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

OT82: Threado Quia Absurdum

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit, the SSC Discord server. Also:

1. Comments of the week: CatCube on how organizations change over time, Douglas Knight’s update on self-driving car progress, Tibor on gun laws in the Czech Republic. And Brad explains why comments are closed on some posts here better than I could.

2. I’m off social media for the time being to avoid Discourse. If you need to contact me, try email – on a related note, sorry for being terrible about responding to emails.

3. I’ll be at the Effective Altruism Global conference today. Come say hi. If nothing else, I’ll be at the Rationalist Tumblr Meetup (at least briefly) and Katja Grace’s 5:50 talk on AI.

4. Does anyone have strong feelings about who would make a good SSC moderator? Does anyone actually read all the comments here well enough to moderate them?

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2,164 Responses to OT82: Threado Quia Absurdum

  1. JRM says:

    So I think I am running for public office. Anyone else done that here?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      At the effective altruist conference in San Francisco this weekend, there are a bunch of talks and panels encouraging people to do this. Do you mind if I put you in touch with some of the people who have offered to give advice to those who need it?

      Email me if you want to discuss this further.

      • Roflsaurus says:

        I have been lurking on SSC for awhile, and at times I have been inspired to potentially get involved in politics, both from a “rationalist” and effective altruism perspective. I am an Asian male pediatrician with solid Blue Tribe credentials. The problem is that I live in Orange County and I identify as agnostic/atheist. I know that the political culture is now shifting in OC towards Blue, but I am quite doubtful whether I could ever be a competitive candidate for public office in this county. Any thoughts/suggestions regarding this kind of situation? Thanks, and keep up the awesome work with the blog!

        • Protagoras says:

          I suspect you may underestimate your chances. If you just don’t talk about your *(lack of) religion, people are likely to assume that it’s some Asian thing (which they’re likely to be more comfortable with than they would be with a white atheist). And “Asian doctor” kind of seems respectable in a way that will be appealing to many conservatives, while of course being a minority of any kind can help with liberals. Of course you’ll have to find ways to get people to focus on your strengths and ignore your weaknesses, but all politicians have to do that; I think it would come down to whether you’re able to do that well enough, rather than anything about you ruling you out completely.

        • Deiseach says:

          What do you want to do if you got elected? That’s the main thing to work out: is it generic Democrat-ish “it’d be lovely if everyone were nice to one another and we all had good sustainable well-paying jobs” or do you have a particular hobbyhorse you want to gallop on, e.g. “Orange County is a cultureless hellhole wasteland that is only seen as a large-scale business park for bland multinational conglomerates”?

          What you want to do is going to affect who you perceive as your constituents and what they in turn would perceive you as doing for them if they picked you as their representative. In turn, this would link in with how the party you affiliate with would support you – if you are running on a message that is contrary to one of their Big Dog candidates, they will try and get you onside or ignore you, whichever keeps you from interfering with business as usual.

          • Roflsaurus says:

            Those are some very good points! And to be honest, I have not thought carefully about what exactly would differentiate me from a generic Democratic candidate. In my mind, I see myself as trying to encourage people to analyze political issues from a more “rational” and “evidence-based” perspective, and trying to avoid being blinded by the tribalism that so often tugs at us. The key question, I suppose, would be whether this platform sufficiently distinguishes me from the generic Democratic candidate enough to where the “marginal value” of my being in that role is going to be significant?

            Oh and btw, lol at your “OC is a cultureless hellhole” remarks. Can’t argue with the truth, hehe

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Oh and btw, lol at your “OC is a cultureless hellhole” remarks. Can’t argue with the truth, hehe

            I don’t live in Orange County, but I have to ask: What ever gave you the idea that you would be a good choice to represent the people who do?

          • Aapje says:

            In my mind, I see myself as trying to encourage people to analyze political issues from a more “rational” and “evidence-based” perspective, and trying to avoid being blinded by the tribalism that so often tugs at us.

            I’m sorry for your loss.

            Large groups of people will want to know what you will do for them specifically and/or what your values are. You are expected to already have drawn “rational” and “evidence-based” conclusions, preferably those that agree with those whose vote you seek.

            Since you can’t educate your voters, most politicians choose to deceive their voters into believing that the politician shares their goals + desired methods sufficiently. It seems more sensible to do the evidence-based thing after you got into office by Machiavellian means.

          • Roflsaurus says:

            Re: Doctor Mist, you are right, I don’t think I would be a good representative for the interests and values of the average Orange County citizen.

