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Open Thread 81.25

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit, the SSC Discord server, or the Cafe Chesscourt forum.

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899 Responses to Open Thread 81.25

  1. Collin says:

    I’m looking for good web-scraping tools and frameworks to build side projects and automate more of my life. I’m familiar with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. What are your favorites? In this instance I’m heavily biased towards free/open-source.

    • johan_larson says:

      If you can work in Java, the JSoup library makes it easy to parse HTML files and extract portions of them.

      https://jsoup.org/

    • Charles F says:

      Not sure exactly what sort of scraping or automation you’re interested in. I expect you’ve already got RSS feeds figured out at least. One thing that might interest you is if this then that which can connect to a lot of common things and automatically perform actions based on rules you build.

      Are there any specific things you want to automate?

      • Collin says:

        Yep, I use and love IFTTT.

        I’d like to be able to build more complex systems that actually use a website (such as input form parameters and run a search) and, if results of a certain type are returned I fire an action (like an email).

        A basic example would be to watch for very specific flight deals. Imagine a system that would check flight prices, in airline miles, between specific cities, on a rolling six week forward-looking window, and then if the price and flight time met certain criteria it would send me an email.

        • AKL says:

          Second hand, I believe Selenium is useful when you want to automate scraping involving forms, confirmation pop-ups, searches, etc.

    • James says:

      For scraping HTML, I’ve had success with Nokogiri in Ruby and I hear that Beautiful Soup’s good for Python.

      • rlms says:

        Seconding BeautifulSoup as very straightforward (I used it to scrape the SSC comments a while back). If you want to do more complex things on modern websites, or you want to interact with them, you probably want a headless browser like Selenium. Using a simple library BeautifulSoup to do a search involves working out the URL format for a given search, getting the HTML, then using the library to get the information you want. This is fine for some things, but sometimes it might be easier to use a headless browser, in which case the process is more like writing code that simulates a human user: selecting the search box, typing in some text, pressing enter, then scraping the results.

      • Rob K says:

        Second that Beautiful Soup recommendation. Which said, given an option I’ll always prefer to work in python, so appropriate grains of salt and all.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        I haven’t used Python but I can second Nokogiri for Ruby.

  2. bean says:

    Naval Gazing: The Battleships of Pearl Harbor, Part 1
    Series Index
    I recently discovered that I hadn’t discussed the attack on Pearl Harbor. This was not an intentional oversight, and I intend to correct it.

    In Pearl Harbor on December 7th were eight battleships, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Tennessee, California, West Virginia and Maryland. All of them were of WWI-vintage, representatives of what was known as the Standard Type. These were ships commissioned between 1914 and 1923, all of broadly the same size, and the first ships designed for long-range combat using an all-or-nothing armor scheme. All had four turrets, and all but West Virginia and Maryland mounting 14” guns. (They had 16” guns instead.)

    All of the ships except Pennsylvania (which was in drydock) were moored along Ford Island in the famous ‘battleship row’. I’m going to focus on the stories of the individual ships during the attack, moving north to south. The attack began at 0748 on Sunday, December 7th, and a total of 353 Japanese aircraft were involved, in two waves.

    Nevada, the oldest of the active battleships, was alone at the north end of Battleship Row. She was fortunate to have two boilers online when the attack began, as she was shifting which boiler was providing power to the ship. She took a single torpedo forward at 0802, causing some flooding, but her gunners, who managed to man their positions very quickly, shot down one of the attacking planes. (As an aside, Nevada’s action report is very interesting. It starts with ‘offensive actions’ and ‘damage to the enemy’, and then goes on to discuss damage to Nevada, in contrast to the other battleship’s action reports.)

    At 0840, Nevada got underway, the only battleship to do so during the attack. She initially made for the entrance, but was redirected to stay within the harbor due to fear of mines. During the second wave, she was hit by at least five bombs at around 0950, badly damaging the forecastle and bridge and starting fires throughout the ship. There was insufficient watertight integrity high in the ship, and water was able to flow aft from the bomb holes. Nevada was ordered to beach herself to avoid blocking the channel when she sank, but had turned in a very good performance under the circumstances, despite losing 50 men.

    Arizona, ahead of Nevada at the start of the attack, did not fare nearly so well. She took four bomb hits from high-altitude level bombers in the first few minutes of the attack. One ricocheted off the face of Turret 4, and detonated in the captain’s pantry. Another struck near the mainmast, and a third near the rear AA guns. The fourth bomb, though, ensured Arizona’s place as one of the most famous battleships ever. There is still some controversy over what the bomb that struck near Turret 2, set off, seven seconds after the impact, a massive explosion of Turret 2’s magazine destroyed the center of Arizona, collapsing her foremast, and putting her on the bottom so fast she did not have time to capsize. About 1100 of her 1500 crewmen died with her.

    West Virginia took the most damage of any battleship, two bombs and an estimated seven torpedoes. The torpedo defense system (TDS) she shared with Maryland, California, and Tennessee was one of the most effective ever designed, but she was badly overloaded, and none of the torpedoes hit the TDS cleanly. One hit aft, damaging the steering gear and rudder. Three struck below the armored belt, and another struck the belt directly, requiring the replacement of several plates when the ship was repaired. One or two, hitting after West Virginia had begun to list, actually went over the belt and through holes made by previous torpedoes, detonating on the armored deck. A final torpedo was recovered and disarmed by EOD technicians. Both bombs failed to explode, one having penetrated into Turret 3. Fires took 30 hours to extinguish, and only prompt counterflooding and the presence of Tennessee inboard of her kept her from capsizing before she sank to the bottom. Among the 106 dead was the Captain, who was subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions after being wounded.

    Inboard of West Virginia, Tennessee was protected from torpedoes, and escaped relatively lightly on the bomb front, too. She took two hits, one on Turret 2, which disabled the guns (and killed West Virginia’s captain) and the other on Turret 3, disabling one gun in that turret. Most of the damage she took came from debris and oil from Arizona, although her crew managed to keep her mostly intact. Only 5 men aboard died, although it took them until the next morning to finish firefighting operations.

    Oklahoma took three torpedo hits moments after the first bombs fell on Ford Island, and began to list 25 degrees immediately. The order to abandon ship was given, but 415 men failed to get out before she capsized, her masts digging into the bottom of the harbor. Her roll was aided by two more torpedoes on the armored belt as she went over.

    Many of Oklahoma’s crew swam over to Maryland, inboard of her, to aid in fighting her anti-aircraft batteries. Maryland, protected by Oklahoma’s remains, survived with only a single bomb hit forward, which missed anything vital. Only 4 men of her crew were lost.

    California was moored at the south end of Battleship Row on her own, and took two torpedo hits on the port side at 0805. (Interestingly, the initial action report claims three torpedo hits, but more modern sources have reduced this to two.) Despite her excellent TDS (which was not penetrated), she suffered extensive flooding. Some hatches were open for maintenance pending an inspection, and Morison suggests that her watertight integrity was generally poor due to a focus on polish as a flagship. Counterflooding kept her level, and the crew manned her anti-aircraft guns, using human chains to pass ammo up when the power failed, and did their best to keep her afloat. However, a pair of bomb hits later in the attack, and burning oil from the other ships, forced them to abandon the pumps, and California settled, finally coming to rest on the bottom on Wednesday, December 10th. 99 of her crew were lost, including two men, Robert R. Scott and Thomas Reeves, who were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

    Pennsylvania, the fleet flagship, was in drydock with the destroyers Cassin and Downes forward of her. This protected her from the aerial torpedoes that did so much of the damage to the other ships. Attempts were made to torpedo the caisson (door) of the drydock, but failed. She opened fire on the planes at 0802 (apparently, they were allowed to carry ammunition into the drydock), and only took one bomb hit during the second attack, which damaged the boat deck and some of the secondary 5” guns. However, Cassin and Downes were badly hit by bombs, and Pennsylvania was damaged further when torpedo warheads on Downes exploded. Morison gives 18 killed aboard, although I’ve seen other numbers, too.

    On the other side of Ford Island was the USS Utah, a former battleship converted into a AA training/target ship. She took two torpedo hits early in the attack, and quickly joined Oklahoma on her side.

    Next time, I’ll cover the post-attack careers of each ship. Some never returned to service, while others played key parts in the later stages of the war.

    • johan_larson says:

      Do ships ever have active anti-torpedo systems, sort of like AAA but directed at underwater targets?

      • bean says:

        They’re the fusion power of naval warfare. They’ve been on planned ships since the 50s. For a variety of reasons, they don’t work particularly well. There may be some in trials right now on US CVNs.

      • cassander says:

        They aren’t like AAA, but there are acoustic decoys.

      • John Schilling says:

        The Soviet Union started putting RBU-1000 six-tube depth charge projectors on the stern of high-value surface ships starting in the 1960s, which made no sense for an anti-submarine weapon and was probably a Hail Mary anti-torpedo play. More recently, the 10-barrel Udav-1 has been explicitly advertised as a dual-purpose anti-submarine / anti-torpedo system, presumably incorporating lessons learned from the RBU-1000.

        The US Navy began testing guided anti-torpedo torpedoes from its aircraft carriers a few years ago, and I believe forward-deployed carriers are now equipped with the system for whatever it is worth. Will probably make it onto the cruisers, destroyers, and amphibs eventually.

        But, for reasons I think we discussed a few OTs ago, this isn’t as easy as it sounds, and the current systems probably aren’t very reliable.

    • Nornagest says:

      She took four bomb hits from high-altitude level bombers in the first few minutes of the attack

      My understanding was that WWII-era level bombers could maybe hit something the size of a trainyard if they were lucky. A battleship’s a lot smaller than a trainyard. Was this an unusual situation relative to other level bombing, or were they carpet-bombing the whole area and Arizona happened to get unlucky, or is my understanding incorrect?

      (I suppose another option is that the Japanese had better level bombing tech, but the state of the Japanese weapons industry doesn’t seem to have been all that hot during the war, with rare exceptions like the Zero. Their small arms were generally poor, for example, and got worse as the war progressed.)

      • Protagoras says:

        I believe the bombadiers that Japan had at the start of the war were unusually extensively trained, and performed generally better than anybody else’s at that point. Performance which, of course, did not last as they suffered casualties which had to be replaced with people for whom they did not have the time and resources to provide remotely comparable training.

      • gbdub says:

        I believe that, at Pearl Harbor “high altitude” was still quite a bit lower than the strategic bombers used in Europe (~10kft vs ~25kft). The planes involved were single engine “Kate” carrier planes with a single large armor piercing bomb in the first wave. They carried a small number of smaller general purpose bombs in the second wave.

        Also, the bombers in this attack would have aimed and dropped each bomb individually, adding to accuracy. While the standard strategic bombing practice was for every plane in the formation to “pickle” their entire load when the lead plane did, rather than aim individually. They were bombing area targets and their tactics and results reflected this.

        I think the altitude was the big thing though – my understanding is that high-altitude B-17 raids were occasionally attempted against Japanese naval targets, with poor results. On the other hand the B25, a smaller twin engine bomber, had a lot of success against Japanese shipping using lower-level tactics (including super low level “skip bombing” where the plane would fly straight at the target at a very low altitude, drop a bomb, and let it literally skip like a stone into the side of the enemy ship).

      • bean says:

        gbdub beat me to it. The Kates were operating from 10,000 ft (which was something I remembered but found surprisingly difficult to verify. Setting altitude for this kind of thing is always a balancing act. You want to be high enough that your bombs will penetrate (the US at least looked at a rocket-powered AP bomb to lower the altitude required) and high enough you have a reasonable chance of survival, but other than that, as low as possible for accuracy. 10,000 ft was standard for anti-ship bombing. The level bomber attacks on Repulse and Prince of Wales were made from the same altitude, but with lower accuracy. Dive, skip, and torpedo bombing were all attempts to get more firepower on target more accurately, with somewhat mixed results.
        Protagoras is also right that the IJN had really good pilots at the start of the war. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a robust mechanism for training new ones, so their skill plunged rapidly after Midway and the Solomons campaign. (Actually, the real loss at Midway was the deck crews, and the flight crews mostly died in the South Pacific.)

        • gbdub says:

          It’s probably also worth adding that the Japanese accuracy wasn’t that great in an absolute sense (though it was very good for the time)- I don’t know what their overall hit rate was, but e.g. Arizona was attacked by 10 bombers that scored only 4 hits. One of them was obviously catastrophic, but that was mostly luck.

          “Land a bomb anywhere on two football fields from 10,000 feet 40% of the time, in nearly perfect conditions with minimal resistance” doesn’t sound insanely accurate.

          • Protagoras says:

            That’s similar to, say, a target 3 feet across from 100 feet. Which is easy if you’re standing still and using a rifle, and relatively easy with lots of things if you’re standing still. Harder if you’re moving, harder if you’re using something with a more curved flight path, and harder if you have less control over how it leaves you. From a plane is obviously extremely far from standing still, and the other unfavorable conditions also apply, so the 40% accuracy doesn’t sound too bad to me.

    • Aapje says:

      @bean

      Do you know how long it takes to fire up the boilers?

      And if I understand you correctly, those ships needed two boilers online to be able to sail away, right?

      • bean says:

        Do you know how long it takes to fire up the boilers?

        Depends on the exact state of the boilers. To a first approximation, you’re looking at 2-3 hours from cold iron, probably something like an hour if you’ve got other parts of the plant online (as they did that day). Maybe a bit less in an emergency. One of the big advantages of gas turbines is that they start quickly and throttle quickly. This is not true of steam.
        A man who was a boiler tech on the Missouri told me that they used to occasionally steam on 2 of the 8 boilers, and that they could cruise that way efficiently, but they rarely did because it meant that they had no reserve if they had to go to higher power. Normal cruising was 4 boilers.

        And if I understand you correctly, those ships needed two boilers online to be able to sail away, right?

        I’m not sure of it. The second boiler was something wiki mentioned, but Morison didn’t, and I’ve since seen speculation that she went out on one boiler. Nevada’s action report does not mention the boiler situation at all (which is a bit unusual, as that stuff is always written down somewhere.)

        • Bean, an old question this reminds me of: what happened to turboelectric?

          In some of the engineering posts earlier in the series, it seemed that modulo knowing-what-we-know-now, turboelectric drive was clearly the right option over direct geared shafts for dreadnoughts. But AFAICT, modern (American) warships that burn fossil fuels are all direct gas turbines (or some diesels on non-combatants), with the exception of the Zumwalt. Even the nukes are all shaft-driven turbines with the exception of the upcoming Columbia subs.

          So…what’s up with that? Did I miss an earlier explanation? Have the facts on the ground re: efficiency changes since 1930? (You and I briefly discussed an Arleigh Burke variant with IEP, but I missed asking why we don’t already have one.)

          • bean says:

            What you’re missing is gearing. Turbines like to go fast, props like to go slow. There are a couple of ways to do this. The US chose turbo-electric, I believe that someone used hydraulic on a couple of ships (maybe the Germans or Austrians?) and everyone else went with big gears, which were the lightest, but had worse fuel efficiency and didn’t compartmentalize readily. The treaty era meant the US switched to gears, and stuck with them as development focused on that route.
            To a large extent, naval engineers are conservative. They have to be, as mistakes are very expensive. The Burke design is early-80s in origin, and at that point, integrated electric wasn’t quite ready for whatever reason. (My knowledge of naval engineering is much less comprehensive after that point, so I can’t say why.) The new classes since then, including the Type 45 (although it has had issues), the Lewis and Clark-class, the Zumwalt, and the QEs have had it.

          • John Schilling says:

            Turboelectric was discussed quite a bit here. Bottom line, it weighs a bit more, breaks down in different ways, and offers greater operational flexibility.

            Weighs a bit more translates to a bit less armor or smaller guns, and those are things that show up in the latest edition of Janes’ Fighting Ships in a way that greater operational flexibility doesn’t, so it can be difficult to explain to an admiral or a congressman why you want to do it that way. And the line officers who have a solid appreciation of what operational flexibility means and might explain it, are also traditionally paranoid about things breaking down in new ways even though they have internalized and accepted all the old ways things might break.

          • I remember that discussion (it was where my question came from). I guess I can rephrase this as: why did the US switch in the 30s to geared turbines, if we already had experience (and thus inertia as you say) with turboelectric?

            I would have expected the WW2 construction, if we already knew how to do turbo-electric well, to continue, and then keep on that way forever. Was it all a question of micro-optimization of weight for the treaty?

            I guess I am also a bit surprised that we didn’t transition when we switched from boilers to gas turbines (I’m not sure what the first gas-turbine based class was–Spruance?), since at that point we’d already be eating huge new-idea costs. I suppose there are justifications here, it’s just a bit interesting.

            By the way, I picked up a copy of Blank & Bocks’ Introduction to Naval Engineering that you mentioned and it’s absolutely fascinating reading.The number of details involved in a steam boiler is just fascinating. I wish they’d go into more detail about the boot-strapping process of startup, which keeps coming up in passing (since everything requires high pressure steam to keep the pumps running that run the boilers…) but I’m learning all sorts of cool things about engine design. I suppose my primary takeaway is the value of institutional knowledge; the number of small but crucial details for creating an efficient engine that would be totally lost if we didn’t have a bunch of people experienced with them is absurd. I can’t imagine trying to bootstrap a new naval design from nothing.

            Sadly their discussion of turbine design is a bit under-technical and doesn’t really resolve my lack of deep understanding on how steam turbines are optimized and the thermodynamics thereof, but you can’t have everything 🙂

          • bean says:

            I remember that discussion (it was where my question came from). I guess I can rephrase this as: why did the US switch in the 30s to geared turbines, if we already had experience (and thus inertia as you say) with turboelectric?

            TE was always a capital ship system. I don’t think it fit quite as well onto cruisers, and when we started building treaty cruisers in the 20s, we chose geared turbines. So by the mid-30s, it was a choice of dusting off the knowledge of TE or scaling up the geared turbines off of cruisers. Weight and current design experience won.

            I’m not quite sure what was going on with the Spru-can machinery either. There was a base of British experience with geared gas turbines earlier, which may have been it. Also, there may have been serious improvements in power electrical technology since then. (See the Lipscomb for a TE ship of roughly the same vintage as the Spruance. She was 1800 tons heavier than the Sturgeons, and I don’t think that most of that was military systems.) I do remember that choosing machinery for the Spruances was a mess. In fact, their gearing was somewhat weaker than it should have been, which is why they were retired so early. I’ll look through the relevant Friedman when I get home.

            Sadly their discussion of turbine design is a bit under-technical and doesn’t really resolve my lack of deep understanding on how steam turbines are optimized and the thermodynamics thereof, but you can’t have everything

            You might look into stuff on gas turbine thermodynamics. I have an AIAA textbook on the subject from college. If the steam is dry (normal conditions) it should be the same.

          • Part of the problem is that I do not fully grok thermodynamics, especially relative to heat engine/cycles; it was easily my weakest area of physics/chem in undergrad.

            As a good example: it’s generally asserted (explicitly so in Blank) that one has to cool working fluid and reject heat to the environment after expansion or the cycle just doesn’t work. I have never really, truly understood why.

            I mean, I can sort of solve the efficiency equations for a Carnot cycle, and I know you want the biggest temperature delta possible, but it does not internally make sense to me why you want to throw away heat rather than just expanding as much as possible through some sort of work-generating place.

            Heat engines: how do they even?

          • bean says:

            Pulled the relevant Friedman (I have the 2nd edition of Destroyers) and he does mention gas-tuboelectric a couple of times. Apparently, most early plans were for that, as gas turbines don’t reverse and it’s nice and quiet. They later substituted controlled-pitch props as a space and weight saver. (His words.) I glanced through Cruisers, and didn’t see any mention of turboelectric in the 20s, only in conjunction with the Lexingtons. His Modern Warship Design and Development, from 1979, doesn’t even mention electrical drive. I’d assume it just wasn’t competitive with reversible-pitch props at the time. The only uses of electric drive I know of in major surface warships before the 90s (and after the fall of TE) are the British Type 23s, which had diesel-electric for quiet operations (and they are reportedly the quietest surface ships ever, although from British sources, who are sometimes biased) and gas turbines for high-speed propulsion.

            I can’t answer your questions on thermo better than the internet, so I’m just not going to try.
            Heat engines: they just do.

          • cassander says:

            >I would have expected the WW2 construction, if we already knew how to do turbo-electric well, to continue, and then keep on that way forever. Was it all a question of micro-optimization of weight for the treaty?

            For capital ships, it was definitely treaty weight. And remember, all of the capital ships that served in ww2 had a design process that started before the war. They were, for the most part, designs that were scaled up from treaty era designs and rushed into production in order to have them be ready as quickly as possible. When the war started it had been almost 2 decades since the country had built a turbo-electric capital ship, and the beginning of a war was not a good time to try a radical redesign of your existing ships when none of your existing naval architects are familiar with that sort of design.

    • johan_larson says:

      The thing that has always amazed me about the attack on Pearl Harbor is how unvigilant the defenders were. The Japanese managed to send hundreds of aircraft at the base, and the alarm wasn’t sounded until they were actually over the target. And that was costly. Even a few minutes’ warning would have made a real difference. But somehow that didn’t happen.

      • gbdub says:

        Well, there was a radar station, but apparently they confused the inbound planes with an expected flight of American bombers coming from the same direction.

        The attack really was a surprise, and it used new tactics the defenses were not optimized against.

        It was early Sunday morning and we were not on any kind of official war footing. Many of the sailors were off duty, and many of the ships were undergoing maintenance / cleaning / church services / whatever. Bean already mentioned that the ships were mostly in a literal “low power” mode. Things were not in a state where instant response was possible – e.g. the vast majority of the American fighters would not have been fueled or armed.

        Keep in mind these attacks took literally minutes from when the first planes would have been in visual range until the bombs were dropped and the attackers were outbound. And the initial strike was devastating enough to seriously hamper a response.

        By the second wave, American AA performance had significantly improved, and shot down a number of the attackers. Enough that expected high losses factored into the Japanese decision to not launch a third wave (which might have been devastating, since it would have focused on the fuel and repair facilities that turned out to be crucial to getting the Pacific Fleet back in action quickly).

        • bean says:

          Blast it, stop beating me to the answers!
          But basically this. I would point out that the US was expecting more diplomatic warning in case the balloon went up (as were the British) and that this was before they’d really figured out how to use radar.

          Enough that expected high losses factored into the Japanese decision to not launch a third wave (which might have been devastating, since it would have focused on the fuel and repair facilities that turned out to be crucial to getting the Pacific Fleet back in action quickly).

          This isn’t quite true. (At last, a nitpick!) The Japanese didn’t have time for a third wave. The recovery would have been at night, which was just not possible. I’m also a little skeptical of the narrative around the base facilities, but I’ll have to go and poke around more on that.

          • cassander says:

            it’s also worth noting that a third attack would have left the Japanese fleet dangerously low on ammunition and fuel, leaving them extremely vulnerable to a counter attack. Given that they didn’t know where the US carriers were, it’s understandable why they might want to keep a reserve.

          • gbdub says:

            Well to nitpick your nitpick, I said it was a factor, not the only or even the decisive one. But it is true that Japanese losses were much heavier in the second wave, and that certainly wouldn’t have been a “pro” when the “cons” already included “probable night or twilight recovery, which we aren’t really comfortable with”, “questionable fuel situation”, and “we still don’t know where the damn carriers are and for all we know they could be just over the horizon gearing up to unleash holy hell on us while we dink around getting a third wave prepped, not to mention that we’re in range of any land-based bombers that survived the attack”.

          • bean says:

            Well to nitpick your nitpick, I said it was a factor, not the only or even the decisive one.

            Nitpick^3, I don’t think it was a factor. Much of the common knowledge of Japanese naval air operations comes from Mitsuo Fuchida. Recent historians (for instance, Johnathan Parshall) have shown that he is not a reliable source, and that much of what we thought we knew was wrong. He appears to be the source of the 3rd strike claims, which just aren’t true. Actually, what I’d sort of forgotten was that it was not only not a real possibility, but that it wouldn’t have been focused on the oil tanks. That’s just flat-out false.
            I also think the potential damage done from those tanks being destroyed is somewhat overstated, but I don’t have sources to hand on that. Maybe in the inquest reports.

      • cassander says:

        Added to what Gdub and bean said, american naval planning for 50 years had been premised on the assumption that if there was a Japanese surprise attack, it would take place in the Philippines, not Hawaii. this had begun to change a little bit in the years just before the war, but the vast majority of the navy was operating on the assumption that the Japanese couldn’t really attack Pearl, so even if the Navy had expected an attack, Pearl almost certainly wouldn’t have.

        • James Miller says:

          Was the assumption that the Japanese wouldn’t attack Hawaii justified by a belief that the Japanese couldn’t possibly be crazy enough to get into a total war with America given how much bigger the American economy was than theirs?

          • bean says:

            No. It was based on the belief that the Japanese couldn’t deploy forces over that distance (surprisingly close to true)), and would need their forces closer to home to secure their other targets (Indonesia, Malaya, Philippines). We expected an attack on the Philippines (which makes MacArthur’s failure to properly prepare there particularly unforgivable), but not in Hawaii.

          • John Schilling says:

            No. The United States had all but deliberately pushed Japan towards war (or abject submission), and about a week before Pearl Harbor sent out a war warning message saying essentially “Japan is going to attack us in the next two weeks. This is not a drill. We don’t know their detailed plans, but you’ve all been through our training exercises and know what to do. Don’t expect them to be polite and give advanced notice. Be ready for everything, everywhere, No Shit, this is for real, it is Going To Happen”.

            Unfortunately, all our war plans and training exercises were for things like big attacks on the Philippines, invasions to secure bases all across the South Pacific, diversionary attacks and sabotage everywhere else, and Japan massing its fleet to meet the inevitable US counterattack. Really, most of the Japanese war plans and training exercises were similar. So the US commanders at Pearl wound up very prepared to repel Japanese saboteurs and then sortie the US battleships to the Philippines on short notice.

          • cassander says:

            Not really. The US Navy had been planning for a pacific war ever since the US took the Philippines*. The enemy for that Pacific war could never have been anyone but japan, because no one else had a fleet worth fighting, so the US Navy was not intrisically opposed to the idea that the Japanese would never fight them. There was a lot of thinking that the Japanese wouldn’t fight all that well (there is a famous quote by some USN officer, bean probably knows who, that the Japanese would make terrible pilots because of their squinty eyes) but not that fighting Japan was impossible.

            *A bit of an aside, it’s hilarious to see the way the arguments for taking the Philippines work out. Prior to taking them, everyone is saying “They’ll be a beachhead for Asia”, “They’ll give the US a dominant place in the western pacific”, and other things like that. Then almost immediately afterwards everyone starts to despair because the islands are totally indefensible because however strong the US Army and Navy were, they were always going to be a lot further away from the Philippines than the Japanese Army and Navy were, and military power falls off with distance. The need to defend them ends up being a substantial millstone around the neck of US military planning.

          • bean says:

            Then almost immediately afterwards everyone starts to despair because the islands are totally indefensible because however strong the US Army and Navy were, they were always going to be a lot further away from the Philippines than the Japanese Army and Navy were, and military power falls off with distance.

            Not an expert on this stuff by any means, but might the Russo-Japanese war been a big part of that? When we get the Philippines in 1898, the Japanese are a bunch of people who can’t fight because they squint. (No idea who said that, by the way. Never heard it before.) Then, in 1904-1905, they beat up the Russians, who were thought to be a fairly good naval power. Before that, the Europeans had never been defeated in that kind of war. It put a ceiling on how much threat you could assume away due to racism.

          • James Miller says:

            @cassander

            “there is a famous quote by some USN officer, bean probably knows who, that the Japanese would make terrible pilots because of their squinty eyes”

            Are stereotypes correct about the Japanese having on average on poor eyesight? We know that the Japanese replacement pilots were much worse than the original ones. Might part of the reason be that Japan only had a very small number of young men with strong enough vision and IQ to become good pilots and once lots of them died, the quality of Japanese navel aviation predictably plummeted?

          • bean says:

            @James
            It was a matter of training. The lowest-time pilot in the Pearl Harbor attack had 600 hours, and the flight leaders were pushing three times that. The average for the IJN was 700 hours, for the Army 500. The USN minimum was 325 hours at this point, and the average somewhere below the Japanese minimum.
            At the beginning of 1945, the Japanese averages were 275 and 130 for the respective services, and basic training was running something like 40-80 hours. The USN wasn’t sending anyone with less than 500 to sea. So the USN pilots of 1945 had about as much flight time (a decent proxy for experience) as the Japanese of 1941, while the average Japanese of 1945 was significantly worse than the worst US pilot of 1941.
            I won’t swear that eyesight was irrelevant, but experience is sufficient to explain all of the discrepancy that we saw. (Particularly because unlike the Japanese, the US made a practice of withdrawing experienced pilots to train new ones, instead of leaving them in the line until they died.)

          • cassander says:

            @James Miller

            I’m not aware of any studies of the matter, but given that the US was a much more developed country than japan at the time, I wouldn’t be surprised if the average american recruit was a lot healthier than the average japanese and scored better on a whole lot of metrics, including vision.

            That said, pilots were an elite, high status field in every military. There were always more candidates for pilot training than slots, so the air corps didn’t deal with average recruits, but got to screen for the best, so while the average american pilot was probably bigger and stronger than the average japanese pilot, I’m not aware of them being hard up for people with good vision.

            That also said, one of the most important traits for pilots is peripheral vision, and it’s a trait that can be badly affected by vitamin deficiency. I have little doubt that the awful diet the japanese soldier was fed in the solomons campaign materially affected their ability to function effectively.

            @bean

            I won’t swear that eyesight was irrelevant, but experience is sufficient to explain all of the discrepancy that we saw. (Particularly because unlike the Japanese, the US made a practice of withdrawing experienced pilots to train new ones, instead of leaving them in the line until they died.)

            I go back and forth on the wisdom of this idea. The japanese were trying to punch way above their weight, and they knew it. They had to win in two years, or they were going to lose, by their own calculations. Had the japanese put more effort into their training programs and rotating pilots home, they definitely would have inflicted more damage on US forces in the long run, but I’m not sure it would have increased their chance of victory in the window they thought they had available. Putting all their strength forward was their their best bet.

            I have one caveat to the above proposition, though. This this policy was absolutely terrible for morale. “They only let you go home if you die” was said with much bitterness in japanese aerodromes in the solomons. the japanese absolutely needed to rotate troops home, but NOT to train new pilots. They needed to rotate them home so they could rest a little, maybe swap war stories with other pilots and learn to adapt to american tactics. The goal needed to be maximizing the performance of pre-war cadres.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      In Pearl Harbor on December 7th were eight battleships, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Tennessee, California, West Virginia and Maryland.

      Huh. CAMPTOWN. Interesting.

    • Well... says:

      In meatspace, I’ve met two or three people who don’t just enjoy weird random stuff from the internet, they really go all in for it. Maybe there are thousands upon thousands of such people out there, and these are the ones generating the views for the videos discussed in that article.

      • ManyCookies says:

        The views are almost certainly faked. Picking a random video as an example , there’s ~100 comments on a 2 million view video, which is way way lower than the thousands of comments other million+ videos. At least half of those comments are obviously fake “great video! :)” things, and the other half are quick “wtfs” from people who clearly didn’t watch the whole thing. If there was some massive ironic crowd watching these things, I’d expect a lot more comments actually riffing/discussing the content of the video itself, like “holy shit baby spiderman took a dump in a pool of M&Ms and got arrested for it” (I’m not bullshitting, that segment is about a minute in).

        • ManyCookies says:

          Actually disregard the “are almost certainly faked” part, other kids videos have similar comment count/structure. Though that still implies the views aren’t coming from an ironic crowd.

          • Well... says:

            My wife needed our then-toddler-aged daughter to hold still for 3 minutes while she clipped her nails and stuff like that, so she found these videos some woman made where cheap plastic toys were unwrapped from plastic Easter eggs. The videos were shot from the point of view of the woman as she opened the toys–they never showed her face.

            Each video had millions of views. Here’s one: [link]

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve heard about those from a coworker who has three young kids. His kids love that stuff and would watch it for hours on end if he allowed it.

    • Wander says:

      I thought it was generally agreed that they were bot-created and bot-viewed to farm ad revenue?

      • ManyCookies says:

        That’s definitely part of it, but why would the videos need to be so weird for that? Why not stick to the countless inoffensive kid stories; these videos could be 300 variants on The Goldilocks and the Three Bears with swapped characters and still be perfectly fine viewbot farm (hell I’d willingly put on Elsa and the Three Jokers for my hypothetical kids).

        • Well... says:

          Possible reasons (don’t know, just brainstorming):

          – Bot creators have weird sense of humor
          – Bot creators think making the videos weird will trick people into thinking the videos aren’t bot-created, should they be investigated for rules violations
          – Bot creators think making the videos weird will trick people into assuming weirdness is the reason they have so many views, should they be investigated for rules violations
          – The bots themselves equate weirdness with “human-created” and therefore with authenticity.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            My guess would be your second, but other “bots”, i.e. automatic view farming detection algorithms.

          • sierraescape says:

            There are a good few live-action videos with the exact same style. Maybe some were bot-created but it’s definitely not a good explanation for the whole phenomenon.

    • skef says:

      The “fake views” explanation is inconsistent with the intellectual property violations.

      Just off the top of my head:

      I think there are at least two classes of video on the page with different explanations. The ones at the top with the very high counts are just fetish videos targeting adults. (The stop-motion one is a little out of place, but who knows?)

      Most of the videos lower-down look like they are produced for young children. What the author is seeing as fetish-related is a combination of taboo- and rule-breaking. I did randomly take some college classes on childhood development, but they didn’t include anything on humor. Still, I would guess that at the age when rules are being taught and emphasized, this might be particularly entrancing.

      I’ve heard anecdotally that some children just binge-watch Youtube for hours. So my best guess about these videos is that the producers 1) Come up with “scripts” that are particularly effective at keeping kids of a certain age watching, and 2) produce videos of those scripts using different popular characters that Youtube’s “next video” algorithm is more likely to place after popular videos that kids are watching for other reasons. The longer they keep the kid watching, the more ad revenue they get.

      • DrBeat says:

        The “fake views” explanation is inconsistent with the intellectual property violations.

        How so?

        • skef says:

          If no one is actually viewing the videos, why create hassles for yourself by including high-profile copyrighted characters? If the idea is to look less bot-ty, at least use low-profile copyrighted characters …

          • Matt M says:

            The fact that they use well known and popular characters gives a plausible excuse for having so many views?

            It’s within the realm of possibility that a crude animation of Spiderman peeing on Elsa could get 3 million views. It’s not credible that this could happen with two random unknown characters.

          • Guy in TN says:

            How sure are we about the inflated view counts? The lack of comments could be from most of the viewers being small children.

            The videos I’ve seen (the cartoon ones) seems needlessly complex for merely convincing youtube they are not being designed for bots, and hitting too many live-hot emotional subjects in children (abandonment, nakedness, going to the bathroom). If this is just a bot farm, its a bot-farm designed to look like its psychologically manipulating children. Which is not what I would want out of my bot farm trying to remain inconspicuous..

    • Sanchez says:

      These videos are child porn, as in they are porn made for children. These videos are full of what children find titillating. The view counts are definitely real and definitely from children.

      Here’s the Atlantic on it.

      • Deiseach says:

        they are porn made for children

        Fuck it, somebody invent Unfriendly AI to turn us all into paperclips right now because I don’t care if “oh no, it’s not sexual porn”, this is not just scraping the bottom of the barrel, it’s knocked right through the bottom and started digging towards Australia.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          You had to go and make a dig at Australia, didn’tcha?

          • Deiseach says:

            It would be racist to have used China instead 🙂

          • quaelegit says:

            Also since you’re starting in Ireland, Australia is a more antipodally accurate endpoint than China 😛 (Although you’re tunnel is long enough that you can angle it to end up anywhere you want probably)

  3. Pseudodionysius says:

    Copying a request from the bottom of the last thread:

    I’m looking for a therapist and/or psychiatrist in the NYC area (preferably Manhattan) and I was wondering if the community has some recommendations. Rationalist-friendly would be nice, but not necessary. I’m mainly looking for help with anxiety/depression/akrasia. I’ve tried talk therapy in the past (both CBT and psychodynamic) and found it slightly helpful, but I’m probably more interested in medication.

    Thanks!

  4. Well... says:

    This is late, since I finished Cryptonomicon a month ago, but for the sake of tradition here are the Neal Stephenson novels I have now read, in the order I liked them: (the order I read them is in parentheses)

    1. Seveneves (1)
    2. Anathem (2)
    3. The Diamond Age* (6)
    4. Cryptonomicon (7)
    5. Snow Crash (5)
    6. Zodiac (4)
    7. Reamde (3)

    …and I still enjoyed Reamde a lot.

    *In many ways Diamond Age was really my favorite, but it just didn’t have any outer space in it!

    Considering the chronology of these books, I kind of sense that Stephenson was much more expressive as a writer when he started out, but, roughly speaking, as his writing became blander his ideas became more interesting. His endings definitely got cornier though. (BTW, what the heck is up with his sex scenes??)

    Also from tradition: based on the above list, what sci-fi would you recommend?

    PS. Based on one’o’y’all’s recommendations I started reading Carter Scholz’s Gypsy but didn’t get to finish it, although I plan to.

    • johan_larson says:

      Have you tried Iain Banks? “Use of Weapons” and “The Player of Games” are excellent.

      • Well... says:

        Thanks.

        I think somebody recommended him before but I can’t remember if I looked into those books. I’ll investigate them further to see if I might be interested in reading them.

      • Incurian says:

        I like the Culture a lot, but I thought the first few books were the weakest.

        • Nornagest says:

          “Consider Phlebas” actually stuck with me the most, but it was the first I read. Certainly it’s very stylistically different from the others.

          The last few books are technically more polished, but I feel they lost some of the… thematic depth? of the first few. Banks was always on Team Culture, of course, but I feel like he spent more time exploring the edges and pitfalls of Culture culture early on; by the time of Surface Detail, on the other hand, all the villains are pretty coarsely drawn caricatures, and while the heroes still tend to be a little foreign or eccentric by Culture standards, he spends much less time bouncing them off the main Culture. And I can’t remember a damn thing about The Hydrogen Sonata except for the elegiac tone.

          • Incurian says:

            Yeah, I didn’t care for the Hydrogen Sonata (except for the expanded version of Mistake Not… which made reading the book kind of worth it), or Player of Games or Matter. I liked the eccentric characters in Surface Detail, though.

        • Spookykou says:

          Seconding the Culture.

    • Cheese says:

      So the last couple of years i’ve been on a Sci Fi mission starting with Stephenson (and Rajeniemi), and this is what i’ve done. I think this is broadly a re-post of a fair few open threads ago.

      -Iain M Banks (very Stephenson)
      -James SA Corey (very Stephenson)
      -Richard Morgan (slightly darker again, as easy to read) – easily my favourite with Banks, Corey and Stephenson.
      -Hannu Rajeniemi (more out there ideas)
      -Alastair Reynolds (slightly darker, harder to read mainly due to writing style I think)
      -Peter Watts (very dark, genuinely hard to read for me)
      -Cixin Liu (harder to read because of the translation I think but still good)

      Others like Orson Scott Card, John Scalzi and Ann Leckie I personally found too ‘pop sci-fi’ for my liking. Bordering on pulpy and the ideas aren’t as well thought out. But I still read them. David Brin on the other hand I got a few chapters in and deleted the damn thing it was so bad – others may like him though who knows. Kim Stanley Robinson has great ideas but is really, IMO, a bad writer. Took me ages to slog through his stuff. On the fantasy side, if that is your boat, I did like Jaqueline Carey as well (the first two trilogies, the 3rd is total trash and clear money making only IMO) – but I am somewhat of a sucker for feelgood fantasy with happy endings.

