payer catastrophic/high-deductible insurance (but few or no subsidies/mandates, etc. related to routine, predictable, non-life threatening issues like uncomplicated child birth and elective surgery)?

    • Skef says:

      Can you clarify what you mean by “no subsidies/mandates”? A good part of the point of a high deductible is the insurance not paying for stuff in virtue of the deductible alone. So one would expect, for example, that the bar between an uncomplicated vs complicated child birth would probably be reflected in how much it costs, and that’s how the insurance would not pay for, or pay much less for, the former. Are you thinking that a childbirth would or would not count towards the deductible depending on whether it was deemed “uncomplicated” by insurance adjusters or some third party?

      Also, the question of “mandates” doesn’t clearly apply to a nationalized single-payer plan, unless you’re thinking there would be a bunch of different catastrophic plans with different options all run by the feds. But that would again work against the benefits of a high deductible plan, which is that most of the need for decision making/haggling is supposed to be eliminated by the patient paying the bulk of their annual medical costs.

      • onyomi says:

        I’m not so much interested in the particulars as whether something of this sort has been tried or proposed. One conceivable way to do it would be to automatically enroll everyone in a high deductible plan, so you’d pay for yourself if your medical expenses are low, but you couldn’t be bankrupted by a sudden accident, heart surgery, etc. (of course, there would need to be some limitations or people would use it to get a ton of plastic surgery, etc.). For this maybe things like hip replacements could be covered, assuming the high deductible was met.

        Another conceivable plan would be catastrophic, unpredictable, life-threatening problems are covered 100% always from the beginning but the government otherwise don’t subsidize or regulate health insurance.

        • Skef says:

          There are some countries (I would have to do research to figure out which ones, but I believe I’m remembering this correctly) that have nationalized health insurance but some people buy secondary plans. I don’t think there’s much differentiation between different deductibles when people talk about national single-payer, because once you set the deductible at something non-crippling, that act does 90% of the work of any health insurance.

          Your other plan isn’t really conceivable, though. What happens when you break your leg and the hospital charges a billion dollars? Does the government just pay?

          • onyomi says:

            Presumably the government would have set maximum payments for whatever procedures were covered by the national catastrophic insurance plan, as they do now with, e. g. Medicare.

          • Skef says:

            And also decide what isn’t covered under the deductible. That would basically leave them setting prices on almost all medical procedures (and presumably drugs as well).

            That’s not something I would be against. Markets are great for many things but once you decide not to just let people who can’t pay die you don’t really have a market anymore, and you shouldn’t just let people die. (Even if you did, there’s still the expertise problem.) But I don’t think people on either side of the arguments over this stuff see much difference between nationalizing with a high deductible vs a low one.

          • Corey says:

            Honestly, price controls get us most of the way to universal affordability (ask anyone who’s ever went out-of-network for anything, or, equivalently, had anaesthesia), even without coverage at all or with really big deductibles.

            If we really have to pay charge-master prices to subsidize innovation for the rest of the world’s price-controlled healthcare, that makes that innovation a public good (we’re certainly not capturing its value solely for ourselves!) and we should just subsidize that innovation directly.

          • John Schilling says:

            once you decide not to just let people who can’t pay die you don’t really have a market anymore

            You don’t have a market for not-letting-people-die medical services. There is no reason for this to be the majority of medical services. If you make it so, which is easy to do by mistake, you can expect to see quality of life take a big hit.

          • Skef says:

            John: That depends on how the mandate is structured. In the current system hospitals are mandated to treat emergency patients and often aren’t paid for it. And they aren’t mandated to make up the difference by charging more for other life-saving services. If there is to be a separation it has to be engineered.

            I suppose one could argue that anything involving a hospital is a not-letting-people-die medical service, but a lot of stuff that happens in hospitals is there because of a higher chance of something going wrong.

          • Nornagest says:

            And they aren’t mandated to make up the difference by charging more for other life-saving services.

            If there is a funding gap, you don’t need to mandate a solution to it for a solution to be necessary. And there are only so many possible solutions.

            They may not jump straight to charging more for other life-saving services, but unless they’re being subsidized by someone, they’re going to have to charge more for something. And if that something is e.g. sniffles or nose jobs, they’ll find themselves outcompeted in that sector by clinics that price closer to cost and don’t need to worry about paying for lifesaving: the less essential a procedure is, the more patients have the luxury of shopping around.

          • Skef says:

            @Nornagest true, but whether you further regulate or not just pushes the problem around.