            Upon further reflection, I think I have an incorrect view of the role of a political representative. The representative presumably should share the same values as the constituents. The representative’s role should not be to try and change the values and beliefs of those people to what the representative thinks they should be.

            Thanks for your feedback, and I apologize if my remarks came across as elitist and insensitive (which I think they indeed were).

          • Nornagest says:

            “Orange County is a cultureless hellhole wasteland that is only seen as a large-scale business park for bland multinational conglomerates”

            Hey! That’s San Jose’s territory, get out!

          • Yosarian2 says:

            Since you can’t educate your voters, most politicians choose to deceive their voters into believing that the politician shares their goals + desired methods sufficiently.

            Well, it’s not quite that extreme.

            In general, good politicians usually find some kind of middle ground, where they pick a small number of issues they feel deeply about and “make a couragous stand” on those issues, explaining in great emotional detail why they feel those things are important, while “going with the flow” and following the majority of voters on the majority of other issues they feel are less important.

            Voters prefer that, honestly; when people talk about “wanting politicians to be authentic” and such, they mean they want to see politicians who clearly care a lot about *something*, and that kind of thing is hard to fake. Politicians who just seem move with the tide on *everything* are seen as untrustworthy and “fake”, and that often hurts them politically. But on the other hand you can only do that in a limited number of areas.

          • Aapje says:

            @Yosarian2

            True enough, you need some balance between being a bland vessel for people to project their hopes on and actually having some ‘courageous’ opinions so people see you as a capable person.

            As you say: “But on the other hand you can only do that in a limited number of areas.” It’s optimal if the ‘courageous’ opinions are favored by one side plus most of the moderates and heavily opposed by a small group of radicals who are disliked by most people.

            And I agree with what Larry Kestenbaum says below, that at a lower level simply turning up and caring about the actual issues goes a long way.

          • @Yosarian2:

            How can you tell whether the politician is pushing a position he actually feels strongly about or a position that he thinks pushing will benefit him politically? The only way that occurs to me is by evidence from before he decided to be a politician.

          • tscharf says:

            My view is people way underestimate how much skill there is in being a successful politician, and thus assume without reason that they would be better at it then the current crop of “ethics challenged losers”.

            My somewhat cynical and reasoned view is that politicians are the way they are because that is what is necessary to be successful. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington is a fantasy. People want effective politicians, not honest and ethical ones. If those can be combined then fine, but most people want effective first if honest and ethical means your local military base is going to be closed or the new flood maps include their house.

          • Yosarian2 says:

            How can you tell whether the politician is pushing a position he actually feels strongly about or a position that he thinks pushing will benefit him politically? The only way that occurs to me is by evidence from before he decided to be a politician.

            Yeah, evidence from before they became a politician, or evidence over time, is certanly valid.

            I would say that, while to some extent anything can be faked, that consistently and convincingly faking a strong emotional belief on an issue for the duration of a several month political campaign is very difficult. Also if you’re just faking your belief in something, that makes it harder to put it into a deeper context or to think of it in a way that’s consistent with your other beliefs then if you had actually spent years thinking deeply about the topic.

            I’ve seen politicians fall apart when they are trying to defend a belief they don’t really have, and the questions asked of them in a debate or by a reporter manage to hit them from an angle they hadn’t been prepared for by staff earlier. When that happens to a politician on an issue they had been trying to use to define themselves, they often don’t recover from it.

            There’s also a counter-signaling thing where you can tell that someone really believes in something if they stand up for the idea even when it’s not politically advantageous for them to do so.

          • Matt M says:

            There’s also a counter-signaling thing where you can tell that someone really believes in something if they stand up for the idea even when it’s not politically advantageous for them to do so.

            I still maintain that a whole lot of Trump’s most controversial campaign rhetoric was exactly this. Conservatives are incredibly skeptical of politicians who say “crack down on illegal immigration!” on the campaign trail, then switch to “comprehensive immigration reform including a path to citizenship!” as soon as they’re elected.

            So, to signal that he isn’t going to be that way, he can’t just say “crack down on illegal immigration!” He has to go farther, and say “mexico sends us rapists!”

            The analogy I like to use is gang initiations who have you murder someone to prove you aren’t a cop. Conservatives essentially demanded Trump say and do things to prove he’s not some RINO who still cares about getting invited to the right cocktail parties. Things that the mainstream will never excuse, never forgive, never forget.