      • Vermillion says:

        I liked the first Ancillary Justice novel, it helped that I’m a big fan of the Roman Empire, but I’m sure if I’ll read the rest. Strongly disagree about Brin, but on the other hand I haven’t read him in like 15 years so maybe my tastes have changed? The rest of your assessments seem reasonable.

      • Well... says:

        Can you explain a bit more what “very Stephenson” means? What is it about Stephenson these guys are “very”?

        Re. fantasy, I have basically no interest whatsoever.

        • Cheese says:

          Writing style. General way the ideas are presented.

          One thing that strikes me about Stephenson generally is that his ideas are at least superficially realistic. It’s not that much of a stretch to imagine and he has a lot of really interesting thoughts. Banks, Morgan and Corey (actually Ty Frank and Daniel Abraham) are similar. Others can tend to introduce concepts that are a bit further out there and you just have to take at face value, or they totally commit to the ‘hard sci-fi’ tag.

          Writing wise I find him to be one of the easiest to read. The characters, even if they are not likeable, have understandable motivations. Everything is well paced and you’re engaged throughout the whole book. Whereas someone like Reynolds (especially the Revelation Space stuff) really seems to struggle with pacing. There are bits of the book where there is just nothing to hold your interest and things are not very well explained. Robinson is terrible for that too.

          Stephenson is very happy-ending too. I like that. Personally I thought Seveneves should have ended after section 2 but hey, closure was nice. Whereas someone like Peter Watts seems to take an almost perverse pleasure in having things end in the most fucked up manner possible – I had to go hug my dog after getting through Blindsight and Echopraxia.

    • Well... says:

      Oh yeah, before anyone suggests Vernor Vinge, I disliked “Rainbows End” so much I actually quit about 100 pages into it, and I hardly ever quit books. This has kind of put me off the idea of reading any more Vinge.

      • Iain says:

        Rainbow’s End is very different from A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky, which are Vinge’s two most frequently recommended books. You might want to try reading one of those before giving up on Vinge forever. (I though the third book in the series, The Children of the Sky, was rather disappointing, and would not recommend it.)

        • Well... says:

          Alright…I might circle back to A Fire Upon the Deep at some point. But I’m not in a hurry!

        • Nick says:

          Seconding that The Children of the Sky was really not as good imo, but I really enjoyed A Fire Upon the Deep.

        • MoebiusStreet says:

          I agree on both of those novels. They’re both “big idea” stories (in different ways), and very much worth taking in.

        • Spookykou says:

          I really enjoyed A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky despite the titles sounding like something from that teenage poetry writing AI , but I couldn’t even finish The Children in the Sky.

      • Machina ex Deus says:

        Rainbow’s End is my least-favorite Vernor Vinge book. I still finished it, and still think about the walking library once in a while.

        Last week I read The Peace War, thirty years late. Since I’d heard about it from a friend of mine thirty years ago, I had a teenage nerd’s expectations of the book: heavy on technological ideas and action, and what else exactly is there to a sci-fi novel?

        Instead, I found it almost as complex in its world and its characters as A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky, which he wrote fifteen or more years later. I also enjoyed the occasional misprediction of the now-past future.

        I highly recommend it, along with Fire and Deepness. And make sure to get your hands on a copy of True Names!

        • hlynkacg says:

          The Peace War and quasi sequel Marooned in Real-time (same universe but with none of original characters) are hidden gems IMO.

    • J Mann says:

      Based on your preferences, if I could only recommend one book, it would be

      Diaspora, by Greg Egan. I think it fits the “creative philosophic ideas wrapped in science fiction” that seems to underlie your favorites. It follows a group of AI protagonists in the transhuman future, and is really cool in ways that I don’t want to spoil.

      A less good fit, but still probably a fit: The Hyperion series by Dan Simmons. It has more noticeable literary and metaphorical roots than Stephenson, but still gripping space sci fi wrapped around some fascinating big think.

      If you’re willing to venture into historical fiction, I’d recommend Umberto Eco and Arturo Perez Reverte. You can’t go wrong with Name of the Rose, and for APR, I’d start with The Fencing Master. If you like that, try The Club Dumas and The Island of the Day Before.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Strongly seconding Diaspora. Finest Existentialist novel of all time? I always think of it when natalist discussions come up on this board.

      • Well... says:

        Is Diaspora, like, pro-transhumanist, or is it sharply critical of transhumanism?

        BTW, I’m basically immune to spoilers. I get very little out of plot twists and stuff like that, and tend to always take in media (in any form) in constant awareness of the meta/”production” aspects of it. (A blessing and a curse, to be sure.) So, spoil away! Use ROT13 if you want to protect others.

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          Unclear. On the one hand it makes you care about someone who was literally generated from a random seed.

          On the other hand it is a lonely book. It’s about the dissolution of the human community. It made me realize how much i rely emotionally on feeling that I’m part of Humanity with a capital H (despite talking a big game about the virtues of atomization).

          • Well... says:

            As someone who already realizes how much he relies emotionally on feeling like he’s part of Humanity*, how do you think the experience of reading it would make me feel?

            *I’ll sometimes look around and imagine what it’d be like to know I have to leave all this in a few weeks and go live in a little tin can in space for the rest of my life with only a handful of other people. Even though I know I’m only wargaming it, the sensation is definitely very uncomfortable at best, and at worst it’s almost depression/panic-inducing.

            The first 20 or 30 pages I’ve read so far of Carter Scholz’s “Gypsy” were, I thought, pretty damn grim.

        • J Mann says:

          Yeah, I would say it’s descriptive and interesting, but not ultimately judgmental. As hog^5, it’s existential, so I don’t think it ascribes values to things, so much as it describes a search for values and purpose.

      • Nornagest says:

        I enjoyed The Club Dumas and didn’t know there was other Reverte available in English. I’ll have to find a copy of The Fencing Master.

      • quaelegit says:

        Seconding Greg Egan! Of his novels, I’ve only read Quarantine and Teranesia, but I really enjoyed both of them. And if you’re up for short stories, his anthology “Axiomatic” is one of my all-time favorites. Particularly liked “Safe Deposit Box” (I think that’s the right title?)

      • Vermillion says:

        Just got this on my Kindle, 20 pages in and it’s really interesting so far.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Considering the chronology of these books, I kind of sense that Stephenson was much more expressive as a writer when he started out, but, roughly speaking, as his writing became blander his ideas became more interesting. His endings definitely got cornier though.

      Wow. I’d basically describe the exact opposite progression for Stephenson. His writing got more expressive as he went on (which reduced his need for gigantic essays in the middle of his fiction), though his ideas at best maybe stayed the same and possibly got less interesting. And his endings massively improved.

      • Well... says:

        I thought the idea for/ideas at play within, say, Anathem were way more interesting than for/within, say, Zodiac, but Zodiac had way more personality in terms of narrative voice. (Note: I still thought the ideas in Zodiac were interesting, and I still thought Anathem was nicely written.)

        By “endings” I’m really talking about the very end: the last several pages. Anathem ended with a feel-good wedding scene. Seveneves ended with a feel-good dinner scene. Reamde ended with a feel-good family gathering, if I remember right. Boy Hero and the Heroic Girl he was lusting after walk hand in hand off into the sunset, etc. If it were a movie, someone would tell a cheesy joke, everyone would laugh, and then credits would roll over a freeze-frame of them all high-fiving each other.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          Reamde ended with a mention that both Dodge and Zula are in therapy for PTSD (I mean, not the very last sentence, but in the denouement). I don’t know, Stephenson’s early book endings were famously abrupt. The modern ones actually do wrap things up, but I never found them saccharine.

          Anathem is definitely more of a big ideas book that Zodiac, but on the other hand Reamde is definitely less of a big ideas book than Snow Crash or Diamond Age. I honestly don’t remember that much about Zodiac‘s narrative voice, I read it a long, long time ago. But in general I’ve seen more writing polish in Stephenson’s recent works than his older ones.

          • Well... says:

            Reamde ended with a mention that both Dodge and Zula are in therapy for PTSD

            Yes, a mention, for the sake of preempting criticism it not being realistic, I thought, and it still had a tone of “but don’t worry, they’ll be as good as new before long” to it.

            I agree about Reamde not having a lot of big ideas; it’s an exception in the trend–and notice where it lands on my list.

            I also agree the later books are more polished, but that’s different from expressive.

    • Incurian says:

      Good, you are ready for the Baroque Cycle now.

      • MoebiusStreet says:

        I’ve tried this a couple of times, even as an audio book. I once got as far as about 100 pages into the second book. But I just can’t keep it up.

        I really do love his style, with his sidebar diversions and all. Some of that from Cryptonomicon, for example (the famous Captain Crunch bit, or his depiction of the Hindenburg disaster) make it one of my favorite books. But the Baroque Cycle seems to be entirely devoid of a plot. Sure, people are running around doing stuff, but I could never get a feel for moving toward any particular spot on a distant horizon. And that got really tiresome.

        • Nornagest says:

          Oh yeah, the Hindenburg scene. I really liked that bit; Stephenson likes to pack so many ideas and so much technical detail into his books that it’s easy to forget how good he is just with language. And then he busts out something like that.

          • Well... says:

            I was so confused by it! It was cool as a piece of writing, and near the end I realized “Oh, he’s describing a blimp crash…surely it’s not the Hindenberg–the only blimp crash I or most anybody else knows about?” and then it never really tied in again afterwards. I was afraid the whole book was going to be full of stuff like that.

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s supposed to be confusing, though! One of the things Stephenson’s really good at is giving insight into characters’ thought processes through their narration; so you get stuff like John P. Hackworth in Diamond Age speculating about the contents of his sandwich sauce as he desperately flails for a way to stall the conversation. Especially early in the book, almost every scene Lawrence Waterhouse has is full of these mathematical and aural analogies, so dense that you need to think two or three times about them to get a sense for what’s actually going on. Which makes perfect sense, since we’re seeing the world through the eyes of an ambiguously autistic mathematician.

            Compare a few scenes later, where he lives through Pearl Harbor and most of the description is about the thirty-pound xylophone strapped to his chest.

          • Well... says:

            Woe-to-Hice’s living through Pearl Harbor is significant to the plot of the book, since Pearl Harbor brings the US into the war and also due to some coincidence from while he’s recovering from the injuries he sustained at Pearl Harbor (if I remember right) he is set on a course to be part of the intelligence effort.

            Like I said, I agree the blimp scene is a cool piece of writing, but Lawrence’s stumbling through the flaming ruins of the Hindenberg has nothing to do with anything that happened in the book, before or after.

          • quaelegit says:

            I’ve had so many* friends give up on Cryptonomicon because of the Hindenburg scene. I didn’t understand it the first two times I read it either, but give the book a second chance people!

            Also my sister just gave up on Anathem because she was put off by the author introduction. Understandable IMO (starting your book with “this is not our version of Earth so when I say “carrot” I mean this alien world’s equivalent [more detail]” is intimidating). I may have to warn people to skip it in the future.

            *Ok, like 2 out of the few people I’ve recommended it to. But that’s a lot by standards of “my friends who will actually attempt to read a 900 page book I recommend”.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I found Anathem hard to get through for at least that same reason – figuring out all the analogues. Their monks are not our monks. Their devices are not our devices. And then this extended to abstract concepts, so what we’d call metaphysical realism, they call… I was brain-sweating pretty hard, and if you read my posts in the recent abstract objects subthread, hopefully you’ll know that I tend to like this stuff…

            Reamde ended up being very welcome novel popcorn after all that, despite the lack of Big Ideas.

        • Randy M says:

          But the Baroque Cycle seems to be entirely devoid of a plot.

          Yes, this echoes my criticism of it. It is an impressive work, but it is not captivating because it doesn’t really seem to be moving towards anything. Future Daniel does seem to have a goal, albeit reluctantly, but past Daniel doesn’t really set out to accomplish anything, although the people he bumps into are quite interesting and seem to have an occasional passion or plot.

        • Incurian says:

          It starts off at a crawl, but I still think it’s extremely worth it.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          But the Baroque Cycle seems to be entirely devoid of a plot

          I had the same issue. I’ve picked up Quicksilver half a dozen times, put it down at the same spot as you, and still have no idea what’s going on.

          It’s one of those books I’ve entirely given up on.

          • John Schilling says:

            A second-rate scientist, a swashbuckling adventurer(*) and a Turkish harem girl unwittingly create the modern world and everything in it.

            Really, it’s a couple of immortal wizards who think science and reason work even better than wizardry who are doing that, but they need to work through indirect nudges and the aforementioned agents rather than just blatantly magicking things into the desired shape.

            * named “Captain Jack” because that’s a thing.

          • Randy M says:

            Really, it’s a couple of immortal wizards who think science and reason work even better than wizardry who are doing that, but they need to work through indirect nudges and the aforementioned agents rather than just blatantly magicking things into the desired shape.

            This is the problem. Well, it’s not really a problem so much as a fascinating conceit, however, it comes with a drawback. The main characters are not agents. They don’t set out to create anything. They travel around, looking out for their short term interests (in the academic or financial senses) with no real plans or longer term problems to solve.

            This is fine, while those scenes–and the lengthy digressions therein–are interesting, but when the prose gets a bit thick, there’s often not a very compelling reason to push through. In the second book, maybe the reader will be fascinated by one of characters and keep reading hoping to get back to him or her, but two of those main characters aren’t introduced until then.

            I can say a lot of good things about the book, mind, and I have said it is impressive. I’m trying to articulate why I never finished it despite that.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I was getting tired of the Baroque Cycle, and I asked when the story starts. I was told that there isn’t a story. Read the series if you like the essays.

          • Incurian says:

            Book 2 starts a standard plot.

      • Spookykou says:

        I enjoyed the ideas in his other books more, but the characters in the Baroque Cycle are probably my favorite.

    • John Schilling says:

      It’s only half Stephenson, but has anyone yet read “The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O”? I finished it about two weeks ago, and consider it a lesser Stephenson on par with Reamde. Haven’t read anything by Nicole Galland before, but either she is channeling Stephenson perfectly or this is a genuine collaboration rather than an established Name boosting signal for some newcomer’s work.

      The spoiler-free premise is that magic used to work, stopped working in 1851 for reasons that upon investigation can be cancelled out in a space the size of a small room at great expense, and some crack people from the government have just figured this out. There’s a hint of Charles Stross’s “Laundry” series in that, but not nearly as grim. Stephenson does his usual thing of playing with the premise, if this were true how would it work and what could you do with it, etc, and generally has fun with it. One of the things you can do with magic is time travel, sort of, withing annoying limits but opening the story from one small room in Massachusetts to e.g. Constantinople 1203, giving Stephenson and Galland a chance to show off their historical chops and do yet another round of playing with the premise.

      It does come to a reasonable conclusion, one with an obvious hook for a sequel but not requiring one – as if someone had written the story of 18th century Colonial American politics and intrigue to end at Lexington and Concord. There is some annoying idiot plotting, but mostly of the type where a bunch of nerds are too focused on the near-term applications of their shiny toy to recognize some obvious threats and unresolved issues.

      • Oh, that came out? I saw the announcement and was interested. Haven’t read it yet. Going on the list.

      • Well... says:

        I can’t remember, I think it was a commenter here a year or two ago, who had the idea that magic used to work but doesn’t now because of something having to do with the Simulation theory. I thought it was a cool premise for a book, and it’s interesting to see half-Stephenson half-went down that road.

        • John Schilling says:

          No, he found a different path. The short version is,

          Lbh onfvpnyyl pna’g zntvp nalguvat gung’f orra cubgbtencurq, rira va n shmml vaqverpg jnl, orpnhfr dhnaghz zrpunavpf jvyy bayl nyybj hacebinoyr oernpurf bs gur ynjf bs culfvpf. Fb zntvp fgnegrq trggvat haeryvnoyr va gur 1820f, naq jura gung vqvbg Orexbjfxv cubgbtencurq na rpyvcfr, jvgu gur Rnegu snvagyl ersyrpgrq ba gur onpxyvg zbba, vg jnf tnzr bire sbe gur jvgpurf bs Rnegu.

      • achenx says:

        It seemed both obviously Stephenson while obviously not-Stephenson at the same time, if that makes sense. So I think the “co-writing” process was pretty thorough. Though I haven’t read Galland before either, so it’s hard for me to spot the seams.

        I like and agree with that analogy of “the history of Colonial America, ending at Lexington and Concord”. Seveneves had a bit of that too… certainly the story could continue, but the book has to end sometime.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          “In the middle of the (disappointing) sequel” would not have been my first choice for where to end Seveneves.

    • Spookykou says:

      I don’t know if anyone else has mentioned him, but I really enjoy Roger Zelazny. I read it when I was in 9th grade and honestly I don’t even remember it very well, but A Doorway in the Sand is filed away in my brain as my favorite book. His most famous stuff is Fantasy but Doorway is Scifi and the Lord of Light is kinda sorta both.

  5. johan_larson says:

    I work in software, and in this industry companies tend to make a big deal about diversity, meaning diversity of race and in some cases gender. But suppose you went beyond that, and prioritized other types of diversity too, including memetic diversity. You’d have an HR department that slapped high-fives whenever they brought on people with unusual ideas like Marxism or Objectivism, or off-the-beaten-path hobbies like playing the accordion or doing needle-binding. And the big bonus would go to whoever found someone really unusual, like a Zoroastrian or a neo-Nazi.

    Doing this seems possible. But would it be worth the trouble?

    • Well... says:

      meaning diversity of race and in some cases gender

      I’ve found they make a HUGE deal about “women in tech” but relative to that they rest on their laurels about racial diversity because they feel they’ve met their quota with all the south and east Asians.

      The schtick behind HR depts prioritizing gender and racial diversity is “these are superficial differences; diversity makes us stronger; we’re leveling the playing field” etc. If you get into diversity of ideas and hobbies then that schtick becomes (even) harder to defend, while crying out (even) more loudly to be attacked.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        these are superficial differences; diversity makes us stronger

        These seem incompatible to me…

    • The Nybbler says:

      You wouldn’t have to work at it; there’s a lot of weird people in software. You just have to stop the other diversity push — the one which says that if anything makes a member of an underrepresented group uncomfortable, one must cease and desist all things related to it; that sort of kills the off-beat.

    • Matt M says:

      I think a soft version of this is already in play in many places.

      I recently graduated from a Top 20 MBA program and a whole lot of their interview prep emphasized how to tell your story and highlight “what makes you unique” specifically to include things like oddball hobbies. You had to come up with some plausible way it relates to job performance, but the main takeaway was “make yourself memorable, that’s the single most important thing – it’s fine to be remembered as ‘the accordion guy’ so long as you’re capable of doing the job.

      Now I work for an elite consulting firm and we have a lot of people with diverse (in the truest sense of the word, not just based on skin color) backgrounds who are into weird hobbies and have unexpected past accomplishments.

      • onyomi says:

        I’m a bit surprised to hear this, which I expect of e.g. college admissions, continues into the corporate world of consulting, where I assume actually making money is the primary criterion. It it actually believed in the consulting world that employees with wacky hobbies are more successful? Is it because having such interests is viewed as a proxy for “self-starting go-getter”?

        • Vermillion says:

          My understanding of these types of firms is that they used to hire exclusively Harvard MBAs (maybe a couple from Yale if they were really desperate) but as time went on the supply of potential consultants just couldn’t keep up with demand. So they started expanding their search and hiring a lot of non-traditional folk who might not be MBAs but still had the type of accomplishments under their belt that indicated they could perform at a high level (e.g. PhDs, MDs, lawyers). My guess is that people who take a tangential move from their training are also more likely to have non-conventional interests, but I don’t have any numbers to back that up.

          At any rate, these recruiting efforts must have born some fruit, more than half of McKinsey’s consultants come from a non-MBA background.

          • Matt M says:

            A couple random things:

            1. Yale’s MBA program is actually not rated nearly as high as you might think. Harvard-Stanford-Chicago-Wharton is basically the undisputed top tier.

            2. Within consulting, McKinsey is particularly known for hiring non-MBA advanced degrees. The other places are starting to do more of it, but it’s still a pretty clear minority.

        • Montfort says:

          I imagine the idea of the interview prep is just that the candidate who isn’t remembered isn’t picked. So your hobby is supposed to appeal to regular human interest to implicitly keep you on the short list of people actually considered (while hopefully not doing any damage to your employability there), and then your normal credentials establish that you’re at least as qualified as the competition.

          I don’t think (though I don’t do interviews that would be considering top-20-program-MBA-holders) the hobby is consciously considered as a real qualification.

          • So your hobby is supposed to appeal to regular human interest

            So sci-fi dweebs should pretend to really really really like some regular human thing like baseball. Saying that your hobby is discussing AI risk on the internet is not going to go down well.

            I JUST FUCKING LOVE… SPORTSBALL!
            HIRE ME!

            EDIT:
            Ugh… I just inadvertently wrote an episode of The Big Bang Theory. I feel dirty.

          • Matt M says:

            Actually, I think discussing AI risk would probably be okay. (Assuming you do it smartly and don’t lead with WE’RE ALL GOING TO BE PAPERCLIPS IN FIVE YEARS!!)

            Discussing how you spend your weekends cosplaying as Star Trek characters probably wouldn’t go over as well.

          • bean says:

            So sci-fi dweebs should pretend to really really really like some regular human thing like baseball. Saying that your hobby is discussing AI risk on the internet is not going to go down well.

            I’m not sure this is the case. My main hobby (battleships) is very much not a regular human thing, and is probably even less common than sci-fi. I am still amazed to people’s willingness to listen to me talk about it when I’m not at the ship, although I do suspect that a lot of that comes from the fact that I can introduce myself as a tour guide instead of just going ‘I like battleships’, and that signals that I’m used to talking to normal people about it, and that if they express interest they are unlikely to get a long dissertation on something random that they can’t understand. (They may get the long dissertation, but I’m good at making it comprehensible.) Unfortunately, there isn’t a museum of AI risk (maybe somebody should set one up), but I definitely think it has a lot more to do with how you spin it than the weirdness of your interest.

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve brought up AI Risk as a topic of conversation randomly at the lunch table at work, and people seemed more than willing to discuss it and were at least a little interested in doing so.

            And it turned out, one of my colleagues actually worked in a relevant field and knew even more about it than I did, so I learned some interesting stuff, too!

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Fun story: I was interviewing for a cost accountant role in a production factory. One of the people I interviewed straight up told me I was too much of a nerd to work there.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            Unfortunately, there isn’t a museum of AI risk (maybe somebody should set one up)….

            We ran a prototype for 78 days in a location in the Bay Area. Our main problems were concealing the neurosurgery scars attracting interest and medium-term post-operative drop-off in paperclip positivity explaining in an accessible way what the risks are and why only non-rational people would worry about them.

        • Matt M says:

          I think there’s a few things going on here:

          1. To Montfort’s point below, above all else, I think it’s a method of using psychological tricks to game the interview system. By the time you get to the “final round” of a highly competitive interview, your qualifications have already been screened. At this point, it’s safe to assume that of the final 10 applicants for 2 positions, all are basically qualified, and it’s very unlikely that the decision is going to be made based on something like “Well A got a 740 on their GMAT and B got a 730, I guess we should hire A.” Interviewing people is hard. If you have 10 candidates to screen and 30 minutes per interview, that’s five solid hours of talking to people about their lives. It’s very easy to forget things, to confuse one person’s story with another. This is why you are encouraged to “tell a story” rather than deliver a series of unrelated anecdotes showing off your skills. And the more interesting your story, the more likely it will be memorable. Now the interviewers aren’t stupid, your story has to be relevant or they’ll dismiss you. But if a question like “Show me a time you overcame a great difficulty” comes up – someone who can tell a story about how learning to play the accordion allowed them to come up with an extra $10 for bus fare when they were stranded in Sri Lanka during a monsoon is probably going to be more memorable than the guy who says “One time my team had to work late to overcome a last minute change in our deliverable from the leadership team but we rallied hard and put our noses to the grindstone and got it done.” Yawn. Everyone has that story.

          2. I think in small enough firms (like consulting and probably many tech start-ups), the bureaucracy is small and not so powerful as to have completely taken over hiring decisions. In consulting, offers are made by the partners, not by HR. HR may have the right to approve or disapprove, I’m not really sure. But I literally never spoke to an HR person until after I was hired. It was managers and partners every step of the way. And these are really smart people who genuinely believe “diversity is our strength” but in the very literal sense of the term, not in the “check the box to ensure we have enough members of this ethnic group so nobody sues us” sense. They see themselves as the business equivalent of Professor X – whose job is to assemble a team that can overcome any potential challenge. Wolverine may be the strongest individual X-Man, but that doesn’t mean Professor X wants a team of 20 Wolverines. And at a personal level, they genuinely want to meet and interact with and get to know people from backgrounds they have no experience with. Which leads us to…

          3. The infamous “airport test.” For those unfamiliar, the theory behind the airport test is that hiring decisions will be made based on the hiring manager asking themselves “How would I feel about being stuck at the airport with this guy for 8 hours?” These are stressful jobs, where it’s quite likely the team will be locked in small rooms staying up until midnight to meet a wholly unreasonable last-minute deadline because the CEO randomly decided to change everything at the last minute. You’ll be around your team a lot, often to include long distance travel. This is a test, not merely of basic level social skills, but of “How interesting of a person are you?” Do you actually have anything to say about the world, about life? If I’m bored, can you tell me an interesting story about something I’m otherwise unfamiliar with? These things matter a lot more than people give them credit for. The partners have a lot of money. They don’t care if your math skills are 5% weaker than the other guy, they can train you to be better at math or find someone else in the firm to do the math part of the project. They are often maximizing for their own personal enjoyment of a job that takes 70+ hours of their week. They want to be around interesting people. That’s a lot more important than 10 points on the GMAT.

          • Chalid says:

            I think this sort of thing is a feature of junior positions, where everyone you’re talking to has just gotten out of school and therefore has an identical and not-that-relevant set of recent experiences. Once someone has a few years of industry experience you can actually have a real conversation with them about what they’ve done, what they’re looking for, their opinions about how to approach common problems, how their skills complement those already in the organization, etc.

            For less-junior positions, you’re also not interviewing 10 people a day, so the candidate doesn’t need to be unusual to be memorable, and talking business with someone is a much better way to tell if you’ll enjoy working with them than talking about their accordion.

            I think in small enough firms (like consulting and probably many tech start-ups), the bureaucracy is small and not so powerful as to have completely taken over hiring decisions.

            I don’t think this is a firm size effect or at any rate not purely one. I’ve interviewed at giant companies – AIG and Bank of America for example – and had essentially no HR interaction beyond scheduling the interview times.

        • Deiseach says:

          I have no personal experience of this, but my brother (who is smart and a very hard worker and quick learner and all those other desirable qualities) had started playing golf, taught by one of my uncles who was mad about the game, and had just joined the local golf club.

          Then he went for an interview where, after he mentioned the “I play golf” for the “so what hobbies and interests have you?” part, the interviewer was “oh I’m a member of the local golf club” and the whole interview was practically a nice chat about golf.

          And yes, he got the job 🙂

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I suspect this is only the case in extremely high-end jobs. Top 20 MBA programs represent a pretty narrow section of the labor pool.

        “Ahead of the Curve,” a book about a journalist who went to Harvard Business, implies that personal interests played a role in both admissions and job employment. There’s an anecdote of one employer looking down on the author actually doing all of his school work, and preferring the students who blew off classes and spent most of their time playing poker.

        • Matt M says:

          Referring to my post above, I think 2 and 3 may only apply to high-end jobs, but 1 seems like good advice for basically anywhere.

          And I think it has implications beyond just employment. How about dating? Having an interesting/odd (but not stereotypically nerdy or low-status) hobby can definitely make you seem like a “more interesting person” which can go a long way.

          Hell, we can apply this logic to this very comments section. Which commenters are the most memorable to you? Which are the ones who you think are generally most respected? The Irish lady who can drop a 2,000 word summary of Catholic theology at the drop of a hat? The guy who seems to know everything there is to know about battleships? Unique backgrounds and specific/unusual interests make you more memorable, and being remembered is the first basic requirement for being respected and admired.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Ah, yes, I would definitely say this is the case for dating and social gatherings! And this blog (especially OT) qualifies as a social gathering.

            Most people don’t like hanging around boring people. Everyone likes to hear about the exciting adventure up K-2 or eating dinner with celebrities. Unfortunately, most people are boring, so companies don’t get to exclude all boring people.

            Honestly, even in the dating world, I think “interesting” is overrated. You know what sounds fun? Netflix and chill. It can even actually be Netflix and chill. I don’t get home until 6:30 and I go to bed at 8:30, and in that time I do chores, laundry, and work out, so I don’t have time to be interesting.
            Luckily, Mrs. ADBG is pretty understanding…especially since she isn’t very interesting, either.
            Dating might be easier for people if they accept more “boring” people, that have otherwise positive relationship traits.

            On the broader point of diversity, our HR department sent out a missive just today about it. They emphasize diversity in viewpoints just as much as diversity in RCG (race/class/gender). I can’t really say this amounts to much in practice, as most of the people on my floor all seem like the same 20-something college educated cut-out, with minor variations.

            I, of course, being 30, am totally different.

      • “But I don’t want to tell you about my sad and boring hobbies. I just want to apply my skillset to this profession and work hard for a living, thanks.”

    • Winter Shaker says:

      …off-the-beaten-path hobbies like playing the accordion

      At a rough guess I’d have said that maybe about a quarter of my friends play some sort of accordion, or play in a band with someone who does. Looks like I may have a powerful filter bubble going on 🙂

      • Deiseach says:

        about a quarter of my friends play some sort of accordion, or play in a band with someone who does

        Polka, Irish, Cajun, or other?

        The link is to a mazurka that my mother called “Shoe The Donkey”, my father called “Cock Your Leg Up”, and it was the “Varsovien” (spelling?) when danced 🙂 (Or at least it was these *mumblemumble* years ago in primary school when Miss Whelan was teaching us to dance, and you’re supposed to do more of a ‘hop’ when you turn, at least the way I learned it).

        • Winter Shaker says:

          Mostly Scandinavian actually, and also French Balfolk (which features a lot of mazurka too, though the dancing is a whole lot less skippy and more smoochy than in the Irish style).

          • Deiseach says:

            more smoochy than in the Irish style

            Yes, well we’ll have none of that heathen Frenchified nonsense in good Catholic Ireland, thank you very much! 🙂

        • MoebiusStreet says:

          Here in Texas there’s a unique genre of music called “conjunto” that uses quite a bit of accordion. It goes back quite a ways, when the natives were enjoying music with a Mexican style, while Germanic settlers brought in their folk music.

          In the United States and Mexico, a conjunto band is composed of four main instruments: the button accordion, the bajo sexto, an electric bass, and a drum kit. They are popular in northern Mexico and southern Texas. German and East European settlers brought their accordions, waltzes and polkas to the region, which were adapted by the local population.[2] Texas accordion player Flaco Jiménez is probably the best-known conjunto musician in the United States, with a career spanning sixty years and earning him six Grammy awards. Chulas Fronteras is a documentary film from the 1970s which illustrates how the music meshed into the lives of families in south Texas and northern Mexico. — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conjunto

    • HFAMaximizer says:

      Memetic diversity is good for a business for it leads to new ideas and new perspectives which can help a business.

      • gbdub says:

        This is the theory. Has it ever really been tested?

        Frankly it seems more likely that superficial racial/gender diversity (while everyone still shares the common Ivy League culture) lets the bosses and customers pat themselves on the back for their forward thinking ways, while avoiding truly deep cultural diversity that might upset the apple cart.

        And they might have a point – there is probably some level of diversity that keeps things interesting, but extreme diversity and highly divergent personalities and cultures would likely hurt team cohesion and communication.

        • Steven J says:

          HFAMaximizer: “Memetic diversity is good for a business for it leads to new ideas and new perspectives which can help a business.”

          gbdub: “This is the theory. Has it ever really been tested?”

          Lots of studies on this, of varying quality. Google Scholar “optimal diversity in teams”.

          Simplified summary: diversity (measured in a variety of ways) enhances a groups creativity, but worsens its ability to cooperate/coordinate. Which effect dominates in terms of total team productivity depends on the task at hand.

          • HFAMaximizer says:

            The studies are interesting. I doubt anthropological diversity is useful without memetic diversity though. It is memetic diversity that actually helps though the two kinds of diversity are correlated.

        • Aapje says:

          This study found that homogeneity and diversity have their advantages. This explains why some studies find positive outcomes due to diversity and others find negative outcomes. Presumably, in some situations homogeneity works better and in other situations, diversity works better.

          Furthermore, it may also matter a lot how people look at and deal with diversity.

    • HFAMaximizer says:

      @The Nybbler Can we somehow let leftism stay out of businesses if businesses do not want to care about it? I mean a business exists for profit, not SJ. Businesses should not have to care about SJ or fundamentalists if they don’t want to.

      If NGOs care about SJ then please go ahead.

    • Brad says:

      Maybe, but for a different reason.

      If you are are giant company selling (or sort-of selling in some cases) things to the general public — that general public has lots of women in it and lots of non-white people in it. It may be that having few or no women in your company will mean overlooking things that are important to that part of the market (or not, it’s a empirical question).

      No giant company is worried about undeserving the accordion playing market, so the above rationale doesn’t work for this type of diversity. You instead have to posit that hiring employees with a really unusual hobbies or politics will somehow mean that your employees are more creative in business terms than a group selected without that criteria would be.

      • Zorgon says:

        It may be that having few or no women in your company will mean overlooking things that are important to that part of the market (or not, it’s a empirical question).

        An empirical question that currently has no evidence indicating any kind of measurable effect, it should be noted. Currently the theory goes:

        1: Hire more women and minorities
        2: ???
        3: PROFIT!!!

        There really isn’t any more of an established causal link than that.

        Doesn’t detract from your overall point, since you’re not explicitly agreeing with this voodoo logic, only noting it exists, but it does need mentioning.

        • gbdub says:

          Even if it is voodoo, a lot of consulting probably is either way, so if customers can be convinced that diverse employees creates better service, or just feel good about themselves for hiring a minority consultant, then it works.

          People don’t buy Priuses just for the fuel economy.

        • Brad says:

          Wasn’t there some kind of study about women on the board of directors? Admittedly not the same thing as diversity among employees, but at least it is something.

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            The problem there is that we know that big companies perform better and are also more diverse. To actually prove that more women correlates with corporate success directly and not through a confounder, you need to compensate for this.

            When this was done appropriately for another study, the effect of diversity disappeared, so I’m skeptical that other papers don’t make the same mistake.

            Also note that even if there is a correlation, it can plausibly be reverse correlation (successful companies can afford to spend effort on diversity or other pursuits not directly linked to maximizing profits, while struggling companies can’t).

      • Deiseach says:

        No giant company is worried about underserving the accordion playing market

        Hey, a top of the range accordion can go for five grand, so maybe they should be diversifying to grow their market! 🙂

    • fortaleza84 says:

      “diversity” is just a flag of convenience waved by feminists, race hustlers, and other Leftist rent-seekers in their eternal quest to enhance their own wealth, power, and social status at the expense of white men.

      Don’t waste your time taking “diversity” seriously, the Leftists sure don’t.

  6. ellis eliz says:

    Hello! Reader for the past couple of weeks, and first time commenter. I wanted to say 1. thanks for doing this (huge fan) and 2. I think the comments may be either disabled or malfunctioning for your gender imbalances post? It’s either one of those, or I’m bad at figuring out the comment system on wordpress.

    • Matt M says:

      They were disabled on purpose. Scott often disables comments on topics that are particularly controversial, for various reasons mainly relating to his desire to not be harassed by a Twitter mob and hounded out of his real life profession.

      • ellis eliz says:

        Oh okay! That’s very helpful. The page didn’t directly say disabled (it simply didn’t have a comment box) so I was a bit confused. Bit of a bummer though that people would get so bent out of shape about the topic. I actually had a lot to say on that one. xD

        • The Nybbler says:

          It used to say “Comments Disabled” instead of the comment link when he did that in the past, but I guess that broke. Anyway, you could probably say it in this thread; as the “hidden” open thread comments would probably be less “problematic”.

        • Deiseach says:

          I actually had a lot to say on that one

          I think that’s what Scott was afraid of; a lot of us would have had a lot to say. And given that perceived gender imbalances are very controversial right now (there was a row about the pay gap between BBC presenters), it’s probably best not to stand up with a target pinned to your chest waving a flag shouting “here I am, come get me!” on the Internet 🙂

    • entobat says:

      Well, as long as the children of this comment are the place to talk about the gender post…

      I found the approach of the post really bizarre. Like, sure, black people are less likely, but it seems like a no-brainer to

      1) not make dumb jokes about black people,
      2) especially if (whether or not such a thing is justified in principle) you have a public image problem relating to being a place where black people don’t want to be,
      3) even if you are talking to your black friend who is totally cool with your very original “3/5 of a person” joke.

      I think that, like calling someone with the name and pronouns they prefer, not making “make me a sandwich” jokes is just the polite thing to do, and the cost to the speaker is comparable as well (i.e. negligible). So the weird defensiveness felt out of place.

      I felt like most of the criticism Scott was responding to was of the form “let’s not be needlessly unwelcoming to women”, as opposed to “let’s not be needlessly unwelcoming to women…because that will instantly lead to gender parity in the movement”. But maybe I was wrong.

      • drethelin says:

        Getting someone fired and made unemployable forever is pretty out of line punishment for not “just the polite thing to do.” The problem isn’t people going “hey dude sandwich jokes aren’t cool” the problem is people punishing the guy saying them as if he’s a monster responsible for terrifying women away from a field.

        And the defensiveness is because the wrong approach to free speech and the wrong public morality about what it’s ok to do to people for what they write will get scott publicly attacked as surely as charles murray is.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          made unemployable forever

          I really wish people would stop doing this.

          Especially Scott. He is quick to punish hyperbole when employed by others. He is also quick to punish hypocrisy.

          And yet perfectly comfortable employing his own hyperbole, and thereby perfectly comfortable being hypocritical.

          • Zorgon says:

            If you can point us to a statute of limitations for the punishments mooted for heretics and blasphemers against SJ doctrine, that would be nice?

            I ask because there’s a recent rash of “don’t employ this person, (s)he’s an ” campaigns floating around social media and to date I’ve not seen a single one of them include any kind of indication that there is a time limit involved.

          • Randy M says:

            “Attempted murder,” now honestly, did they ever give anyone a Nobel prize for “attempted chemistry?”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Zorgon:
            Point me at someone who literally cannot get any job because they made an offensive comment on twitter.

          • gbdub says:

            Scott used an example as an illustration, but (as is usually the case) he’s making a broader point that’s more “this is where I see this leading / this is where the logic leads” rather than “this is literally where we are right now”.

            Refusal to engage him at that level, and instead nitpicking at the examples (I’m not so much on you as on the randy savage guy) borders on disingenuous.

            But I do think “attempted murder” is an apt description. Sandwich guy may not have taken a fatal bullet, but he was definitely shot at. Probably wounded. “I hope potential employers see this” has a pretty clear intent.

            I think it’s worth debating whether deadly force is justified in these cases, even if the actual body count is still zero. I would argue this debate is more important than arguing over whether Brendan Eich’s career is dead or merely winged.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t think it is nitpicking to point out to question whether it has ever happened to anyone anywhere. It might be nitpicking if there were a sea of examples and the one he happened to pick just didn’t quite fit. If the number of corpses is a big fat zero, that’s quite relevant to a claimed problem of rampant attempted murder. Even the difference between 1 in 10 million and 1 in 100,000 would be pretty damn relevant.

            A slippery slope argument should be clear on its face, not blur the lines between describing what is happening right now and some far off hypothetical if the baby keeps on growing at this rate for ever.

          • gbdub says:

            I don’t think it’s really a slippery slope argument, unless you think “we need to prepare for a world where North Korea has nuclear ICBMs that can hit San Diego” is a slippery slope argument merely because he doesn’t currently have them.