            Are there well-sourced numbers on the non-life-threatening numbers being large enough to make much of a difference? The conversation always seems to shift in that direction, but then conversations about welfare tend to shift towards “cheats”. It seems as if the focus could be due to there being a lot of younger healthy people who don’t happen to have much in the way of medical issues and are projecting their experiences onto the system. It’s pretty irrelevant whether we can get the cost for sniffles down if that money is just going to come from somewhere else.

          • Corey says:

            @Skef: theincidentaleconomist.com has lots of well-sourced info on health policy, and has good epistemic hygiene. I don’t know about this particular question, though I know they’ve researched cost shifting (health-care wonk jargon for “are providers charging private-payer patients extra to make up for ‘losing money’ on Medicare/Medicaid patients”) and found a small effect.

        • Corey says:

          No insurance of any kind, especially health insurance, can be both unregulated and actually useful. Insurers can play infinite amounts of fine-print games otherwise.

          • onyomi says:

            This definitely can’t be taken for granted.

          • Skivverus says:

            Er. Wouldn’t that depend on the presence or absence of competition? “No fine print” seems like it would potentially be a powerful point to market on, in the same way “100% satisfaction guaranteed or your money back” shows up all over retail.

          • Corey says:

            Hmmm, it might well. We’ve seen that happen in *pricing*, e.g. phone call pricing used to be complex in what Scott Adams called a “confusopoly” until flat-rate plans hit, and, nowadays, unlimited per-month plans.
            And extended warranties sold by stores tend to be no-questions-asked, where they could easily make people run impossible gauntlets to actually get things fixed. (Although they’re terribly overpriced from an actuarial perspective).
            OTOH I don’t think insurers *can* go with little/no fine print because there will always be complexity around what’s covered and in what situations. (They need to protect against cheats while covering legitimate losses). Especially in healthcare – it used to be you couldn’t find out coverage guidelines (e.g. try speed before Strattera) without just filing a claim and finding out when you got stuck with the bill. Lately you can find “clinical policy bulletins” online; don’t know whether to thank Obama.
            Also, with big insurance (life, health, home) if you find out your insurance is useless, you find out *after* a big loss. (This happens sometimes already, of course; e.g. pre-ACA there were people that didn’t notice their mini-med plans had $1500 lifetime maximum benefits). You might have to get insurance insurance!

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            (Although they’re terribly overpriced from an actuarial perspective)

            Most of the surplus goes to the actual salesman of whatever appliance is warrantied, sadly.

    • Loquat says:

      Childbirth is expensive enough that loads of people are still going to want it covered under any national single-payer system – several thousand dollars at least for an uncomplicated vaginal birth, more for a c-section, and currently the US c-section rate is about 1/3 of all births, with most of those not really being elective.

      And how are you defining “elective surgery”? Obviously nobody would seriously propose health insurance mandates to cover nose jobs and tummy tucks, so you must be talking about surgeries with actual health results, fixing problems that are unpleasant but not immediately life-threatening. Joint replacements, for example – losing the ability to walk due to bad hips or knees may suck, but won’t kill you, and it’s much cheaper to give you a $100 wheelchair than to spend thousands on surgery to fix you. Again, I’m pretty sure a lot of Americans would demand that be covered.

      • onyomi says:

        The problem of people demanding more and more things be covered is a logistical problem with the idea, but the idea itself is something I was thinking of as an attempted compromise between the free market people, like myself, who’d rather no government involvement in health care at all, and the people who want single payer covering everything but boob jobs.

        One of the biggest concerns of those wanting government involvement in health care is that people who can’t afford to, or simply fail to insure themselves can be bankrupted by an unexpected accident or sudden, severe health problem. Something like this might conceivably protect against that worst-case scenario while avoiding the problems of having third-party payment for such a wide range of medical expenses.

        A major free market complaint about health insurance right now is that it is really two things: insurance and prepaid medical care. You don’t normally insure yourself against predictable things; you wouldn’t insure yourself or make a claim on your homeowner’s insurance, for example, to replace your leaky roof. The homeowner’s insurance is in case your house burns down. If everyone started paying for every minor house repair with home owner’s insurance, before you know it the billing would be insanely confusing and your plumber would be billing your insurance company $5,000 to unclog your sink.

        This wouldn’t address the issue of people who just have consistently high, but predictable medical expenses due to a chronic ailment, though since all citizens would theoretically be covered, there would be no question of being denied or kicked off the plan due to “pre-existing condition.” Also, even if it didn’t pay for your regular insulin dosage, say, it would still cover you if you needed emergency surgery due to complications from your chronic ailment.