          • There’s a solution to that sort of thing, which consists of publishing detailed proposals in terms of laws and targets, which the politician can then be held accountable to. Wild oversignalling happens downstream of using vague, emotive language ITFP. Do US politicians even publish manifestos, aside from journalists cobbling them together from their speeches?

          • Matt M says:

            There’s a solution to that sort of thing, which consists of publishing detailed proposals in terms of laws and targets, which the politician can then be held accountable to.

            AFAIK, the only even remotely successful example of this is Grover Nordquist, who has been made into one of history’s greatest villains for attempting to facilitate this process.

          • he only even remotely successful example of this

            ie the only succesfull example in the US?

          • A rationalist politician. [Elizabeth Edwards]

            Interesting! Thank you for this.

            No state has a lower ratio of population to state reps than New Hampshire does. The New Hampshire House of Representatives. largest in the nation, has 400 members, in a small state of only 1.3 million population — one representative per about 3,300 people.

            (By contrast, Michigan has almost ten million population and 110 reps, that is, one for each 90,000 people.)

            Particularly with the decline of local media political coverage, candidates for the New Hampshire House get significantly less vetting than do candidates for other state legislatures. As a result, some oddball people get elected.

            Sometimes this is good, as with iconoclasts like Elizabeth Edwards; other times, not so much.

            Edwards seems to be doing admirable things, but at a very small scale. A mere Chicago alderman represents more than sixteen times as many people as she does.*

            She successfully advocated a law to prevent criminal prosecution for reporting a drug-related medical emergency. Good on her, but I have to wonder what kind of ghastly law enforcement practices made that kind of law necessary.

            *Or eight times as many, considering that Edwards and another rep have a double-sized district.

          • Mary says:

            People committing crimes are always going to be wary of contacting the authorities when doing so is likely or certain to reveal the crime.

        • quaelegit says:

          Which city/region? Parts of Orange County are heavily Asian and regularly elect east Asians (and perhaps south Asians). I’m pretty sure I’ve seen medical doctors running for local office, although I can’t remember any examples off the top of my head. And I’ve never seen religion play a major role in a local election (all of this with the caveat that I moved out of OC for college when I reached voting age so I’m not the expert on OC politics).

          One important thing is to get in touch with people involved in local politics to get learn where you can contribute (as Larry Kestenbaum said, you CAN contribute). One place you might try is the Orange Juice Blog. I’m not sure where they fit in the political picture, but they know people and they seem very open to chatting. I know my Dad met Vern Nelson, one of the regular contributors there, working on a city council related issue and thought he was a nice guy.

      • JRM says:

        OMG, thanks. Will e-mail later today.

      • nate_rausch says:

        I’ve previously run a few successful political campaign in Norway, both for myself at local level and others at national level. Also have been policy advisor for the government and communication advisor for a campaign, so familiar with the two very different worlds of politics (winning elections) and policy (good governance).

        Currently I am doing something very different though, running a startup in San Francisco. Would love to have a chat if you want to.

        There is a great EA policy-community where you can find some incredibly smart people, highly recommend you talk to them.

    • hlynkacg says:

      Paging Larry Kestenbaum.

    • James Miller says:

      I ran for the Massachusetts State Senate in 2004. I was the uncontested Republican nominee, but I got destroyed in the general election. It was a hopeless race since I ran in a very Democratic district against a popular and powerful incumbent. (The night of the election a reporter I had talked to a lot called and said something like “in case you lose, do you have anything you would like to say?” He didn’t bother asking about the possibility of my winning.) It was worth doing, however. It forced me to be less introverted, caused me to meet new people, and sounds impressive.

    • I haven’t run for public office, no. However I am currently the campaign manager for a small PAC and would like to remind people that there are plenty of ways to meaningfully contribute to politics which don’t involve being the candidate yourself. (Though obviously being the candidate is quite attractive, since it means you get to decide what issues to run on and prioritize while in office.)

      You might think this takes a lot of money, but if you take a look at your local races, whose outcomes often end up determining the national agenda in aggregate, you may be surprised at how little money is really involved there. For people just starting out I would recommend focusing on resource efficiency over resource gathering, since your ability to gather resources is probably limited and it’s returns that impress people anyway. Any bumpkin can get half a million dollars of value out of a million dollars, but it takes real talent to make a hundred dollars do the work of ten thousand.