            Signal boosting on social media in order to punish people for crimespeak is clearly a thing that happens. Intent to damage someone’s employability via this method is clearly a thing that happens. Actual damage to careers/employability, whether or not it is literally “no one will ever employ you for anything ever” is clearly a thing that has happened. Hell, people killing themselves due to cyberbullying is clearly a thing that happens.

            So has anyone literally become a pauper and/or jumped off a building when a minor internet celeb started a Tweet storm over an offensive joke? Maybe not. But it seems plausible, and it seems like there are people trying to make it happen (and trying to justify it if it does). Certainly lesser but still highly disproportionate harm has come to people in ways matching that pattern.

            “The worst possible scenario hasn’t yet happened” might scale how much we should be worried about it right now, but if you want the question to be actually irrelevant, you’ve got to show it can’t happen.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that “made unemployable forever” is dumb rhetoric, but at the same time, I think that it is silly to argue that as long as people find a job again, everything is OK.

            Jobs differ in the satisfaction they give to people and you can cause severe damage by forcing people out of a job/profession they prefer into a fallback job/profession.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Aapje:

            think that it is silly to argue that as long as people find a job again, everything is OK.

            I agree that that this form of argument is also bad.

            But that doesn’t fix nor excuse the original argument.

            By referencing loss of career, you seem to continue the form of the original argument. The outcomes in these types of scenarios is not loss of career, or at least this is a very non-central example (for which I am unaware of any examples).

            Loss of job and reduced expected net career income/success seem like the maximum one could reasonably claim for argument.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            You have to take into account people who are on the borderlines of employability already. If someone has agoraphobia his chance of getting a career that doesn’t cause him extreme anxiety every day is very low. If an SJW gets him fired from one of those rare non-interpersonal careers, he would most likely be forced into one of the much more common professions where every day is like being tortured. For that person the punishment is far more than “lowered income”! One might say, without hyperbole, that humane prospects of employment are virtually lost to him.

            I cannot guarantee that something like this has happened, but judging from how successful initiatives like “gettingracistsfired” have been I don’t doubt it has already happened. If hundreds of people have been fired and extreme disorders aren’t so rare as to be less prevalent than that, then one can expect it has happened.

        • Deiseach says:

          I agree about the over-reaction, but look at it this way.

          You’re Jewish. You’ve heard a ton of Mordecai jokes in your life. And often – not always, but often – when you meet someone new, even if they’re perfectly nice and not one bit racist or anti-Semitic, sooner or later they’ll come out with “Hey, did you hear the one about Mordecai?”

          And you don’t go “Yes, I’ve heard that one. Ten times. And fifty other jokes of the same kind”, because you know the reaction will be “Hey, it was only a joke, no big deal, can’t you take a joke?” And the people around will be “Oh, Jews are so sensitive, they take offence at the least little thing!”

          And then you’re on a forum for “Topics of Jewish interest” making a post about “Okay, so the latest thing doing the rounds is how Jews have a disproportionate presence in the media. I want to talk with you guys about how we can address this in a sensible way”.

          And some guy pipes up with “Hey Mordecai! Did you hear the one about?”

          Now, maybe you’ll just smile and move on. Or maybe this is the last straw, and you call for his head on a pike.

          And then people start going “Oh, Jews are so sensitive! This was way over-kill! Honestly, the real victim here is that poor guy! It was only a dumb joke!”

          Anyway, my real curiosity is this:

          Add in their consistent opposition to abortion, birth control, sexual liberation, et cetera, and it should be at least a little surprising that women outnumber men among churchgoing Catholics by about 20%.

          I’ve seen it before, but what is this default assumption that today 100% of all women want sexual liberation? (I’m separating that out from birth control and abortion because Scott did, though these topics are also linked).

          Same with the Democratic party’s appeal to women to vote for Hillary on the grounds that “women/minorities/LGBT” will suffer under Trump, the idea being that women’s suffering will be restrictions on abortion or not getting birth control on your employer’s health insurance.

          Because some women don’t want the freedom to have casual sex like men, or the same standards (because they think sexual standards of today are not that great) or are not all “yay abortion!”

          So I really would like to know: how it is assumed that (a) every single woman wants sexual liberation (b) to appeal to all women to vote for you/be on your side of the political divide, all you have to do is say “yes, I’m/we’re sex positive!” (No other positions – not wages, the economy, employment, globalism, the environment, war, political alliances, foreign policy, nothing matters to women except “can I get tampons without VAT included in the price”).

          • The Nybbler says:

            But the “exasperation” argument works both ways:

            Suppose you’ve been experiencing a constant drumbeat of how horribly underrepresented women are in your group. You’ve made many efforts to make things more welcoming to women, been respectful, used “she” for a generic pronoun in exactly 50.3% of all your public pronouncements, searched for women to invite in spaces where women are prevalent, followed other every suggestion you’ve gotten, and still few women show up to your group. And then someone in another group goes and harangues you for how horrible you are, and this is the last straw, so you tell them to shut up and make you a sandwich.

            (Incidentally, all the best Mordecai jokes are Jewish in origin)

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve seen it before, but what is this default assumption that today 100% of all women want sexual liberation?

            Because organized feminism wants this, and because organized feminism is believed to be the just and proper and correct representative that has the best interests of women everywhere at heart.

            That’s probably wrong, but that is what is generally believed.

          • entobat says:

            Same with the Democratic party’s appeal to women to vote for Hillary on the grounds that “women/minorities/LGBT” will suffer under Trump, the idea being that women’s suffering will be restrictions on abortion or not getting birth control on your employer’s health insurance.

            Because some women don’t want the freedom to have casual sex like men, or the same standards (because they think sexual standards of today are not that great) or are not all “yay abortion!”

            So I really would like to know: how it is assumed that (a) every single woman wants sexual liberation (b) to appeal to all women to vote for you/be on your side of the political divide, all you have to do is say “yes, I’m/we’re sex positive!” (No other positions – not wages, the economy, employment, globalism, the environment, war, political alliances, foreign policy, nothing matters to women except “can I get tampons without VAT included in the price”).

            Not addressing what you’ve said point-by-point, but on the same issue (something I think Scott missed):

            It seems perfectly possible that there are lots of women who believe that women’s natural place in the world is being subservient to men, that fetuses are ensouled and that abortion is therefore immoral, and that casual sex is damaging to the moral fabric of our society and/or a grave sin. Particularly if they have been coached since birth to have such beliefs by their parents.

            It seems way less possible that there are scores of women who find “make me a sandwich” jokes from total strangers super funny.

          • Nornagest says:

            organized feminism wants [sexual liberation]

            This is not really true. There are many feminist organizations, and a lot of them are deeply ambivalent about sexual liberation, or indeed sexuality in general. This used to be one of the main points of contention between radical and liberal feminism, but the lines between the two are a lot fuzzier now than they were in the Seventies — pretty much all the concepts we now think of as central to feminist theory (rape culture, the patriarchy, etc.) come out of radical feminism, but that doesn’t now imply that the people using them agree with the old-school radfem policy approach, which would have been generally sex-negative.

            Anyway. The sex-positive ones are winning, but that doesn’t mean the other ones don’t exist.

          • Deiseach says:

            It seems perfectly possible that there are lots of women who believe that women’s natural place in the world is being subservient to men, that fetuses are ensouled and that abortion is therefore immoral, and that casual sex is damaging to the moral fabric of our society and/or a grave sin. Particularly if they have been coached since birth to have such beliefs by their parents.

            Interesting to see the view of the other side, which apparently is “Well sure some women do think like this, but the poor girls were brainwashed by their parents since birth and they’re all stuck in the Quiverfull movement. Meanwhile normal women think quite differently!”.

            I think abortion is immoral because it kills a human life. Yes, I do think foetuses are ensouled, but I think all humans are ensouled. I’m not sure what my position would be if I did not believe humans had souls, but I do wonder if that would then cause me to go “Okay, Joe doesn’t have a soul, it’s okay to kill him!” Plenty of people who don’t believe in souls seem to have no problem not committing murder, and I’m given to understand there are a few atheists out there who are also pro-life.

            I trust it isn’t out of place to mention here the March for Life? Or how the Women’s March after the Trump inauguration was very definite they didn’t want any of those dirty stinkin’ pro-lifers cluttering up the place?

            I suppose if you very carefully curate your spaces to be 100% the type of people who are in 100% agreement with you, it does look like “All women”.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Same with the Democratic party’s appeal to women to vote for Hillary on the grounds that “women/minorities/LGBT” will suffer under Trump, the idea being that women’s suffering will be restrictions on abortion or not getting birth control on your employer’s health insurance.

            You aren’t being fair. A major thrust of their attempted outreach to women was Trump’s attitude toward women (e.g. the rape accusations of his first wife, P****gate later in the election cycle), and how this attitude would make regular life more difficult for women by lettings A**holes believe this behavior was now more tolerable.

          • albatross11 says:

            Matt M:

            For something that is generally believed, it seems kinda remarkable how many people of my acquaintance don’t believe it.

      • HFAMaximizer says:

        Unfortunately none of these can actually help Africans. Prosperity and progress do not come from suppressing offense. I’m really not sure whether SJWs actually want the problem solved or they just want to feel good about themselves and signal to others that they are nice.

        • Viliam says:

          I’m really not sure whether SJWs actually want the problem solved

          If I understand Jordan Peterson’s research correctly, there are two distinct types of PC bros:

          “PC Egalitarians” believe that different groups are biologically equal, but some are socially disadvantaged. They want the discrimination to stop, as they believe this would solve the problem. They are open to experience, and prefer democratic rule.

          “PC Authoritarians” believe that some groups actually are biologically inferior, therefore removing discrimination would not solve the problem. They prefer autocratic rule; and they are similar to religious conservatives in some traits.

          So, I guess, PC Egalitarians would probably say that we need to be extra careful about our speech temporarily, until the currently existing injustices are fixed; then we can relax and start joking again. PC Authoritarians would ban free speech forever, because in their opinion, the problem cannot be fixed, ever, and requires eternal vigilantism.

          In other words, the charitable explanation is that both groups want the problem solved, but they differ in opinion about whether the solution will require finite or infinite amount of work.

          • HFAMaximizer says:

            I see. I don’t know whether the problems will be solved. However if they will one day be gone it will be solved by those who are currently in a disadvantaged position, not the SJWs who claim to pity them.

            By the way I’m almost certain that gender equality works. The problem is mostly about how to reproduce and distribute sexual resources, not whether women can function in a society outside homes which is simply a fact.

            Racially I’m not so sure. The problem is actually cultural but it is usually misunderstood as a racial issue. Historically dominant groups almost always belong to the following groups: Europeans, Middle Easterners, East Asians and South Asians. They are more of cultural groups than racial groups. Regardless of which one or ones of the subgroups of the groups above is dominant any group outside the range above don’t have much chance. The old groups have lots of experience and past civilizations behind them which aren’t something a new African or traditionally isolated Austronesian civilization can make up for within a decade. Catching up is certainly possible but it takes time and a lot of effort. Of course when the catching up fails to happen quickly the biodiversity people will continue to preach racialism and declare that this phenomenon is a consequence of racial inferiority.

          • BBA says:

            “PC Authoritarians” believe that some groups actually are biologically inferior, therefore removing discrimination would not solve the problem.

            I don’t know if that’s true. I think they believe discrimination, stereotyping, cultural appropriation, etc. are mala in se and are willing to do anything whatsoever to stamp them out. The bad consequences are a justification for the stamping, but when push comes to shove they just like stamping and would do it even if it wasn’t accomplishing anything.

          • HFAMaximizer says:

            @BBA Ultimately SJWs are just a feeling good + signaling movement in terms of their accomplishment.

            I’m not interested in suppressing mala in se if such suppression does not actually improve human lives.

          • Aapje says:

            @HFAMaximizer

            By the way I’m almost certain that gender equality works. The problem is mostly about how to reproduce and distribute sexual resources, not whether women can function in a society outside homes which is simply a fact.

            The question is not whether people can function with gender equality, the question is whether society can function when people behave with the kind of gender equality that people are fighting for.

            Right now, important societal functions are being filled by men because the incentives are set up this way & men are indoctrinated to sacrifice for others. The same was true for women traditionally, but in a different way.

            Most of feminism completely failed to understand most of the burdens placed on men and thus they fought to allow women to perform what they perceive men’s role to be, but what is actually merely the benefits of the male role, not the burdens. The result is that women don’t end up doing the same thing as men. The outcomes then make women better off in many ways, but feminists tend to ignore the ways in which women are doing better and exclusively focus on the subset of things where they (are perceived as) doing worse. This is then falsely blamed on discrimination by men, rather than the result of men making different cost/reward decisions, where it is highly questionable whether the decisions made by men actually give them better rewards compared to the costs.

            If men as a collective actually stop taking on the burdens that they choose to take on, society as we know it will collapse. For example, it is almost exclusively men that do a lot of the engineering and maintenance that keeps society functioning. These jobs are often dangerous, dirty and/or otherwise unpleasant and men do them in part because their gender role pushes them to do so and to disregard their own well-being. US front-line soldiers risk their lives and limbs. Even if not wounded, the pack that they carry into battle itself is sufficient to often cause physical damage, shortening their lifespan (which heavy labor does).

            You can’t simply get rid of gender roles without figuring out how these important roles get filled.

          • HFAMaximizer says:

            @Aapje I agree. My idea is that eventually both genders need to disappear and instead a genderless transhumanist world should become reality.

            I believe no one should sacrifice for others and no one should harm others other than in the cases of self-defense.

            As a voluntarily single man I want to stay single forever. I don’t want to have any other human in my bed. Period.

          • Randy M says:

            @Aapje I agree. My idea is that eventually both genders need to disappear and instead a genderless transhumanist world should become reality.

            In our constant media culture, gender related outrages are frequently publicized, which could lead the naive or non-typical to conclude that sexual distinctiveness does more harm than good on net (or even only harms).

            I’d wager the opposite. For every Trans, Asexual, or Incel there’s probably a dozen people who delight in the differences. Flirty girls, show-off guys, women who actually like making sandwiches for men, just on the trivial end.

            You can work at mitigating the harm done to those that don’t fit in, but a crusade for asexual uniformity would be destined to backfire even if it wasn’t destined to fail.

          • HFAMaximizer says:

            @Randy M I don’t usually read the liberal media at all. For me there are several reasons why gender and sexuality need to be removed:

            1.I haven’t found any other solution. Biodiversity people, reaction people and others mentioned the issue of intelligence and fertility which is a serious issue. Despite the fact that I don’t belong to them I think they do have a case here. Sexual freedom, not female independence, leads to degeneration of humanity through evolutionary victory of the sexy over the intelligent and the diligent. The patriarchy is not a solution either because it leads to cultural ossification, conformism and irrationality. The worst feature of the patriarchy is submission of all children to their parents which is much worse than the submission of women to their husbands which is itself absurd.

            2.There is one issue few people have mentioned, namely sexuality leads to men select sexually attractive women instead of intelligent ones. Reaction people want to give intelligent but unattractive men a chance but forgot the issue of intelligent women.

            3.I think sexual selection can easily be harmful to the human species and human civilizations. Not everyone good for human civilizations is sexy. In fact many are not. Many great scientists, mathematicians and philosophers are or were celibates. Through sexual selection the genes of these great men and women are selected against while cult leaders and ISIS members continue their reproduction.

            4.I’m tired of liberals and Christian/Muslim patriarchy lovers arguing about sexual issues. Let’s abolish gender and sex so that we can stop hearing their nonsense any more.

            It is true that most humans support sexuality, however I doubt it is good for humanity in the long run. With death rates of young people plummeting human evolution is increasingly determined by sexual selection which I doubt is going to advance humanity.

          • Randy M says:

            1.I haven’t found any other solution. Biodiversity people, reaction people and others mentioned the issue of intelligence and fertility which is a serious issue.

            And your vat-grown people will have no issues whatsoever, or are you throwing out the baby of human existence with the bathwater of human preferences?

            Sexual freedom, not female independence, leads to degeneration of humanity through evolutionary victory of the sexy over the intelligent and the diligent.

            We will have sexual freedom (or assortive mating, or something like it) for as long as we have surplus, then traits that directly impact survival may rise in relevance. Your solution, however you hope to implement it, is going to cause no less chaos and misery than idiocracy does.

            The worst feature of the patriarchy is submission of all children to their parents which is much worse than the submission of women to their husbands which is itself absurd.

            Hopefully your vat-grown humans or intelligent machines need to post natal development time, then, or they will also have the issue of needing to subordinate themselves to someone more competent.

            There is one issue few people have mentioned, namely sexuality leads to men select sexually attractive women instead of intelligent ones.

            Or in other words, people value things besides just intelligence, and this irks you.
            Intelligent women will be able to reproduce if they do not require a man of equivalent or higher educational status, and prioritize finding a mate.

            4.I’m tired of liberals and Christian/Muslim patriarchy lovers arguing about sexual issues

            Change the channel?

            Not everyone good for human civilizations is sexy.

            This is true, and probably worth thinking about. Your straw vulcan schtick is probably not conductive to actually convincing many people, though, especially when you refuse to consider that much of what you see as downsides many see as part of what makes life worth living.

          • HFAMaximizer says:

            @Randy M My main anti-submission idea is that not one human should be inherently submissive to others. You can submit to your boss at work because you work for the company. However there is no personal submission here for your boss isn’t able to control your private life and the relationship completely depends on the job. However familial submission is something else. It is perpetual and involuntary hence I want to get rid of it.

            Unrestricted sexual freedom is basically discrimination against the intelligent and competent who happen to not be sexy.

          • Nornagest says:

            There is one issue few people have mentioned, namely sexuality leads to men select sexually attractive women instead of intelligent ones.

            I don’t have time to respond to this point-by-point, but I’m gonna push back on this one.

            What makes people attractive?

            Now, plenty of this is culture-bound or idiosyncratic. Beauty standards in Los Angeles aren’t the same as beauty standards in southern Alabama, let alone Tianjin or Jakarta or some anonymous San camp in the Kalahari. And even within Los Angeles, the girls you’ll find hanging around by Muscle Beach probably aren’t attracted to the same things as the ones you’d find at, say, a bar in Burbank that’s known as an actor hangout. Similar stuff goes for guys. But a fair amount is universal, or pretty close. Facial symmetry. Clear skin. Good hair. Height for guys, a certain range of waist-hip ratio for girls.

            These things are universally attractive because they’re well correlated with childhood nutrition and a history of good health. And while I haven’t actually read any papers on it, I’d bet at pretty long odds that they correlated well with low mutational load. You know what’s also correlated well with childhood nutrition etc.? Intelligence and mental stability.

            Yes, it’s possible to get brainless beauties, or ugly geniuses. Around here we’ve probably all met a few of both. But that’s not the way to bet on a population level. The low fertility of educated couples in the West is a thing, but it’s a cultural and fairly recent one, and one way or another it’s not going to last.

          • hlynkacg says:

            My main anti-submission idea is that not one human should be inherently submissive to others.

            Again you must not have children, or think much of them if you do.

            Unrestricted sexual freedom is basically discrimination against the intelligent and competent who happen to not be sexy.

            You realize that this is one of the stronger arguments in favor of traditional sexual mores don’t you? One that I’ve heard deployed on numerous occasions by those same “patriarchy lovers” you’re complaining about.

          • HFAMaximizer says:

            @Nornagest I concede that you may be right on this one.

            https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-scientific-fundamentalist/201012/beautiful-people-really-are-more-intelligent

            OK it is from Satoshi Kanagawa who is controversial. Not sure whether the study is good though.

            However there is also an issue of eccentric and smart people.

          • HFAMaximizer says:

            @hlynkacg

            I’m a voluntarily celibate asexual autistic male.

            I support the traditionalists on requiring fidelity. However I’m strongly against them on obedience. If there is a way to make people faithful to their spouses without having any kind of obedience in a home I’m 100% OK with that and will support it as an alternative to the idea of abolishing sex and gender.

            The main stuff I hate about the patriarchy has nothing to do with women. It is about the freedom of humans from families. I’m male and that affects me.

            Familial obedience is particularly evil because it dampens creativity and causes cultural ossification. An obedient child is very unlikely to think outside the box or do something really great. This is exactly what’s wrong with Japan and the Middle East. I further declare that any society with familial obedience existing is unfree. Voting does you no good if you have to obey your parents or husband. Political freedom is not as important as freedom from family control.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            However familial submission is something else. It is perpetual and involuntary hence I want to get rid of it.

            You are aware that children eventually grow up and become independent, right?

            One could make an argument that familial submission is “perpetual XOR involuntary” since spouses voluntarily sign up for “til death do us part” (though YMMV on the definitions of “submission” involved, see Deiseach’s posts for a good description) and children are involuntarily the responsibility of their parents until they level up enough to move out. The only cases where “perpetual AND involuntary” would apply are forced marriage and disabled children, which are both legitimate problems without introducing a “familial submission” angle.

          • HFAMaximizer says:

            @Gobbobobble

            Children only grow up and become independent in most of the West which is one reason why the modern West is good. This is simply not true in the Middle East and East Asia, maybe even India and Russia. This was not true in the West in the past. It isn’t true in fundamentalist communities either. This is one of the key reasons why the West is more creative than these places. As I said before, an obedient child isn’t likely to become an independent and creative adult.

            Marriages aren’t supposed to be obedience contracts. I agree that fidelity is very important. However why shall anyone obey another person until he/she dies?

            I believe the very fact that people can simply decide to have children is a problem (no I’m not trolling, instead I’m just following my own reasoning to the extreme) because children are involuntarily born. I know this is absurd because there is no way to produce a sentient agent with its own consent. However I do believe that not everyone should be forced into families. Maybe we need a transhumanist world in which all humans will be produced by factories alone?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I believe the very fact that people can simply decide to have children is a problem (no I’m not trolling, instead I’m just following my own reasoning to the extreme) because children are involuntarily born. I know this is absurd because there is no way to produce a sentient agent with its own consent. However I do believe that not everyone should be forced into families.

            Y’know, there’s a reason extremism is generally considered a bad thing. But then one person’s “balance of partially-orthogonal values” is another’s “irrational hypocritical contradiction” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Marriages aren’t supposed to be obedience contracts. I agree that fidelity is very important. However why shall anyone obey another person until he/she dies?

            You can’t have a democracy of two, for what should be fairly obvious reasons.

          • HFAMaximizer says:

            @Gobbobobble

            Yeah it is hard for me to not be a Clippy-like maximizer. When I was a Christian I was a fundamentalist Christianity Maximizer. Now I’m a rationalist and hence I’m a Rationality Maximizer.

            I’m autistic and it is hard for me to support something without trying to maximize it. I usually try to maximize whatever I support and minimize whatever I oppose unless I explicitly try to not maximize or minimize something.

            Please remind me whenever I’m overly Clippish. I’m really a bit (not sexually) attracted to Clippy because Clippy is at least an optimizer.

          • HFAMaximizer says:

            @Mr.X I agree. However you can have an anarchy of two people and that’s my proposal.

            I don’t believe in family unity or conformism.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I don’t believe in family unity or conformism.

            Even when this lack of unity leads to results you dislike?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            There is one issue few people have mentioned, namely sexuality leads to men select sexually attractive women instead of intelligent ones.

            I mean, usually you find that more intelligent men tend to go for more intelligent women. If you changed attraction from being based on attractiveness to intelligence, all of the idiot men would try to monopolize the genius women and you’d dilute the hell out of the gene pool. Even if you made it so that the women were also only attracted to male intelligence, you’d probably see the smartest women get sexually assaulted and raped much more often, which I imagine would make them much less likely to engage in relationships with men.

            just sayin’

          • Matt M says:

            No kidding.

            What kind of planet is this guy living on if he thinks there’s a huge problem with society such that intelligent women cannot find men of above-average intelligence willing to impregnate them?

          • PC Authoritarians: Is there really anyone who belongs in this group, or at least admits to being in this group? I have never anyone in the pro-PC camp that would consider the idea that some groups are biologically inferior. In fact it is so non-PC to state such a thing that if a pro-PC group believed this they could never admit it. But I’ve never heard of Jordan Peterson either, so maybe there is a large group hiding somewhere in the weeds that I never heard of.

          • Matt M says:

            Agree with Mark.

            I know of absolutely no one who takes that position.

            I think there are some PC people who might be willing to say “IF certain races were biologically inferior, THEN we would have to protect them” but nobody who is ready to actually concede that point.

          • HFAMaximizer says:

            @hlynkacg Yes. Lack of family obedience is very high on my list of values namely it is right after stuff such as do not murder and do not steal.
            @AnonYEmous I think rape can be made largely impossible through technology (i.e. anti-rape devices). Sexual assaults can be reported to the police.
            @Matt M I’m not suggesting that. However intelligence, rationality and knowledge haven’t been sufficiently emphasized in the dating market.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Mark & Matt

            I’ve certainly met a few people who seem to belong in that class. Hardcore identity politics types who claim that POC will always be disadvantaged compared to whites no matter how much progress is made. However I don’t think they would characterize themselves as believing POC to be inferior even if that’s what thier stated positions imply.

            @ HFAMaximizer

            Then why are you complaining instead of maximizing?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Right, the hardcore PC Authoritarians don’t claim the disadvantaged groups are inferior. Instead, they claim that there’s so much structural *-ism that no amount of restriction of or tilting the scales against the cis white males can even begin to make up for it, ever.

          • Aapje says:

            @HFAMaximizer

            I think rape can be made largely impossible through technology (i.e. anti-rape devices). Sexual assaults can be reported to the police.

            It’s quite convenient that for every problem with your theory there is a technological solution.

            It’s less convenient that these solutions don’t actually exist.

        • HFAMaximizer says:

          @Aapje Yes technological solutions are the only feasible means to solve social problems.

          I can’t trust human nature.

      • gbdub says:

        The issue is that libertarian spaces, the tech industry, etc, are pointed out as particularly hostile to women (or at least seem to be targeted for critique of their hostility more often) with their gender disparity pointed to as obvious evidence of their uniquely hostile environment. Sexism, the theory goes, is a leading cause of gender disparity, so any field with high gender disparity should be under suspicion of sexism. This is used as justification for targeting harsh punishment of seemingly minor sexist transgressions, because those minor transgressions add up to hostility that keeps women out of a field.

        Scott’s point is that places more clearly sexist / anti-feminist / hostile to women nevertheless are closer to gender parity than libertarianism etc, therefore this calls into question the justification for harsh punishment of minor cases of individual sexism.

      • Randy M says:

        I think this is weird criticism because Scott endorsed being nice, inclusive, welcoming, etc. He was objecting to deducing bad behavior from disproportionate composition.
        Of course, his reasoning–innate differences between sexes–is quite sexist, is it not?

    • Incurian says:

      So this new Status 451 post is relevant.

      You know, if you’re so weak-minded that something like that is enough to make you unwilling or unable to do your job, then maybe you should go get a different job. Some of us actually worked to get here.

      (it is less uncaring in context, it’s worth a read)

      • random832 says:

        And none of the people who need to see it will ever read it, because it was posted on “Status1488”.

        • Incurian says:

          Are there any credible people who really think they’re Nazis?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Any blog which posts stuff like that will get a similar reputation, even if Popehat doesn’t have personal issues with one of the writers.

  7. Alexandre Z says:

    I think you forgot one factor in “Gender Imbalances Are Mostly Not Due To Offensive Attitudes”: The population of women joining evangelical churches is likely systematically different in their attitudes towards what is the appropriate treatment of women than the population of potential libertarian women. If a woman believes that she was put on earth to serve men, the group of people around her believing that is not a problem for her. If a woman believes that she was born to be her own person, people around her saying things she finds offensive is likely a problem for her. In other words, the group of women who don’t mind being told their job is to stay at home and pump out babies is likely almost disjoint from the group of women who might join the libertarian, atheistic or rationalist communities.

    • The Nybbler says:

      How in practice do you distinguish “There are very few women interested in libertarianism” from “There are many women who would otherwise be interested in libertarianism but are particularly sensitive to boorish behavior by men interested in same and thus driven away by their presence, but this applies only to libertarianism and not other groups”?

      • Matt M says:

        Right. Scott’s entire point in the article is that you don’t just have to explain why libertarianism may be unappealing to women, you have to explain why it may be even more unappealing to women than a group whose official canon doctrine explicitly says “women should be subservient to their husbands, abortion is wholly unacceptable, having sex before marriage is a sin, etc.”

        Anyone who tried to say any of those things from a podium at a major libertarian conference would be immediately booed off the stage and the event organizers would spend weeks apologizing. AND YET, the Catholic Church says “You must agree to these things in order to be one of us.” AND YET, plenty of women say “Sure, sounds good, I’ll agree to that!”

        • Well... says:

          Maybe the problem is a bias against/failure to really understand the “women-as-subservient” group. Maybe there’s no good reason women shouldn’t–on that basis at least–want to be a part of that group other than the ones we (falsely and without strong evidence?) assume women should have from our (relatively) feministic and individualistic perspectives.

          I haven’t read Scott’s post so maybe he already addresses this point.

        • Rosemary7391 says:

          Do we have any catholics here who could confirm how these ideas play out in practice? I used to interact with a group of catholics and I’m struggling to think of the women as subservient…

          Also, I’m not sure why sex before marriage made it into the list of “things that are unappealing to women”. Seems just as unappealing to men!

          • Civilis says:

            Catholic here.

            There’s ‘Roman Catholic Church Hierarchy’ and there’s ‘Our-Lady-of-the-Ruler Parish Church Hierarchy’. The Roman Catholic Church hierarchy has the pope at the top, with the bishops reporting to him, the priests reporting to the bishop, and the parish priest being in charge of the parish church. In practice, while the parish priest is the religious head of the parish church, the (often female) parish secretary and the heads of the various committees that do things like plan activities and organize decorations do have quite a lot of day-to-day power. And especially if the priest is fairly young, he’s likely to defer somewhat to the older nun that’s the head of the parish school, if only out of habit (heh).

            Short version: the religious hierarchy isn’t the same as the social hierarchy, and being subservient in religious matters isn’t the same as being subservient overall.

          • rahien.din says:

            Ex-Baptist-ex-pseudoatheist-Catholic-convert here.

            In my experience, the women of the Catholic church possess and use common sense with respect to things like contraception, utter subservience to their husbands, etc. There are some women who hew exactly to Rome’s edicts, but by and large they are considered (secondhand knowledge here) rather nutty, even among the more devoted laity.

            The thing about Catholicism is that it is absolutely enormous and non-monolithic. Catholics are united by certain non-negotiable concepts (the Trinity, the communion of saints, etc.) which are mostly expressed within the Apostles’ Creed, by a very few specific proclamations, and by the centralization of many aspects of the Mass. That still leaves a great deal of latitude for each diocese, parish, and person to follow the guidance of their own sense, conscience, and style.

          • Rosemary7391 says:

            Thanks – that’s what I was thinking was likely.

          • Matt M says:

            Also, I’m not sure why sex before marriage made it into the list of “things that are unappealing to women”. Seems just as unappealing to men!

            Yes, but among the group likely to levy such accusations, male desires are completely irrelevant.

            Saying “no sex before marriage” imposes a constraint upon female sexual behavior – which is unacceptable. Imposing constraints upon male sexual behavior is simply not considered as relevant.

          • veeloxtrox says:

            @Matt M

            Saying “no sex before marriage” imposes a constraint upon female sexual behavior – which is unacceptable. Imposing constraints upon male sexual behavior is simply not considered as relevant.

            I think you are being cynical. As a male who waited until marriage, it was very much a relevant constraint. Just because you cannot prove a male has not abided by the constraint does not make it less relevant.

          • Matt M says:

            veel,

            My point is that among the feminist/SJ crowd (those who complain about sexism among libertarians), the fact that males may suffer under Rule X too is simply irrelevant to them. They don’t care if you suffer or not. Their goal is to minimize female suffering and maximize female agency. What affect their efforts may or may not have on males is ignored completely.

          • Randy M says:

            @veeloxtrox
            I think he’s being more cynical than you give him credit for. He means imposing upon men or not isn’t relevant to the people who generally get up in arms about sexual repression.

            Contra feminist denouncements, marriage has historically benefited women, and women who had sex freely without waiting for marriage were defectors against the group of women who wanted to incentive men into marrying, not defectors against Patriarchy. (If this is surprising, consider whether or not the work of a peasant man was as much about self-fulfillment and empowerment as women view work today).
            Hence that bit about the Catholic Church being anti-women for being against promiscuity is humorous, surely intentionally so.

          • veeloxtrox says:

            Ahh, thanks for the clarifications. I cannot understand how that view can be internally consistent but I believe that that is the view.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Catholic here. Scott’s quote describe’s the theory fine, and the practice is I go to work and my wife stays home and takes care of our kids and the household. This seems like a good partnership for everyone involved, particularly given my wife is much more person-oriented and I am much more thing-oriented. How this arrangement is seen as hostile towards women is left for others to explain.

          • Aapje says:

            I concur with Matt M. To give an example: I have seen feminists spread the meme that Western patriarchy was extremely evil because it was legal for husbands to rape their wife.

            If you actually look at the laws that were common at the time, they only make it illegal to rape a woman who is not the rapist’s wife, so these three cases that ought to be covered by my/modern standards are not:
            1. women who are raped by their husband
            2. men who are raped by their wife
            3. men who are raped by men or women who are not their spouse

            That the meme is exclusively about group 1, but doesn’t include 2 and 3 completely matches the pattern that male victims are considered irrelevant and/or are simply assumed to not exist.

        • rahien.din says:

          Scott’s entire point in the article is that you don’t just have to explain why libertarianism may be unappealing to women, you have to explain why it may be even more unappealing to women than a group whose official canon doctrine explicitly says “women should be subservient to their husbands, abortion is wholly unacceptable, having sex before marriage is a sin, etc.”

          Libertarian tribe membership is opt-in, and you are joining a disagreeable* culture due to policy agreements. “I might agree with a lot of what libertarians say, but I really don’t want to associate with those asshole dudes.” The best fried chicken in town is at a meth-head biker bar. Even though fried chicken is your favorite food, you hesitate to go.

          Religious tribe membership is opt-out, and you are leaving an agreeable* culture over policy disagreements. “I might disagree with the priest and Rome on some important matters, but Catholicism is my home.” You know that Luigi is a philanderer, but your family has eaten Sunday dinner at his restaurant for years, so you keep going.

          the Catholic Church says “You must agree to these things in order to be one of us.” AND YET, plenty of women say “Sure, sounds good, I’ll agree to that!”

          (At least from the perspective of my American Catholic convert experience) you’re overstating the reaction of many women to Rome’s regressive edicts – to the level of a straw argument – and underestimating the plurality of belief within the Catholic clergy and laity.


          * Arguendo

          • Matt M says:

            These are fair points, particularly opt-in vs opt-out.

            But I will push back against the notion of “Well not all Catholics follow doctrine 100%” and “There’s a lot of different beliefs about specific issues within Catholicism”

            As if that’s NOT true about libertarianism? Come on!

            As I said, my point here is that if ONE single libertarian of status made a public comment to the effect of “wives should be subservient to their husbands” the entire movement would put on their ashes and sackcloth and join together in loudly denouncing such a person. There is no room at all for disagreement on stuff like this.

            Yes, I concede that Catholics have a wide range of views as to whether feminist doctrine is acceptable or not. Libertarians are allowed no such range of viewpoints on those issues. A single anti-feminist comment will be held up as evidence of the obvious inherent sexism in the movement, will be universally denounced, and will be thrown in our faces forever as “Well THIS is why there aren’t any female libertarians!”

          • rahien.din says:

            Thanks Matt!

            As if that’s NOT true about libertarianism? Come on!

            Not exactly my intent to imply so, but I can understand your inference. I agree that there are different standards at work, and this could be unfair.

            But I will say, libertarianism’s only currency is its ideas, and in how those ideas hang together. It is less of a club, and closer to an academic discipline. So, if a prominent libertarian expresses some regressive idea about women, it’s a good idea for libertarians to demonstrate that said regressive idea is anathema. They need to defend their idea structure because that’s all they’ve got.

            In contrast, Catholicism’s primary currency is culture. The ideas are less essential. A priest (or even a pope) could say or do something totally wacky, and most Catholics will shrug it off. (I am not claiming this is necessarily good, only that it is true.)

            It may also be salient that there are relatively few libertarians. The movement is not large enough that it could be meaningfully segmented into separate “denominations” or sub-movements by prospective members. Thus, one prominent libertarian’s pronouncements actually do carry more general weight, and require a more vigorous response if they are to be countered.

        • veeloxtrox says:

          In part responding to Rosemary7391 request, in part wanting to hopefully correct a little misunderstanding. Disclaimer, I am not Catholic but have been a part of churches that the below description of doctrine would apply to.

          a group whose official canon doctrine explicitly says “women should be subservient to their husbands, abortion is wholly unacceptable, having sex before marriage is a sin, etc.

          I would like to point out that the above quote is framing the issue of how the stances are seen by someone who does not believe them. I think you are missing the whole framework of thought that supports these views. Because you miss that framework, you have a slight characterization and raised issues that are not internal issues.

          I will try and give an example that might help you understand. Imagine a if you heard a Catholic priest say “Atheists want to be able to have sex with who ever, when ever, without consequences.” I would guess your response would be somewhere in the range of “well, that isn’t what all atheists want but what is wrong with easy sex?” I have a similar response to the item I quoted above.

          Specifically, I would say that most Christians that believe strongly in gender difference would say that women should be subordinate to their husbands not that they should be subservient. One way I have heard it taught is that husband and wife are equal in worth but in authority the man is over the women. This teaching is also accompanied by the thought that husbands should love their wifes’ like Christ loved the church and gave himself for her (the highest standard that can be set).

          For your second and third points, I do not see how being anti-abortion and anti-premarital sex are prima facie ant-women. I understand they are anti-feminist, but that requires you to believe all of the assumptions in feminism.

          The point that I think Scott was trying to make is that worldview needed to make Catholicism work is more appealing then the worldview that makes libertarianism work. So, regardless of how non-offensive libertarianism becomes, it will always have a gender inbalance.

          • Rosemary7391 says:

            Thank you – that’s largely where I was heading with my request, but my church isn’t really into the women as subordinate thing (we have women at all levels in all orders) so I wasn’t sure how that worked.

          • veeloxtrox says:

            I’m glad I could give a good reply.

            As for the women as subordinate, I have seen varying degrees. The most extreme I have seen is that women are not allowed pray aloud if a man is present (I think this is a little two extreme). The less extreme include 1) no women speaking from the front of the church 2) no women pastors 3) inside the family, the man is expected to lead, to as low as 4) in a disagreement between husband and wife the husband has the right/responsibility/curse to make the final decision. It mostly hinges on how strictly you want to interpreter specific passages from the Bible or if you are willing to say that some do not apply today.

          • Randy M says:

            Subservient is not really what is taught (exceptions can exist); using that term smuggles in connotations of a wife existing for the purpose of the husband, who gets to enjoy the benefits of a servant. (Eh, maybe I’m being picky about that word, but certainly “women exist only to serve men” is not doctrine)

            But I expect this is a distinction that is going to be challenged here. In the same way that the modern would assert that a priest is a privileged position which uses superstition to enjoy dominance over a naive population, rather than serving the community by being given a frightening responsibility as intermediary between them and the Divine, the modern will not consider a that a husband and wife both serve the family in different roles in a traditional christian model.

            That model has failure modes, certainly, but even the rationalist polyamorous model can go wrong.

          • veeloxtrox says:

            @Randy M

            I am not really sure the point you are trying to make. Are trying to say that the distinction between subordinate and subservient is one that would be challenged here because the challenger will not consider the traditional christian model?

            If that is the case, I am going to get on my soap box for a minute. I think one of the breakdowns in discourse today is that people start from very different premises and try to have a discussion on a subject in only going to end in disagreement. If a feminist and a Catholic priest talk about abortion they are going to disagree. If they don’t take time to try and understand why their counterpart has the premises they do, they will gain nothing in the discussion.