        • Skef says:

          This year I have a “silver” plan bought off the exchange. It’s regulated in the sense that there is an exchange, the laws set a maximum out-of-pocket for the year (for all plans in the country, I believe) and standards like “silver”. The deductible is fairly high. I went in for a checkup because I hadn’t seen a doctor in a few years. Here are my two experiences so far:

          I have rosecea and I use the most basic antibiotic treatment for it (one that doesn’t work for a lot of people so they use more expensive stuff). This is basically a cosmetic thing that’s still a prescription because it happens to be an antibiotic. I just needed a renewal. It now has a generic version, and I’ve typically paid about $20 for a tube on past plans. I got it renewed and it cost me about $300 for a tube. I found out later that if I had been prescribed the .75% instead of the 1% it would have cost much less, although still a lot. I’m sure neither my doctor or clinic would have any way of knowing that.

          My cholesterol test was high this year, so my doctor wanted me to come in to talk to me about it. I called the clinic to ask what the charge would be and of course they couldn’t tell me. I figured I would only try a statin after trying diet/weight changes anyway so I cancelled, which means that instead of probably a 10 minute talk with a medical professional I’m my own doctor on this. Maybe a talk with a nurse would make more sense, or maybe I needed a pamphlet, but it’s probably not great that it’s me making the decision.

          I don’t see much reason to think that these problems trace back to additional regulatory intervention above the basics. (Those basics mostly having to do with whether you’re receiving what you’re being told you’re receiving, like whether there’s any of the substance in the tube that’s mentioned on the label.) One of the really bizarre things about our system is that you shop for a plan with a certain deductible and co-payments as if medical services have prices you can take into account in your planning, and then the price of everything winds up depending in some very opaque way on the plan you bought. So other than a very general trend that lower deductibles (and thus higher monthly costs) have lower negotiated prices, the whole landscape of charges below the deductible is something almost impossible to plan for. It only makes sense to put the decision in the hands of “the consumer” for price reasons if you’ve already regulated the market to the point where they’re picking from among non-scams, which is basically a completely regulated market already.

          Markets for complex and emotionally charged services are ripe for scams, whether in the form of useless treatments or just charging “whatever”. It’s kind of a cliche for wealthy and otherwise intelligent people who develop medical problems to be taken in by quacks. I just don’t see how a market for medical services is supposed to work when doctors are telling you what services you need because you don’t know yourself.

          • Gbdub says:

            One of the really bizarre things about our system is that you shop for a plan with a certain deductible and co-payments as if medical services have prices you can take into account in your planning, and then the price of everything winds up depending in some very opaque way on the plan you bought.

            I believe this is exactly the problem onto I is trying to fix. That’s not how home repair or car maintenance works – there you can shop around and get a detailed cost breakdown before you commit. He’ll even veterinary care is like that – at least at my vet I have to sign off on a detailed estimate for whatever treatment I’m doing for my dog, and they are pretty open about discount plans they have and ways to shop around.

            So why isn’t human non-elective healthcare like that? Part of it may be the “non-elective” part, but part of it is also that we’ve been trained to be extremely cost-insensitive by having essentially prepaid health plans.

          • Corey says:

            @gbdub: anesthesia fails this test. Nobody chooses an anesthesiologist, so they are in nobody’s “network”. (The deal of PPO networks is to accept price limits in exchange for a stream of patients whose bills will likely get paid. For anesthesiologists that contains only downside as they have a stream of patients regardless).

            For scheduled procedures you can find out what practice the facility uses try to negotiate a price ahead of time; the local practice (American Anesthesiology) is a mega-corp so nobody has authority to do so.

            So anesthesiology, as a result, is only *lightly* covered by insurance: your plan will pay it’s out-of-network percentage (let’s say that’s 40%) of some UCR they pull out of asses or from Medicare. The bill will be 3-5 times that (I am not exaggerating, I’ve seen it personally), so let’s say 4x, so insurance will cover 10% of the bill in this example. Before deductible (and plans tend to have separate deductibles for out-of-network care). This light coverage has not resulted in any downward price pressure; I’ve had bills that came out more than the facility (network-rate) bill. (Before coverage, not after).

            You can try to negotiate a discount after the fact (depending on how big the practice is, the amount of the bill, and how credibly you can threaten bankruptcy).

            Since all shoppers for all products are well-informed, I assume everyone already knows this unless they’ve had no contact with sedation-required medical procedures.