      You don’t need connections, in fact because of the way SCOTUS cases have decided to treat independent expenditures, having no connections may in fact be an advantage. You’re probably not going to be in the news all the time, so this kind of role is great for the politically active but media shy. Squeezing more value out of less is exactly the kind of thing this community prides itself on. It’s a great opportunity to sharpen your rhetorical skills, and politics is where philosophy meets the road anyway.

      http://www.jdpressman.com/2017/07/05/stop-waiting-to-put-your-stone-in.html

    • Back in 1982, new redistricting rules opened up a no-incumbent county commission seat in my old hometown. I thought, I don’t have a politician personality, but lots of people know me in this town. Since I’m not staying here long-term, this may be my last and only chance to ever be a plausible political candidate.

      Well, I was wrong. Well, I mean, just the last clause was wrong. I ran and was elected in 1982, was re-elected twice, moved away, and ended up being successful in politics in my new hometown.

      I’m sure most people generalize from races for President or Congress to state and local posts, and imagine that being a candidate is insanely stressful, that you have to be wealthy or spend 110% of your time fundraising, that every hidden part of your character is ruthlessly scrutinized, and that everything that makes you (and your views) different from the median voter in your constituency is a dangerous liability.

      But no, that is not what it’s like.

      (I will continue this later.)

      • Some of the basic things I tell first-time or prospective candidates:

        First of all, let me tell you, on the road to elected office, the traffic is light. There is a shortage of good candidates, in both parties, in all areas, at every level.

        Running for office changes your relationship with your community. From then on, more people know you than you know. People who have never met you will get invested in your campaign — positively or negatively. Win or lose, for years, people you have never seen before will greet you like you’re an old friend. And if you lose, everyone looking for someone to fill some volunteer leadership role will have you on their list.

        By filing for office, you have made yourself a Public Figure. People will talk about you, and not everything they say will be admiring. Under New York Times v. Sullivan, your ability to sue someone for defamation is severely restricted. And rightly so! Your name is part of political discourse now. Get used to it.

        If, like me, you’re not charismatic, you need to be knowledgeable. If you’re running for Drain Commissioner, you should be a walking encyclopedia of drains and their issues. If you’re running for city council, you should be ready to discuss the zoning code with people who have been fighting over it since before you were born. And impress them.

        It is simply not true that voters only support candidates who are closely similar to themselves, or who share their views on a long list of issues. When you’re running for local office, campaigning door to door, it goes a long way just to demonstrate that you’re friendly, knowledgeable, and want the job. Issues come up much less often than you might imagine.

        Finally, the local news media is dying, and in particular, local and state government news coverage has receded to almost nothing. This reduces the scrutiny of what you do, but it also reduces the scrutiny of everyone else in local public life, including those who richly deserve it.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Larry,

          Does this shortage imply a dearth of qualified people actually running things (particularly at a local level)? I mean, I suppose I could run as the token Republican against one of the Democrats on the local water district, but I’m not sure that’s an obvious win.

          There’s also some non-partisan positions that aren’t always hotly contested (like village board seats) but I’m also not sure we are in dire need of more qualified persons there.

          If you don’t mind me asking, what exactly did you choose to run for, and why did you choose to run for that particular spot? Was it difficult learning the skills to perform that role?

          • rlms says:

            In British local government at least, there are a lot of heavily unqualified councillors (doddery old men who just sleep in meetings etc.). I imagine this is universal.

          • @ A Definite Beta Guy

            Does this shortage imply a dearth of qualified people actually running things (particularly at a local level)?

            Not a dearth, necessarily. But where there aren’t term limits, you will often see an incumbent, who would rather bow out, put under pressure to run for another term, because there isn’t a qualified person to take his/her place. And, over time, less impressive people, who weren’t seriously considered, start to get seriously considered.

            I suppose I could run as the token Republican against one of the Democrats on the local water district, but I’m not sure that’s an obvious win.

            For an office like that, most voters pay little attention and vote in a reflexively partisan way. Maybe, under normal circumstances, only Democrats can win there — so maybe you’d need to get attention and create abnormal circumstances?

            Or it may just be that no Republican has bothered to try in years. Running against outdated conventional wisdom has worked for me!

            If you showed up for water district board meetings, like several in a row, you might be the only “public” in attendance. If you showed some interest and ability at what they do, they might appoint you to a vacant seat or something. Or they could get all paranoid and try to shut you out, in which case you’d have a campaign issue.

            There’s also some non-partisan positions that aren’t always hotly contested (like village board seats) but I’m also not sure we are in dire need of more qualified persons there.