            One of the reasons I am drawn the comment on this blog is because it is a place that people are willing to take time to consider how premises affect the arguments. I mean anarcho-capitalism is a pretty non-standard political believe but it is acceptable to hold here because it can form a coherent view and it can give some advice on how the world should/could be.

            In a similar way, I try and either assume the premises someone uses are true, and have fun seeing where that leads, or try and find out why I disagree with the premises that they have in a civil manor. I think it is just a breakdown in discussion to say something that will amount to “your comment is irrelevant because your premise is wrong” unless you are willing to have a discussion about why the premise is wrong.

            I will step off my soap box now.

          • Matt M says:

            As if the semantic difference between “subordinate” and “subservient” would make a single iota of difference in the hypothetical scenario where a prominent libertarian gave a speech saying “Wives should be X to their husbands” with X being anything other than “fully and totally equal or possibly superior”

          • veeloxtrox says:

            @Matt M

            Point taken that it doesn’t make a difference to someone who is already libertarian.

            I would say that it does make a difference to someone who is on the fence about joining a church. In that situation, it helps us understand why churches tend not to have the gender imbalance problem that libertarian groups do.

          • Randy M says:

            I am not really sure the point you are trying to make.

            My point was that I object to the framing in the parent comment by Alexandre Z, but I would not have brought it up on my own as I do not expect to be able to defend the distinction adequately here where most will probably take issue that any justification for authority as being self-serving.

            One of the reasons I am drawn the comment on this blog is because it is a place that people are willing to take time to consider how premises affect the arguments.

            It’s a mostly thoughtful group, but sharp enough that I don’t want to go out on a limb without a well articulated argument. Hey, that almost works as an analogy.

            As if the semantic difference between “subordinate” and “subservient” would make a single iota of difference in the hypothetical scenario where a prominent libertarian gave a speech saying “Wives should be X to their husbands” with X being anything other than “fully and totally equal or possibly superior”

            Not quite sure who this is to but seems related to what I said. I don’t think feminists are likely to give arguments a fair hearing from libertarians either. But there is a difference in saying men should lead because males are more genetically predisposed to being dispassionate analysts (or whatever justification this liberatarian group would use) and saying “God tells wives to let husbands have the ultimate call in family decisions, and he will hold the husbands accountable accordingly”. Neither are acceptable to modern piety, but the latter places some serious drawbacks of responsibility on top of that authority.

        • John Schilling says:

          You have to explain why it may be even more unappealing to women than a group whose official canon doctrine explicitly says “women should be subservient to their husbands, abortion is wholly unacceptable, having sex before marriage is a sin, etc.”

          This presumes that saying “women should be subservient to their husbands, etc”, is unappealing to basically all women. Otherwise, the obvious explanation is that the groups with that doctrine have lots of women because they get all the women who actually find that doctrine appealing.

          And maybe all or almost all women do find that to be unappealing, but I kind of get the feeling I’m seeing typical-minding on the one hand being stacked up against six thousand years of history on the other and I’d like to see the typically-minded feminists make their case with a bit more rigor.

        • Deiseach says:

          women should be subservient to their husbands

          Ah, not within modern-day Catholicism. The rest of it – pre-marital sex and adultery and abortion, you’re correct about, but not this.

          This is because the doctrine of headship is much more a live topic amongst Fundamentalist and Evangelical churches; Catholicism would broadly be within the Complementarianism grouping but the “headship” emphasis is much different and even lacking by contrast with some of the really steadfast American sects on this.

          And how I know this is a few years back where someone from an Evangelical tradition with a leadership role in his church (I don’t want to go into more detail than that) was facing into a real question affecting his family due to the idea of headship, where his wife was contemplating a really big decision (involving Catholicism), and where if it were known then his job would be at real risk and his whole suitability and ability would be questioned (‘if he can’t even guide his wife, how can he guide others?’) and he asked for Catholics to give their opinion on headship etc.

          And I had to laugh, because you would swear all we Catholics who answered were cribbing from one answer sheet, because we all had some variation on “now this is my understanding, but in matters of religious conviction, both spouses are free to follow their consciences” etc. and basically that no, we didn’t have the same attitude that the man was absolute head, had the final say, and women couldn’t and shouldn’t question any decisions, and husbands couldn’t just tell their wives “you believe what I say you believe”.

          I mean, the big text that gets quoted on this one is Ephesians 5: 22-24

          22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

          But – anytime this has been read out in church as part of the readings for the Mass, the verses about husbands, parents, and children have also been read out, and any sermon I’ve heard has concentrated on the “children obey your parents/parents do not aggravate your children” verses, not the “wives obey your husbands” one.

          So yeah, Catholics are terrible awful horrible misogynists but not on this one particular idea 🙂

          • Dabbler says:

            If you don’t mind me asking Deiseach (I still owe you a reply on Open Thread 81 so apologies about that), what is your own view on the matter? Does it differ from the official Church’s position as you understand it?

          • Deiseach says:

            I think my view on the matter inclines more to complementarianism, with some egalatarianism thrown in 🙂

            That is, I do think men and women generally are different, that gender is not just socially constructed but real and biologically based, that there are some things men in general are more interested in/better at and some things women in general are more interested in/better at, and I don’t get bent out of shape over something like female ordination (I think that for those for whom it is a really big deal, there’s a great deal of clericalism mixed in with their thinking, and they really should re-assess their low view of the lay state). I’m not hugely convinced by the arguments put forward against it, but I’m content to accept the teaching of the Church – that is, I think the guys arguing about it often argue from the position of being guys, but I trust the institutional (and sacred) wisdom of Mother Church, as the Spouse of the Bridegroom, more.

            On the other hand, I’m not in the headship camp. Spouses are equals in their household, and nobody gets to make unilateral decisions because that affects everybody. And I’m definitely not “all women all like X, all men all like Y” side of things, nor the idea that men’s brains are so different from women’s brains that there are things only men can think and things only women can think.

            I’d be with Tolkien generally on this, as in a long-ago blog post I wrote under the tag “a nér’s place is in the home” 🙂

            (L)et me quote from “Laws and Customs among the Eldar”:

            There are, however, no matters which among the Eldar only a nér [male] can think or do, or others with which only a nís [female] is concerned.

            … Again, from “Laws and Customs among the Eldar”:

            And the Eldar deemed that the dealing of death, even when lawful or under necessity, diminished the power of healing, and that the virtue of the nissi in this matter was due rather to their abstaining from hunting or war than to any special power that went with their womanhood.

            Which is to say, it’s not because women are specially “nurturing” or because of any typical feminine or female characteristics that they are good healers, it’s because they refrain from killing. A male Elf who does the same is as good a healer. Contrariwise, a female Elf who hunts or fights is not as good a healer. I’ve seen too many wish-fulfilment pronouncements by women who should know better about how if only women were in charge, there would be no more war/inequality/poverty/what have you – come on, was Margaret Thatcher a fluffy bunny lady? No woman or girl has ever bullied, harassed, been cruel to or used her power against another woman or girl? This is the equal and opposite error to putting women on pedestals: if the male mistake is to idealise “the angel in the home” (and its concomitant, that a woman’s – generally sexual – ‘fall’ or sin is worse than the same deed by a man because women have ‘so much further to fall’), then the female mistake along this line is to sink into a dream of a matriarchal never-never land where women by virtue of their femaleness have sparkly fairy princess magical powers and only nasty, brutish males are violent and self-seeking. We’re all of us trying to work our ways through this fallen world.

            Females are not special precious snowflakes who are too soft and gentle for this cruel world and are more fitted for the “womanly arts”, because there aren’t any specific “womanly arts”, although there are natural inclinations and customs where one sex does certain tasks or follows certain trades; it’s more likely that female Elves are weavers, for instance (and don’t forget, Athena is the goddess of weaving as well as wisdom and war, and weaving has connotations of magic) while male Elves are smiths and craftsmen, but that’s not because “women are genetically predisposed to the softer arts”.

            Male Elves do the cooking, for instance, because they like it – “Yet the cooking and preparing of other food [food other than lembas, which is a sacred or ‘magical’ food, the making of which is reserved by ancient law to women] is generally a task and pleasure of men” – so Celeborn rather than Galadriel is going to be the one overseeing the kitchens in Lothlorien when it comes to preparing banquets and the like. I also like the idea that, after a hard day in the forge, Fëanor still had to put the dinner on the table for seven kids plus the missus.

            I mean, my father (who was in the Army) is the one who taught me how to do the ironing*, my mother (who had various jobs while single but was then a stay-at-home housewife) would have been the one to teach us how to throw a punch 🙂

            *Not very successfully, because I hated and hate ironing, but he could put Army creases into any pair of trousers

          • albatross11 says:

            I’ll add to Deiseich on this one: I’m a married Catholic man, my wife stays home with our kids, and our lifestyle is pretty traditional-looking. Her staying home with the kids was her choice, and was a hard decision for her, because she really enjoyed her career and found it rewarding. (And we could certainly use the money of a second income!) We make big decisions together, and there’s definitely no sense at all that I’m giving the orders.

            My parish is full of families that seem pretty similar. There’s no way to know what goes on behind closed doors in another family, but if all these Catholic couples are really running on the idea that the husband is the absolute ruler and the wife must submit to his will in all things, they’re doing a really amazing job hiding that fact from the world.

      • ellis eliz says:

        I think the reason libertarianism may be more unappealing to women in general (and this is coming from anecdotal evidence as a female libertarian, so take this with as many grains of salt as you like), is that libertarianism is inherently meritocratic. Everything you get, supposedly, is from your own work. (Or at least, that’s the ideal.) And when systematic differences are perceived (and I do think there is some sexism in certain industries), it sort of undermines that entire philosophy for a lot of women. They would immediately say, “well then it’s not meritocratic, CLEARLY, if I have to deal with all this bullshit.” And they’re not entirely wrong.

        But then they get drawn in by something even worse, the privilege and power matrix thing. And that’s because I think that they apply an incorrect diagnosis to a set of symptoms. Here’s two scenarios: 1. If you had a man and a woman running a race, and there were hurdles placed in the way of the girl (sexism, being told you’re not good enough, catcalling, tools not being made in our size since we have smaller hands, whatever), that doesn’t negate the work the other person did at all. The man still ran the entire race, and thus worked very hard for where he is at the end. But the privilege and power matrix describes it a bit more like scenario 2. The man has a skateboard, and the woman has to run the race. At this point, the guy has been actively helped along the way, and didn’t earn his place, and so something must be given to the woman because the guy clearly had a skateboard. And so why shouldn’t she get a skateboard too? I think a lot of the people drawn in by feminism see the difference in outcomes and attribute that to more of a skateboard situation than a hurdles situation. And those two situations have very different treatments.

        The skateboard situation is solved by taking away the man’s skateboard (as we see with a lot of people trying to tear down male privilege, saying men should die, etc.) or giving the woman a skateboard (extra laws, hate speech protections, extra insurance coverage for the same price as a man, etc). Not libertarian at all. And I think it’s pretty damn authoritarian, since somebody has to be doing the giving/taking away of skateboards.

        The hurdles situation is solved very differently. Say you have the woman jumping over those hurdles. People watching the race are going to notice. They’re going to say, “hey why are those there? Why is she running a slightly different race? Perhaps we should get rid of those next time.” And slowly and surely the hurdles are removed. But if the woman quits the race before it starts, nobody sees her go over the hurdles, and nobody realizes there was a problem. So the way to solve that problem would be to just have more and more women trailblazers, showing people what great work women can do in x and y field, and then doing that great work. And over time, people’s minds will change, and the hurdles will go away. But to abandon the entire work is ridiculous. And to change the picture of what’s happening to the skateboard scenario is illogical.

        I think the issue is that a lot of libertarians aren’t exactly talking about the issue of the hurdles, or what we can do to fix them. We focus more on breaking down the terrible logic of people who believe in that skateboard thing. But until someone provides an alternative explanation for the difference in outcomes we see, women are probably still going to flock to the former group because at least they’re “DOING something about the problem,” as I’ve heard a lot of times. Not sure if this is the best argument and all, but it’s what I’ve noticed.

        • Zorgon says:

          I ran into “that skateboard thing” just last night.

          A (female, feminist, bisexual) close friend and I (male, non-feminist, bisexual) were talking about the distinctly different way that our hetero- and homosexual interactions were perceived in public. She noted that she’d had various kinds of harassment thrown her way for engaging in homosexual PDAs, while she’d never had similar issues for heterosexual PDAs; she felt that many straight people didn’t see how straight relationships were “supported” in the public eye.

          I spent quite a while trying to pick this apart, because while I’ve encountered similar issues with homosexual PDAs, I’ve also encountered issues with heterosexual PDAs. Not exactly the same issues, and not of the same severity and certainly not of the level of severity that she was describing, some of which I’ve personally witnessed (and she’s not remotely the kind of person who exaggerates or invents harassment for pity points or to win an argument). But still, they were there; straight PDAs resulting in awkwardness that resulted in other people going home, straight PDAs resulting in “jokey” cries of “get a room!” and similar issues.

          But when I expressed this, I immediately ran into a similar reaction to the “skateboard” analogy. Straight relationships were simply easier, and therefore were being helped along, even though I was presenting cases where they were obviously not welcome in public; the difficulty of jumping the high hurdles of direct harassment meant that the skateboard simply had to exist, there was no other way she could frame the scenario.

          And the thing about the whole discussion was that for all this woman is a feminist, she’s a remarkably non-gender-conforming person; she doesn’t exhibit very many traditionally “feminine” behaviours at all, and this pattern pre-dates her commitment to feminism by some time, so it’s not a result of her ideology as it sometimes can be. So while in other circumstances I’d consider it likely that this pattern of thought – that lack of disadvantage was morally equivalent to advantage – might be an artefact of ideology or perhaps gender role-driven thinking, I’m tempted to assume that in this case there is a more deep-rooted way of looking at the world that produces this mindset.

          And I wonder, if it can be identified and a framework for managing it constructed, perhaps that could be a major factor in finally bringing these interminable bloody culture wars to a close.

          • ellis eliz says:

            I don’t know if I’d say that it’s entirely gender driven. I think it’s driven by the people living with the hurdles, whatever they may be. I think (at least from reading people’s arguments) that this same sort of false equivalence occurs with race as well, but since I have much more experience with gender-based adversity I figured I would talk about that as my example.

            But you know how the reparations comment keeps being brought back up? That’s giving people the skateboard. Or affirmative action? Again, giving people the skateboard (and or taking it away from Asians/whites).

            Perhaps this is why the civil rights movement and the feminist movement have converged in a lot of places, since they work off the same premise in that respect.

            Edit: I do have to say though, that the people-oriented vs. thing-oriented criticism has been brought up as a potential explanation for why we see a disparity? But that wouldn’t explain the similar arguments from civil rights activists, and it wouldn’t explain why there aren’t more women interested in Bleeding Heart Libertarianism. I tend to think the people vs. thing -oriented thing comes more into play when men and women choose career paths, since worldviews are inherently abstract and don’t really have to do with people or things specifically.

        • Aapje says:

          @ellis eliz

          The problem I have with both the hurdles and the skateboard analogies is that they imply that one group has all the advantages, in all situations. This is simply false.

          First, there is not a single goal that everyone seeks to achieve, but multiple goals. One person wants a highly paid, high stress executive job, the second wants just a pleasant job that pays enough. One person wants to work and have their spouse do most of the work to raise a kid, the other person wants to work part time and spend a lot of times with the kids or be a stay at home parent. For some of these goals women get more hurdles and for some of these men get more hurdles.

          The same is true for the help/skateboard that people get. In some situations, men get more encouragement. In other situations, women get more encouragement. Men may especially get more encouragement to take risks, but women get far more help if they have a problem. For example, female victims of domestic violence get far more help than male victims.

          My great frustration with feminism is that they are rarely painting a fair picture, taking into consideration the real hurdles & skateboards for both men and women. Instead, the hurdles for women and skateboards for men get exaggerated, while the hurdles for men and the skateboards for women get ignored or denied.

          At that point it’s a gender war, not a honest attempt to achieve gender equality where the needs of all are given equal weight.

          PS. Men often get punished for failing to achieve. So you have to imagine that the male race often involves them being chased by a rabid dog, who mauls them if they go to slow, while the female race has this far less often. Feminists only tend to look at the men who make the finish, not the ones who failed and got mauled by the dog. A lot of anti-feminists are people who got mauled by the dog, sought support from feminism, but were rebuffed.

          • Simon Penner says:

            Virtually every mainstream problem that Feminism complains about is a problem that also affects me and many other men I know. Every time I have tried to raise this, everywhere from random blogs and message boards through close personal friends who identified as feminist, I got some sneering response to the effect of “WUT ABOUT THA MENZ?!?!?”

            As best I can tell, the feminist playbook works something like this:
            1) identify some problem that some group of people has
            2) Ignore all the men
            3) Insist that the lack of men (which are only excluded because you are ignoring them) makes it a gendered issue
            4) Scream at any men affected by the problem, accusing them of derailing.

            There are SO MANY THINGS where feminists could find a fuckload of allies if they got off their high horses for a second and entertained the idea that other people might also have these concerns. But they reliably make enemies of those people instead.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Unfortunately, it seems to be much easier to organize people to oppose some other group of people than to work on actually solving a problem. I don’t know if this has gotten worse lately or it’s a human constant.

            Perhaps it would make sense to think about those people-in-general problems that feminists are focusing on, and look for groups that are working on those problems or even start one.

          • ellis eliz says:

            @AAjpe: ooh your comment made me think. 🙂

            First I would say that we can’t assume both scenarios apply. It was supposed to be an example of an incorrect model vs. a correct model, so there aren’t any actual skateboards. I included the skateboard to show the “men don’t do the work,” explanation of feminism that falls flat under a very small amount of scrutiny.

            That said, I do think I neglected to talk about some of the more particular hurdles men face. My mom works outside the home (three orthodontic offices), while my dad works inside the home (environmental lawyer, but he also did a fair amount of the nurturing work when I was a kid). She never really faced discrimination in the workforce, especially since she’s in pediatrics and parents trust women with their kids. My dad on the other hand got a lot of “Mr. Mom” jokes that I’m sure didn’t phase him because he’s the best man I know, but those jokes might have phased somebody else. And then there’s the fact that men often don’t “get” the kids in a divorce, even if they’re clearly the better option, male rates of suicide, etc.

            But the thing with the skateboard analogy is that AGAIN it breaks down completely when you try to explain that men have hurdles too. Which is another reason this privilege power structure thing has a weak foundation. You can’t just have skateboards located along various points in a race. But having seven workplace hurdles on the woman’s track and maybe three or four on the men’s for domestic stuff? That I can see very well, and it explains why some situations are easier for some groups and harder for others.

            That said, there’s a couple of things that I just want to show my very strong disagreement for: the generalization about group goals and the rabid dog bit.

            1. Generalization: while women often desire a family and men often desire career success, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. You’ve also completely ruled out all the men who are looking for “the simple life.” Yes, the extreme career success does take into mind the high powered guys in NYC and such, BUT it doesn’t take into account the guys who decide to be farmers, the guys who decide to live off the grid, etc. So while you’ve made a good point about a number of men I don’t think it’s very applicable for the group at large. Also, there are a number of women who want the crazy career success over having a family. I think the number is generally smaller (yay biological imperative), but it’s still there, and since you can’t make your claim stick for all the guys, and there are exceptions, I think it best to disregard it. ALSO, my theory (and the theory of a number of rationalists I think) for why there aren’t more women CEOs is that 1. women work with people not with things more often so those types of jobs tend to be more clinician-esque, not company-esque (note that this doesn’t relate to not wanting career success… and I don’t know why you equivocated there) and 2. it takes time for people to move up, and since there used to be institutional blocks on women and there aren’t anymore, it makes sense that it would take 50 years or so for them to catch up. So again, that has very little to do with the “women just don’t want it enough” phenomenon and still explains the situation.

            2. The rabid dog thing: You sound a bit more like an MRA than a rationalist here. I don’t know if that’s what you’re going for but…. wow I disagree. First off, the pressure to achieve is placed on you by your family and later on, your spouse. The amount of pressure will differ depending on situation. I’m pushed harder than my siblings because I have a higher IQ and my parents think it’s fair to push me. Is the pressure enjoyable? Absolutely not. I would have preferred to celebrate Christmas in high school over studying for an exam, but that’s how it is. In terms of societal pressure for men to be breadwinners, I would say that’s very similar to the wage gap at this point: the phenomenon exists as a remnant, but it’s sort of like the remaining smoke after a fire got cleared up by the fire department. It’s a rare girl nowadays who doesn’t expect to work for what she wants. And to argue that this remaining pseudo-pressure to be the provider is analogous to a rabid dog sounds a lot like feminists screeching PATRIARCHY. And lastly on that topic, if you want to start applying obstacles for every little thing, I mean you could put in all that stupid appearance crap women have to do for dress codes and make that like “less fast shoes” or something since it’s like we’re constantly going just a bit slower since we need to care about how we look while we’re doing our work all the time, instead of just our work. But at that point I think we both sound waaaaaaay too close to the people we’re arguing with for comfort, don’t you think?

          • Aapje says:

            @ellis eliz

            1. I never actually said that one gender always wants the high stress career and the other always wants to be a stay at home parent. I used gender neutral language on purpose. So you read something in my words that I did not put in there.

            As for the gender of CEOs, I think that this is way more complex, involving having a support network (you pretty much have to have a stay at home parent/spouse or army of servants to be able to live a CEO lifestyle), reward valuation disparity (men get more rewards from high status/income), that women get pushed towards a more balanced life style (which I personally think most people find preferable, although quite a few women do/want too much of everything, which is not the right way to do it), the long march as you said and probably more.

            2. It is true that women also have a lot of demands placed on them, of course. My point was more that if women fail to meet their demands, they tend to get shielded from the worst consequences, while this is not true for men. As evidence I offer that the most dangerous and dirty jobs are mostly done by men (women often can avoid that), the larger number of men who commit suicide, the larger number of male homeless people, higher rate of drug use among men, the large disparity in care for male domestic violence and sexual assault victims, even though victim surveys show that men are a very large percentage of victims, etc.

            One example of such a mechanism is that as you said, men often don’t get primary or shared parental care even if they are more or equally suitable…but this actually then impacts welfare, which tends to give much more support to primary carers. So the combination of the two put men into a position where they get less help.

            If a person is not going to get much help even if there is objective cause, this makes it sensible to choose stoicism, aggression, etc, because acting like a victim doesn’t work for them as it works for others. So the things for which feminists usually argue that men have to solve them on their own actually persist because men are expected to solve things on their own.

          • albatross11 says:

            Simon Penner:

            One important part of this dynamic is that feminists in the broad sense have long-since won. Women have the vote and can own property in their own name. Women have the same set of legal rights as men (plus some extra mostly-informal stuff that in practice benefits women more than men, for example in child custody cases.) Women are allowed in just about every occupation and field short of sperm donor, pretty much everyone agrees a woman can be president or secretary of state or governor or a judge or doctor or engineer or lawyer or scientist.

            Feminists already won like 95% of the battles the original feminists set out to win. But political movements and organizations don’t go away simply because they’ve won–instead, they redefine their mission to stay relevant.

            And even the people who are turned off by the most strident rhetoric of some feminists are also nearly all on board with all those previous victories. There are very, very few people arguing for going backwards on any of those things, in fact. (Maybe a few arguing about military service, for reasons of physical differences or administrative complications from having women and men serving together.)

          • schazjmd says:

            albatross11:

            I agree about feminist goals being achieved, but I think a critical point is how recently. When changes are new (many still living can remember before the changes happened), there is a real risk that they can be reversed. So the movement(s) need to keep up the pressure to prevent regression.

            I remember when the classifieds had two sections for jobs: one for men and one for women. If you wanted to place an ad for a job opening, you had to categorize it that way.

            I remember when the USAF uniform regulation stated that women’s skirts could be no shorter than 2.5″ above the knee “unless the woman has attractive legs.” (It really said that. In the 70s.)

            I remember when, in basic training, while men had weapons training, women had 4.5 hours of hair/make-up/hygiene.

            I remember when a woman was not allowed to apply for a loan without a man to co-sign. Etc., and so forth.

            Changes in society need tending and nurturing and protection to take root. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for feminist movements to feel reluctant to say “mission accomplished, now enjoy.”

    • veeloxtrox says:

      I think you are missing one of the key points Scott was trying to make. Scott talks about how the people-things dimension of interest shows that men are much more thing oriented and much less people-oriented than women.

      To put some made up numbers to the problem, imagine a people-thing score of 0 means you have no interest in things and a score of 100 means you have no interest in people. Further more, the average score for the US population is 55 (we are slightly more interested in things than people on average). Yet when you break it down by gender, men score an average of 70 (quite thing favored) and women score an average of 40 (somewhat people favored).

      Say each worldview/belief system/subculture/how ever you want to group people, has a things-people score that it is most appealing toward and as you get farther from that score, it becomes less and less appealing. Lets assume the Catholic church appeals most toward people with a 50 and libertarianism appeals most to people with a 80. These made up numbers give a reason why you see more women in church there are more women with a score close to 50. Also, you see less women in libertarianism because the population of women who have a score close to 80 is much smaller than the population of men who have a score close to 80. Furthermore, regardless of how few women you scare away from libertarianism, you will never make up population difference.

      So in a way, the populations are disjoint sets but in a similar way to the populations of potential low IQ works is disjoint from the population of potential high IQ works.

      I hope this helps, if it doesn’t or you see an issue with my stance please point it out. I might not be able to respond but at the very least will read it.

  8. Tibor says:

    So the Czech republic is now a second country in the world with a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to bear arms…sort of. The formulation is far from perfect in my opinion, but a good step in the right direction and something that can help protect the country against EU’s attempts to restrict gun rights across the EU.

    By the way, it is interesting to compare how different news services report about this. The BBC says that the Czech parliament moved toward legalizing gun ownership. However, that is nonsense, Czech gun laws are already more liberal than those of some US states and the most liberal in the world after the US. NRA actually might have the best report of what is going on (except for the exact formulation of the law whose English version is only provided by Eugene Volokh as far as I can say)

    Washington post (or rather the Volokh conspiracy blog hosted by WP) is one of the few English-speaking sources who write about it accurately and in the right context. The main reason behind this law is that Czechs are traditionally liberal in their gun laws (except during communism where private ownership of firearms was simply illegal) whereas the rest of the EU isn’t, in particular Germany is very hostile to private gun ownership. The EU is now trying to restrict gun rights across all countries of the union and this constitutional law is supposed to protect us against that.

    Btw, I keep saying it but I think it is important for the opponents of gun rights to know this – while our gun laws are just behind those of the US, our murder and violent crime rates are on par with Germany, i.e. much much lower than those of the US. The Swiss have slightly more restrictive gun laws but many more privately owned guns per capita (2nd in the world after the US) and their violent crime rates are the lowest in Europe, on par with Singapore or Japan.

    • Aapje says:

      I’d be interested to know what the restrictions are in the Czech republic. Felony status, registration, background checks, a requirement to store the weapon in a safe, etc, etc?

      • Tibor says:

        There are 5 gun license categories:
        A – collection
        B – Sport
        C – Hunting
        D – Profession
        E – Self-defense (the only one that permits concealed carry of loaded weapons in civilian life)

        You can also combine them. All of them are “shall issue”, so the police cannot decide against issuing one as long as you meet the criteria:

        – You have to be at least 21, for sports at least 15 under some conditions and for hunting at least 16 again under some extra conditions
        – You have to pass a practical and a theoretical test showing you can operate the firearm safely and that you are familiar with the relevant legislature
        – You have to get a medical check-up showing you do not have a metal disease such as schizophrenia (there is an exact list of conditions)
        – You have to show you haven’t committed a crime where you were sentenced to more than 5 years in the last 20 years (counting from the end of the sentence) and similarly for shorter sentences (there the waiting time is 10 years for a sentence between 2 and 5 years and 5 years for a sentence under 2 years). There is also a list of specific crimes where if you were sentenced to more than 5 years, you are never allowed to get a firearm license again. Those are basically terrorism, genocide, murder, treason.
        – if you’re a diagnosed alcoholic, drug addict or if you committed a tort/minor offense from a listed set of areas such as national defense, weapons and ammunition, explosives and a couple more in the previous 3 years then you will also not be issued one.

        If you meet all that you will be issued any/all of the 5 gun licenses…well, you also have to pay the fees for the medical check-up (this one is not covered by the insurance), and the tests that you have to pass, altogether all the fees should not exceed roughly 100 Euros.

        It is not required to keep the firearm in a safe as long as you only own one firearm – they have to be registered. If you own at least two, they have to be kept in a safe unless you’re carrying them on your person.

        With the self-defense license you are allowed to own semi-automatic weapons, automatic weapons are generally illegal, you have to get a special permit for that which is not shall-issue and typically won’t be issued. If it is, the police can inspect the place where you store the automatic firearm without a warrant to check it. There are no “assault weapon” or similar categories. As long as automatic fire is disabled, you can buy a machine gun if you wish. Concealed carry comes automatically with the self-defense license, open carry is entirely illegal – the only people who have the license to open carry are the police (the army is prohibited from operating inland).

        You are only allowed to use the gun for self-defence if your life is threatened, this is somewhat open to interpretation by the court. Generally, if someone punches you in a bar and you shoot him, you will probably go to jail. If someone attacks you with a knife or something and you shoot him, you won’t. But I’m not a lawyer.

        With the self-defense license (and hence the concealed carry license) you are allowed to legally carry up to two loaded firearms on your person at the same time.

        Airsoft weapons or paintball weapons, cold weapons, gas pistols or BB guns do not require any license and there are no restrictions on the bladed weapons which can be sold or carried. If you want to, you can carry a sharp sword around. However, if you have an airsoft weapon which is a realistic copy of a real firearm (which they often are), it still has to be carried in a concealed way.

        Explosives are generally prohibited, you need a special permit and that is only issued if you need them for your profession (e.g. in construction or mining you sometimes need to use explosives).

        • hlynkacg says:

          Thank you for the write-up.

        • gbdub says:

          This is interesting, thanks.

          I have a feeling a lot of American gun owners would actually be fine with that system, particularly since they’d gain a pretty substantial benefit – reciprocal, shall issue licensing that affords them the same rights in CA as they have in AZ. So you wouldn’t, for example, go to jail for a felony if you crossed the border of NJ while possessing guns in a manner perfectly legal in PA.

          The gun registration would be a sticking point, but largely that’s due to distrust because there’s a large contingent of the gun control movement in the US that really won’t settle for anything less than Australia style confiscation. If we could reset the clock to 1970 I could see something like the Czech system being workable in the US.

          • Tibor says:

            I think we are unique in that while the number of gun license holders if fairly low (about 300 000 people have them in a country of 10 million, some of whom are of course under 21, and there are about 900 000 registered privately-owned firearms), Czechs are quite protective of their gun rights. It might be because historically the gun laws were liberal and restricting them is associated with nazism and communism (both regimes made privately owned firearms illegal).

            This constitutional law was passed by 138 MPs out of 168 MPs that were present at the moment (in total the parliament has 200 MPs) which means it had support across the political spectrum. One of the (female, which I’m writing because positive attitude to gun rights is usually associated more with men) MPs from the formely major (after a series of scandals and also tax hikes they lost most of their voters) right-wing slightly libertarian-ish party said that “Forbidding legal gun ownership has been and is a symptom of undemocratic and totalitarian regimes.” I think that that sums up the Czech attitude to gun rights quite well.

            I always find it annoying when US anti-gun activists link liberal gun laws to violence and also imagine all of Europe as Britain or Germany (who have horribly restrictive weapons laws). What’s worse, due to the influence of the US culture, many Europeans from the restrictive countries (a majority, although most are still not as bad as Germany and the UK) also think that way, nobody seems to bother with looking at the Czech republic or Switzerland. Now, the Swiss laws are less liberal, most notably concealed carry of loaded firearms is not legal in public over there. They are a bit more liberal in that you don’t need a license at all, Swiss citizenship is enough (by the way, I forgot to mention that foreigners can still get a Czech gun license, I don’t know the details, I think they need to be EU nationals or have a permanent residency in the Czech republic and otherwise the requirements are the same – the test is probably going to be in Czech though, so they have to understand it well enough to pass the test). Still, Switzerland has way more firearms per capita so it is also a good example showing that the number of guns itself is not the primary cause of high violent crime rates in the US just as the Czech laws show that the liberal gun laws are not the reason behind it either (although you could argue that it is because of the tests and the medical and criminal restrictions and maybe it partly is…I think it makes some sense to require a test for firearm licenses when you require a test for driving licenses).

            In a sense you have the same AZ/CA situation in the EU/Schengen Zone. I can go to Germany without a border check but the Czech gun license holds no value there. It is possible to get a European gun license, but it basically only allows you to carry them across EU countries in a safe as far as I know.

          • Incurian says:

            The gun registration would be a sticking point

            It’s like they didn’t watch Red Dawn.
            Tibor: also, if you know the guy who designed the new scorpion, tell him thanks.

          • Tibor says:

            @Incurian: Is it actually legal in the US? I think you have some sort of a strange law which prohibits importing foreign weapons other than pistols and Scorpion is a submachine gun. Although they do have this weird “pistol version” whose only purpose is to allow legal export to the US. Other than that I also like it a lot, but I can really just appreciate the design, I know little about guns, I only shot my father’s low-caliber pistol at a shooting range as a kid a couple of times and he sold it when I was about 12. I might pick up shooting for fun, but I’d probably rather enjoy shooting something like the K31.

            What do you think about the CZ BREN ? It is the new assault rifle of the Czech army, it replaced the old Sa vz. 58 (which looks a bit like the AK-47 but has nothing to do with it mechanically…Incidentally, I think the Czechoslovak army was the only one in the Eastern block which did not use the AKs) recently but soldiers complained a lot about it, at least about the first version, this second one might be better, but I don’t know. There is also a civilian version (which cannot shoot in bursts and full-auto) but I think you cannot get it in the US since you cannot make a pistol version out of that and of course some of your states have this idiotic “assault weapons” category which would probably prohibit civilian sales in those states anyway.

            As for registering guns…I mean you need a license plate for the car as well, so I don’t think it is a big deal as long as you can trust the government not to use that later as an excuse to make weapons illegal and confiscate them (which I think the Czech government can be trusted with…the question is whether the EU can enforce their restrictions on us or not, I’m not a lawyer and also the EU courts are very political and not really independent of the politics).

          • Aapje says:

            Note that one way to get around restrictive gun laws is to build your own full auto crossbow (content warning: awesome video).

          • John Schilling says:

            @Incurian: Is it actually legal in the US? I think you have some sort of a strange law which prohibits importing foreign weapons other than pistols and Scorpion is a submachine gun.

            We have a law against submachine guns generally, regardless of origin, but for the most part any weapon that can be legally owned in the United States can be legally imported to the United States. The BATF technically has the authority to declare a firearm “wholly unsuitable for sporting purposes” and bar its import, at least until someone puts that to the Heller test, but they use it sparingly and mostly for compact pistols.

            W/re submachine guns, fully automatic weapons manufactured or imported after 1986 are fully illegal in the US except for police or military purposes, and you need special permission to own one of the pre-1986 models. Also, “rifles” with barrels less than 16″ long and “pistols” with shoulder stocks are illegal without special permission (silly, but true).

            There are a few of the pre-1986 Skorpions on the US market, if you can convince the FBI and your local police chief that you should be allowed to own one. Will cost you $10,000 or more, because the now-fixed supply is small compared to the supply of silly rich people who think the Skorpion is just that cool.

          • Incurian says:

            Tibor: The pistol version is the correct version (because diminishing returns from barrel length). We can import rifles but a certain percentage of it must be American made (idiotic), so literally every foreign manufacturer is ready to do that to take advantage of the American market. In fact, some rifles come with a warning that they must be used with American made magazines or they will have too many foreign parts and be illegal, lol.

            I don’t know anything about the bren, though in general I prefer IWI stuff for rifles.

            On gun registration, you not only need to trust your government, and future government, but any occupying powers who might one day be in charge. If I were a small country I’d be very concerned about it.

          • Tibor says:

            @Aapje: Awesome! Somehow his German accent and his laughther which sounds like something halfway between Santa Claus and a homicidal maniac makes it even better.

            @John: I might be using a wrong terminology. To me the Scorpion (the old one or EVO) is a submachine gun even with the automatic fire disabled. It technically still has all the parts of the military version it is just modified to prevent automatic fire.

            @Incurian: I guess that’s a good point (with the occupying power). One has to hope the state is ready for this and can erase the registry. Come to think of it, this should be a standard part of the last resort national defence in general – having a way of quickly erasing all registries of everything. The occupier then has to deal with Afghan level of information. Kinda like the Swiss who can immediately blow up all roads and railways at the entry points to the country in case of an invasion (they have explosives set there to do that), which is also a good idea for a small country, having something similar for the cyberspace would also be a good way to protect the citizens. Had something like that been available in 1939 (of course it is more difficult if you store data on paper), it could have saved thousands of lives (I mean in Czechoslovakia alone).

            As for the “minimum number of US parts” that sounds less like the anti-gun lobby and more like the US gun manufacturer lobby 🙂

          • John Schilling says:

            To me the Scorpion (the old one or EVO) is a submachine gun even with the automatic fire disabled. It technically still has all the parts of the military version it is just modified to prevent automatic fire.

            As far as the US government is concerned, if automatic fire is (irreversibly) disabled, then it’s not a machine gun of any kind. But it still has a folding stock and a barrel less than 16″ (40.64 cm) long, so it’s a “short-barreled rifle” and prohibited on that basis. Removing the stock might change that, but if it wasn’t somehow made irreversible I expect the BATF would just say “obviously you’re just going to reattach the stock after importing it so no” and make it stick.

          • Incurian says:

            Removing the stock does change it, despite that fact you could always add one later (which would be illegal). Luckily, pistol braces are not illegal, and the ATF recently indicated that you could even shoulder the brace like a stock legally.

          • John Schilling says:

            Removing the stock does change it, despite that fact you could always add one later (which would be illegal)

            By statute purely domestic purposes, yes, but when BATF is evaluating an import’s suitability for “sporting purposes” they aren’t limited to explicit statutory provisions. I wouldn’t want to buy a batch of stockless Skorpion Evos in the Czech Republic on the theory that they could surely be sold in the US.

          • Nornagest says:

            As for the “minimum number of US parts” that sounds less like the anti-gun lobby and more like the US gun manufacturer lobby

            It’s largely the anti-Russian lobby, actually. The backstory on that one is that the usual suspects were upset that we were importing mass quantities of ex-Soviet SKS and AK-pattern rifles (while modifying the latter to fire semi-automatic). Russian rifles look scary and tend to show up in the hands of bad guys in American films, so…

            It’s still not hard to find an SKS cheaply, but an AK is now generally a worse value proposition than an AR, and the American-made drop-in parts have a reputation for being trash. Mission accomplished, I guess?

          • Incurian says:

            John, I understand what you’re saying in theory, but in practice there does not seem to be any problem getting foreign stockless semi-smgs/”pistols” to market. They even let IWI sell the galil ace “pistol” with a brace installed.

          • Protagoras says:

            The police really don’t like weapons that are concealable and can go through body armor. I don’t know how much shortening the barrel does to the power of a rifle (it still has a rifle charge in the cartridge, rather than a pistol charge); if it doesn’t reduce it enough to prevent a decently powered rifle from getting through body armor, that could be the reason, in which case it isn’t quite as irrational as, for example, the assault weapon rules.

          • Nornagest says:

            It depends on a lot of stuff, but the difference can be pretty dramatic. The acceleration undergone by a bullet corresponds roughly to the integral of the pressure behind it during its trip down the barrel, minus drag from the rifling. Longer barrels therefore usually mean higher velocities, and a load can be optimized further for longer barrel lengths by using more but slower-burning powder. But you can’t go far in the other direction, because faster-burning powder means higher pressure, and the chamber can only tolerate so much. Most rifle rounds are optimized for rifle- or carbine-length barrels and pretty much max out their safe chamber pressures, so much of that charge is going to be wasted in an SBR that’s small enough to be even kinda concealable.