          • Corey says:

            the price of everything winds up depending in some very opaque way on the plan you bought

            That’s because that’s how we do price controls in the US: PPO network contracts. The opacity is lessening somewhat in that providers can usually now at least find out what the negotiated amounts are without filing a claim and waiting (this capability has come in the last year or two; my plan pays a percentage rather than fixed copays, so before that providers always had to bill me later as there was no way to determine how much to collect at time of service).

            Of course now that everyone knows to never go out-of-network for anything if at all possible, plans are moving to narrow their networks as a club to reduce utilization. (A non-Scott psychiatrist I know has been turned away from some of these networks despite agreeing to the rates). I assume this trend will continue until regulators quash it or all networks are useless.

          • The Nybbler says:

            With my plan (and previous PPO plans I’ve had) the anaesthesiologist is covered as if it’s in network if it’s part of a surgery where the doctor and hospital are in-network. It often requires a bit of back-and-forth with the paperwork to get everyone to bill correctly, but that’s not just anaesthesiology.

            (For example I’m currently facing an ER bill where the bill is one thing, the insurance paid slightly more than the bill (???), my co-pay is not credited, and there’s an “adjustment” outside the itemized portion of the bill. They want me to pay the difference between the “adjustment” and the insurance overpayment. In my experience major errors in medical bills are the rule and not the exception. It’ll take quite a while staring at Explanations of Benefits and speaking with billing people to get this straight; I think I’d prefer a system where I negotiated the payment while bleeding on their floor)

          • Corey says:

            @Nybbler: In my experience even if the insurer covers at in-network percentages, there’s nothing they can do about balance billing (the amount the provider charges that’s above what an in-network provider charges) and that’s where the pain typically is. OTOH, just like trying to negotiate down the provider’s bill, sometimes one can negotiate up the insurer’s limit (e.g. by threatening to switch for individual plans, or getting HR involved for self-insured employer plans).

          • Loquat says:

            I’m currently on an employer-provided PPO which supposedly will treat any anesthesiologist (plus certain other commonly out-of-network specialists) as in-network if I use a “preferred” hospital, though I only have the word of plan employees for this as it isn’t written anywhere in the plan materials “for competitive reasons”.

            I did get some price transparency from the ob-gyn’s office, at least – they told me right up front what the set rates were for their prenatal care + birth bundle, at least for births without complications. They could not tell me any price information for un-bundled services like prenatal tests and ultrasounds, but eh, baby steps.

    • J says:

      Great question! Seems like a good proposal for figuring out whether ruinous catastrophic medical bills are people’s true rejection.

      • Jiro says:

        “True rejection” is a pernicious idea and could use less exposure. People typically have multiple reasons for things, no single one of which is the true one.

        • J says:

          I see what you’re saying, but too often I’ve taken pains to address someone’s stated objection only to have them switch to a different objection without acknowledging the first.

    • Aegeus says:

      I don’t think so. Most proposals for universal health care want the plan to cover routine “preventative maintenance,” because it’s less of a drain on the system to keep people healthy than it is to wait for something catastrophic to happen before treating them.

      • Mary says:

        Only sometimes. It’s cheaper to let one person develop a disease that will cost $50,000 to treat than test a million people at $1 a head to catch that case when it only costs $500 to treat.

        • Corey says:

          Also, overtesting can lead to overtreatment, which can have its own problems (e.g. until recently few considered the tradeoff of the certain bad side effects of prostatectomy against the rather low probability of dying of prostate cancer given a positive PSA test).

          Studying health policy, you find out that doctors are worse than you think about base rate fallacies, even when you take into account that they’re worse than you think about base rate fallacies.

          • Anonanon says:

            doctors are worse than you think about base rate fallacies

            I mean, they’re not bad when you consider their incentives not to get sued for malpractice. They’re just optimizing for different things than patients are.

  27. J says:

    Philip Zimbardo of Stanford Prison Experiment fame is now doing a project called the “Heroic Imagination Project” in schools where they show the “smoke filled room” conformity study and talk about growth mindset.

    I’m cautiously optimistic about inoculating kids against bystander effect, but I’m curious what the downsides are. In particular, I wonder if it’s a luxury of living in a low crime neighborhood to be able to intervene and call for help when I see something bad happening.

    • J says:

      Also, I can only assume that the “smoke filled room” studies confirming Asch conformity are a tragic consequence of nominative determinism.

    • Urstoff says:

      My extremely subjective impression of the field of academic psychology is that Zimbardo is considered to be a huckster (and perhaps always was) and not a researcher that people take seriously. Does anyone know if my impression is accurate or not?