            See above. Of course, this assumes that attending village board meetings is something you’d enjoy doing.

            (Continued later.)

          • If you don’t mind me asking, what exactly did you choose to run for, and why did you choose to run for that particular spot? Was it difficult learning the skills to perform that role?

            Well, I followed my interests. Here’s a brief summary of my history with elected positions:

            In 1982, I was very engaged in issues at the county board, so getting elected was a natural step. I was re-elected in 1984 and 1986, and served six years. I was the youngest member of the board that whole time.

            Then I moved away. A few years later, my wife and I ended up in Ann Arbor.

            In 1998, I ran for state representative. I finished fourth of four in the Democratic primary.

            As I wrote above, once you put yourself out there, you’re on everybody’s list. I was persuaded to run for city council in 1999, and lost by 79 votes.

            It was a narrow escape from getting mired in Ann Arbor city council politics.

            Then, in 2000, the county commissioner representing my district resigned. Given my experience as a county board member in a different county, I was appointed to fill the vacancy, and then elected unopposed to a full 2-year term.

            In 2002, redistricting put me in the same district as a far-better-known incumbent, so I chose not to run again.

            In 2004, I ran for county clerk and register of deeds. Given my passions and interests and knowledge, this was my absolutely ideal job.

            Long story short, I won, ousting my predecessor. I was re-elected in 2008, 2012, and 2016.

        • Machina ex Deus says:

          If you’re running for Drain Commissioner, you should be a walking encyclopedia of drains and their issues. If you’re running for city council, you should be ready to discuss the zoning code with people who have been fighting over it since before you were born.

          Like Gerald Daugherty.

    • sconn says:

      My husband has, and successfully. It’s a local position, but it has some influence and he feels he’s doing something worthwhile.

      His advice generally goes like this:
      1. Get involved right away with a party, whichever one you want to run with (generally a major party), and start volunteering now. You can’t waltz into party headquarters and get support, you pay your dues first by doorknocking and fundraising for other people so they later will do the same for you.
      2. Actually knock doors and make calls while you’re campaigning; on the local level it makes a bigger difference than anything else you can do.
      3. Start small; you’re not winning national office without experience. (Unless you are orange, I guess.)
      4. Realize that it will take a a lot of your time and be mostly thankless, while people will call you at home at all hours to complain about the job they think you’re doing. If it’s part of a council or board, you’ll have to work with other people and you won’t get very much of what you want; however, if you’re good at building coalitions you may stll make a difference so it could still be worth it.

  2. flockoflambs says:

    In the vein of “taking ideas Seriously” I wrote a series of posts about Egregores (like Moloch) based on Lovecraftian gods. Rationalists might enjoy it, especially the first one, a god of transhumanism and singularities and knowledge.

    • Deiseach says:

      Congratulations, you have now made me want to hurry up and die before anything as horrifying as Chthuga pops into existence.

      This is not eternal life, this is being sucked dry of your data and gobbled up then your husk cast aside, like a sucked-dry orange. What part of “me” remains in the “million anonymous masks, who exist for one burst of information, contributing their idea to the pool, then disappearing”? In the collective of “In the realm of AI, it seems much more straightforward to have a single cognitive process that lacks the emotional stubbornness to cling to its accustomed theories, and doesn’t need to be argued out of it at gunpoint or replaced by a new generation of grad students” as argued for by “High Priest Yudkowsky”?

      Chthuga may exist and may store all that information within Her being, but that is something taken over from the billions of minds and lives She absorbed. They don’t continue once She has annihilated them and reduced them to an energy stream to fuel Her existence. To take your ending example:

      It’s like if the most famous movie star were to show up at your high school, and choose you of all people to flirt with and seduce, and She promised you a character based on your appearance would appear in His next box office hit. Can you imagine the thrill? Is that not worth some appreciation? What are the petty indignities of life before that offer of being carried forth into fame.

      And generally what happens with “based on a true story” is that characters are deleted, compressed, melded with others, and new characters invented for the purposes of the story. People who end up in romans à clef often dislike the process intensely, as the end product has little relation to how they perceive themselves, and they often argue “I didn’t do/say that! The situation in the book has been completely misrepresented!” Being “carried forth into fame” may involve being carried forth into infamy, as your character is made the butt or villain so the Star can shine. Your real-life story is forgotten, the movie invention of how things went is what is carried over into popular consciousness and becomes the ‘real’ story.