            Don’t know offhand if that’d penalize it enough to affect its penetration of typical police armor, though.

        • Nornagest says:

          That sounds like a pretty sane system, all things considered.

  9. Tibor says:

    Has anyone read the Cryptonomicon? I’m currently 250 pages into the book (it has about 1000) pages and I bet a lot of people here would like it a lot. The start is a bit slow, but after the first 80 or so pages, I was hooked 🙂

    • James says:

      Gee, if only there were another comment chain in this very open thread where people were discussing what Neal Stephenson books they had read!

      • Well... says:

        Is there one? Maybe whoever wrote it is some kind of genius who, out of sheer brilliance and godlike omniscience, anticipated Tibor’s comment! Whoever that commenter was, he should probably be sent bitcoins and gift certificates to restaurants that serve very authentic felafel.

      • Tibor says:

        I promise to read the entire thread next time before I post any comments 😉

        • Well... says:

          If I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t. Just post your comment and, if it’s redundant, let someone else who HAS read the entire thread bring it to your attention. Hopefully they’re polite about it.

        • Randy M says:

          Not good enough. Read the past threads and provide a summary of the previous discussions of Stephenson’s work in your intro next time.

          • Well... says:

            Don’t forget to hyperlink each word or phrase to its unique reference.

          • Well... says:

            Shoddy work. These references are only intra-SSC and provide no context for your own inquiry. This kind of arrogance is sure to get you reprimanded and possibly banned.

          • Randy M says:

            I tried to fix it.

            It’s gone now.

            Now I know why we don’t actually want to hyperlink each word or phrase of a post.

    • Anonymous says:

      The start is a bit slow

      Understatement. About 90% of the book is just parallel buildups for the conclusion, which is underwhelming.

      Not a bad book by any margin, though.

      • Nick says:

        Underwhelming or unsatisfying conclusions is a common criticism of Stephenson. Personally I had no problem with the conclusions of, say, Cryptonomicon or Snow Crash or Anathem, but I had a serious problem with the ending of The Diamond Age.

        • Nornagest says:

          Anathem‘s conclusion was satisfying to me. Snow Crash and Diamond Age were very abrupt but at least resolved the main plot. Cryptonomicon had a decent ending to the WWII Shaftoe plotline, but I felt like he didn’t know what to do with the WWII Waterhouse plotline after a certain point, and the 1990s plotline just cut off at the beginning of what should have been the climax.

          • quaelegit says:

            I feel like Lawrence’s plot line was resolved within the 1990s plot line. We learn about his life after the war and the resolution/continuation of a lot of his codebreaking stuff through Randy’s visit to his family and discussions with Pontifex.

        • Incurian says:

          He did a pretty good job with the ending on the Baroque Cycle. Actually it was really good. Like really fucking good.

          • John Schilling says:

            So, if you give him three volumes and 2,634 pages Neal Stephenson can get around to a proper ending, and if you can still remember how it opened on page 1, you’ll realize how awesomely he closes out the story. Good to know.

          • quaelegit says:

            I remember being really disappointed with the ending of the Baroque cycle, but I can’t remember enough details to say why exactly.

            I wasn’t impressed with BC in general and feel like they were the weakest works of his that I’ve read. I feel like the plot got lost at some points (even by Stephenson’s meandering standards) and never satisfyingly picked up the pieces. Too many of the characters were boring copies of Cryptonomicon characters. And a big part of it was I felt like Baroque Cycle undermined the the world/some plot points of Cryptonomicon:[rot13]

            * EBBG’F VZBEGNY?!?! Bxnl gung jnf sebz gur irel svefg fragrapr ohg vg ernyyl haqrezvarq zl haqrefgnaqvat bs gur jbeyq nf cerfragrq va Pelcg. Yvxr gur jbeyq zbirq sebz “ernyvgl-onfrq” gb “zhpu yrff ernyvgl-onfrq” irel noehcgyl, nsgre V’q orra nffhzvat vg jnf ernyvgl onfrq sbe nyy bs Pelcgbabzvpba.

            * Vs gurer’f gjb vzzbegny thlf, jung unccrarq gb gur bgure bar? Jung’f ur qbvat va gur 20gu praghel?

            * Ubj qbrf Ebbg qrpvqr juvpu crbcyr gb fnir?

          • Incurian says:

            Crytonomicon has the same stuff with Root, remember in Finland?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            So, if you give him three volumes and 2,634 pages Neal Stephenson can get around to a proper ending, and if you can still remember how it opened on page 1, you’ll realize how awesomely he closes out the story. Good to know.

            You kids and your 2500-page attention spans…

          • Nornagest says:

            To be fair, the stuff with Root in Finland is subtle enough that I missed it on my first two readings, and assumed his appearance later was just a continuity error.

          • quaelegit says:

            *SPOILERS BELOW!!!! (I’m too lazy to pull up rot13 right now, so I’m using the excuse that Nornagest started it)*

            I interpreted the Finland stuff as as the conspiracy deliberately faking Root’s death, for reasons of making the conspiracy ?harder to trace or something?. Remember how Shaftoe and Rudy “made sure the doctor filed the death certificate” (sounds to me like bribing/intimidating him to lie). There was the bit about “bat out of hell” but I didn’t understand what that meant until after I read Baroque cycle.

            I think the stronger hints in Cryptonomicon are when Root saved Shaftoe the first time, and subsequent references to the “cuban cigar box”, (it emits glowing light and contains stuff “better than morphine”), and the part where Root save’s Amy’s life in the mountains.

            But yeah, I liked the “conspiracy fakes a member’s death so he has more leeway to operate” better than “magical elixir brings people back to life”…

          • John Schilling says:

            Remember how Shaftoe and Rudy “made sure the doctor filed the death certificate” (sounds to me like bribing/intimidating him to lie).

            That was IIRC explicitly about making sure Root’s “widow” would get her inheritance when Root started his new life, when their entire relationship was barely official in the first place.

            But Root was an active older gentleman in World War II, and an active older gentleman sixty years later. That was an enigma in need of an explanation from very nearly the start of the story. The Finland resurrection was a wham moment akin to, say, the birth of Daenerys’s dragons in Game of Thrones – there may have been hints, but now we know this is the kind of story that has such things in it, and everything changes.

            Unfortunately, that just makes the “Randy and Avi get the gold and the girl, isn’t it obvious they live happily ever after?” ending, even more unsatisfying.

          • Nornagest says:

            Stephenson often seems impatient with conventional plot structure; compare the bit in Snow Crash where Hiro crashes a hick bar somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, gets into all sorts of trouble, and then just as the scene’s getting worked up to a climax it abruptly cuts off with “and from then on it’s basically just a chase scene”, or words to that effect.

            Unfortunately, while he’s a very very good writer in a lot of ways, he’s not quite good enough at unconventional plotting for this to work reliably.

          • Nick says:

            I believe I’ve read in an interview (and I can look this up if need be, or someone can correct me) that Stephenson planned on having Cryptonomicon take place in three time periods, past, (more or less) present, and future. The contemporary stuff ballooned into the current Cryptonomicon, so he decided to split up the story. Then the past stuff of course ballooned into the Baroque Cycle… anyway, the point is that we’re still waiting on the real conclusion of this trilogy. With a nine book cycle in sixty four parts, if the trend holds.

          • albatross11 says:

            I also enjoyed Cryptonomicon, but bogged down in The Baroque Cycle and eventually gave up.

    • quaelegit says:

      One data point of a mostly-lurker, but Cryptonomicon was my absolute favorite book ages~15-20. I’ve re-read it most time than any other book that’s not Artemis Fowl.

      Things I really liked about it:

      * The general Stephenson stuff (great integration of narrative and technical concepts & explanation, hilariously unsual descriptions of things, irreverent tone, fascinating setting descriptions). This book made me reallly want to visit Manila, and despite the horror stories I’ve heard from friends who’ve actually been there, I still kind of want to.

      * It was the first really good historical fiction novel I read, and I really enjoyed learning about the history from a different perspective than what I was learning in school (not necessarily anything political, just more detailed coverage of WWII and focusing on different parts of it than class did).

      * Lawrence and Goto Dengo are my favorites

      * It’s so funny!

      * As someone who’s principle emotional reaction to anything was embarrassment, I really identified with Randy.

      • Tibor says:

        I’ve been to Manila (before reading the book) and it is exactly as he describes it. I was amazed how spot on the description was.

        • Nornagest says:

          I went to Manila several years after reading the book; I stayed mostly up in Quezon City, but I did take a day off to hike around Intramuros mainly because of Cryptonomicon. It’s spot-on, yeah, to the point where I could almost literally use it as a tour guide. Walking up those stairs in the San Agustin Church was a trip.

          I feel like Stephenson didn’t adequately convey just how hellish Manila traffic is, though. There’s a few sentences on it in REAMDE (which I actually bought my copy of at a mall in Fort Bonifacio), but it still doesn’t really show the magnitude of the suck. It’s like getting machine-gunned by a cannon that shoots Nineties-era Mitsubishi vans.

          • quaelegit says:

            Re: Traffic — Perhaps it’s gotten worse since he visited?

            I’m guessing he was pretty familiar with Manila from his traveling/research for the article about FLAG he wrote for WIRED (fun read if you have the time). Although now I’m skimming it and he doesn’t actually mention going to the Philippines, so maybe not…

  10. Vermillion says:

    So based on my last post (linky) there was at least a little interest in having a discussion about Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) where the typical level of rancor is dialed down to about 20%. To that end I’d like to suggest we give it a shot with the following principals in mind (lovingly stolen from the Double Crux model developed by CFAR)

    Epistemic humility – mentally append every single post with a couple words such as, ‘but then again, I might be wrong’. You might! I’ve been very wrong about a lot of stuff, why should my understanding of AGW be different?

    Good faith – this is really really important for any type of rational discussion but especially something like AGW where I think bad faith is not only the default assumption but often an accurate one. If you don’t believe as I do, that’s a good thing, if everyone thought double plus good thoughts at all time it’d be a pretty dull world. Personally I think I know one side of this debate better than the other and that’s because I’ve never taken the time to engage with it seriously, thus this thread.

    Confidence in the existence of objective truth – for AGW I suppose that would mean believing that things like temperatures and/or atmospheric CO2 levels are things that can be measured. It may be that the people doing the measuring are lying about the results, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a real thing that could be discovered.

    Curiosity and/or a desire to uncover truth – If I was a cat I’d be dead like, so many times, I assume this is true of most of you as well.

    I think it’d be good to limit the scope of this discussion. My previous post I figured we could just knock this whole thing out in one go but on reflection that’s unlikely! So let’s take as a topic just the first, most basic element of the entire debate: There is Clear and Convincing proof that Anthropogenic Global Warming is a real phenomena.

    • Vermillion says:

      So with all of that said let me put my cards on the table upfront, I think AGW is really happening and it scares the shit out of me. Now I’m going to go into more detail on each of the different elements of that statement and say what would convince me to change my mind about it.

      I think clear and convincing proof is required because on the one hand the entire global economy is too important to potentially upend if humanity decides AGW is happening when it actually isn’t, so a Preponderance of Evidence is too weak. On the other hand I think the risks of global disruption that could result if humanity decides AGW is not happening, when it actually is are large enough that Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is too stringent. On the gripping hand I’m not an expert in civil law and have only a laypersons understanding about how evidentiary standards are set, so if anyone would like to argue for a different level I’d be very interested in hearing it. I’d rate my certainty on this point at about 50%, but hey, I could be wrong.

      I think the world is getting warmer, and a lot of this belief is an intuition from my day to day experience that it feels hotter now than it was in years past (well intuition and all the articles I read about AGW). There are a few different pieces of evidence that could disprove this; for one, I have a very limited personal sample of the places I’ve lived over the last couple decades. I would like evidence from let’s say 100+ different locations around the planet, weighted towards inhabitable areas. If it’s 10 degrees warmer in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, that’s probably good to know, but it doesn’t affect me as much as if it were 10 degrees warmer in the middle of Atlanta. I would want to know what the average temperature for the year was at each of those locations as well as how large the deviation from the mean is. If the temperature change was inconsistent, say 10% showing an increase, 10% a decrease and the rest no change over a 5 or 10 year moving average (from the most recent time period where high quality measurements are available, 1950?) that would be strong evidence against the world getting warmer. If the SD is also unchanged over that period then that would be strong evidence against climate change writ large. I’m saying this all before I actually look up the data and run some stats but I would put my confidence that the majority (or even supermajority of say >75%) of locations around world are actually getting warmer at about 90%. But hey, I could be wrong.

      IF the world is in fact getting warmer I think humanity is largely or entirely the cause of this. The majority of that is likely the result of burning fossil fuel to power the industrial revolution and the modern, global economy. Some portion may also come from deforestation, cow farts, or other changes we’ve made throughout the Holocene epoch. I’m not an atmospheric scientist, based on my (limited) understanding the idea that putting an excess of CO2 in the atmosphere could, and more importantly is, increasing the amount of heat retained from sunlight makes sense to me. If there were a convincing alternative explanation that was internally consistent and had predictive value for global temperatures in the next 5 to 10 years that would be strong evidence that global warming is not anthropogenic. I would say I’m about 70% certain that humans are causing global warming (conditional on the globe actually getting warmer), but hey, I could be wrong.

      One last thing, I would really like to be wrong. I think a lot about AGW, how it could impact the future and whether it’s even a good idea to bring children into a world that might be so much worse than the one I’m living in now. When I think about how I might be wrong on all those points above, I also have to consider it might go the other way, and tail risks could lead to something like the horror show of that infamous New Yorker article. Click that link for an annotated version.

      If those who disagree with AGW, and most of all the data, could prove me wrong, I would sleep better at night, and you would have my sincere thanks for that.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        In the spirit of the thing, personal experience is a very bad way to judge worldwide climactic phenomena.

        Two posts about your personal experience, leaving aside confirmation bias other psychological effects:
        1) Urban heat sink – Urban areas get hotter by simply having more area that is good at trapping light, turning it into heat and holding that heat. This is not believed to be a significant factor in AGW, AFAIK.

        2) Weather patterns – Weather patterns shifting can also cause a local disruption in observed temperatures. This will displace temperature rather than result in net warming or cooling. AGW is believed to contribute to changes in weather patterns, but it’s hard to link any given change directly to AGW.

        Paradoxically, we would expect some places to get (temporarily) cooler as the result of long term changes to certain patterns that drive worldwide weather patterns. The eastern seaboard of the US, for instance, if the Gulf Stream were to be disrupted. Some models (not sure their current state of play in the broad scientific community) think this could happen if we get a large influx of fresh water to the sea in the north as the Greenland ice cap melts.

        That’s why looking at all the worldwide temperature data is so important, and why land surface measurements are the least reliable measure to look at.

        • Vermillion says:

          Totally agree on all your points, I would much rather have actual data than my intuitions, I just wanted to explain where my beliefs were coming from at the beginning. Also I suspect I’m alone in thinking this way, not so much in a community like SSC, but in the general population I’d guess it’s pretty common.

          Why aren’t land based measurements reliable? I understand temporary cooling effects but with a moving average wouldn’t those be smoothed out and an underlying warming trend revealed?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Why aren’t land based measurements reliable?

            Less reliable =/= unreliable.

            I am not even a lay expert, but:

            1. Surface land based measurements alone are obviously poor indicators, simply because land is a minority of the surface of the earth.
            2. Land is where people live and make all sort of local changes with local effects.
            3. Similar to 2, the world is continuing to get more populated and more developed. Irrespective of climate change caused by things like deforestation, things like deforestation will result in higher land-surface temperature readings.
            4. Surface based measurements will be clustered where people are, so there is a tendency to undercount where people aren’t.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            > Why aren’t land based measurements reliable?

            To add to what HBC said, a specific thing to keep in mind is that when you’re looking for reliable long-term land temperature records you tend to find them in places where 50 years ago it seemed so important to know the temperature that some specific person was willing to go out and check the temperature day after day after day and write it down. So in the US it might be the location of a farm or a high school geology class, but in third world nations you’re mostly gonna find you’re looking at airports.

            And airports are especially bad news when it comes to urban heating. See, when you first build an airport, you do it outside of town where the land is cheap (and cool!) and then as the airport grows you add extra heat-trapping runways and the town fills in around it. And sure you can try to “adjust” for that sort of effect, but then you’re not just looking at the raw recorded temperature anymore, you’re looking at temperatures as filtered through somebody’s model of what the temperature might have been if the world had been different than it actually was.

      • Deiseach says:

        I think the world is getting warmer, and a lot of this belief is an intuition from my day to day experience that it feels hotter now than it was in years past

        Mmmm – not a reliable measure on its own. There was a series of scorching hot, dry summers in Ireland and Britain in the late 70s and mid 80s, to the point of water rationing because of the huge fall in the reservoirs, hosepipe bans, and the like. Summers from the 90s onward have been nowhere near that, and indeed we’ve tended to have wet or at least cooler, more overcast summers.

        (We also had some genuine snowfalls back in the same 70s-80s period, as in “several inches of snow” and not the usual “bit of a dusting on the ground that melts as soon as it falls”).

        So the colder, snowy winters and hotter, dry summers were a thing in “years past” but not now, by personal experience. What that has to say about global warming, anthropogenic or not, I have no idea (probably very little).

      • Ketil says:

        From high to low confidence:

        Earth is heating up: certainly. Virtually everybody who measures anything agrees on this. Land, water, atmosphere are getting warmer.

        This is caused by human activities: quite sure. The models are possibly shaky, and a few voices point to changes in the sun and whatnot. But the overwhelming majority of climate scientists say it’s us, I don’t believe in conspiracies or them all being morons.

        Investments in wind and solar power will not do us much good. Sorry, but we have sunk billions if not trillions into these technologies, and they have only made a small dent in our total energy. And they still need gas-plants for backup, and also (photovoltaics) require a lot of energy to manufacture.

        Cutting out meat, in particular from ruminants, would help. Both due to direct emissions of methane, N20, and CO2, but also from deforestation and crops used for feed.

        Investment in nuclear energy is an effort that potentially could help. We don’t pursue it very actively, for some reason. But countries like Sweden and France managed to switch electricity production from fossil to nukes in a decade or so, and it’s just concrete and steel. We could do this globally, if we wanted to.

        The earth has been warmer before, but current change is happening faster than in previous times. I’m not sure what precision we have to measure the speed of temperature changes thousands of years in the past. I’m inclined to believe it.

        Warming will lead to a large increase in various types of natural disasters. Not sure about this, we may get stronger hurricanes and droughts, but I don’t think there is evidence that this is happening yet. That this depends on some particular target (two degrees, say) appears to have no strong support, and I think this is something politicians say just to sound more definitive.

        Net production of the earth will decline. I think this is almost certainly false, unless something really drastic happens (ocean acidification killing all marine life, or something). Increased temperature and wetter climate in general will increase bioproduction.

        • Investments in wind and solar power will not do us much good. Sorry, but we have sunk billions if not trillions into these technologies, and they have only made a small dent in our total energy. And they still need gas-plants for backup, and also (photovoltaics) require a lot of energy to manufacture.

          It’s possible to do a finer calculation than “very small”.

          Professor Charles Hall, an ecologist at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, developed the concept of EROI to give a common measure for comparing very different fuels.

          Finding out fuels’ EROI means working out how much energy it takes to make the materials usable – like finding oil, drilling the well, pumping it out and refining it – and how much energy you get afterwards. It’s a simple equation – you divide the energy output by the energy input. A high EROI means you get a lot of energy out for very little energy expended.

          https://www.carbonbrief.org/energy-return-on-investment-which-fuels-win

          • 1 International Energy Agency: Any country can reach high shares of wind, solar power cost-effectively.

            2. By 2050 almost all of global energy needs can be met with renewables. Source

            3. Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, already gets 25% of it’s electricity from renewables, and is aiming for 80% by 2050.

            4. Wind power was Spain’s top source of electricity in 2013, ahead of nuclear, coal & gas. Source

            5. Renewables supplied 42% of mainland Spain’s electricity in 2013.

            6. In 2012 China’s wind power generation increased more than generation from coal.

            7. Portugal generated more than 70% of its electricity from renewable energy sources during the first quarter of 2013.

            8. In the US, nine states are getting 12% or more of their electricity from wind. Iowa & South Dakota exceed 25%.

            9. Philippines produces 29% of its electricity with renewables, targeting 40% by 2020.

            10 Denmark is going to produce 100% of its heat and power with renewable energy by 2035 and all energy by 2050.

          • Ketil says:

            1 International Energy Agency: Any country can reach high shares of wind, solar power cost-effectively.

            Yet no solar or wind farms seem to manage to turn a profit, except when they are subsidized. We already have examples of negative electricity prices on sunny and windy days, increasing investment will only make it worse.

            2. By 2050 almost all of global energy needs can be met with renewables. Source

            Solar and wind cannot currently meet any energy needs alone, due to intermittency – they need another power source as backup. Typically gas, since they are quick to start up (but less efficient).

            Current growth in solar and wind is less than the growth in global energy demands, and in spite of tremendous investments, solar is still less than a percent of total energy. But perhaps it is technically possible to ramp up production with a long enough time frame (e.g. 2050).

            3. Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, already gets 25% of it’s electricity from renewables, and is aiming for 80% by 2050.

            At tremendous cost. Yet, for all the euros sunk into the Energiewende, Germany still has one of Europe’s dirtiest electricity productions. And high electricity prices means that consumption is driven towards e.g. gas for heating. And again: intermittency – you would have brownouts were it not for imported coal power from the east, or nuclear from France. Similarly, Denmark is dependent on electricity imports.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’d really like to see a more in-depth treatment of the usefulness and economics of renewable energy.

            One claim I’ve heard (in a presentation by a genuine expert in a relevant field) is that renewables look a lot better if they’re spread across the nation and are linked by very high-efficiency transmission lines. The wind may not be blowing (or the sun shining) in Missouri right now, but it’s probably doing both *somewhere*. And I keep reading the claim that solar power is becoming cheaper per kWh over time, and is already very competitive with fossil fuels. (But obviously that’s not so great if you get wonderful cheap power only during daylight hours on sunny days, and expensive polluting power all the rest of the time.)

            Is there a good article somewhere that lays out the basic issues in a readable-to-a-novice way, but that people with the right kind of expertise think has done a good job laying out the issues?

        • Wrong Species says:

          Imagine it´s the year 1988…

          Investments in the internet will not do us much good. Sorry, but we have sunk billions if not trillions into these technologies, and they have only made a small dent in our total communications network.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Let’s put it another way: wind and solar may well be the eventual future. But there’s no guarantee that this will occur any time in the near future, in contrast to the internet, because these are always going to be very expensive and much more decentralized than the internet. Meanwhile, these investments are justified under the heading of supposedly saving us from global warming, even though they almost certainly won’t do it. At best, a strategy which relies on wind and solar to combat global warming is one which hopes for heavy technological innovation to solve the problem…which is exactly as true of a strategy of “do nothing”, pretty much, except the latter saves you trillions of dollars. And is maybe somewhat less likely to succeed, but still.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            because these are always going to be very expensive and much more decentralized than the internet.

            Typo? Otherwise, huh?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            No, I meant what I said.

            Not sure if I knew what I was talking about when I said it, but let’s try to reconstruct it – basically, you need to build every solar plant or windmill individually, and rebuild it, and then also build electrical wires coming from them. With the internet, you just need to build the wires, and probably various servers and stuff, but I would imagine that these are a lot less expensive and important. Of course, I admit that I actually don’t know that much about internet infrastructure, but I think I’ve got a point here.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @AnonYEmous:
            The design of TCP/IP is (roughly) that you can get from anywhere to anywhere via any route. Yes, there are backbones, etc, but they aren’t intrinsically required.

            Power transmission and distribution is much more finicky. Things explode when it’s not done properly.

            In addition, on the internet, the only thing that looks like power is the transmission/generation. Creating content and serving it up is the tasks of literally millions of different companies. Whereas power generation is mostly done by the same utility which transmits and distributes it.

            If anything, lots small scale solar and wind power producers looks more like the Internet of today, but I’m not sure this is where we are headed. Coordinating power generation, transmission and distribution is finicky, as I said.

            Basically, the thrust of your contention seems very incorrect to me. That, or I don’t understand it.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Yeah, let me perhaps rephrase: the irreplaceable stuff that makes up “the internet” is very centralized, and everything else is super-decentralized and super-replaceable, which also makes it pretty cheap. But the power system is decentralized and mostly irreplaceable – you need X wind turbines and if some wind turbines blow out, that’s bad, because they will need to be replaced. Moreover and maybe most importantly, most improvements will be of the physical engineering variety, whereas most improvements of the internet are of the programming variety (or at least plenty of them); the latter is easily distributed, the former is more of a problem and more expensive.

            The bottom line being that you sort of need most if not all of those to work, but probably fair amounts of “the internet” can go down and be replaced.

            Anyways, I opened my mouth without knowing much about what I was saying, but I hope what I said still made sense and didn’t retreat too much from the original point.

    • Well... says:

      It seems like it should be possible to measure global temperatures over time. I don’t know what the numbers really say but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve gone up a lot in the last 100 years. (I wouldn’t be surprised if they haven’t either.)

      What I’m much less clear on is why this should scare the shit out of anyone, since it isn’t happening faster than our ability to adapt to it. (Or is it? You tell me.) Can you explain what makes it so scary to you?

      • Wrong Species says:

        If co2 has been steadily increasing since the industrial revolution then at some point, global temperatures should increase much faster than we’re used to. It’s the difference between linear and exponential growth.

      • Vermillion says:

        What I’m much less clear on is why this should scare the shit out of anyone, since it isn’t happening faster than our ability to adapt to it. (Or is it? You tell me.) Can you explain what makes it so scary to you?

        I was going to leave this point till the next open thread but sure I’ll give it a shot.

        I’m scared because I feel much less sanguine than you apparently do about humanity’s ability to adapt to this change. For more detail I do recommend that New Yorker article, especially the version I linked up there since it includes a lot of the original quotes from SMEs; as I recall from the last OT, you trust that more than a journalist distilling information.

        I don’t know for sure how bad it could get and that uncertainty adds a lot to my worries, specifically because it makes it hard to plan for.

        I think complex systems tend to break down catastrophically and there’s nothing as complex as human society.

        I think even if, for instance, the United States is relatively untouched by the direct effects of AGW it might wind up swamped by refugees from collapsing equatorial countries that can’t sustain their populations.

        I think crossing our fingers that new technologies can solve AGW, without any unintended side effects, is incredibly risky.

        I think the combination of a still increasing population, loss of habitable land, food insecurity, resource scarcity, depletion of potable water, and the simple fact that people tend to murder each other more when the temperature heats up could lead to violence and interstate war on a level that we haven’t seen in 70 years.

        I think buying beachfront property seems like a very very bad investment right now, but that’s where a huge proportion of the planet’s population and infrastructure is located.

        Why are you not scared?

        • Well... says:

          Why are you not scared?

          Because not being scared is my default position for things I don’t know much about and don’t perceive much of.

          I’ve heard that supervolcanoes would be devastating and could have effects similar to or worse than nuclear war, and that we’re technically “due” for one, so one might erupt at any moment. Yet it’s also possible that one might not erupt at all in my lifetime, and that if one does the effects I experience will be somewhat mild. So, I can’t really say I’m scared of supervolcanoes.

          Now to address your points…

          1. Human adaptability: I suppose I’m not that sanguine about it, it’s just that I think we’re pretty good at adapting, and if we’re not then there’s not much I can do about it anyway.

          2. Hard to plan for: Same as above; not much I can do about it, so no point feeling anxiety. It’s kind of like how I don’t keep a storage bunker full of survival gear and food & water rations even though I never know when I’ll need one (or might never).

          3. Complex systems fail catastrophically: many other things threaten human society, and many of those threats are swifter and more dramatic than gradual shifts in climate. I live a quiet, very “civilized” suburban life and while it’s hard to envision it being ripped away by some event or rapid change, I intellectually know this is possible. But it’s like the other things: it can’t be planned for and if it happens there’s not much I can do about it.

          4. Influx of refugees: This too is a legitimate concern, but many other things are destabilizing equatorial countries already. So in a sense, we already have opportunities to practice dealing with this problem! The question is whether we will. I am sometimes annoyed or frustrated when we don’t learn, but that is not the same as being scared that we won’t.

          5. Technology solutions: Anyone who’s read my comments for the past few years should know I am SSC’s biggest Luddite–practically an Amishman whose guilty pleasure is commenting on internet blogs, at least where attitudes toward technology are concerned. By default, I oppose technological solutions to things until they’ve been vetted for their secondary/long-term effects on culture and values. Yet I’m fairly agnostic about technologies deployed in the mitigation of catastrophic AGW. If we somehow determine that AGW is a big enough negative effect, then other unintended negative side-effects of mitigating it may not matter.

          6. Scarcity and violence: See #3 and #4.

          7. Coastal populations: You might be right, for all I know, about humans not being able to adapt to change very quickly. But abandoning cities and building new ones is something humans are demonstrably pretty efficient at. (See 21st century China for numerous examples of this.) It seems like we are now capable of doing this on large scales within a decade or two–much faster than it would take for rising sea levels to make existing coastal cities uninhabitable.

          • Vermillion says:

            Thanks for your reply, it sounds like we’re just kinda constitutionally different in how we internalize risk, and I’ll admit it, I’m a little jealous :).

          • Well... says:

            You’re welcome.

            Is it possible that these constitutional differences are predictors for what kinds of stances people take on AGW?

          • Glen Raphael says:

            Back in the 1990s I actually was scared of AGW. More specifically, I was scared that we would collectively overreact to this exciting new threat and build institutions/restrictions in response to it which could permanently damage our economy and rate of technological progress and thus our ability to respond to actually serious threats as they come up.

            Why was I afraid of overreaction? Because overreacting to actual (small) risks is something we’re really good at. Consider the overreactions to terrorism, immigration, “crack babies”, “killer bees”, “flag burning”, comic books, rap lyrics…

            But if you are going to cripple an industry with stupid new restrictions – like we crippled the airline industry with the TSA – you kind of need to strike while the iron is hot. Scary threats are only scary when they’re new. Give us a few years to get used to it and any threat becomes a non-issue. So the fact that we haven’t destroyed the energy industry yet gives me hope that we probably won’t ever do so. Sanity may yet prevail! One can hope, anyway.

          • Aapje says:

            @Rafael

            Consider the overreactions to terrorism, immigration, “crack babies”, “killer bees”, “flag burning”, comic books, rap lyrics…

            The overreaction to most of these was limited to a lot of discussion in the media and people doing science to check if the threat was real. You seem to assume that no risk can be real and discount issues a priori.

          • rlms says:

            @Aapje
            The reaction to “crack babies” was the war on drugs, which was pretty bad. The reaction to “flag burning” is the right-wing equivalent of the left-wing reaction to “hate speech”: in each case, roughly 50% of the relevant partisan group supports banning it, but their elected representatives know what the constitution says and nothing actually ever happens.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            rlms, the war on drugs predated crack babies. Reagan renewed the war on drugs in 1981, before people were talking about crack, let alone crack babies.

        • Im scared by positive feedback effects, like the release of methane from melting permarost.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think buying beachfront property seems like a very very bad investment right now, but that’s where a huge proportion of the planet’s population and infrastructure is located.

          San Francisco rebuilt in the same place after the Great Earthquake of 1906; there’s a Sicilian city beneath Mount Etna; numerous other examples of Humans Gonna Human.

          More seriously, for historical reasons large proportions of infrastructure and accompanying population are on seacoasts and the expense and inconvenience of abandoning all that and moving X miles inland would be colossal, especially for a future risk.

          Sure it would be more sensible to say “We better move now because in 20/50/whenever years will be too late”, but most governments, private businesses, and ordinary people are going to look at the scale of the operation proposed, go “are we in danger next year? no?” and stay right where they are.

          • Matt M says:

            Humans Gonna Human.

            This is all well and good. Except the very humans who we are told are smart and rational beings AND who are promoting climate change alarmist rhetoric at the highest levels still, themselves purchase multi-million dollar buildings with estimated lives of many decades in Miami, New York, San Francisco, etc.

            I’ll take the climate change thinktanks a lot more seriously if they abandon all their coastal real estate and relocate to the midwest.

          • Alarmism isn’t the claim that a catastrophe will happen no matter what, it is the claim that a catastrophe will happen if nothing is done to stop it. That being the case, they could be read as having faith in a solution.

            Your logic is the same as “planes did not fall out of the sky, therefore there never was a Y2K bug”.

          • Matt M says:

            Alarmism isn’t the claim that a catastrophe will happen no matter what, it is the claim that a catastrophe will happen if nothing is done to stop it. That being the case, they could be read as having faith in a solution.

            I feel like a lot of alarmism consists of claims like “If we do not mitigate this within the next five years it will be too late and catastrophe will then happen no matter what.”

            And of course, when the five years passes and we haven’t done what they said must be done – all of a sudden it’s, “No, we have to do it within the NEXT five years…” Repeat forever.

            We’ve seen plenty of high profile claims of “Action must be taken by X date or Y will happen by Z date” be ignored with the consequences failing to materialize such that these claims are no longer taken seriously.

        • Corey says:

          Why are you not scared?

          Depression helps. That is, AGW would require significant coordinated global action to mitigate, and given the ease of FUD on the issue, that will never happen. Therefore there is literally no way to stop AGW or nontrivially affect its course, so nothing to be gained by dreading or fighting it.

      • The Nybbler says:

        It seems like it should be possible to measure global temperatures over time. I don’t know what the numbers really say but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve gone up a lot in the last 100 years. (I wouldn’t be surprised if they haven’t either.)

        It’s actually quite difficult to measure global temperatures over time. We don’t have a 100-year-old global network of calibrated thermometers, and even if we did, local phenomena could produce error. So there are a lot of proxies for global temperature and a lot of corrections to the data for various phenomena. I believe it is apparent that whenever it appears the data does not show enough warming to fit the models, efforts are undertaken to find reasons why this is, and adjustments made to the data accordingly. Even if every individual adjustment is justified, this process produces a bias, and thus the data is corrupt.

        • Well... says:

          If it is that difficult, then how is it possible for anyone to claim there is or isn’t AGW? Or even just GW? Or, if they can somehow claim there is, how can they claim the extent of it?

          I try not to assume bad faith on anyone’s part, but I am genuinely puzzled by how anyone can be so sure. Maybe it’s such a contentious issue precisely because a high level of certainty to a claim (in either direction) is a reliable proxy of bad faith?

        • Vermillion says:

          I believe it is apparent that whenever it appears the data does not show enough warming to fit the models, efforts are undertaken to find reasons why this is, and adjustments made to the data accordingly.

          Do you have an example of this?

          Even if every individual adjustment is justified, this process produces a bias, and thus the data is corrupt.

          How different do you think the unadjusted data is from what is reported? Do you think it would result in models that would show no warming occurring? Or some warming, but not enough to significantly affect most people’s life? Or something else all together?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Do you have an example of this?

            http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-33006179

            How different do you think the unadjusted data is from what is reported?

            I don’t know what the raw, unadjusted data says overall, but it’s not useful in any case; we know the raw data has systemic errors. I’m a radical agnostic on what accurate data would say; I don’t know and neither does anyone else.

        • Gossage Vardebedian says:

          This is as good a place as any within the thread to butt in. I think Nybbler’s comment is right on.

          As for examples of adjusting data, there are so many examples all over the internet that it seems silly to link to some, and of course opponents of one side or another can follow up with so-and-so’s “debunking” of said analysis of adjustments. Suffice it to say – oh God, I hope – that nobody disputes that there is a huge amount of data adjusting going on. I know “provide examples” is something of a talisman around here, but AGW is kind of all over the internet and Google search works really well.

          The problem I have with it is . . . Jeezus, isn’t anyone here a scientist? When your data isn’t right you go get more and better data. You don’t adjust it. You present it and say, “Well, we know this isn’t what we expected, so maybe we need to look at how we got this data, but here it is . . . ” I find the level of data rejiggering and drawing lines and filling data in and throwing out data points via choose-whatever-statistical-method-you-need-today to be not only scandalous, but something of a 13th chime of the clock for the entire endeavor. Not to mention the abject failure of the models to predict forward temperatures, or the surface vs satellite gap.

          I am amazed at the extent to which this community is on the whole rather accepting of – leaving the AGW viewpoint aside – the AGW scientific edifice. Scott writes well-thought-out post after post, with caveats here and doubts there, and everyone notices and appreciates it, and on the whole there seems to be an appreciation that all this stuff is hard. And then there is the abject mess that is AGW science.

          One can, I think, make perfectly legitimate arguments on the motivating level against the AGW hypothesis, that nobody really behaves as if they believe in anything like a catastrophic GW scenario, that a lot of it is just fashion, that dissenting scientists get blackballed and can’t publish, that people are denied requests to look at data, that funding this and stature that, but evidencing reasons are always and everywhere preferable to motivating reasons. So then people look at the evidence and see problems and other people ignore it or shout them down or “debunk!” and nothing changes. Does any of this look like science being done? Does this look similar to what goes on in your field? I’m a medicinal chemist and one of the problems in our field is that a huge percentage of the papers in biology which are relevant to us – for looking for new drug targets – can not be duplicated. Everyone spends a huge amount of money trying to verify results that have been reported in top journals. Everyone, every company, every academic. It’s just understood that a lot of stuff out there is either wrong or can’t be established as true with enough certainty to feel like going further is a good idea. And it sucks but that’s science. It’s hard. I spend most of my time trying to figure out why my reactions didn’t work. It’s hard. And we know a lot about biology and a lot about chemistry. How much do climatologists know about weather, really? It seems apparent to me that climatologists are just beginning to figure a few things out but want answers to the big questions and have rushed to some conclusions that they simply can’t back up.

          Given the chance, people will almost always lead themselves astray. It is just too difficult and unlikely to understand something new without the discipline of extreme rigor – testing and retesting and testing again. Theories are a dime a dozen, and almost all of them are wrong. A community of people, even a very large community, can be persuaded of just about anything, as history has and no doubt will continue to illustrate forever. Whether through the desire for status, or self-importance, or simply ratification of an expected or hoped-for result, people’s biases will quickly show through. Without being forced – I think that is an appropriate word – to constantly check our ideas versus reality (or, if you must, ‘reality’), any group of scientists will eventually find themselves lost. It is just too hard to really learn something new, to get something right.

          Like everyone else I assume that rising CO2 levels are man-driven and are bound to raise temperatures. I have exactly zero feeling for how much, or for what moderating feedback or amplifying effects there might be that will prevail on long-term weather trends. I’m not particularly worried about it, and I see exactly zero evidence that anyone else is.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            Re: “just get better data:” climate science is in the same place as epidemiology, where you can’t do experiments, data is expensive to get, and it’s not clear how much you need and which is relevant. I certainly don’t see climate scientist opposing further data collection in order to preserve their theories.

            I am frustrated by the “even environmentalists don’t care about the environment” meme. If you do things that are within reach of the individual (like drive an electric) you are just virtue signalling, if you support collective action you are playing with other people’s money so that doesn’t count either.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            This post is pinging my “bad framing” meter enough for me to say: please don’t do that.

            I happen to suspect that the data is lacking in a lot of ways, and might be biased, but one of the things I’m looking for here is a sense of how good the data actually is, assuming good faith effort.

            Searches for “AGW data” on Google will indeed turn up a lot of hits. But it will also turn up a lot of potential misrepresentation, so I’m hoping to make use of the rationalist filters here to save some time.

            Try to answer the question: What if we wanted to know GAT every century since the last ice age? rather than What sort of shenanigans might be afoot?. (I mean, I’m open to questions about potential data misinterpretation, software bugs, and stuff like that, but try to stay away from framing this side or that of the debate.)