  28. Agronomous says:

    So last week I was at a game store for unrelated reasons and finally broke down and bought Forbidden Island.

    It is awesome! Even my 8-year-old found the gameplay easy to follow, and since it’s cooperative, everybody else had an incentive to help her learn. The theme of the game really keeps the suspense up: you’re a team trying to collect four treasures and make it to the pick-up point while the island is sinking around you. Even losing is kind of fun (though tonight’s was a heart-breaker: we already had all four treasures, two of us were on flooded tiles, we sandbagged one… and the other sank beneath the waves, taking me with it).

    I picked it up for $20, which is cheap for a non-mass-market board game, but we’ve already gotten several hours* of entertainment out of it (including designing our own challenging island shapes). I recommend it for anyone with 1-3 other people to play with.

    (* And since each unique play-through takes about 30 minutes, that’s saying a lot.)

    • Mr Mind says:

      Forbidden Island is basically a simplified version of Pandemics (they are indeed from the same author). If you enjoyed FI give P a shot, although it’s possibly not suited for your child (both for the added complexity and the mature theme).

    • You should take a look at Forbidden Desert as well (the “sequel”). I find Desert to be more fun in fighting the ticking clock, with a more granulated lose condition than the luck of the draw in hitting the wrong submerged tile.

      For a longer and more complex co-op game for 2 (in case you’re looking for something to play without the kids), me and my wife enjoy the Firefly board game “single-player” variant but we work together to figure out how to win.

      • Aegeus says:

        Seconding Forbidden Desert.

        I’ll also recommend XCOM: The Board Game as a great co-op game, although not for your 8-year-old. The fact that it uses a timer means there’s no time for “quarterbacking” – everyone has to focus on their own part of the game and use their own judgement.

        • Who wouldn't want to be anonymous says:

          Wait wait whaaaaat?? Why have never heard of this?

          (The lack of friends reduces the utility of knowing, but it’s the principle!)

        • Thank you for the XCOM game recommendation, I liked the game but had no idea there was a board game! Too bad I’m sitting on the last three board games I’ve purchased without having played them yet…

          Anyone in the Madison WI area want to get together for a game night?

    • bluto says:

      I must be doing something very wrong because Pandemic usually goes like that (tight victory or loss) but every game I’ve tried of Forbidden Island has ended in disaster by about the 3rd turn.

      • I’ve always thought that Pandemic’s difficulty was much more related to the characters the team has rather than the difficulty setting: dispatcher + medic = easy game, researcher and scientist = worst characters in small teams and on large teams they dilute the talent pool. I haven’t played enough Forbidden Island to know if that is true there too, so maybe try different characters? I disliked FI because it was too arbitrary, either super easy with no risk or random death.

  29. The blog oracleindex.wordpress.com is plagiarizing you.

    All of its posts are word for word: for example, the text of https://oracleindex.wordpress.com/2016/07/11/the-topaz-earring/ is directly copied from http://squid314.livejournal.com/332946.html, and https://oracleindex.wordpress.com/2016/07/11/graduation-speech/ is copied from http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/05/23/ssc-gives-a-graduation-speech/. OracleIndex gives no attribution for this copied content, and in the About section repeatedly states “I write …”. They even have a Patreon account at https://www.patreon.com/user?u=3673424&utm_campaign=launchshare&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter, but it only has one dollar/month so far (this appears to have been a July development). I’m wondering if there is a copyright/license anywhere on this site, or if anyone knows about how this works? It looks like the first thing to do is send them a request to cease, and if they refuse then send a DMCA takedown request to WordPress (information at https://en.support.wordpress.com/copyright-infringement-what-to-do/).

    I can deal with this if you want, but I thought you should know and have the option to intervene how you see fit.

  30. Zorgon says:

    So, the “Wikileaks are alt-right” meme took a little under a week to propagate from Lunatic Twitter to unconnected comedy-oriented UK websites.

    Man, tribalism travels fast.

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      When everything is “alt-right”, nothing will be.

    • BBA says:

      They’re both pro-Putin, or at least useful idiots for Putin, a rare position in the English-speaking political world. Horseshoe theory?

  31. onyomi says:

    All election related posts on my Facebook right now are some variation of “you idiot, don’t vote for third parties!” “you may have wanted Bernie, but now it’s time to vote Hillary to stop Trump.”