      I’ll take information loss, languishing in obscurity, and being forgotten forever over being food for a ravenous uncaring Thing and having a caricature of my life and feelings the only memorial of my existence, thanks very much!

      • flockoflambs says:

        Yeah this is exactly right. They are all evil, like Moloch. I’m not trying to sell these guys anymore than Otium is trying to sell Ra.

        The argument you make is also poetically made in the section on Her nemesis, Ithaqua.

        • Deiseach says:

          Ithaqua isn’t any better! Forerunner of the Wendigo which even seeing turns you into a homicidal cannibal monster!

          You are correct that they are all terrible, but I think (my own personal opinion) that you still make Shub-Niggurath sound too relatable. It’s not even about “the wolf could run free and rule” in a feral return to pre-Adamic state, it’s about mere existence itself, life as a kind of infection of matter. Infection being the relevant word here – think more like Nurgle, if Nurgle was less of the caring parental figure he is. Shub-Niggurath is mere organic reproduction – bacteria in a colony, or in an infection – spreading, suppurating rot that exists merely to exist, that reproduces and reproduces without care for “but are all members of this herd healthy, can the environment support them, will they not sicken and starve if their numbers outstrip the resources?”

          The world of Shub-Niggurath is not a pastoral paradise (you’re right there) but it’s not even “the pack of wolves run endlessly across the tundra, alpha predators, wild and free and top of the killing chain”. It’s the sickness that killed the wolf that got an infected scratch, the germs growing and spreading throughout the system. It’s Síle na gig, which in modern interpretations has been kind of tidied up into a basic fertility symbol, but in many carvings is a fiercesome and frightening creature. It’s “They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.”

          I liked the Ra analysis but I think that there again there are parts which are not included or maybe not even considered; Horus versus Ra for instance is not merely about Ra being “false” sovereignty, it’s about Horus as the milder version of the sun – Horus of the Two Horizons, morning and evening, the rising and setting sun. Ra is the noontide sun that glares down and scorches and burns; the inescapable light where there is no shadow to hide. EDIT: Otium has very good breakdown of what Ra encompasses, but where Horus is the sovereign, the king, the guy in charge, Ra is the concept of authority itself and I don’t think they hammer home that enough; if you have a dispute or disagreement with the king, you can call a revolution, but who do you rebel or fight against when it’s Authority itself you are fighting? If you don’t get your rights under a law, you can look for justice and redress – but where do you look for it if it’s Justice itself that is against you? You may be able to see clearly by the light of Horus, but the light of Ra dazzles because it is so bright, so in your eyes, and so inescapable: the searchlight, the limelight, the glare of the flashbulbs popping while you are the subject of their scrutiny, the noonday sun at its height over head in a desert land where there is no shade or shelter from the rays reaching down like hands.

          Ra is the song Eye in the Sky:

          I am the eye in the sky
          Looking at you
          I can read your mind
          I am the maker of rules
          Dealing with fools
          I can cheat you blind
          And I don’t need to see any more
          To know that I can read your mind, I can read your mind

          I do like the analyses of the Egregores, it’s just that I think they’re not terrifying and un-human enough 🙂

          • TheWorst says:

            I thought he went out of his way to make their cultists sound understandable, rather than to make the egregores sound human. The sales pitch, so to speak.

            Like “Tzeentch: God has a plan for you!”

            or “Slaanesh: God loves you, just the way you are!”

            (Also, every other way.)

          • engleberg says:

            Have you read John Michael Greer’s The Weird of Hali? Nyarlathotep as a souped-up Thoreau. Greer has a fine nineteenth-century mind.

            I was totally convinced by Susan Morrow’s The Dawning Moon of the Mind: Egypt’s gods were concepts more than gods. Horus is the circling falcon as concept. Everything else follows: cycles, the sky, falcons are cool, women’s flesh flutters like a falcon’s wings when Unis pokes his snake in their falcon’s mouth, the Moon and Sun are the eyes of Horus because they are in the sky circling, so on.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Hey, another Alan Parsons Project fan.
            Come to think of it, there’s something slightly on the Ra spectrum as a band – their lyrics are usually pretty abstract, their music is very polished (they’re about the least quirky band that gets filed under ‘prog rock’) and they very seldom performed live, which would have made it easier for listeners to connect humanly with the music 🙂

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        It seems to me that in spite of depression and general curmudgeonness, there’s something you like about being embodied, and I’d be interested in anything you have to say about that.