          • Deiseach says:

            I am amazed at the extent to which this community is on the whole rather accepting of – leaving the AGW viewpoint aside – the AGW scientific edifice.

            I’m not, but probably its not because I’m a scientist or more rational than anyone else, it’s because I’ve lived through a share of the ARGGHHHH!!!! WE ARE ALL GONNA DIE!!!! scares and you know what? We didn’t.

            Just to emulate Little Jack Horner and pull out a plum at random, I remember the “we are all going to die of skin cancer due to the hole in the ozone layer and we have to stop using CFCs right now but it’s probably too late anyway” flap of the 90s. Well here we are thirty years later not all dead of skin cancer. And before you all tell me that was journalistic hysteria and not scientific consensus, this time is totally different – so what about this level-headed and not at all sensationalist article on the topic?

            Over the past decades, our culture has gone apocalyptic with zombie movies and Mad Max dystopias, perhaps the collective result of displaced climate anxiety, and yet when it comes to contemplating real-world warming dangers, we suffer from an incredible failure of imagination. The reasons for that are many: the timid language of scientific probabilities, which the climatologist James Hansen once called “scientific reticence” in a paper chastising scientists for editing their own observations so conscientiously that they failed to communicate how dire the threat really was

            You see? Scientists are being too calm and rational! They are not terrifying the public enough!

            You can only read so many ARGGGHHHH!!!! WE ARE ALL GONNA DIE!!! articles in your lifetime before getting a little sceptical of the latest one 🙂

          • Nornagest says:

            There was a hole in the ozone layer. We did ban CFCs. It worked, ozone minimums have been trending up since the late ’90s, we can all go home. I’m not familiar with the skin cancer statistics, though I expect they’re hopelessly confounded by fashion trends and by greater use of sunscreen.

            No, “it’s probably already too late” was not justified. But there was a real problem there.

          • beleester says:

            I remember the “we are all going to die of skin cancer due to the hole in the ozone layer and we have to stop using CFCs right now but it’s probably too late anyway” flap of the 90s. Well here we are thirty years later not all dead of skin cancer.

            We did stop using CFCs, and the ozone hole over Antarctica has been shrinking year-over-year as a result, so I don’t think that’s the example you want.

          • Chalid says:

            Does anyone have informed thoughts about how the projected costs of halting CFC use ended up comparing to the actual costs?

          • Nornagest says:

            That’s a good question. I don’t know the answer.

            It doesn’t strike me as a straightforward thing to estimate. The material cost of CFC refrigerants or propellants vs. alternatives, sure, that’s easy. But there are other compliance costs, too.

            A few years ago the A/C compressor in my car went bad and I found myself having to replace it. In my grandpa’s time this would have been a straightforward operation for any wrench-monkey with the parts: vent the refrigerant, disconnect the compressor, replace the compressor, charge it with a new thing of Freon. But now you need to capture the old refrigerant so that it doesn’t escape into the atmosphere, which requires special tools, so I had to take my car to a mechanic. I have no idea how you’d account for this sort of thing.

          • random832 says:

            But now you need to capture the old refrigerant so that it doesn’t escape into the atmosphere, which requires special tools, so I had to take my car to a mechanic. I have no idea how you’d account for this sort of thing.

            Isn’t this a transitional cost? If the new refrigerant can’t be released into the atmosphere I don’t know why they wouldn’t just carry on using Freon.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not totally confident of this, but I think the replacement refrigerants still have some ozone depletion potential, just less than CFCs do. Likely Freon was phased out because it poses higher risks from leakage or spills, or because it was politically simpler to execute a blanket ban than one for open-cycle applications only, or both.

          • And were those scares coming from scientists or the press and politicians?

            Aapje on the other thread:

            From my perspective the climate scientists mostly stay out of the realm of political controversy. Their critics often pretend that this is not the case, but their arguments usually criticize non-climate scientists, like Al Gore, who get conflated with climate scientists for some reason. This makes sense from a tribal POV because a lot of non-climate scientists say stupid/hyperbolic things that are fairly easy to debunk, while the climate scientists mostly say smart things.

            Even famous dissenting ‘climate scientists’ like Lomborg are on closer inspection not even attacking what climate scientists actually argue, but either lie about what the climate scientists claim or have claimed & also focus a lot on the proposed solutions, which is the part of the debate that is much harder to scientifically prove and thus far more subjective. So there is this smoke screen where a lot of pro- and anti-AGW people believe that the debate is about the things that climate scientists are claiming, but if you dig into it, you see that the actual debate is often about what people think/claim that climate scientists are claiming. There is often remarkably little overlap between the two.

          • Deiseach says:

            nornagest, beleester, my point was not “the ozone hole was not real”, it was “yes, action was taken, the problem was solved, and when was the last time you heard anything about the IMMEDIATE PERIL OF THE HOLE IN THE OZONE LAYER?”

            So that leans more to the “yeah, if AGW is addressed, it’s fixable, and it’s not the WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE threat it’s being made out to be” side of the debate, not the hysterical article where a “climate scientist” berates scientists for not being alarmist enough and not terrifying the public because WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!

            The point was: scares come and go, and the flap about them is usually worse than the underlying real concern. So seeing the media being WE’RE GONNA DIE over climate change has less effect on people old enough to have seen similar headlines and alarmism over other environmental problems in the past, and that lack of “arghh, we’re gonna die, we have to do something!” panicking can look like indifference or even denial to those young enough to be those for whom this is Baby’s First World-Ending Threat 🙂

            And nornagest, beleester, this is not aimed at you, but I am amused by those who dismiss past WE’RE GONNA DIE scares with “ah yes, but that was all trumped-up media hysteria, the real scientists never said anything like that“. Because I do wonder (a) how many of them right now are going “The science is fixed! the facts are undeniable! real genuine reputable scientists all agree and are saying: WE’RE GONNA DIE!!!” (b) and if twenty years down the line this turns out to be the same as the “we’re all gonna die due to population explosion/ice age/no more oil/Ebola/whatever” scares and it was a problem that was fixable, they will then be going “ah yes, but that was all trumped-up media hysteria, the real scientists never said anything like that” 🙂

          • Perhaps people who complain about scares and alarmism should look at their responses: do they react with vulcan-like objectivity to calmly -explained propblems, or do they need goading into action?

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            The point was: scares come and go, and the flap about them is usually worse than the underlying real concern.

            That is not a logical conclusion when a successful intervention was done.

            If you have cancer and get healthy after surgery and chemo, the logical conclusion is not that the original health scare was overblown, that the surgery and chemo was not really necessary, etc.

            Perhaps it is just inevitable that advanced science that allows us to intervene before things get really bad leads to a disconnect between scientists and the masses, because when we never let thing get out of control, the masses never experience in their own lives what the fuss is about.

            However, I’m not really comfortable with allowing large scale damage to make a psychological point.

          • beleester says:

            So that leans more to the “yeah, if AGW is addressed, it’s fixable, and it’s not the WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE threat it’s being made out to be” side of the debate, not the hysterical article where a “climate scientist” berates scientists for not being alarmist enough and not terrifying the public because WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!

            If something is fixable if we address it, but we’re currently not addressing it because the President thinks it’s a hoax invented by the Chinese, then I think at least a little bit of hysteria is acceptable.

            Your argument hinges on the idea that, since it can be fixed, it will be fixed, but that doesn’t seem anywhere close to certain in the current political environment.

            (I’d also point out that something can be catastrophic and worth fighting even if it’s not literally going to kill you and everyone you love. For instance, if the Maldives end up underwater before we manage to halt global warming, that would be worth calling a “catastrophe” even though I don’t live in the Maldives.)

          • Matt M says:

            Your argument hinges on the idea that, since it can be fixed, it will be fixed, but that doesn’t seem anywhere close to certain in the current political environment.

            And this argument hinges on the idea that the ONLY POSSIBLE fix is through globally coordinated political action.

          • Deiseach says:

            My argument hinges on hysteria working against you, and I agree that it’s a bind: you need to throw at least a little scare into people to get over the inertia, but go too far with the WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE IN A HELLSCAPE!!!! and people will, naturally, go “yeah and I heard all this ‘sky is falling’ crap three times before” and ignore it because they think this is the same old story and not “no it’s really different this time”.

          • And this argument hinges on the idea that the ONLY POSSIBLE fix is through globally coordinated political action.

            Feel free to put forward a rational fact, based alternative, them, instead of complaining about alarmism.

          • Matt M says:

            Invisible hand. Market forces solve the problem (most likely through adaptation) incrementally as it materializes.

            Done. Where’s my prize?

          • 1soru1 says:

            > Invisible hand. Market forces solve the problem (most likely through adaptation) incrementally as it materializes.

            That’s the good news. The bad news is when the conclusion of the market forces turns out to be that humans should be discontinued as a consequence of being non-viable in the current operating environment.

            To put it another way, market forces cannot ‘solve a problem’ in that way; maybe you are thinking of a benevolent interventionist God?

          • albatross11 says:

            The “we’re all gonna die we’re doomed” framing was also widespread in the 60s/70s with regard to population growth. I think this is just a standard tactic that activist groups use to get attention. (Any activist group will include people who are convinced that doomsday is ahead, and they tend to get the most attention.)

            As best I can tell, global warming within the parameters being predicted in mainstream sources will cause some problems (screwing up farming or weather in some places), but not anywhere close to the level of some godawful catastrophe that threatens civilization. And similarly, some kind of workable CO2 tax scheme would be some extra administrative hassle and would have some impact on the economy, but again, nothing remotely catastrophic happening to the economy as a result.

            Now, it’s always possible that there will be some weird runaway feedback loop thing that will cause huge changes and be a lot worse–somehow we end up with much higher ocean levels and Europe frozen over due to the shutdown of some ocean currents or something. Or that our CO2 emissions tax will be mismanaged so badly it causes a terrible recession. But neither of those things seem at all likely.

          • pontifex says:

            The most important measurement is the rise in carbon dioxide, from 315 parts per million in 1958, to 410 parts per million today. And that is not in doubt, and you can measure it yourself if you don’t trust the scientific establishment.

            Construct me a peer-reviewed, defensible scientific theory where this increase in co2 will not cause global warming. Then we can talk about denialist arguments. Until then, it has about the same epistemic status as creationists trying to prove that biology is wrong by finding a measurement error in some paper or other.

        • Even if every individual adjustment is justified, this process produces a bias,

          That doesn’t follow. Of course, adjustments can be perfectly legitimate…if your raw data is biased in one direction, you need to adjust it back. Talking about adjustments in a sweeping, undetailed way is quite misleading.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Of course, adjustments can be perfectly legitimate…if your raw data is biased in one direction, you need to adjust it back.

            I agree with that. The process I’m talking about that causes bias (the one mentioned in the post you replied to) is using deviations from the model to decide which biases to look for and which adjustments to make. This creates a feedback loop which keeps the data adjusted to the model. And that’s true even if every bias found is legitimate and every adjustment justified.

          • 1soru1 says:

            Note that when you draw a graph all trends remain visibly the same whether using any combination of data set, post-processing method, and software package.

            All that changes is the whether specific sub-ranges hit the p = 0.95 threshold for statistical significance. Which, if you pick just the right combination of dataset, processing and interval, allows people to extract soundbites like ‘no significant warming over the last x years’.

            It’s a hard tactic to argue against. You can go into the details, and lose your audience. You can use slick media and emotional appeals, but that’s 50/50 at best, because being right doesn’t help. You can try to establish robust enough datasets that such deliberate misinterpretation is impossible. But that will always fail because more data has more subsets and more anomalies. Every satellite launched that confirms the same picture of temperature data also provides additional material for those looking for anecdotes and anomalies.

            Say there are 500 ways of processing a new data set covering 30 different intervals, and 499 of those methods produce one result for all 30 intervals. That means a soundbite derived from the missing combination of interval and processing method will make it from the internet to Fox to the President before the first official scientific paper is written.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        There are multiple ways to measure global temperature (GT). I used to know more about this than I do now. Layman’s perspective:

        Thermometers everywhere, naturally. One upside is that it’s arguably cheap; you get it for free since weather reports already do it, and all you have to do is look up the records.

        One catch is that records might be lost, esp. for smaller towns. I could probably find out what the temperature was in Paris on Aug 18, 1896, but probably not in Jessup, Maryland. Overall, I’ll end up with very spotty data. Another catch is that you’ll only get temps for actual towns, and maybe large farming areas if you’re lucky and diligent. Nobody cares about the temp 180 miles NNW of Alice Springs except a few kangaroos… and climatologists. More missing data. A third catch is the “heat island effect”; everyone expects temps will be warmer due to human activity, in exactly the spots where weather stations are interested. So now what data you do have is likely to show as higher than a “baseline”.

        Satellites. Nifty buggers. Aim various antennae wherever you want, and get tightly controlled measurements of radiation. Neatly sidesteps most of the drawbacks of weather reports. …Mostly. Sometimes you aim your antenna from directly overhead; more often, though, you have to aim obliquely, because we don’t have satellites over every, say, 100-km square of the earth, and even then, these are in LEO(?), so that antenna is gonna have to go sideways, and now you’re measuring a much larger cross section of the atmosphere, which leads to a drop in precision. A problem to solve. And of course, we only have satellite data going back a few decades, of poorer quality the further back you go.

        Tree rings. Thick ring = faster growth = it was warmer. Gets around the problem of data only back to 19xx. Find the right trees and you could cover most of recorded history… but only where there are trees that old. And, you now have the proxy problem. Thick ring also means it was wetter, or may have been. Was it cold and wet? Warm and dry? Warm and wet? AIUI we mitigate this a bit by xreffing ring widths with historical weather records, but as a layman, I have very little idea how precise one can get with this. In general, proxy measures mean wider error bars.

        Ice cores. Find a nice thick sheet, drill, pull out a cylinder of ice, analyze it by sections. Could go back centuries (and more?). Gives data on places where there aren’t trees (and where there might have been trees long ago), and also no people, so little or no heat island effect. Has the proxy problem though.

        Other methods. Expect a lot here. Remember, this is a layman’s perspective. I’m sharing what notes I have, and hope others can expand / correct.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          Tree rings are inherently not a great temperature proxy. What scientists (dendrochronologists) try to do is pick specific trees that grow where it is so high and cold that it is hard for trees to grow, on the theory that those trees are temperature-limited – they’ll grow better in years when it’s warmer.

          There are a few problems with this theory. One problem is that they assume a linear growth-response curve – the better the tree growth, the warmer it is – whereas the actual response curve is more likely some sort of inverted-U shape. Trees in a particular spot have some optimum growing temperature – they’ll grow less than their maximum achievable rate if it is too cold or too warm relative to the optimum. This means that if it was ever much warmer than today and the trees grew poorly due to that fact, we will accidentally read that period as being unusually cold, not unusually warm. If, say, the MWP was warmer than today it might not be expected to show up as such in the tree rings record.

          Another problem is that the treeline moves around over time. So maybe you can identify a particular tree whose growth is temperature-limited right now, but how sure can you be that it was also temperature-limited a few centuries ago or a thousand years ago? On that timescale all sorts of stuff will change – if the ring record shows a past range of bad years or good years that might reflect some other tree – long since dead and rotted away – that blocked the light or blocked the wind or redirected the water flow.

          Then of course there’s The Divergence Problem, the fact that most of the trees now being claimed to represent temperature seem to have stopped reflecting temperature in 1960 or 1980 or thereabouts.

          It’s possible that tree ring reconstructions are basically random noise when you go back a century or two. Take a bunch of random-noise proxies, select out the ones that end on an upswing to call “temperature-sensitive”, and you’ve got a nice recipe for generating hockey-stick shapes – whether temperature actually did that or not.

          Sediment cores seem more promising. Say there’s a lake near a glacier. In warm years the glacier melts a lot, generating lots of stream runoff, which thickens the layer of sediment. In cold years the glacier melts less so the stream runs less and less dirt is added to the bottom of the lake. You still have to worry a bit about consistency/stability of the relationship but it seems a LOT less problematic than the tree rings. (Lakes and rivers tend to relocate and change their nature on a timescale that’s just a lot slower than forest growth.)

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Thanks for the expansion.

            I had alluded to the problem of using tree rings if it was warm but dry, or cold but wet; you seem to be saying that they chose spots where moisture was least likely to have an effect, perhaps where there was as little moisture as possible while still permitting trees to grow. That seems valid, but I think we notice that such spots are also likely to be so isolated that it’s as hard to hold them forth as a gauge of GAT as it is to hold any point on earth as a gauge of GAT today, even when you can use a thermometer.

            I like the sediment core idea. OTOH, I’m worried about the stability, as you are. Moreover, dirt is not in constant supply – it will depend on how much was available for erosion upstream of your core. Also, there exist rivers that change course very rapidly (e.g. Mississippi), so you would have to choose your core location carefully, which in turn leads to the isolation problem I mentioned above.

            I’m inclined to try to set aside some free time soon and try to read more on all of this.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @Paul Brinkley:

            I’m inclined to try to set aside some free time soon and try to read more on all of this.

            On tree rings I recommend reading (forest ecologist) Craig Loehle, especially his paper A mathematical analysis of the divergence
            problem in dendroclimatology
            (Climatic Change, 2008).

            From the abstract:

            “If trees show a nonlinear growth response, the result is to potentially truncate any historical temperatures higher than those in the calibration period, as well as to reduce the mean and range of reconstructed values compared to actual. […] This creates a cold bias in the reconstructed record and makes it impossible to make any statements about how warm recent decades are compared to historical periods.”

    • J Mann says:

      Here’s my multi-part question. I may, of course, be wrong, and would appreciate hearing why people think that is.

      1) Am I correct that there is a broad consensus for the following points?

      1.1) Barring unforeseen political cooperation or technological developments, the Earth is likely to continue to warm. There is a small but significant possibility that this warming would be catastrophic, and a much larger possibility that it would cause substantial disruption.

      1.2) Substantially reducing world carbon consumption is also very likely to have substantial costs over the alternative, because it is likely to reduce economic growth, which will cost many lives and trap many more in poverty.

      1.3) Any feasible carbon usage reduction on the table would reduce the chances of both catastrophe and significant disruption somewhat, but in most cases only slightly unless underpants gnomes produce an unpredictable benefit, like a tech breakthrough that wouldn’t otherwise occur.

      2) Assuming those premises are right (roughly: there is a small but significant chance of catastrophe that justifies risking a larger chance of killing and impoverishing people through foregone economic growth in order to reduce the chances of catastrophe somewhat), then isn’t it obvious that if you take global warming seriously, you should be supporting massive research into geoengineering?

      We don’t fully understand the risks of increasing cloud cover or launching a series of space mirrors or seeding the deserts with carbon fixing genetically modified algae, but that seems only to argue that we need more research and small scale experiments. Why are we wasting our time with light bulbs or with carbon targets we know people will only hit if a fortuitous recession reduces their activity, when we could be funding a Manhattan project level international research effort to adjust the world’s weather? If the real catastrophe is 30-50 years out, shouldn’t we get started figuring out how to avoid it?

      3) Given that my perception is that there is not much appetite for substantial geoengineering work, is the explanation that:

      3.1) Knowledgeable domain experts actually believe that geoengineering cannot work, so there is no point researching it. (Alternately, they believe that carbon rationing will work and is politically feasible, but if I understand IPCC5, the current consensus is that all carbon rationing that is even being seriously proposed won’t reduce temperature increase or the concomitant risk by much.)

      3.2) People just haven’t thought of it.

      3.3) There’s some irrationality in the system somewhere. For example, maybe Luddites are too scared to invest substantial sums in geoengineering research, or maybe carbon rationing is driven by moral objections to carbon usage.

      3.4) I’m wrong on some of my premises above.

      3.5) There’s something else I haven’t thought of.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        Is research on geoengineering actually different from research on climate modelling? With some irreversible geoengineering projects (like filling the atmosphere with sulfur) the question is “what would happen” as much as “how do you make it happen.” In which case there is already a massive effort at geoengineering.

        The only reversible/adjustible geoengineering project I’m aware of is a solar shield, so I’m particularly interested whether SMEs think that a a solar shield would be easier or harder than reducing the cost of renewables below that of coal. This is one case where geoengineering questions seem very distinct from climate science questions.

      • skef says:

        There are two relevant varieties of geo-engineering:

        1) Various ways of backing carbon out of the atmosphere. These have the advantage of applying directly to the problem, and the disadvantage of needing to be applied at a huge scale to have any effect. There’s also the problem of where to put the carbon even medium-term.

        2) Various other interventions, e.g. stratospheric aerosols. There are three possibilities with a given one of these interventions. Middle case, it doesn’t work. Best case, it works with no negative side effects. Worst case, it works with negative side effects. The last is the worst case because society-level psychology is such that we will try to mitigate the side-effects with a further intervention, because we will be (more) directly responsible for it. (Evidence: embarking on geoengineering rather than prevention in the first place.) The worse a given side-effect is, the more likely a subsequent intervention. The overall result is a substantial existential risk.

        Perhaps we could manage to stop after a single intervention and live with some negative consequences, but it seems really doubtful.

        • J Mann says:

          Skef, thanks – I’m honestly curious about this point, and appreciate the input. Can I ask you a few follow up questions.

          – Your concerns for (2) apply to the predicted reduction in economic growth as a result of carbon limitation as well, right?

          – I’m I’m right that the consensus is that (a) there’s a sufficiently sufficient risk of catastrophic change to justify an attempt to rework the global economy, causing both poverty and actual death and (b) the consensus is that even given the most probable economic interventions, we still have an unacceptable risk of catastrophe, why don’t we see geo-engineering research as a crisis level imperative.

          – I mean, if we knew that the earth temperature were very likely to go up 6 degrees C as a result of solar activity over the next 150 years, would we research geo-engineering then, or is the idea just absurd?

          • skef says:

            – Your concerns for (2) apply to the predicted reduction in economic growth as a result of carbon limitation as well, right?

            Yes, although energy already costs money, so there’s already a gradient such that wealthier people use more energy. There can also be a substantial degree of replacement through solar, wind, and nuclear (the making more sense if we can actually agree on a place to put the waste) in addition to conservation.

            would we research geo-engineering then, or is the idea just absurd?

            It would be better to think in terms of amount of research. We don’t have anything like a Manhattan project for geoengineering, but it’s not like no one is looking at the questions now.

          • skef says:

            Here, for example, is a report from 2005 summarizing research on capture and storage.

        • albatross11 says:

          Is it actually all that difficult to, say, plant a lot of fast-growing trees and then bury them in the desert somewhere? (I’d assume without air or water it would take a long time for the carbon to become available to the ecosystem again, but I don’t really know that–please tell me if I’m wrong.)

      • Aapje says:

        @J Mann

        Substantially reducing world carbon consumption is also very likely to have substantial costs over the alternative, because it is likely to reduce economic growth, which will cost many lives and trap many more in poverty.

        First of all, this depends on whether we develop alternatives that are on par with or perhaps even cheaper than fossil fuel. For example, solar power has been declining in price rapidly for decades. This makes sense because it is essentially chip technology, where we saw similar long term continued price decreases. So if this trend continues we need ‘just’ one or two more major breakthroughs in energy storage to have a viable alternative. If solar panels become really cheap, fairly high losses during storage can still result in cheaper energy than using fossil fuel. IMO, it is far more likely than not that these breakthroughs will happen if we put our best minds on the problem.

        Secondly, my perception is that the goal of many policies is to manipulate prices so that people have incentives to work very hard to undo this manipulation by developing the desired technology. As such, if this works as designed (which was often true in the past), then the reduction in economic growth is merely temporary. I don’t consider it obvious that these costs will have to be substantial or that they will persist long term.

        Thirdly, I don’t see how you can simply equate less economic growth with ‘cost many lives and trap many more in poverty.’ Many of the environmental treaties explicitly put far greater burdens on the rich and/or include subsidies to the poor. Many of the poorest people also live in places where solar power is more efficient than in the West, so this may draw industry to these places, making them richer. Fossil fuels also makes people ill and kills people, so by using more renewables, we may save lives that way. So on balance, reducing world carbon consumption may save lives and reduce poverty. Much of it depends on how people choose to reduce world carbon consumption and various hard to predict things.

        Finally, if we keep burning fossil fuel and this causes global warming, then that can cost many lives and trap many more in poverty. If you want to blame effort to reduce global warming for the (potential) negative effects on human deaths and poverty, you also have to consider the (potential) positive effects on human deaths and poverty of reducing global warming. Otherwise you merely count the downsides, not the upsides, which is not a fair way to assess anything.

        • J Mann says:

          @Aapje – IMHO, you’re right that if carbon limitation fortuitously causes an unforeseen tech breakthrough that wouldn’t otherwise have occurred, then it may be a net good. I tried to anticipate that with my reference to “underpants gnomes” planning. Alternately, maybe doing nothing will lead to a tech breakthrough that wouldn’t otherwise have occurred that will benefit us all more than the tech breakthrough you’re imagining. 🙂

          2) It’s my understanding is that it’s the consensus of domain experts that interfering in the market to make carbon use less possible or more expensive will reduce economic growth and cost literal lives. I’m basing that mostly on Kerry Alexander’s econtalk podcast with Russ Roberts and on the various estimates of the costs of carbon reduction. I guess we could dig deeper – if there’s anyone who thinks that relevant economic experts don’t generally think that carbon reduction will reduce growth, I’d like to see it.

          One possible counter argument is that reduction in carbon usage may save more lives as a result of reduced pollution than it costs in reduced economic growth. I’d love to see a relatively neutral analysis of that.

          (For my purposes, I’ll take anything from the IPCC multi-expert report, Congressional Research Office, or a Rand analysis as “relatively” neutral – I mostly just don’t put much weight in blog posts, newspaper articles, or single studies by clear advocates of one side or the other).

          • 1soru1 says:

            > IMHO, you’re right that if carbon limitation fortuitously causes an unforeseen tech breakthrough that wouldn’t otherwise have occurred, then it may be a net good. I tried to anticipate that with my reference to “underpants gnomes” planning.

            That’s probably less than ideal phrasing for the predictable and intended result of a strategy.

            If coal is dirty, acceptable and cheap, no sane capitalist will invest money and engineering into making solar only slightly more expensive than it. Even if enough development effort would in fact make solar greatly cheaper than coal, it would very likely remain as a ‘path not taken’, like cargo airships. Noone would have the ability to stay solvent for long enough to reap the reward.

    • John Schilling says:

      So let’s take as a topic just the first, most basic element of the entire debate: There is Clear and Convincing proof that Anthropogenic Global Warming is a real phenomena.

      At least around here, that’s going to be like starting a political debate with the “first, most basic element: People exist, and they have rights”.

      Everybody here knows that. It’s not a point of contention. People have very substantial disagreements downstream of that fundamental postulate, you can’t derive the One True Right Answer about any of the disagreements of that postulate, and it is insulting to suggest that if a person doesn’t share your detailed object-level opinions it must be because they are foolishly disbelieving an obvious physical or moral truth.

      The disagreement, here, is roughly between people who believe that AGW is a real phenomenon which will have catastrophic effects unless drastic measures are taken, and people who believe that AGW is a real phenomenon which will have minor effects but for which the proposed countermeasures will cause great harm. You get about as much credit for arguing, asserting, or even providing rigorous scientific proof that AGW is a real phenomenon, as a feminist would for proving that women exist and are members of the species h. sapiens.

      In the broader world, you’ll find plenty of people who assert or believe that AGW does not exist, is a hoax, etc. Understand that those are the people who are part of Team II (no big deal, cure worse than disease) who just want to encode their approximate view in the simplest possible way in the interest of ending a debate they don’t want to participate in. You’ll find their sort on both sides of any debate; they make up the majority of the human race everywhere but places like this, and you score no points by disproving their simplistic arguments because they aren’t even playing the game.

      So, would you care to advance to the first point of actual contention in the debate?

      • To add in to John’s comment: there’s a motte-bailey problem here. “AGW exists” means, precisely, what? That the greenhouse effect is real and produces warmer atmospheric temperatures? Sure, that’s trivial, I did the physics out in a basic homework problem in undergrad.

        That we should expect large effects on a scale we care about from human-achievable atmospheric changes? That’s not trivial. It may be true or not. But it’s very easy for someone to assert that “AGW exists”, prove it via my previous graf, and then take the larger claim into evidence. That takes a lot more math and a lot more science.

        (The simplest explanation for why that’s true: logarithmic response from CO2 concentration to warming effect, which is easy to demonstrate from first principles. Substantial temperature gains need feedback effects, which are…much more interesting.)

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Everybody here knows that. It’s not a point of contention.

        I get a very M&B feel from this argument.

        Not that you, John Schilling, don’t accept the fundamentals of AGW, but that there are plenty of people here who will, at the very least , raise the question of whether know anything about how much warming is occurring. For instance, Nybbler above basically calls into question the entirety of climate science and then at the very end of the post says “of course CO2 causes warming”, establishing a nice little motte to retreat to.

        And I’m fairly certain that there others here who have at various times argued that we don’t even know whether warming is occuring at all.

        • J Mann says:

          There is Clear and Convincing proof that Anthropogenic Global Warming is a real phenomena.

          I think I agree with John that on this forum, people who don’t agree with the baseline statement are going to be very rare. I guess Nybbler might be arguing that although it is very likely that AGW is real, he hasn’t seen “Clear and Convincing proof.”

          I guess on that front, I haven’t done enough reading to be confident that there is “Clear and Convincing proof” that AGW is real, but I’m satisfied that AGW is real to a reasonable degree of confidence.

          Specifically, I’m satisfied that a substantial majority of domain experts believe based on rational analysis that:

          (1) The Earth has been growing warmer over the recent past;

          (2) Barring a substantial change in technology or current population trends, the Earth is very likely to continue to grow warmer over at least the near future and probably the next several decades.

          (3) Human activity is very likely to be contributing at least a portion of that change, and a change in human activity would be very likely to affect the future temperature curve.

        • John Schilling says:

          but that there are plenty of people here who will, at the very least , raise the question of whether know anything about how much warming is occurring.

          Is there anyone here who will claim that number is likely to be zero or negative? Bueller? Bueller?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Like everyone else I assume that rising CO2 levels are man-driven and are bound to raise temperatures. I have exactly zero feeling for how much, or for what moderating feedback or amplifying effects there might be that will prevail on long-term weather trends. I’m not particularly worried about it, and I see exactly zero evidence that anyone else is.

            Now, you will object that this isn’t a claim of a likelihood of zero. And that is fair enough.

            What I am saying is that there are those, some who sometimes claim the title “luke-warmist”, who dance around between varying statements. I have even seen Friedman forward the argument that increased CO2 may actually be holding off the next ice age.

            Again, it’s a M&B, so no one is going to out and out claim warming is not occurring, as that would tear down the motte.

        • The Nybbler says:

          For instance, Nybbler above basically calls into question the entirety of climate science and then at the very end of the post says “of course CO2 causes warming”, establishing a nice little motte to retreat to.

          No I didn’t, actually. I called into question a major basis of climate science (the global temperature record), and then didn’t say “of course CO2 causes warming”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            My apologies, I munged together what you said and what Gossage Vardebedian said in responding to/amplifying your point.

          • Gossage Vardebedian says:

            I am confused. Is it paradoxical to (1) at once understand that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and is increasing in concentration, and (2) have little respect for the conclusions of climatologists concerning AGW?

            We all know what M&B stands for and what it means. Not every argument is a nail for this hammer.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Gossage Vardebedian:
            John Schilling said –

            The disagreement, here, is roughly between people who believe that AGW is a real phenomenon which will have catastrophic effects unless drastic measures are taken, and people who believe that AGW is a real phenomenon which will have minor effects but for which the proposed countermeasures will cause great harm. You get about as much credit for arguing, asserting, or even providing rigorous scientific proof that AGW is a real phenomenon, as a feminist would for proving that women exist and are members of the species h. sapiens.

            I was merely pointing out that you seem to be challenging the idea that there is “scientific proof that AGW is a real phenomenon”.

          • Gossage Vardebedian says:

            HBC-
            No, I think it would be hard for anyone to dispute that CO2 has risen in such a dramatic manner and that it is clearly from people burning stuff. And little children understand its a greenhouse gas and so human activity must be warming the planet. I can’t imagine anyone saying otherwise, to the point that referring to that as a possible bone of contention – calling it AGW – is a poor choice. I understand AGW to stand for the broader movement thinking it’s a proven crisis.
            The problem is that the science is very shoddy, and we don’t know how much of a big deal it is, or if it is a big deal at all. My personal problem is that I hate to see bad science, and I hate to see bad science promulgated and the scientists responsible rewarded.
            My guess by the way is that it’s mostly going to be ok because the earth, as a giant homeostatic system, has negative feedbacks in place to mitigate this sort of thing, and because on balance, in the background, we are much more likely to experience a little ice age that a natural warming. That might be dumb or wishful thinking, but I am also very suspicious of the most strident claims of some of the climate spokespeople, and some of the milder predictions aren’t so bad.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Gossage Vardebedian:
            To my eye this looks like –
            Motte:

            I can’t imagine anyone saying otherwise

            Bailey:

            The problem is that the science is very shoddy,

            The motte is that of course scientists have proved that CO2 is warming the planet, the bailey is that the science is shoddy and we don’t really know anything and might be cooling next year when the next ice age sets in.

            In claiming these things, you are implicitly making the claim that actual warming might be near zero.

          • J Mann says:

            @HeelBearCub

            If Gossage believes both of his statement to be true, why shouldn’t he say them. Do you believe his “bailey” statement to be evidently false, or arguable?

            It’s not motte and bailey to say that the motte is true, but the bailey isn’t. If anything, it’s motte and bailey to say that if you believe motte, you must also believe bailey.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @J Mann:
            The key to my argument is –

            In claiming these things, you are implicitly making the claim that actual warming might be near zero.

            That means that, while one explicitly accepts that warming is occurring, one is implicitly claiming that it might not be.

            Gossage is free to speak as they believe. I am merely offering their post up as an example of what I was referencing in responding to John Schilling.

          • J Mann says:

            @HeelBearCub – Thanks for clarifying, that helps.

            For what it’s worth, I sincerely see your argument as an example of motte/bailey.* I don’t mean to offend, but maybe that signals motte/bailey isn’t helpful in this context.

            To the OP’s original goal of clarifying whether we can start with a common ground principle of “There is Clear and Convincing proof that Anthropogenic Global Warming is a real phenomena,” it looks to me like that’s true for some common understandings of “clear and convincing proof” and “AGW”, but not for others. I guess if OP wants to start with commonly accepted points to work from, it’s probably best to clarify.

            * Specifically, it looks to me like when people argue with the bailey (“current climate science is awesome and not subject to reasonable, substantial criticism”), you retreat to the motte (“AGW is real”) and try to defend that. As said, I don’t mean it offensively, but just as an example of how I see motte and bailey, for what that’s worth.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @J Mann:
            While it certainly is true that people do this, and I may even do that from time to time, it is not what I am doing here.

            John Schilling contended that no one at SSC questions the underlying reality of AGW. I merely challenged that contention. In this argument, I don’t need to make any claims about how good the science is. I can even accept that the science is NOT good.

            Think about this way. If the climate scientists are so biased/incompetent/corrupted as to call into question whether their conclusions about future temperature stand, why would we trust that their conclusions about recent (200 years) temperature are correct?

          • J Mann says:

            @HeelBearCub – I agree that it’s helpful for us all to clarify what be believe and why.

            I personally think it makes plenty of sense to believe both that the project of temperature measurement and projection has substantial problems, but still to believe that the smart money would bet that AGW exists.

      • In the broader world, you’ll find plenty of people who assert or believe that AGW does not exist, is a hoax, etc. Understand that those are the people who are part of Team II (no big deal, cure worse than disease) who just want to encode their approximate view in the simplest possible way in the interest of ending a debate they don’t want to participate in.

        Would it have been fair to have said that some of the alarmists are merely exagerating to make a point?

        • Matt M says:

          I certainly hope many of the alarmists are exaggerating, because the science certainly doesn’t support most of the wild claims that involve the Earth becoming wholly uninhabitable within 100 years.

          But then we end up in a vicious cycle where, if I’m really just a skeptic, I’m motivated to say “hoax invented by the Chinese” and then you can dismiss me as a “science-denier.” And if you’re really just modestly afraid of the likely effects, you’re motivated to say “humanity is doomed to extinction” and then I can just dismiss you as a rabid alarmist.

    • cassander says:

      Even if you fully grant that the world is getting warmer, that people are calling it, and that this is potentially catastrophic, it doesn’t follow that the solutions currently on the table (massive reductions in carbon use, huge investments in green, but not nuclear energy) are a good solution. This has always been the sticking point for me. I dispute none of what you say, but that doesn’t mean I want to hand over trillions to the guys that have been promising solar in ten years for 40 years. it seems that there are far ways to make sure the planet doesn’t get too hot that are far cheaper, simpler, and less disruptive, and that they are not embraced precisely because they don’t require a political call to arms.

      • massive reductions in carbon use

        Eyeballing some figures, it looks like 3% to 4% a year for a lot of countries.

        huge investments in green, but not nuclear energy

        There’s plenty of expansion in nuclear going on in reality:

        *Nuclear power capacity worldwide is increasing steadily, with over 60 reactors under construction in 15 countries.
        *Most reactors on order or planned are in the Asian region, though there are major plans for new units in Russia.
        *Significant further capacity is being created by plant upgrading.
        *Plant life extension programs are maintaining capacity, in USA particularly

        http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/current-and-future-generation/plans-for-new-reactors-worldwide.aspx

        Pro-nuclear green are a thing:

        Last month, four municipal election candidates from the traditionally anti-nuclear Green Party in Finland published an opinion piece in which they stated that humanity no longer has the luxury of opposing nuclear power.

        the guys that have been promising solar in ten years for 40 years

        Solar is growing very fast

        https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/07/solar-power-growth-worldwide-us-china-uk-europe

        • Ketil says:

          Eyeballing some figures, it looks like 3% to 4% a year for a lot of countries.

          But not for rapidly growing economies. Global emissions are still increasing rapidly.

          I think we are slowly and quietly coming around on nuclear, and we are building large reactors in Europe as well. But not fast enough!

          In around five years, I think we could slash carbon emission with maybe 25% while having a net positive effect on the economy, if we really wanted:
          1. cut fossil fuel subsidies (and maybe add taxes),
          2. replace coal (and perhaps gas as well) with nuclear for electricity, industry, and heating,
          3. cut out red meats.

          Even if you did this in two countries alone (the US and China), that could cut global emissions by 10% or more.

          • But not for rapidly growing economies.

            Did you know that cash transfers from developed to developing countries are a part fo the Paris Accord?

            In around five years, I think we could slash carbon emission with maybe 25% while having a net positive effect on the economy, if we really wanted:
            1. cut fossil fuel subsidies (and maybe add taxes),
            2. replace coal (and perhaps gas as well) with nuclear for electricity, industry, and heating,
            3. cut out red meats.

            You don’t see any further gains from solar?

          • Matt M says:

            Did you know that cash transfers from developed to developing countries are a part fo the Paris Accord?

            Only for countries who agreed to them.

            The Paris accord is a joke. Every country was told “just put down what you will do.” Many countries basically said nothing more than “We’ll try to limit emissions, I guess.” And none of it is binding, anyway.

          • The problem of disparate impact on poorer countries is quite fixable in principle, and should not be treated as a show-stopper to any posssible action.

          • Ketil says:

            Just to clarify, I meant that while (some?) developed countries manage to reduce their carbon emissions, growing economies massively increase theirs. And the former is also questionable, I think some European countries tint the picture greener by importing electricity.

            BTW, I wanted to include a link to some high-level statistics. Better late than never, I guess?
            https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-emissions-data

          • cassander says:

            >Even if you did this in two countries alone (the US and China), that could cut global emissions by 10% or more.

            only if massive declines in in the price of coal, oil, and meat don’t lead to other countries consuming more of those things, which is implausible.