    On the one hand, I’d say this bodes ill for Hillary, as it seems like a lot of people are not going to vote for her so much as against Trump (and some percentage of those who like neither option will stay home in disgust–seemingly at a higher rate among typically Democrat voters than typically Republican voters).

    On the other, fear is a powerful motivator–maybe the best possible motivator for something individually meaningless like voting. Obama won in 2008 by making people like him, but he also won in 2012 by making people fear Romney (and Trump is way scarier than Romney), so maybe it will be enough, if the consensus come November is “Hillary=meh, Trump=scary”?

  32. onyomi says:

    All election related posts on my Facebook right now are some variation of “you idiot, don’t vote for third parties!” “you may have wanted Bernie, but now it’s time to vote Hillary to stop Trump.”

    Is it a bad sign for Hillary that not many people seem to be making a positive case for her so much as a negative case that she’s better than the scary alternative?

    On the one hand, I can imagine a lot of would-be Hillary voters staying home due to lack of enthusiasm for her candidacy.

    On the other, fear is a powerful motivator–maybe even more powerful than enthusiasm pro-someone.

  33. Acedia says:

    The most recent weird development in an already very weird election is watching Democrats, who normally position themselves as the party of global unity and friendship, turn into a bunch of Russia-hating redbaiters.

  34. Following up on a previous discussion: I saw the new Ghostbusters movie yesterday.

    The short review is that I was delighted by it. While the dialogue wasn’t as quotable, the good humor and enthusiasm from the main characters was a tremendous amount of fun. I’m not going to say they resembled scientists, but they were the best presentation of benign mad scientists I’ve ever seen. They’re driven by curiosity about what’s really going on.

    They scratched an itch that any number of kickass superheroines haven’t gotten near– I think it’s that they were fairly ordinary-looking and what they did was physically plausible.

    I think the reason the trailers bored me to the point where I wasn’t going to see the movie is that their clips are so short and somewhat focused on slapstick, while what I liked about the movie was interaction between the characters.

    In regards to the “blond bimbo” male receptionist: Goddamn, you can’t believe anything you read on the net. He isn’t blond (brown hair with some bleach). For most of the movie, it seemed more plausible to me that he was taking the piss rather than actually stupid.

    I’ve seen a claim that he was the only major male character. Actually, Rowan (apocalypse guy) was pretty major, though possibly the actor wasn’t quite good enough for the role.

    A lot of the movie was about status, notably that the people in charge are assholes who want grovelling (initial sequence about Erin not getting tenure) and are completely unwilling to acknowledge the existence of ghosts.

    Again, the black character is the most sensible person. I expect that she’ll learn physics and become a more equal member of the team.

    A number of the monsters in the long fight sequence at the end (possibly a little too long, but nothing compared to Peter Jackson’s excesses) were satisfyingly scary.

    As is usual with special effects movies, you should stay all the way to the end. Not only are there more and better jokes than most movies have after the “end”, but the only song I liked was next to the last during the credits.

    I’d like to see Ghostbuster movies made with people from more demographics for the ghostbusting team, assuming they were made with as much care as this one.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      huh! nice review! I think I might check it out after all.

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        Ghostbusters is actually, literally doing poorly. The dropoff is within the expected, yes, but $46M is a weak opening, comedy tends to do poorly overseas, and the movie is locked out of the second biggest market (China). It does seem like the reporting is uneven, but maybe there’s insider info we don’t know? We don’t know how the big the promotion budget was for each movie, and the lack of advertisement for STB is in line with several reports of budget cuts compared to the previous movie. Plus, they still have China.

      • Anonanon says:

        manfeels-park.tumblr
        “what am I going to do with all these baths of man tears”
        Slip On These “Whiteness Goggles” and the Violence of Cultural Appropriation Disappears
        Proudly standing against everything problematic and joyful in the world.

        “Omg a dude is insisting on a citation in the comments of our NEW COMIC about dudes always insisting on citations.” <–didn't Scott write an entire post about this kind of behavior?

        Boy your sources have gone downhill lately though, wow.

    • John Schilling says:

      I’m not going to say they resembled scientists, but they were the best presentation of benign mad scientists I’ve ever seen. They’re driven by curiosity about what’s really going on.

      That’s what I needed to know; thank you.

      Though I can understand why the marketing people didn’t put that part in the trailers.

  35. Hofmannsthal says:

    I’ve just finished reading Ian Deary’s “Intelligence: A Very Short Introduction” (2001). I presume that over the past 15 years, quite a lot of new research has made it’s way out there.

    Any recommended modern reads to follow on?