        I rather like being embodied myself, and I’m not convinced that people who like the idea of uploading will do justice to embodied experience and the possibilities of making it better. I do tai chi and such, so what I want from uploading would just be what I have now, but access to the good effects of better movement.

        • Deiseach says:

          Paradoxically, I think it’s because I live in my head a lot (and have done so since childhood). So discarding the fleshly chrysalis and uploading to Silicon Heaven isn’t going to change much for me, as my mind will be the same. And if it’s not, then that isn’t really me if so much has been altered, re-programmed, pared away, added on, etc. so again, what is the point there that it is an improvement over being an ugly bag of mostly water?

          Also, the world is beautiful. That is something I have never been able to deny, even in my most depressed curmudgeonliness. Even with all the crap and human horribleness, beauty exists and is real. The universe is there for its own sake. It’s something along the lines of what Chesterton says about suicide:

          But the suicide insults everything on earth by not stealing it. He defiles every flower by refusing to live for its sake. There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer. When a man hangs himself on a tree, the leaves might fall off in anger and the birds fly away in fury: for each has received a personal affront.

          The transhumanist “it’ll all be better when we’re non-human entities” is that sneer and slap at the rest of creation; yes, and when the Singularity wraps us all in the loving embrace of Fairy Godmother AI, what happens to poor old Earth and the trees and birds and beasts and lowly creeping things and rivers? All turned into computronium to better enable our state of non-physical being? Then indeed the leaves might well fly off the trees in anger and strike us in the face for our greed, selfishness and vanity.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            But the suicide insults everything on earth by not stealing it. He defiles every flower by refusing to live for its sake. There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer. When a man hangs himself on a tree, the leaves might fall off in anger and the birds fly away in fury: for each has received a personal affront.

            I think that suicide is tragic, but mainly because of the way it impacts other people. Even those who think no one loves them usually have someone who would be affected by their loss. And even if someone is truly alone, dying still robs them of the potential for future happiness, so they are in some sense cheating themselves (though I don’t think of it as an affront so much as just a senseless loss).

            It seems arrogant to believe that the birds, trees, or universe in general care about whether we’re alive or dead; it’s an assumption that all of creation is so deeply invested in our fates that every atom in the cosmos gasps in outraged horror when someone chooses to jump in front of a train.

            Really, this metaphor makes the universe sound like a gossipy, self-absorbed teenager. “Can you believe that dumbass who just smeared his brains all over the wall? Now he can’t appreciate how pretty we are!” “ikr? lol what a moron.”

            Does the sunset sulk when humans fail to sufficiently admire its beauty? Do the stars feel neglected when we aren’t waxing poetic about them? Doubt it. I do think the universe is beautiful and awe-inspiring, but that beauty and awe is simply my own mental experience of it.

            If anything, we’re more useful to the trees dead because our bodies can be used as fertilizer. Though I guess we’re exhaling carbon dioxide for them while we’re alive, so either way we’re providing a function. Whether we’re still breathing or simply decomposing is irrelevant. At least from their perspective.

            It is only to humans that humans matter.

          • what happens to poor old Earth and the trees and birds and beasts and lowly creeping things and rivers?

            A possibly relevant poem.

          • Deiseach says:

            It’s equally an insult to think that we are the lords and masters of creation, that we can conquer nature, overcome death, remake ourselves into some kind of universal entity that uses the stars as fuel to ensure our continuing existence.

            The world has a lot more than humans in it. The universe is a lot bigger than us. I know I argue that animals have little to no moral worth compared to humans, but neither do I think that all other living things – animal or vegetable – are just fodder for us either as literal food or metaphorical material to inspire, amuse or divert us.

            It is very arrogant of a human to think that their own unhappiness – and I’m not saying suicidal people aren’t unhappy, in pain or just need to pull themselves together – renders the rest of the world around them meaningless and not worth anything. The suicidal person may have nothing to live for; that does not mean the purpose of the rest of the world is to give them something to live for. Creation exists for its own sake, not for “well I won’t kill myself because the sunset was appropriately pretty to be worth my time”.

            There comes a point where all the pleading about “but things are worthwhile! think of the pain of others! think what you’ll miss!” have no effect on someone who is suicidal, and I think that is fair enough; if someone is in those straits they don’t care because they can’t care. It means nothing to them. But that is a very big step away from saying “nothing means anything and it’s all worthless”. You kill yourself and when you’re in your grave the world will keep on turning, the grass keep on growing, and the birds build their nests, all without reference to you.