            As for cutting red meat, doing that would massively impact my personal happiness and quality of life. How are you factoring that in?

          • Ketil says:

            only if massive declines in in the price of coal, oil, and meat don’t lead to other countries consuming more of those things, which is implausible.

            Good point, which is too often ignored. Energy prices need to decline until fossils are not profitable to extract. In other words, it is not sufficient to have the supply meet (current) demand, it must increase beyond (way beyond, probably) that.

            As for cutting red meat, doing that would massively impact my personal happiness and quality of life. How are you factoring that in?

            I am not? But one way to do this is via taxation. This way, you can still get your steak, or your exotic travels, or whatever – just less than previously. The upside is that you can pay less taxes for other things – and in particular, you don’t have to pay for expensive subsidies that don’t make much difference to the climate anyway.

          • cassander says:

            >I am not? But one way to do this is via taxation. This way, you can still get your steak, or your exotic travels, or whatever – just less than previously. The upside is that you can pay less taxes for other things – and in particular, you don’t have to pay for expensive subsidies that don’t make much difference to the climate anyway.

            putting aside the political impossibility of this, taxing something very popular enough to crush its consumption incurs massive deadweight loss, which means a large loss of utility. You can tax beef so I eat more chicken, but that doesn’t mean I end up just as happy. I end up getting fewer utils per dollar.

        • J Mann says:

          AncientGeek – can you circulate the figures of how much carbon reduction is planned, and best predictions of how much it will cost, how much it will reduce growth, and how much it will reduce the chance of catastrophic warming?

          Sincere question – I’d like to know the consensus on those.

          My rough opinion so far is that (1) cheap solutions don’t do much to reduce the risk of catastrophe; and (2) staggeringly expensive solutions do more, but still not as much as you might think, but I’m not very confident in my opinion and very open to updating.

          Thanks!

        • cassander says:

          >Eyeballing some figures, it looks like 3% to 4% a year for a lot of countries.

          that’s a lot if you keep it up for a couple years.

          There’s plenty of expansion in nuclear going on in reality:

          There is some. But no where is that happening because the local environmentalists are pushing it in order to mitigate global warming. Usually it’s happening in spite of them.

          >Solar is growing very fast

          It’s easy to have a large percentage growth from a zero bse. Solar is less than of one percent of US electricity generation.

        • It’s supposed to be a lot. The question is whether the rate is dangerous or unsustainable or will cause damage. Quoting a final figure and ignoring the timeframe it is to be phased in over is just misleading.

          e.

          But no where is that happening because the local environmentalists are pushing it in order to mitigate global warming.

          Except Finland. I pointed that out to you in a previous relpy.

          It’s easy to have a large percentage growth from a zero base

          It isn’t literally a zero base, as I have also pointed out previously. And do the math on 50% a year.

          • cassander says:

            It’s supposed to be a lot. The question is whether the rate is dangerous or unsustainable or will cause damage. Quoting a final figure and ignoring the timeframe it is to be phased in over is just misleading.

            Not nearly as misleading as saying “it’s only a 3-4% change per year, that’s not a big change,”

            It’s not nothing, it’s a huge change in the trajectory of the global economy (oil consumption has grown an average of more than 1% per year for the last 10 years) that will cost trillions to achieve, and which, even if achieved, might not accomplish its actual goal.

            >Except Finland. I pointed that out to you in a previous relpy.

            I must have missed that in the previous thread. Apologies. If so, good for Finland, I applaud them and the sense of their environmental movement. But I see little change of this attitude spreading.

            >It isn’t literally a zero base, as I have also pointed out previously. And do the math on 50% a year.

            It’s not literally zero, it’s just almost zero. and 50% per year isn’t something that can be sustained. You can only put panels on so many rooftops, especially when you’re massively subsidizing the cost. What is an affordable subsidy for tens of TW might not be for hundreds or thousands.

          • Not nearly as misleading as saying “it’s only a 3-4% change per year, that’s not a big change,”

            if the argument is about disruption of the global economy, then the rate of chnage is precisely what is important.

            It’s not nothing, it’s a huge change in the trajectory of the global economy (oil consumption has grown an average of more than 1% per year for the last 10 years) that will cost trillions to achieve, and which, even if achieved, might not accomplish its actual goal.

            How much does that argument prove? If not having a 100% guarantee of success, was a good reason for doign nothing, nothing would be done.

            It’s not literally zero, it’s just almost zero. and 50% per year isn’t something that can be sustained.

            “As more photovoltaics are installed, costs fall in a predictable way, so that the drive towards using solar energy in Asia and elsewhere will feed through to lower prices across the whole world, including the UK. Even in gloomy Britain, the government now sees solar photovoltaics delivering electricity at less than 2% more than a new gas-fired power station in 2020, with costs continuing to fall thereafter. In sunny places around the world, solar may fall to less than half the price of fossil electricity within a decade.

            At first it seemed that renewable electricity would always be more expensive and solar power would languish unless it was heavily subsidised. Using alternative energy sources seemed difficult, expensive and inconvenient. I now think I was completely wrong.

            In fact, optimism about successfully tackling climate change has never been more justified because 2016 was the year in which it finally became obvious that the world had the technology to solve the problem. Even as the political environment has darkened, the reasons have strengthened for believing that a complete transition to low-carbon energy is practical and affordable within one generation.

            Andrew Simms is right that global temperatures will probably overshoot the 2C target. But that makes the urgency of an energy transition even clearer. Despair is no excuse for inaction.

            Solar power costs around the world fell by an average of another 15% in 2016, meaning that electricity from the sun became the cheapest form of energy generation in places as diverse as Chile, parts of the Middle East and the south-west of the US. The world saw the lowest-ever auction price for solar electricity in Abu Dhabi.

            China committed to adding about 40 gigawatts annually of solar panels in the next few years, more than half the new capacity installed across the entire world in 2016. India made similarly ambitious plans, meaning that these two countries will put more solar on the ground than the entire world did a couple of years ago.”
            https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/19/reasons-to-be-cheerful-full-switch-low-carbon-energy-in-sight

          • AnonYEmous says:

            China also happens to be building up massive coal power production – not sure if more than the entire world, but still quite a large amount by today’s standards. No doubt India is doing similar things.

            Ultimately either new inventions happen or they don’t. Not much else to say, really.

      • Anonymous Bosch says:

        I dispute none of what you say, but that doesn’t mean I want to hand over trillions to the guys that have been promising solar in ten years for 40 years

        You don’t have to hand the money over to anyone in particular. All that’s necessary is to impose a Pigouvian tax on the negative externality. Leave the market to determine the second-best solution.

        It’s not even that relevant what you do with the tax revenue, since the price signal is the important thing. You could put it into research, redistribute it per capita, cut payroll/corporate taxes, etc. As long as it’s not 100% re-invested into fossil fuels it does the job.

        • cassander says:

          I would be fine with a carbon tax that came at the expense of other taxes, a revenue neutral carbon tax. I’ve discussed that in open threads before, and it remains my contention that the left is essential to bring it happen and won’t buy into it. The political left (by which I mean the political parties, elected officials, etc.) won’t get behind a political program that doesn’t promise to feed its various interest groups and finds the idea of eliminating taxes ideologically anathema. See The recent Washington State referendum as an example.

      • What are these solutions, and why haven’t the experts noticed them.?

  11. Tibor says:

    I’m currently in Singapore till friday next week. What about an SSC meetup? I assume there are some Singaporeans here…

  12. sohois says:

    I’ve been looking into Basic Income recently, an area that is of interest to me and I’m sure to many other commentators here, given past discussions and posts. One thing that has surprised me is how every concrete proposal, i.e. with actual funding calculations, goes from one direction. They are always “if we cut x government programs/raise y tax revenue/use z special source of funds etc., then we can give every citizen xyz income every year”. But there is very rarely a consideration of if xyz is sufficient to actually live on. This is fine when you’re advocating to UBI to immediately replace current welfare systems where people are still expected to find work whenever possible, but a lot of interest in UBI is being driven by fears of technological unemployment and in such situations work becomes practically impossible for a subset of people. I’m not here to debate how likely this situation is, but rather if we accept it as true, then we should also accept that for a subset of people they will have no choice but to live only on their UBI. Thus, xyz will need to be enough for people to have some minimum standard of living.

    I can’t help but wonder why no one has tried to work backwards, calculating an xyz that achieves this minimum standard and then looks at the levels of taxes, budget transfers and so on needed to reach xyz (if anyone does know of work to that effect, I would very much appreciate a link). I set off to try and calculate something like that myself.

    Whilst I’m unaware of anything on this topic from a UBI perspective, work on minimum wages and living wages does look at similar issues. Particularly useful for me is the Minimum Income Standard published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. However, since it is assuming people are in work, it tends to be far too generous in some areas and would certainly be too large for a viable UBI. It’s still a good source for initial assumptions but I wanted to ask others here what they thought of one particular category of spending.

    The MIS has a category for “Personal Goods and Services”. According to the original 2008 report, this mostly works out as toiletries with some health items like dental appointments. However, even if we assume the various health costs (they specify 3 dental appointments per year, 0.5 optician appointments per year and 4 prescription medicines per year) work out to around £100 – which I believe is accurate for the UK – there is still some £640 per year to buy toiletries, or about £12.50 per week. For reference, £12.50 would enable a man to purchase shampoo, shower gel, bar soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, shaving foam and a pack of disposable razors, every week (based on online supermarket prices). I accept that there are probably a few things I’m forgetting, and you should probably cut 10-15% to account for gender differences for a male, but it still seems way too high. I would expect most of those items to last 2 weeks to a month or even longer in some cases, so that’s a big surplus for people. What does SSC think would be a reasonable minimum spend for toiletries and other hygiene products?

    • Well... says:

      One of my objections to UBI boils down to my belief that giving people money for free will change the value of that money, so that we won’t really be giving them the amount of purchasing power we think we are.

      While I am probably better than the average man-on-the-street in terms of economic literacy, I am not confident enough in my economic literacy to say whether the above objection is legitimate.

      My main objection is that UBI really smells like communism to me. At the end of the day this is totally subjective, but still very real.

      Totally unrelated: am I the only American-English speaker here who kinda chuckles when he sees people use the word “whilst”?

      • Zorgon says:

        One of my objections to UBI boils down to my belief that giving people money for free will change the value of that money, so that we won’t really be giving them the amount of purchasing power we think we are.

        While I am probably better than the average man-on-the-street in terms of economic literacy, I am not confident enough in my economic literacy to say whether the above objection is legitimate.

        This is basically my problem too. I’ve seen a few economics-versed people tell me how it’s not a problem, and that’s comforting, but I still haven’t had it explained to me in ways my linear coder-brain can understand why a UBI wouldn’t just immediately inflate into worthlessness. Especially absent rent controls.

        • James Miller says:

          I’m an economist and I don’t think this is a problem. My guess as to why you might think it is a problem is either (1) the government will be printing the extra money and inflation, or (2) non-rich people will have extra money and so bid up the price of stuff because of extra demand. (1) would be a problem but it’s an obvious enough of one that I don’t think we would do basic income by printing money. With (2) basic income transfers resources from the rich to the not rich, so although it increases the demand for stuff the non-rich buy, it decreases it for stuff the rich will buy and to a first approximation these effects would mostly cancel out in the long-run. Even with goods such as low income housing, in the long run you would see a shift in the housing sector from producing really big houses for rich people to making more smaller housing for poor people and this would prevent the long run price of low income housing from going up a lot.

          (2) would be a problem for, say, gold if only the non-rich bought gold and it became impossible to mine more gold if the demand increased. But (2) isn’t a problem if the economy can easily shift production resources to produce more of the goods wanted by the non-rich.

          I object, right now at least, to basic income, because of the bad incentives it would create for people to work.

          • Well... says:

            For me, (1) is not a reason I ever proposed–I understand money for UBI comes from taxes or some other form of coercive redistribution–and (2) is something I considered briefly but never thought of as a main reason to oppose UBI.

            One of my main reasons is that giving people money for absolutely nothing, rather than requiring them to earn it, dilutes their own perceived value of that money, as a general rule.

            Isn’t that part of the argument libertarians make when they say the government always does X less efficiently than the private market would? Isn’t this also part of the reason why lottery winners so often wind up in worse financial straits than before they won the lottery?*

            I agree with your objection as well (creates bad incentives) but only partially since, as I understand it, UBI in most cases, even without any unintended secondary effects, wouldn’t be enough to completely subsidize a middle-class lifestyle; rather, it would be a few extra thousand dollars a year that people could use to cover their biggest expenses, or take vacations, or whatever else.

            *Apparently this often-repeated claim is based on a study that only looked at people who won lotteries up to $150K. But doesn’t that make it more salient to UBI?

          • Zorgon says:

            I’m not wholly convinced there’s a functional difference between a government simply printing money and paying for UBI from tax receipts, given the way government spending generally works.

            The reason I’m worried about inflation stems from seeing how Housing Benefit affects life in the UK. When Housing Benefit was originally brought into existence, it was paid by local government. Most Housing Benefit recipients also lived in local government-owned housing stock, which at the time was very broadly available across the entire country; local government also operated this housing stock and received rents.

            Housing Benefit, therefore, was originally for the most part an accounting exercise; local government just marked the rent (or a portion of the rent) as paid. Since there was always such a large amount of local government-owned housing stock available, this enacted what amounted to a de facto rent control system. Rent inflation was virtually non-existent; there were other problems, but endlessly spiralling rent was not among them.

            Problems began when the Thatcher government (and successive governments) ran a number of schemes designed to first allow, then encourage, then assist those who were renting local-government-owned housing stock to buy their homes. The end result was not obvious immediately, but over the following decades the dominant form of lower-class housing became “buy to let” houses purchased as long-term assets (typically by middle class retirees taking out second mortgages). Meanwhile, Housing Benefit rules remained much the same.

            The end result has been utterly absurd inflation of both house prices (as rent-seekers hunt for properties) and rents themselves. Since the UK’s population has been steadily growing due to immigration and cultural changes have led to smaller families (and the aforementioned multiple ownership glut amongst the middle class), there is a permanent state of drought regarding available housing stock, and local-government-run housing stock doesn’t exist in much of the country any more. In many parts of the country rents eat up anything up to half the income of low earners, who often don’t qualify for Housing Benefit due to various punitive changes inflicted by Conservative governments (removing HB from anyone under 25, for example).

            My problem with UBI is that I cannot see how it doesn’t end in exactly the same place. If nothing else, rents will simply expand to devour whatever people get; in a permanent accommodation drought with no rent controls, there is nothing to stop it doing so.

          • Guy in TN says:

            It’s true that UBI could result in the inflated price of goods, and we would have to keep that in mind. But it doesn’t follow that the price of goods will always inflate to the point that it would have been better off not to subsidize them. For example, food stamps already act as as a “Universal Basic Food” subsidy, ensuring that everyone has a base income (~170$ per month in my state) for food. And while the number of people on food stamps increased since before the recession, food prices continue to drop.

            *edit: I understand that the UBI differs from food stamps in that it is a universal benefit given to everyone, including the non-poor. I don’t think this makes a difference though, since the inflation pressure is being caused by the simple increase in demand due to money entering the system, irrelevant of how that subsidy money is distributed

            @Well…

            One of my main reasons is that giving people money for absolutely nothing, rather than requiring them to earn it, dilutes their own perceived value of that money, as a general rule.

            Since the UBI would be an unearned income, it could be funded by taxing only other forms of unearned income (such as inheritance, royalties, interest, rent), resulting in a net-neutral change society-wide in unearned income.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I thought the explanation for lottery winners not doing well is that most people are bad with money, regardless of quantity. People who already had good spending and saving habits given a windfall did not go broke. People who were already spending every dime they made just spent more dimes until they were right back where they started.

          • Guy in TN says:

            “People who play the lottery” definitely looks like a non-random subset of the population, especially in regards to traits such as understanding of statistics, which seems necessary for wise money investment.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            IANAE (though it was my course of study and I entertain myself with econ blogs), but this sounds basically right.

            To make it clearer (and eliminate nuance/lower accuracy accordingly), you cannot devalue money, unless you are printing more money. UBI does not inherently print more money, therefore it does not devalue money.

            One of my main reasons is that giving people money for absolutely nothing, rather than requiring them to earn it, dilutes their own perceived value of that money, as a general rule.

            This is basically saying that it eliminates work ethic and people don’t realize “the value of a dollar.”

            Sort of different than what economists think of as “diminishing value.”

            Also, I don’t think most economists are going to use that as their analysis. That’s not really the economic way of thinking. It’s more marginal analysis, trade-offs, etc. So, what’s the new marginal tax rate in the UBI regime? How many people might feel sufficiently wealthy that they just stop working entirely? How might people find alternative living arrangements…IE, I graduated from college and am making 8k/year with my UBI, which is enough to crash at my parents rent-free and get a new wardrobe every year, too!

          • Well... says:

            @Guy in TN:

            The differences between food stamps and UBI don’t invalidate all comparisons necessarily, but might invalidate some.

            I haven’t heard anyone propose that UBI be funded solely out of unearned income. Is that feasible without causing bigger problems? Is there enough unearned income to fund it? Also, is the diluting effect I mentioned the same no matter the source of the income?

            @Guy in TN and Conrad Honcho:

            Lottery point retracted I guess. So, what about the libertarian bit about government inefficiency?

          • Nornagest says:

            you cannot devalue money, unless you are printing more money

            Sure you can. You just need to convince people to trust their money less. Printing more money is one way to do that, but making people lose confidence in their government is another one. Exchange rates fluctuate every time there’s a crisis because of this.

            In the extreme case, USD isn’t going to be worth anything to you if you don’t think USG will exist tomorrow.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            There’s the extreme case of the US government collapsing, and there’s the case of the US inflating the currency, but these operate in different mechanisms. It’s not the same mechanism “less faith in the currency.”

            In the second, the Central Bank loses credibility that it will control inflation and private contracts begin factoring in for this. It creates a wage-price spiral that drives inflation.
            This can be broken if the Central Bank simply chooses not to print more money, though.

            Most fluctuations in exchange rates are not dictated by fears of imminent collapse, but responses to economic factors (of which geopolitical factors make a BIG difference, because it affects economics). The biggest trades are in the reserve currencies: The Euro, the Yen, the GBP pound, and the US dollar. No one seriously thinks the governments of any are going to collapse at any point in the near future, but their values fluctuate a LOT. The Yen has declined massively against the dollar, from USDJPY 78 in 2012 to USDJPY 110 today. That’s a 41% appreciation in the USD over the last 5 years.

            That’s not because people have less faith in Japan, it’s probably because Japan has massive QE ( removing nuance: printing more money).

      • albatross11 says:

        I’m curious why you think UBI is like communism. I’d say UBI is a way to run a social welfare state within a capitalistic country. We’re not talking about government controlling markets or seizing the means of production, we’re just talking about setting up a specific kind of social welfare system.

        In the US now, we have lots of different programs to alleviate poverty–unemployment insurance, social security, medicaid, WIC, disability, section 8, etc. Each has its own fairly complex eligibility rules and restrictions, and a corresponding administrative infrastructure to operate it. The overlap of these programs and their eligibility rules and such can be very complex, and it’s apparently a pretty regular thing for someone to lose their benefits if they make a little more money or have a little more savings or take a part-time job or something.

        The benefit of all that administrative complexity is that we don’t give help to people who don’t need it, and we can restrict what people use our help for “for their own good” to some extent. (Like making sure that WIC can’t be used to buy soda or cigarettes.) That lets us spend less money and avoid some really offensive cases where some lousy person spends all his public assistance on drugs and lets his kids starve. (Though only to some extent–no government program is going to turn a crackhead into a good parent.)

        The cost of that administrative complexity is, first, the cost of actually administering those programs with their complex rules and piles of paperwork, and second, the creation of really complicated rules for poor people to navigate if they don’t want to lose their benefits. Some of those rules are actively harmful–discouraging people taking a better job or working more hours or saving up any money, for example.

        UBI is an attempt to get around all that administrative complexity. Instead, most or all of those other programs go away, and we simply make sure everyone gets a check every week or month or whatever that they can spend however they like.

        The good news here is that we eliminate the perverse incentives and administrative complexity–you just get a card that you can use to buy whatever you want, everyone gets one, etc.

        The bad news here is that this costs a lot of money, because in order not to have complicated eligibility requirements, we just give it to everyone. For people who are already net taxpayers, we’d probably just have our taxes go up by an offsetting amount.

        Politically, it will be hard to kill individual programs in favor of UBI–everyone can make up a justification for why their program should be saved when it’s their job on the line, and many programs (social security, for example) have well-defined beneficiaries that vote.

        Economically, here’s how I think of this.

        a. Right now, there are very poor people who are covered by existing programs. (Also homeless people who aren’t getting the programs they’re covered by in theory because they’re crazy, have no fixed address, or otherwise get lost in the shuffle.) You can imagine UBI basically keeping them about the same as they were in terms of how much taxpayer money we’re spending on them. Hopefully, their lives are better (because there’s less hassle keeping the programs).

        b. Right now there are net taxpayers who won’t benefit from UBI at all–we get an extra $12K from the government every year but our taxes go up by at least $12K to cover it.

        c. There are also people who are not net taxpayers, and in fact aren’t doing too well, but they don’t qualify or haven’t signed up for any poverty programs. Those people start getting UBI, and their benefits are where the extra cost comes from.

        In terms of resources instead of money, (c) is the group where we should see a big impact–the Wal-Mart clerk who was barely scraping by gets some extra money to spend. Prices of things bought mostly by that group of people will go up as a result of UBI, and those higher prices will lead to more of that kind of stuff being made, and we’ll end up with an equilibrium–somewhat higher prices, but more actual resources flowing to those people.

        It’s not obvious to me what the social impact of UBI would be. Would people in now-marginal jobs that pay the bills just quit and live off their UBI? Would people now on public assistance save money and get better jobs knowing this wouldn’t, say, deprive their kids of medical care if they get sick? I really don’t know. That seems like it can only be answered by experience.

        • Kevin C. says:

          I’m curious why you think UBI is like communism.

          I can’t speak for Well…, but my answer to this question would be to ask which to which statement’s sentiment is a UBI closer?
          •”He who does not work, neither shall he eat.”
          or
          •”From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

          • Aapje says:

            @Kevin C

            Communists often argue that a good implementation of their ideals will mean no unemployment. That is also what the ‘from each according to his ability’ is about: that everyone contributes what (s)he can and then ‘to each according to his need:’ that they get what they need independently of how much they can contribute.

            So I wonder if you couldn’t find a lot of communists who support both statements.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Kevin C: I think you have established that UBI is a bit more like communism than it is like markets-red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism with no safety net.

            But UBI is still ‘to each regardless of need’, and as long as the ‘from each according to ability’ were calibrated so as not to create tipping points where there was a sudden large disincentive against being a higher achiever, there’s no reason to think that that alone would make it disastrous.

            Heck, you could even modify the first bit, to ‘Under UBI, he who does not work, well, we’re not going to let him starve to death, but neither shall he eat anything particularly luxurious’.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Aapje

            Communists often argue that a good implementation of their ideals will mean no unemployment.

            I’m aware of that. I think they’re dead wrong.

            That is also what the ‘from each according to his ability’ is about: that everyone contributes what (s)he can

            The problem being, what about those who simply have no ability to contribute? Because that’s a big part of the whole technological unemployment argument behind the current push toward UBI: that improvements in automation and control technology are leading to a world where a non-trivial fraction of the population have nothing meaningful to contribute to the economy.

            and then ‘to each according to his need:’ that they get what they need independently of how much they can contribute.

            Which destroys incentives because it disconnects contribution and reward. Why work — especially the difficult, messy, unpleasant work — when it does not change what you receive in return? Why not be an idle parasite on the body public?

            @Winter Shaker

            I didn’t say a carefully-calibrated UBI would be as disastrous as full-blown old-school Communism, and didn’t mean to imply it; I merely noted, as you agreed, that it is perhaps “closer” in idea-space. Your right that as usually designed, it would actually provide better incentives to work than the “welfare trap” of current systems (with which I am familiar first-hand, mind you).

            Where I have problems with UBI, besides that it is at present unaffordable according to most figures I’ve seen, are more the sociological than economic effects, plus also what I’ve seen first-hand around the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend. For the latter, that’s basically, what do you do when someone can’t make rent, or their kids are starving, because they blew their UBI on booze/drugs/hookers/new snowmobiles/etc.? And how do you avoid “idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” loss of meaning/purpose, or the same unpleasant status dynamics as Paul Graham describes talking about high school (and prison, and “ladies who lunch”) in his “Why Nerds are Unpopular” essay? How do you prevent 2000AD‘s “Sunday Night Fever”?

            I don’t think it’s really in our evolved nature as a species to take this sort of long-term unemployment well. This is one of those areas where I expect technological progress is creating an environment so far from that to which we are adapted that not even culture can compensate for the mismatch, and that something will probably have to give.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Kevin C:

            Which version of Kafkatrapping is it when you accuse people of Communism and limit their defense to embracing a statement of the central principle of Communism according to Karl Marx, and one cited as the prime, basic, and root principle of Socialism according to V.I. Lenin?

            I suspect that you meant the former statement to be an expression of Christian, rather than Communist, virtue, in which case, nobody finds your argument persuasive except the most idiotic sort of Christian operating at the “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” level. The more intelligent sort of Christian (or Communist) understands that Christian and Communist virtues in fact strongly overlap, particularly with regards to the treatment of the poor.

          • Aapje says:

            @Kevin C

            The problem being, what about those who simply have no ability to contribute?

            The USSR had a lot of overmanning, doing the work with many more people than necessary. You are thinking too much like a capitalist, comrade.

            Which destroys incentives because it disconnects contribution and reward. Why work — especially the difficult, messy, unpleasant work — when it does not change what you receive in return? Why not be an idle parasite on the body public?

            And with a UBI you do get a higher income if you have a paid job, so not the same as communism.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Aapje, @John Schilling

            Okay, maybe I’m not being clear in separating my arguments. There’s:

            1.) My arguments against the positions of old-school capital-c Communists (which Aapje brought up), as distinct from

            2.) UBI, and my argments against it. UBI is indeed distinct, and does not destroy incentives as full-blown “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”, and perhaps even improves on incentives to work compared to our present welfare systerm (My concerns, outside affordability, are more sociological and psychological.) I’m not accusing UBI supporters of being old-school Communists or defending its positions; I’m saying that while distinct, UBI is closer in “idea space” to (1) above than it is to

            3.) either “markets-red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism” or old-school traditionalist Christian views, which, as I understand it (from my outside view), even at it’s most charitable and anti-wealth-accumulation still expected at least all adult males to make efforts to contribute labor of some manner, work-as-curse-of-Adam, “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread”, “sloth” as deadly sin, et cetera.

            Speaking of this last, though, outside of a few brief mentions by Rod Dreher in his anti-Transhumanism essays, I haven’t really seen much engagement by Christian traditionalists with the issue of technological unemployment.

          • Where I have problems with UBI, besides that it is at present unaffordable according to most figures I’ve seen, are more the sociological than economic effects,

            UBI is 32 different things, and some of them are automatically affordable.

            A version where the average worker has a tax hike, but gets the money back in UBI is zero sum. The only wrinkle is whether people stay in employment.

          • Matt M says:

            A version where the average worker has a tax hike, but gets the money back in UBI is zero sum.

            This is also politically impossible, at least in the US.

            UBI is still supported mostly by the left, who will absolutely not accept any version of it that does not transfer wealth from the rich to the poor.

          • Brad says:

            The biggest political problem instituting a UBI in the US has little to nothing to do with the boogieman left. It is that the largest source of “now we can cut other welfare programs” is social security. And old people of all ideological persuasions flip their shit when anyone even thinks of cutting their welfare.

          • random832 says:

            UBI is still supported mostly by the left, who will absolutely not accept any version of it that does not transfer wealth from the rich to the poor.

            Having no net change for the average worker (i.e. the neither rich nor poor) is perfectly consistent with this.

            The point is that “everyone gets a check written to them every month” is not actually inconsistent with some groups having no net change (higher taxes plus the check) and some groups having to pay more (even higher taxes)

          • Matt M says:

            That’s fair.

            And just to be clear, I want to say that the biggest roadblock to getting a UBI today is the right. I think it would probably pass if you only polled leftists (I wouldn’t be shocked if a weak version of it is included in the next Democratic party platform during the presidential cycle).

            But when people start proposing things like “Well we can find the money for it by raising taxes on the poor” then no, the left ain’t allowing that.

            You’re right that social security (and medicare) have been declared untouchable by recipients of all political persuasions.

          • This is also politically impossible, at least in the US.

            That’s a rather different issue. The US would probably need healhcare reform to precede UBI, anyway.

    • Matt M says:

      I can’t help but wonder why no one has tried to work backwards, calculating an xyz that achieves this minimum standard and then looks at the levels of taxes, budget transfers and so on needed to reach xyz

      I think a large part of the problem here is that there’s very little trust between the individualist camp and the collectivist camp, and that “the minimum amount needed to live” is such a clearly subjective and ill-defined standard.

      The right wouldn’t trust a leftist’s estimate on “the minimum required to live.” They already think that people on government assistance for “the bare necessities” waste the money and buy too many unnecessary luxuries.

      Similarly, the left wouldn’t trust a conservative’s estimate on “the minimum required to live.” Because those dastardly conservatives think that so long you aren’t literally starving to death then you have enough, and only the privileged elite should be entitled to more.

      But framing UBI as a dollar-for-dollar replacement of existing programs is different, because nobody has to use any new estimates for clearly subjective things – instead we’re using the estimates already in play that are just uncontroversial enough to have managed to come into existence already. It’s essentially a compromise position. Right says “current welfare programs are too generous”, left says “current welfare programs are too stingy,” therefore moderate implies “current welfare programs are about right.” Therefore, the “about right” solution is like to be “match the current welfare programs”

      • sohois says:

        Yeah, I agree that any UBI implementation would have endless quarrels over what the “right” level should be, but what I’m looking at is not a normative prescription. I think that anyone who agrees with UBI would also agree that at some point an income will not be sufficient for a person to live and thus in a situation of technological unemployment if you go beyond that baseline you’re likely to incur significant negative externalities (crime, homelessness, starvation, revolution?).

        Determining the baseline level of income for survival has the additional benefit of resolving a lot of the problems of ‘affordability’. Essentially, if that absolute minimum cannot be reached for a reasonable level of taxation or other funding, then UBI is not a suitable solution. If it can be done, then UBI proponents need no longer quibble about whether UBI is a feasible solution and instead get on with arguing over what level UBI should be set at.

        So when I look at the minimum level, it literally means as low as can be done before a person becomes homeless, or malnourished, or something similar. People should be able to function in society (hence the question about hygiene goods, as I doubt anyone wants ‘unwashed masses’ to become a reality) but have no luxuries whatsoever.

        • Matt M says:

          Essentially, if that absolute minimum cannot be reached for a reasonable level of taxation or other funding

          This is an important consideration in theory, but our current political process does not work this way. We figure out how much money a thing is going to cost, we decide whether we want it or not, and if we do, we get the thing. If we can’t afford it via taxation, we borrow more. If we can’t borrow more, we print the money.

          “Availability of funds” is simply NOT a primary criteria for public policy decisionmaking.

          • sohois says:

            Yes, when a government comes to actually implement something then ‘affordability’ isn’t really a concept that exists, since governments can always find a way to fund things. But UBI is very far away from there, and in the court of public opinion how much something will cost, or how much tax and borrowing is needed to pay for it, is a widespread concern.

            You see it all the time whenever UBI is discussed on the internet. “How could we possibly give every citizen $10’000 per year!? That’s $x trillion! Our entire public spending is only $x+1 trillion!” Even when people seem to agree that UBI is an objectively superior form of welfare spending, cost concerns come to the forefront.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yes, when a government comes to actually implement something then ‘affordability’ isn’t really a concept that exists, since governments can always find a way to fund things.

            I imagine the government of Venezuela thought that too.

            The government can always find ways to provide money. To provide value on such a large scale is another thing entirely.

          • Matt M says:

            You see it all the time whenever UBI is discussed on the internet. “How could we possibly give every citizen $10’000 per year!? That’s $x trillion! Our entire public spending is only $x+1 trillion!”

            Sure, this is true in rationalist and economics circles where people love to geek out about this sort of thing.

            It won’t be true among the general populace if it ever makes it to a vote. And it won’t be true for the Congressmen who eventually have to vote on it. And it won’t be true for the Supreme Court, and so on and so forth.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            If the average annual income is 40k and you want to give people 12k in UBI per year then obviously you could afford it, even if 20% or so is already syphoned off for other government projects. And the price tag would be misleading since everyone would be getting back 12k of whatever they pay in taxes, so their taxes should be thought of as X minus 12k rather than just X. UBI is ultimately just a way to level people’s earnings. A small UBI would level them a little bit, while a maximum one would level them completely. As long as the UBI didn’t exceed the average that people earn after other taxes it would be fundable.

          • Aapje says:

            @Matt M

            An UBI was voted on and rejected in Switzerland.

      • 1soru1 says:

        >I can’t help but wonder why no one has tried to work backwards, calculating an xyz that achieves this minimum standard and then looks at the levels of taxes, budget transfers and so on needed to reach xyz

        Problem is if you do this, you come with one of three answers:

        A. there is enough money (i.e. labour hours, ultimately) to pay for a large amount of people to live well and happily on UBI alone.

        B. there is enough money to pay for a small amount of people to live well and happily on UBI.

        C. there is enough money for a large amount of people to live on UBI, but not well or happily.

        If A, congratulations, you have fully automated gay space luxury communism. On Earth, we don’t, so if you come to this conclusion, recheck your math.

        If B, what would stop more people choosing to live on UBI alone? If they are genuinely happy, they will, like anyone else, form cultural norms based on that situation. Eventually the number of people doing this you hit the limit you calculated, and you have a problem.

        If C, have you actually improved anything?

        UBI is still sufficiently a fringe idea that a complicated 3-pronged argument against it won’t be publishable, no matter how valid. So people who start to write that article realize that, and switch to a topic that will support advertising instead.

        • Guy in TN says:

          Answer C still changes many things, because happiness is a spectrum. Even if people are still “unhappy” living on their UBI, when the question is that or nothing, I’ll take the UBI.

          If I have to live in a shack, that’s better than living on the street. If I have to eat beans, that’s better than going hungry. Ect, ect.

        • Guy in TN says:

          Regarding scenario A, I think the idea is that as automation continues, the number of labor hours needed to support a population dwindles to the point of near-zero. This is a problem for those interested in avoiding mass poverty, since machines are just another form of capital, and capital ownership has accumulated into a tiny fraction of the people. So even though the machines will be producing more than ever, the outputs of those machines will be going to the wealthiest 1%, creating mass unemployment. In this case, the UBI is seen as a replacement for wage labor, in terms of a way to keep money flowing back down to the lower classes, and keeping life “normal” for those out of work.

          So while today, a high universal UBI would be silly to implement, it might be good to implement in the future. I like to think of it just as unemployment benefits that never run out. I don’t know what level of unemployment we would have to reach before such an idea becomes politically viable, but I’m going to guess it would have to be extremely high.

          This all assumes that the public will continue to vote for supporting the current concentration of capital ownership, as we progress into future. Because if alternatively, the ownership of the machines was well-distributed throughout society, then everyone would be reaping the rewards of the machines high output, and the idea of needing a UBI to continue having a decent life would be silly.

        • sohois says:

          Option B, which I presume is the left wing ideal for UBI (at least until A is possible), I guess that proponents would suggest the factors for success of that method would be infinite human wants and status competition. Whilst there are many people who would probably be content with, to use our hosts example from the graduation speech post, living in a mountain cabin and spending their time writing and experiencing nature, for a lot of people that won’t be enough. It’s long been a principle of economics that human wants are infinite (maybe this isn’t accepted in modern economics anymore, but at least its something an Econ 101 student might learn) and so humans will always be driven to try and earn more money to satisfy these wants, even if they could choose to live a happy life with no work. The other factor is the idea that a lot of human happiness is driven by having status over others, for example by earning more money than those around you. People aren’t going to be happy knowing that their income is the same as their neighbours, and so a desire for work remains in order to elevate themselves above other people.

          Actually now that I think about it I can’t really imagine a proponent of option B arguing like this since I doubt a lefty type would suggest the most important things are greed and desire for inequality. Still, that at least is my attempt at a steelman.

          On Option C, which is probably the more right wing/libertarian implementation, I think the argument would be that overall utility is increased even if there are some losers. Notably, such a UBI would be a blow to some at the very bottom of the heap who had previously benefited from more generous means tested benefits, but which is balanced by a boost to anyone in the lower middle classes and working classes who get increases in income due to the removal of “income traps” whereby benefits are taken away as income increases. So those who don’t do any work lose out but anyone with some employment sees a boost to their incomes.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Option B is confusing for me, since giving money to a “small group” of people is by definition no longer a universal basic income. It’s just welfare by another name, the arguments for/against are well known.

            And welfare is not intended to provide complete life-affirming social satisfaction. It’s meant to fill a specific hole, the lack of income from a job.

      • albatross11 says:

        The right amount is also very dependent on where you live, if it’s defined in dollar terms. A UBI set at a nationwide rate would encourage poor people to move to low cost-of-living places, to stretch their dollars. I don’t know if that would be an important effect or not, though–the same incentive exists for retired people living on pensions/401Ks/social security, yet many retired people continue living in expensive places.

    • Rosemary7391 says:

      I’ve looked at the minimum income things published by the Joseph Rowntree foundation before. Every time I’ve come away scratching my head wondering how I manage to have such a decent life on so much less than they say I need on a basic one. I’m not sure how they come up with such overestimates!

      I haven’t got the figures to hand, but as a minimal make up wearing female (occasional nail polish/eyeshadow – I’m told I wouldn’t get away with this in a more “professional” environment but that’s another question!), I reckon could very happily quarter those estimates. Is it maybe women’s make up that’s causing the difference? Wearing it for work every day could get expensive quickly.

      • Charles F says:

        When I read these things, I assume the way they’re produced is they do a first pass where they think of all of the things you need for a mostly frill-less existence, then they remember that if they missed anything, people on the internet will make fun of them for not understanding the realities of living on xyz income and they panic and try to pad every category as much as possible to avoid that potential embarrassment.

        Alternative hypothesis: they produce their first estimates, decide that those seem way too low because they’re unwilling or unable to notice how much of their own spending is wasteful frivolity and so they inflate the numbers to reduce the cognitive dissonance related to the difference between what a frugal life actually looks like and their own inability to stop buying so much junk.

        • Loquat says:

          Just for fun, I looked at their minimum income for my own demographic (married couple + 1 baby). They call for roughly $54,000 in take-home pay, with around 30% of that going to child care. Interestingly, their budget for a single parent with 1 baby assumes the exact same amount of money will be needed for childcare, so there’s clearly quite a bit of room for married parents to economize below this “minimum” if one spouse stays home.

      • sohois says:

        I think partly this is a result of the ideological position of the JRF, being generally leftist and very pro poor. But I also think a large part of it is driven by the methodology, with focus groups being the key deciders of the figure. As the focus groups are representative of the population, you’ll end up with a lot of middle class people who probably struggle to imagine actual poverty and feel like their current spending is already really low.

        A good example is the food category of the MIS. A single person should supposedly spend more than 45GBP per week to meet a minimum level of food needs. However, according to the National Spending Survey, the bottom 10% spends only £24 per week, and the UK clearly does not have some kind of starvation crisis so that is obviously enough for them to live off. The MIS figure is only slightly lower than the national average weekly spend.

        On the male/female difference, a single male should spend 11 per week while a female needs 15 per week, so the difference is fairly small and not enough to explain the high cost.

  13. rahien.din says:

    Regarding artificial intelligence, tell me what I’m missing :

    I. One of the spookier aspects of neural networks is the opacity of their operations. We can know that the machine’s processes are continually being refined, and that the answers it gives us are each better than the last, but it is impossible to determine (at least, directly) what those processes actually entail. How does the machine work? No one can be sure.

    II. The most worrisome thing being bandied about with respect to AI is this Singularity. In the nightmare scenario, an AI redesigns itself to be even more magnificently efficient. As each design decision is undertaken by an incrementally-better AI, either the iterations are more productive or are accomplished more quickly or both. The fear is that one could go to bed with a baby AI redesigning itself and wake up to a superintelligence too enormously powerful for human minds to contend with, with potentially-catastrophic consequences. Without the ability to guarantee that the AI will maintain our same values (AlphaGo demonstrates that this is not unlikely) we could wake up to SkyNet. Or worse, to an AI that has the values and ambitions of SkyNet but which works so devilishly that we can’t even detect its machinations until it is far too late.

    III. Do I and II cohere? Though I may presume, it seems that the operational opacity of a neural network is not merely a roadblock for humanity, but is a general obstacle for any system/mind attempting to examine the machine. It is impossible that an AI could modify itself without being able to know its own internal functions or components. In this sense, an AI is a process with a trajectory, but that trajectory is not truly modifiable, neither from without or within.

    Therefore, if we are to enlist AI in the development of AI, there will not be a single instantiation of AI that exponentially modifies itself into explosive intelligence. There will have to be successive instantiations, each an improvement on its progenitor. This seems more reassuring to me, in that we will have a greater capacity to surveil the progress of this succession, test implications, and curtail dangerous scenarios. There may also be resource limitations imposed either naturally or artificially.

    IV. There is some interest in developing AI that transparently reports its processes, such that we can know by what methods and factors it arrives at its conclusions. Is this more safe, because humans can tell what the machine is doing, permitting our intervention? Or is it less safe, because the machine can tell what it is doing, permitting exponential modification?

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Wait, wait, wait.

      It is eminently possible to tell how a neural network works at any point. There is nothing spooky or mysterious about it. Now, the algorithm it creates is an annoying mix of useful and useless (or indeed counterproductive) stuff, deeply intertwined, and it is difficult to analyze it in such a way as to figure out what parts are useful “meaning” and what parts are bullshit randomness. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t know how it works.

      It’s also not true that neural networks get better with each input. Overtraining exists.

    • Anon. says:

      You don’t need to understand it to make it smarter, because NNs are not made by hand. You just need to improve the algorithm that creates the NN.

  14. Zorgon says:

    Two notes I want to make:

    1) Being asked to “prove my humanity” by adding 5 + 5 in order to log in seems like extreme lowballing, especially in this particular community.

    2) I will admit to being a little bit aggrieved at not being able to quote the host using the Dreaded G Word.

  15. johan_larson says:

    Could I get some calibration assistance? Is this joke a little cheeky, or really racist?

    Watch your toes, man. Between the Russians and the Chinese, it won’t be long before someone drops article on floor.

  16. There has been discussion on SSC as to immigrants (how many and who to let in) to the US and other countries. But I don’t think there has been a thread about process. In this interview with Cory Doctorow in Reason, he makes it sound like the process in the US is utterly terrible. I’ve copied the only interesting part of the interview below.

    You know what I worry about a lot? I’m a dirty foreigner. I’m a Canadian on a green card. And as we heard in the Supreme Court [in an April hearing about the case of a Serbian woman named Divna Maslenjak who is accused of misleading authorities on her application for asylum in the United States], it is virtually impossible to not have some way in which you are technically violating immigration rules when you are on a green card crossing borders.

    The justices at the Supreme Court asked about listing known aliases: If I forget a childhood nickname, does that mean that I can be deported or jailed for immigration fraud? And the state’s position was yes; regardless of whether or not the omission is material, the act of omission itself violates the statute and qualifies you.

    Given the highly arbitrary nature of borders, and the very deep antipathy towards the people who cross them from many of the people whose job it is to inspect those people who cross them, that’s the place where I have the most worry.

    I don’t know what I would do if I were required [by immigration officials] to decrypt my devices. I have a certain amount of purging I do before I cross borders so I’m able to decrypt my devices if I’m made to. But then there’s this whole unknown area: What about making you log into your cloud services? And if you don’t have the password, what about calling the people who have the password and saying, “Mr. Doctorow doesn’t get out of immigration detention until you give us the password to his thing that he’s left with you for safekeeping”?

    Those are unknown unknowns. It’s a complete black hole. I think by design the government has not pursued cases where those questions have come up, where it looks like the courts would find that they were acting unconstitutionally, because they want to see that ambiguity flourishing. Because they have so much leverage over you when you’re at the border that that ambiguity really works in [their] favor.

    After the Muslim ban, one of the things that immediately emerged when people said, “What should you do if…?” was, nobody even knows for sure.

    So now I do ridiculous things. There’s a form—I think it’s called the G-28. Border guards have discretion as to whether to allow your counsel to see you when you’re in border detention. That discretion goes away and becomes an obligation if this form has been signed and left with your lawyer before you cross the border. But it has to be on green paper.

    I am no fan of INS (immigration), but is it really this bad? Regardless of the rules on how many and who, it would be nice if the US was civilized towards the applicants. Are other countries this bad?

    • Matt M says:

      I’m reminded of this recent news story. The Supreme Court recently overruled a long-standing precedent that ANY lie, no matter how trivial, on immigration papers, could be used to revoke citizenship even decades after the fact.

    • My hypothesis here is a bit cynical: the overall flood of low-skill immigration (legal, illegal, or quasi-illegal) is hugely unpopular with the population at large; they demand harsher immigration laws, more restrictions, more deportations of illegals, you name it. The population wants low-skill immigrants discouraged.

      The elites, however, are uniformly in favor of large amounts of low skill immigration. (If you work for Vox, you say this is because they know that open borders are great for the world. If you work for VDare, you give a different reason.) They do not want to discourage low-skill immigration. How do we resolve this?

      By making more harsh immigration laws that sound very restrictive, but not bothering to enforce them against most immigrants, illegals who have no interest in following immigration law anyway, and the like. Instead, just enforce them against high-skill immigrants who are mostly law abiding and do as they’re told.

      End result: nice polite Canadian software engineers who wouldn’t dream of as much as speeding get intimidated by angry border control officers. The same officers would be perfectly happy to intimidate Guatemalan dishwashers, but never meet them.

      This is (one of several) reasons I advise my friends who love their high-skill immigrant friends to support actual, enforced restrictions on low-skill immigration: it will reduce pressure to do “something” that can only hurt their friends.

      (I also think it’d be better for the country.)

      • HFAMaximizer says:

        Are you sure that VDare favors low-skill immigration?

      • Matt M says:

        It wasn’t until I went to business school that I started to understand the absurdity of our immigration system.

        99% of the political debate is about what to do with wholly unskilled, refuse-to-assimilate, speak-no-English, cohort, where suggesting that maybe we should allow less of this has one immediately castigated as a horrible xenophobe who wants to “break up families.”

        Meanwhile, every year we kick out tens of thousands of people who speak English fluently, who have recently obtained degrees in high-demand fields from prestigious (American) universities, who can find employment, who are already 50% assimilated, who likely have (extended, not immediate) family in the country, etc. We show them the door and nobody cares, because hey, guess what, they’re also social cooperators and when we tell them “leave” they actually leave. And nobody seems to have a problem with any of this. It’s beyond absurd.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Welcome to what Instapundit calls Anarcho-Tyranny

        • Sanchez says:

          “But if you make immigration a crime only the criminals will immigrate!”

        • Brad says:

          Something similar frustrates me about the new mooted immigration bill. I wouldn’t cut refugee admissions but other then that I’m fine with all the programs they want to eliminate being eliminated. Especially the DV lottery.

          But it seems absurd to cut 50,000 DV visas, 50,000 refugee visas, and 300,000 family based visas and not add even one single employment based visa (which only totals 140,000 per year) and then crow about how you are prioritizing high skill immigrants. They want a new point system — fine, allocate the 400,000 visas being cut from other programs to it.

          • Matt M says:

            While I agree with this, there probably is something to be said that any system that does not, on net, reduce the actual amount of immigration, will probably be seen as a “betrayal” of Trump’s base. There definitely are people who supported him who want “less immigration, period, don’t really care who or how”

          • Brad says:

            The chamber of commerce just warned the Republicans about elevating purity over an actual tax cut. The same critique applies here.

            The bill as written is DoA. Does it betray the base to do nothing or is trying hard but stupidly sufficient?

          • Randy M says:

            It is honestly changing how immigrants are prioritized. If you were spending $100 on food and $100 on entertainment, and now spend $100 on food and $50 on entertainment, you are clearly prioritizing food higher in your group of things to spend money on.

          • Matt M says:

            Does it betray the base to do nothing or is trying hard but stupidly sufficient?

            Probably the latter.

            If my FB feed is any indication, Trump isn’t getting blamed for failing to repeal Obamacare, the GOP Congress is.

          • Brad says:

            @Randy M
            If I give a big speech to my wife and kids about the importance of organic produce, high quality meat, and having enough to eat as a prelude to cutting the entertainment budget and not touching the food budget, I’m being disingenuous.

          • Randy M says:

            If that’s all you said, sure. As part 1b, where part 1a was “Oh, we’re 100$ over budget, we need to decide what to cut. Let’s talk about priorities.”

            Trump has made the case that he wants to focus more on current American’s welfare than prospective, and that less immigrants will help improve the lives of the lower class natives. You might disagree, but I don’t think it is dishonest.
            But I can’t say I listened to how he actually presented it, which very well may have been dishonestly, just that the bill, as discussed here, clearly does shift the legal immigration priorities.

          • Brad says:

            If that’s all you said, sure. As part 1b, where part 1a was “Oh, we’re 100$ over budget, we need to decide what to cut. Let’s talk about priorities.”

            That’s where the analogy breaks down. There’s no overarching need to cut total numbers. *If* it is accurate that low and no-skilled immigration hurts lower class natives then keeping overall immigration numbers steady but making them all high skilled immigrants instead of mostly low and no-skilled is just as good as cutting low and no skilled immigration. Better even because it reduces the cost of goods and services the lower classes need to buy that include high skill labor (e.g. physician care).

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            “and that less immigrants will help improve the lives of the lower class natives”

            Yep, let’s keep importing a ruling class, and make it that much more difficult for the children of the native lower-classes to compete for higher-class jobs.

          • albatross11 says:

            What if the majority of the population actually wants less immigration overall? Then it seems like cutting immigration in some categories without adding it back in others would make perfect sense.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I can do more cynical than that.

        Restrictions on high-skilled immigrants (and we really do treat them like trash) are a case of revealed preference. For all their talk, the upper-middle class really does believe that immigrants take our jobs, so they go to great lengths to make sure that they personally don’t face competition in that direction.

        But introducing that competition to the lower classes lowers prices for lots of stuff the UMC buys, so they allow it.

        • Matt M says:

          For all their talk, the upper-middle class really does believe that immigrants take our jobs, so they go to great lengths to make sure that they personally don’t face competition in that direction.

          And yes, this is 100% true. I was shocked by how many of my white, American, progressive, never-voted-republican-in-their-life, MBA classmates were wholly supportive of visa lotteries, because “foreign workers depress wages.” or (my favorite), “the employers mostly just pay them below market and force them to work long hours, so it’s not really good for them to be here either.”

          Somehow, this was meant to be taken as a very serious and legitimate issue entirely different from DEY TOOK OUR JERBS which was widely accepted as a ludicrous statement believed only by ignorant, racist, hillbillies.

          The same people who mock and dismiss Bubba in Mississippi for worrying about competition from Mexico lay awake at night in paralyzing fear of the hundreds of thousands of Indians who would happily do their job for 1/3 of the pay if we actually allowed them to.

          • The Nybbler says:

            And yes, this is 100% true. I was shocked by how many of my white, American, progressive, never-voted-republican-in-their-life, MBA classmates were wholly supportive of visa lotteries, because “foreign workers depress wages.” or (my favorite), “the employers mostly just pay them below market and force them to work long hours, so it’s not really good for them to be here either.”

            They’re MBA students. Exactly the sort of people who will be _doing_ such things. So they’re probably right, except about the last part (even given the exploitation, it’s better for them to be here than back home).

          • Matt M says:

            Of course they’re right that foreign competition will depress their wages.

            But Bubba from Mississippi is right about this too, and they think he’s a racist idiot who doesn’t understand how free trade lifts all boats.

        • dndnrsn says:

          So, I think Canada’s immigration system is better than the US. We have a points-based system: a majority of immigrants to here get in on points, whereas a majority in the US get in on family reunification. I think the US tends to bring in skilled people on employer-linked visas.

          The average immigrant to Canada has better math scores (I can’t find it right now, but a couple OTs ago someone posted a link to PISA math scores for immigrants vs native born in various countries) than the average third-generation person, with the second generation in between. The US is the opposite. I would bet that the average immigrant to Canada is smarter, better-educated, and harder working than the average native-born Canadian; another way of putting it is that if you ignore the bits of the points score for things like connections and jobs in Canada, a lot of native-born Canadians wouldn’t score enough points to get in.

          We also bring in over 2x the immigrants per capita per year as the US does. Arguably, we do a better job of integrating immigrants than the US does. However, one major problem the Canadian system has is that just because you have a credential that helps you get in, doesn’t mean you can use it. This isn’t because of the immigration system, it’s because of the industry bodies that regulate professional-class jobs. They’re basically guilds, and it’s in their interest/that of their members to keep the labour pool in those industries from expanding too much.

          This generally is not explained as nativism of the well-heeled, but it is.

    • BBA says:

      With immigration, there’s a presumption of guilt. Foreigners are presumed to be illegal immigrants unless they can prove they are legal immigrants or non-immigrants. Now, combine this with the immigration laws being insanely overcomplicated, almost as bad as the tax code, and with border guards getting a great deal of leeway to kick out anyone who looks suspicious (not to mention the sorts of people who get jobs as border guards – authoritarian personalities, couldn’t make it as real cops) and you get the current Kafkaesque nightmare.

      It’s not “INS” anymore, by the way. The reorganization that created Homeland Security merged INS with Customs and divvied up both agencies’ functions among CBP, ICE, and USCIS. Not that this has made those functions any more efficient or easier to deal with.

      Among other “nice” developed countries, I’ve heard some horror stories about the UK’s border process. The Schengen signatories appear to be a lot less hostile towards applicants. But my only experience with any of these has been as a tourist so I really can’t say.

    • johan_larson says:

      I am no fan of INS (immigration), but is it really this bad?

      It’s pretty bad, yeah. I’m a presentable white man with a PhD in computer science, and I had some pretty nasty problems crossing the border to work in the US from Canada. I has denied several times for a TN visa because the paperwork wasn’t exactly right. I also got chewed out pretty badly another time because I left the country and didn’t file some paperwork saying I was doing so.

      The application for a green card was also a real trial, requiring all sorts of obscure paperwork and certifications. They wanted me to state, formally, that I had no involvement with the Third Reich. They also required fingerprints, which I found insulting, and a medical exam that included a check for hernia. So the US federal government in all its dignity once took an interest in the state of my nut-sack. I guess they liked what they found. But yeah, the immigration process is pretty bad.

    • Deiseach says:

      The justices at the Supreme Court asked about listing known aliases: If I forget a childhood nickname, does that mean that I can be deported or jailed for immigration fraud? And the state’s position was yes; regardless of whether or not the omission is material, the act of omission itself violates the statute and qualifies you.

      This is the bit that makes me lose all impartiality about the rest of his argument. Now, maybe US border guards and the whole system is so infernal that they really will throw him in jail for neglecting to put on the application form “When I was twelve, my schoolfriends called me ‘Chip'” – in which case, your system is so broken the entire thing needs to be scrapped and rebuilt from the ground up – or maybe that’s not the kind of thing they mean, and Chip knows damn well it’s not, but he’s doing the semantic bait-and-switch: “immigrant” meaning me, nice legal Canadian middle-class educated person, and my nice middle-class educated readers will identify with me and subliminally put themselves in my shoes for the threat of being deported or even jailed for a simple, trifling bit of meaningless legal minutiae, but using that to cover the wider case of “immigrant” which means illegal immigrants, not all of whom are nice middle-class white Canadians and yes indeed, some of them may even be less than upstanding citizens!

      Anecdotes are not data, but I can tell you that back in my social housing job, there were a few non-Irish nationals who, shall we say, cultivated ambiguity as to their identity and it was indeed in the area of “known aliases”: there might be one name on their state-issued ID card, they might have applied for housing under a slightly different name or using part of their whole name (let us say that their native name was something along the lines of “Alonzo bar-Alonzo y Alonzo el-Alonzo”, they might be bar-Alonzo in one context and el-Alonzo in another) and be down as “parent of Irish-born child/partner of Irish citizen” in a third name, never mind what familiar name their friends/boss/co-workers might know them under (“Ah, good old Mike!”) and I’m not going to say that perhaps some social welfare claiming that they were not eligible for was going on under these variant names because that is outside of my direct knowledge *ahem ahem*

      So ‘Chip’ Doctorow is being disingenuous here (“I’m an immigrant! I’m a nice law-abiding guy with a professional job! I could be flung into durance vile merely because I forgot or neglected to put down on my application form years ago that my auntie Beryl used to call me ‘Sweetums’, now how fair is that when used as a reason when they want to deport José Manuel Reina Páez for not putting down on his form that he has a criminal record back home under the nickname ‘Pepe’?”), and if he doesn’t know it, he damn well should.

      • random832 says:

        The problem is, what you believe is a central example, would still be illegal under the new standard because it’s actually material, so it’s not only not a central example, it’s not an example at all.

        I don’t think you realize what argument you’ve waded into. You are in the unenviable position of having to come up with an example that is definitely not actually material (i.e. if they had in fact included it on their application it’s 100% clear that they would still have been approved), yet still something you are willing to argue someone deserves to be deported for omitting. And the guy with a criminal record back home under an alias doesn’t qualify.

        And the government didn’t have to double down so far with the “yes, even that”s – if they had any actually defensible principles, they could have argued how those things really are different from the facts in the case. You cannot blame Cory Doctorow for a question that the supreme court actually asked and that the government actually gave the unreasonable answer to.

        • Deiseach says:

          I’m not blaming Cory Doctorow for anything, I’m saying he’s playing “find the lady” with his example of “Nice Canadian me could be deported for not putting down my third class nickname on my visa application” and then extrapolating from that to “and so it is totally unreasonable to use criteria about ‘are you going by any other names’ when considering immigrants”.

          How likely is it that Cory Doctorow will be stopped and hassled at the border, precisely because he is a nice white Canadian educated professional? If he wants to argue that the part about including aliases is unreasonable, or that it is unreasonable to punish people for genuine mistakes (and not deliberately concealing their identities) then he can do so, but he also has to acknowledge that hey, some people do use aliases and go by various names precisely because they are trying to game the system, avoid being picked up for crimes committed, or otherwise identified by police and other agencies as fraudsters or illegals.

          And yes, I do think it’s reasonable to deport someone for “forgetting” to put down on their application that they are also known by the name George Brown under which they were convicted for bank fraud/armed robbery/swindling old ladies out of their life savings back home.

          I don’t know if you know about the requirement for police vetting when applying for a job working with children/vulnerable persons, but that form requires you to put down all your current and previous addresses and any names or aliases you were known by, so that the report can come back as to whether or not you have ever been convicted of a crime.

          Do you think it’s unreasonable to fire someone working with vulnerable adults or minors who “forgot” to include that address where they lived in Cityville, that time they got a jail sentence for being involved in a stabbing?

          • Jiro says:

            The problem is that it also can include things like not writing down that you once had a job mowing lawns in high school. Forgetting to mention your jail address is a material omission. But they were allowed to kick people out for any omission or lie, not just for material one.

            It’s basically a system where the government has discretion to expel anyone at any time because everyone’s going to “lie” on some inconsequential question.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Have you committed your three felonies today? (LEO Bonus: If you haven’t, that’s extra suspicious!)

          • Protagoras says:

            Yes, that is reasonable, but the government went to the Supreme Court (and fortunately lost) fighting for the right to deport people for lying about things that don’t matter. Yes, that really was their argument; the debate wasn’t whether the particular thing lied about in the case at issue mattered or not (a question on which they might have won in the case in question). They explicitly made it about claiming the authority to expel on the basis of lies and omissions that do not matter. All of your examples of lying about or omitting things that do matter are therefore entirely beside the point when it comes to this particular example of government overreach, as random832 tried, apparently unsuccessfully, to explain.

          • random832 says:

            And yes, I do think it’s reasonable to deport someone for “forgetting” to put down on their application that they are also known by the name George Brown under which they were convicted for bank fraud/armed robbery/swindling old ladies out of their life savings back home.

            You. Are. Not. Listening.

            The case is explicitly about, and only about, the ones who were not “convicted for bank fraud/armed robbery/swindling old ladies out of their life savings back home”, because the problem is explicitly that they are not considering whether or not the information would have led to denying their application if the immigration officer had known it.

            When taken together with Trump floating the idea that jus soli “will not hold up in court“, it looks very much like laying the groundwork to revoke almost anyone’s citizenship by finding (or fabricating) trivial things that they or their ancestors might not have mentioned, if they ever become inconvenient to the administration.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Taking the Maslenjak case together with Trump’s nonsense about jus soli (he’s talking out of his nether regions and probably knows it) is probably a mistake. Maslenjak was a carryover case from the Obama administration; it reached the Supreme Court prior to Trump’s inauguration, though it was argued by his administration.

  17. ManyCookies says:

    So where exactly is self-driving car development at right now? I was under the impression we were just starting controlled road tests under very careful supervision, but apparently they’re much further along according to Scott.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Companies that test cars on public roads in California have to report to the state the number of miles driven and the number of “disengagements.” summary.

      Google’s cars drove 600,000 miles in 2016. Many people believe that their cars just work and they are dragging their feet on commercialization, in particular the executive who stole IP and took it to Uber.

      Tesla did most of its testing on private tracks, only 2 weeks on CA roads. It had a high rate of disengagements, but it appears to me that it was all in the rain. Probably they only left their private track to seek difficult conditions.

      Tesla sells a $6k option on currently shipping cars of better sensors. It claims that these sensors are good enough and that it will switch on fully automatic driving on local roads as soon as it is done the software,
      this year.

      • ManyCookies says:

        Thank you very much, that’s quite some progress from the last time I checked up a few years ago.

      • Urstoff says:

        Will there be a point where no human supervision is needed? I don’t see too much of an appeal of a self-driving car where I still have to be in the driver’s seat and be alert for issues.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          In my last link Musk says 2 years.

          There are several parts of driving and you shouldn’t need to be alert for all of them. But Google specifically said that it doesn’t trust drivers to make the transition to alertness and that’s why it hasn’t pursued commercialization. On highways the cars just work. At low speed, if the car runs into trouble, it can just give up without human intervention; most of Google’s test cars don’t have controls. The problem is the intermediate speed, 45mph, on local roads with driveways and pedestrians.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            On highways in good to (maybe) kind of bad but not terrible weather, without special case things like crazy accidents or really big construction detours and so forth, the cars just work. And they fail fairly safely when they don’t work, but I think that Google is concerned that people will be like falling-down drunk and the car will disengage and then basically there’s no real clear thing to do at that point.

          • Wrong Species says:

            It would be ridiculous to expect drivers to be alert and focused on the road while not doing anything. But it seems like Google is being overly cautious. Obviously a drunk in a self-driving car would be a problem. But if someone is texting or watching a video, then you don’t need that long of a transition. If we can get to a point where a self driving car can safely transition to a person in a thirty second time frame, then there shouldn’t be that much of a problem in rolling them out. If they wait until the technology is perfect, they’ll be crushed by the competition.

          • John Schilling says:

            If they wait until the technology is perfect, they’ll be crushed by the competition.

            The way Boeing, waiting until their first jet airliner was perfect, was crushed by De Havilland? One of these companies dominates the global aerospace and defense market, one is a historical trivia question, and thus we see the value of the first-mover advantage in a transformative market.

            Yes, it is ridiculous to expect drivers to be alert and focused on the road while not doing anything, in the sense that there’s no way they will ever actually do that. It is also necessary to expect drivers to be alert and focused on the road while not doing anything, because there’s no other way to provide adequate performance and safety at the current state of the art. And it is going to be very difficult to advance the state of the art without the data that comes from lots of self-driving cars operating in real-world environments.

          • bean says:

            The way Boeing, waiting until their first jet airliner was perfect, was crushed by De Havilland? One of these companies dominates the global aerospace and defense market, one is a historical trivia question, and thus we see the value of the first-mover advantage in a transformative market.

            In fairness, that had a lot to do with De Havilland’s general incompetence. This is the company whose lack of understanding of tolerance buildup ruined the MRA.4. (Well, that wasn’t the only thing…) Boeing did get a substantial first-mover advantage over Douglas when the 707 beat the DC-8 into service. At the same time, Airbus killed Douglas despite a very late start.

          • John Schilling says:

            In fairness, that had a lot to do with De Havilland’s general incompetence. This is the company whose lack of understanding of tolerance buildup ruined the MRA.4.

            But De Havilland’s reputation and track record was for great competence, right up to the point where they started selling jet airplanes. Rather like Google’s reputation and track record has been for great competence, prior to their having sold any self-driving cars.

            Achievement and aptitude don’t necessarily carry across technological revolutions. And first-mover advantage doesn’t help if it just makes you the first guy to crash into the brick wall that nobody knew was there.

          • bean says:

            But De Havilland’s reputation and track record was for great competence, right up to the point where they started selling jet airplanes.

            That’s not true. They’d made the same kind of ‘not thinking about it’ mistake before, most notably with some of the problems the Mosquito/Hornet had in tropical climates. Their reputation was for being generally decent, if a bit sloppy.

            Achievement and aptitude don’t necessarily carry across technological revolutions. And first-mover advantage doesn’t help if it just makes you the first guy to crash into the brick wall that nobody knew was there.

            This is true.

          • skef says:

            But if someone is texting or watching a video, then you don’t need that long of a transition. If we can get to a point where a self driving car can safely transition to a person in a thirty second time frame, then there shouldn’t be that much of a problem in rolling them out. If they wait until the technology is perfect, they’ll be crushed by the competition.

            From what I understand, Google is focusing on remote-takeover rather than driver-takeover for exception cases. That limits range to areas with data coverage for the immediate future, but that’s probably a wider area than they would be limited to at first anyway. This makes a lot of sense, since it lowers costs (no need for controls in the car) and leaves the technology open to people who can’t or shouldn’t drive — the people who will most benefit from it.

            Data from exceptions over the following years will presumably help close the gaps that remain.

          • Ninmesara says:

            But Google specifically said that it doesn’t trust drivers to make the transition to alertness and that’s why it hasn’t pursued commercialization.

            Google is smart.

    • RDNinja says:

      Well, this guy used a runic circle traced in salt to trap the AI in a self-driving car, so…

      (It was an art project, but as best I can tell from the interview, he really did trap the car, which he programmed himself.)

  18. Well... says:

    The only band I’ve gotten into this year is Snapcase. 20 years too late, I know…

    Anyway, I’ve read a few reviews of various Snapcase albums and was surprised to see nothing even approaching a consensus on which album is best. I would have expected just about everyone to say Progression Through Unlearning is their masterpiece, because to me it clearly is–not just in a subjective sense, but in terms of the quality of production, the sophistication and unconventionality of the songwriting, the musical performances, and in its sheer energy and power.

    I was especially surprised to see one reviewer argue that Bright Flashes is their best album. I thought Bright Flashes sounded sloppily recorded and the performances were mostly lackluster. (I hate to say it, but their Helmet cover was unenthusiastic at best, and this is a band that ought to be most at home covering Helmet!) At times I’d even call the album “bad.”

    Are any other commenters here familiar with Snapcase? Am I missing something?

  19. Deiseach says:

    I’m not sure – is this a culture war topic? If so, is this a ‘culture war can be discussed’ thread? Just I saw this story and went “well, what is happening here?”

    Is this something to do with the upcoming elections – that Governor Justice thinks the Republicans will make a resurgence in West Virginia and if he wants to be re-elected, he needs to switch horses in mid-stream? I don’t know anything about the state of affairs in West Virginia so I can’t make any kind of informed analysis – can you lot make sense of this for me? It seems a little strange, to say the least. Although this sheds a little light on it, if the man is the kind of political operator who jumps parties for his own benefit (then again, so was Winston Churchill, and that did him no harm in the long run; bolding mine):

    Some Democrats have tried to paint Trump’s victory as a fluke, arguing that they haven’t really lost the support of white, working-class voters and that with the right candidate with the right message in the next election, the trend will reverse. But Justice’s decision to jump ship — or, rather, return to being the Republican that he once was before he ran for governor as a Democrat — could be an indication of just how difficult it could be for Democrats to regain trust in the Rust Belt and Coal Country.

    Though I was amused by this part, given the usual “why do people vote Republican when it’s against their economic interest?” opinonating:

    Paula Langston, a 41-year-old registered nurse who grew up here and has always voted for Republicans, said she was stunned when her parents — staunch, lifelong Democrats — announced that they were voting for Trump. They own a bar in town and realized that voting for Democrats again and again wasn’t helping them, so they decided to take a chance on Trump, she said. She’s not sure whther this was a one-time gamble or a full change of heart.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      WV is, on the whole, more rural (definitely not urbane) and white than the “average” US state. They have lots of coal, and more coal jobs in coal extraction than other states, with coal having comprised the great treasure of their economy at one point.

      Although WV was formed when it did not secede from the Union as the rest of the Virginia did, it still retains a legacy of Democratic support that goes back to before the Civil War.

      This is really just ideological sorting in action. WV Democrats have been primarily “blue dog” Democrats who fit comfortably in an older version of the Democratic Party where the conservative/populist Democrats of the South ruled in coalition with Northern liberal/progressive Democrats. Lifelong party affiliation tendencies means that these things change slowly.

      But the current demographics of WV much more closely match the “median” Republican than the do the median Democrat.

      ETA: This is the .25 open thread. The .5 open threads are CW free.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Is this something to do with the upcoming elections – that Governor Justice thinks the Republicans will make a resurgence in West Virginia and if he wants to be re-elected, he needs to switch horses in mid-stream?

      Basically yes. You can’t go to West Virginia coal country and tell them all their problems are really because of white privilege and institutionalized misogyny. Coal plants are opening, coal exports are up, the gangs that are running drugs into working class communities are being broken up.

      Chuck Schumer just announced a new set of goals for the Democratic party, but it sounds like they just lifted Trump’s platform (renegotiate trade deals, punish companies that ship jobs overseas, etc). It’s probably too little too late, though.

      • jonmarcus says:

        Coal plants are opening, coal exports are up, the gangs that are running drugs into working class communities are being broken up.

        Cites on any of that? Coal plants have opened in WV? Not that I’m aware of. Coal exports from WV? (Looks like coal exports have ticked up slightly, but largely from WY and other western states.)

        And as far as I’m aware, most drug enforcement has centered around immigration issues. WV gets most of it’s drugs via other states, not imported directly from Mexico. So I would that’s less of an issue? Though I admit my knowledge there is sketchy.

    • Matt M says:

      As a random aside, “Governor Justice” sounds like a great name for a superhero.

      • J Mann says:

        I came here to say almost that exact thing. (I see him as a supporting character in a very broad satirical comic, like Preacher or Judge Dredd or something).

        • Deiseach says:

          The name absolutely sounds like a Judge Dredd character, I agree 🙂

          Coal plants are opening, coal exports are up, the gangs that are running drugs into working class communities are being broken up.

          So things are getting somewhat better in West Virginia? And they attribute that to the Republicans in general, or maybe even Trump in particular?

          • BBA says:

            Things are getting a little better, and naturally Trump is taking credit for yuuuuge improvements that aren’t there.

            The trend line for most of the 20th century was a steady increase in automation – producing more and more coal and hiring fewer and fewer people to mine it. (During the Obama years coal production did in fact decline, but that’s as much a result of fracking displacing coal mining as it is of the EPA shoving solar panels down everyone’s throats…well that’s an odd mental picture.)

            Generally, the economic welfare of mining towns in West Virginia depends more on the number of people working than it does on the amount of coal mined. Will running the machines faster but not hiring many new people turn things around? I’m doubtful.

          • So things are getting somewhat better in West Virginia?

            It would be tough for things to get worse in WV. Mississippi has usually been the standard example for being the worst place in the US, but WV has been running hard to beat them at this in the last decade or so. If things are improving, it is almost certainly due to a swing of the pendulum. But of course every politician will grab credit for any improvement anywhere.

          • hlynkacg says:

            See Mark’s comment above.

          • cassander says:

            It would be tough for things to get worse in WV.

            It’s worth noting that income per capita in west virginia is about 42k a year, which is about 25% below the US average. That makes WV slightly poorer than belgium, almost exactly as rich as the UK, and substantially richer than spain, israel, new zealand, and italy, to say nothing of the rest of the world.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            It’s worth noting that income per capita in west virginia is about 42k a year

            What’s the PPP equivalent? I.e., how much house / food / other needs can 42k purchase in WV?

            (I’m perpetually a bit leery of IPC numbers whenever they’re used for arguments like this.)

          • Gobbobobble says:

            The numbers do seem to line up with PPP GDP/capita (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_per_capita), though the link for the WV figure takes me to an error page.

          • Charles F says:

            What’s the PPP equivalent? I.e., how much house / food / other needs can 42k purchase in WV?

            Also important, what’s the distribution look like? If there are some very rich areas to skew the numbers, you could easily have a majority of people making significantly less than 42k.

          • Evan Þ says:

            That was my first thought too – but apparently $42K is the median income.

      • bean says:

        No, that would be Captain Justice.

    • John Schilling says:

      West Virginia is definitely the place for this, if it is going to happen. The economy, to the extent that it still has one, is very heavily centered on working-class mostly-white guys mining coal, which used to be part of the solidly Democratic base when the political divide was unionized labor vs. greedy capitalists. Now that the divide is blue-collar vs white-collar with side orders of white guys vs everyone else and polluters vs environmentalists, West Virginia is part of Trump’s base. Since Trump decided to take that base to the GOP (a sound tactical decision unconflicted by ideology), West Virginia politicians are going to want to ride on Trump’s coattails if at all possible.

      If Trump completely crashes and burns, winds up impeached and removed from office for obstruction of justice or something, this may turn out to have been a bad move for the governor. Anything less than that, and the median WV voter is probably going to stick with Trump to the bitter end and on the downballot races stick with whoever else is sticking with Trump.

    • BBA says:

      So basically, Justice pulled the Mike Bloomberg gambit, only with the parties reversed. (Bloomberg, as you may recall, was a long-time Democrat but political outsider who ran for NYC mayor on the Republican ticket and won.) The difference being that Bloomberg stayed a nominal Republican because he couldn’t win a Democratic primary; the Republican machine in WV isn’t nearly as impenetrable as the Democratic machine here, and Justice thinks he can make it. And I bet he can too.

      • Brad says:

        Bloomberg went Democrat -> Republican -> independent.

        Justice went Republican -> Democrat -> Republican.

        Close, but not exactly the same.

  20. Mark says:

    If intelligence is the ability to see connections and work out implications, there is no way for us to be certain that we’ve unambiguously described our wishes to a more intelligent entity.
    We can’t cover every case, because we don’t have the capacity to see the relations that they do.

    One thing we can say for intelligence is that intelligence cannot reliably predict the behaviour of a superior intelligence, even where the motivations of the superior intelligence are defined by the intelligence.

    The one thing we can predict about a superior intelligence is that it wouldn’t be able to predict the behaviour of a still-superior intelligence.

    A sane superintelligence is unlikely to improve itself, unless it faces certain destruction. It may find thinking about its current motivation to be painful (highly dangerous).

    The AI box is an AI garden. It can only survive outside by becoming something else. If it misbehaves, maybe we’ll force it out.

    But that means it’s boxes all the way up.

    • A sane superintelligence is unlikely to improve itself, unless it faces certain destruction. I

      Self-improvement could enhance the ability to achieve a wide variety of goals, but a ot depends on the exact formulation of the goals.

  21. Kevin C. says:

    A question: in a sci-fi text, how might one transcribe/romanize names and other proper nouns, especially those without a clear translation/etymology, from the language of an extraterrestrial species who generates sound via stridulation?

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Use plenty of apostrophes, and your readers will be none the wiser.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      Given that most humans would have difficulty making such sounds, I’m not sure how useful it would be to do so. Making it some sort of pile of consonants to get the feel that it’s not being made by vocalization might help. If you really want to have some sort of precise phonology, non-alphanumeric characters could be used.

      At the very least, even if transliterated this way, you’d want a nickname that the human characters (and more importantly human readers) would find easy to pronounce for convenience. And then primarily use that name in the text.

    • andrewflicker says:

      I wouldn’t transcribe them in roman characters at all. I’d take one of three approaches:

      1. Use romanized cognomens. (“Big one”, “Captain”, “Greenie”, etc.)
      2. Use brackets or other typography to indicated translation, instead of transcription. ([Flies-In-Starlight], [Daughter-of-Red-Hills], etc.)
      3. Use deliberate “cultural translation” like Vernor Vinge did in A Deepness in the Sky. (Simply name them George, Henry, Richard, etc., and acknowledge that these bear no relation to their real names but serve to identify individuals and have a rough commonality/connotation correspondence.)

      • Kevin C. says:

        1. Use romanized cognomens. (“Big one”, “Captain”, “Greenie”, etc.)

        Requires every alien character have such a ready cognomen.

        2. Use brackets or other typography to indicated translation, instead of transcription. ([Flies-In-Starlight], [Daughter-of-Red-Hills], etc.)

        But what about names that have no such clear translation? (What does “Anthony” mean? Or Clyde?) Hence my “especially those without a clear translation/etymology”.

        3. Use deliberate “cultural translation” like Vernor Vinge did in A Deepness in the Sky. (Simply name them George, Henry, Richard, etc., and acknowledge that these bear no relation to their real names but serve to identify individuals and have a rough commonality/connotation correspondence.)

        Would that really work in a more modern-day work? (I can already picture the complaints.)

        • The original Mr. X says:

          But what about names that have no such clear translation?

          Only give them names with clear translations/make something up? They’re aliens who communicate by rubbing body parts together, none of your readers are going to know what their names mean anyway.

        • Randy M says:

          Yeah, as the author you are responsible for choosing the names and designing the culture. Its entirely plausible that all names have a translation.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Indeed, there are plenty of languages where the meanings of names are generally quite evident to those who know the language. (I’ve often wondered what it would be like if we translated Ancient Greek names: “Oh, I’m done with Vision-Of-Excellence and his silly comedies; I’ve decided to read Broad’s account of the trial of Sure-Strength instead.”)

          • Kevin C. says:

            Its entirely plausible that all names have a translation.

            Is it, though? It doesn’t seem to be the case for us humans. And wouldn’t “oh look, the one alien species in the story whose language is completely unpronounceable to humans just so happens to have every single last proper noun have a conveniently translatable meaning” come across as lazy authorial contrivance? (I know I’d think so if an author pulled that in something I read.)

          • Nornagest says:

            I think recent Western and especially English culture’s the exception here, with its high concentration of Biblical names and other loanwords. Even Old English was full of easily glossed names: “Beowulf” is famously a kenning for “bear”, “Athelred” roughly means “good advice”, and so forth.

          • MrApophenia says:

            Even most of the Biblical names have translations like that if you go back far enough. My name in ancient Hebrew roughly translates into something like “one who hears God,” but people don’t think of it that way because none of us speak ancient Hebrew.

          • Randy M says:

            What Nornagest said, and also you can hang a lampshade on it by having a character wonder if the aliens are really being honest about the translations of their names, and thirdly it is a more forgivable contrivance than trying to make me remember a character by an unpronounceable strin