            To say “I want it all to stop” and by “all” include the rest of the world and all its beings in it is an insult to the rest of the world and all its beings, because if you don’t want to live for their sake (and no-one can make or force you to do so), then neither do they have no value of their own merely because the scales of your circumstances are weighted down.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            It is very arrogant of a human to think that their own unhappiness – and I’m not saying suicidal people aren’t unhappy, in pain or just need to pull themselves together – renders the rest of the world around them meaningless and not worth anything.

            I would agree, but I also don’t think committing suicide necessarily implies believing this, at least not for everyone. “The world no longer has meaning for me” doesn’t mean “the world no longer has meaning for anyone.” No more than saying “I don’t like ice cream and don’t want to eat it anymore” is an insult to ice cream itself or everyone who does like ice cream.

            There are some suicidal people who say things like “everything sucks, it would be better if everyone just chose to die because continuing to want to live is irrational, given the horror of existence.” I would say they’re mistaken and that it is pretty arrogant for them to make a statement like that about all of reality, so if those are the specific people you’re talking about then I agree. But I also think there are those who choose to die simply because they want to escape from the pain, and it has no bearing on whether they think life is worth living for others.

            The suicidal person may have nothing to live for; that does not mean the purpose of the rest of the world is to give them something to live for. Creation exists for its own sake, not for “well I won’t kill myself because the sunset was appropriately pretty to be worth my time”.

            Agreed, but this perspective doesn’t seem to mesh with the metaphor about angry birds and “a suicide’s death is an insult to the tiniest creature”, etc. If creation exists for its own sake, then it’s profoundly indifferent to whether humans live or die; in some larger cosmic sense, it doesn’t really matter whether we choose life or death, it only matters to us and to the people who will miss us. An individual human’s death (whether chosen or unchosen) is the existential equivalent of a leaf falling off a tree or a candle burning out. It wouldn’t make sense to say “it’s so arrogant and selfish for a candle to burn out–it’s like it expects the rest of the world to give it a reason to keep burning!” The only difference between us and a candle is our fragile and possibly illusory sense of agency.

            That doesn’t mean I don’t want to keep certain candles burning as long as possible, or that we can’t appreciate their light and warmth while they’re here.

            To say “I want it all to stop” and by “all” include the rest of the world and all its beings in it is an insult

            I think people who use this phrase usually intend it figuratively, rather than saying they want the entire world to disappear. Most suicidal people I’ve known don’t wish for the extinction of all beings.

          • carvenvisage says:

            Chesterton is arrogant here, but it’s a respectful arrogance.

            He’s certain something *clearly* supercedes your right to die, but it’s every tiny aspect and entirety, of the universe itself he has crying out against it, not hypothetical sadness of your dog, -so I find his innovative, zealous, and serious hysteria highly refreshing compared to the usual response of distancing platitudes. He’s trying to push you around, but towards life and happiness, and he’s seriously trying- you can’t say he’s trying to fob you off.

            I’d say the main problem with this quote is that it’s coming from a genius/authority in Chesterton saying it. It’s refreshing at the cost of being harsh and unfair, and if it came from someone with less ‘clout’ it would be equally refreshing but easier to ignore the dark side of it where necessary.

            (In general, I think you should be more careful with somehow-admirable but overzealous statements if you’re regarded as an authority than if you’re a voice in the crowd.)

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            Chesterton is arrogant here, but it’s a respectful arrogance…I find his innovative, zealous, and serious hysteria highly refreshing compared to the usual response of distancing platitudes.

            It reminds me of the speech Louie CK gives to his suicidal friend in the episode “Eddie.” There’s a discussion of it here in a Reddit thread: https://www.reddit.com/r/QuotesPorn/comments/215t5v/its_not_your_life_its_life_louis_ck_700x465/?st=j6dui1ti&sh=5d435ee6

            I think the first comment gets it right.

            I mean, what depressed people do or don’t find helpful is a highly subjective thing, so if there are people who find this kind of stuff genuinely inspiring and a motivation to keep living I don’t want to take that from them. But to me this line of thinking has always felt self-righteous and profoundly unhelpful.

          • carvenvisage says:

            I don’t think C.K. was reaching for the stars there. I remember feeling that bit felt dialed out and shallow, and like he was distancing himself from the guy. plus louis CK’s thing has never been zeal or seriousness.

            I think chesterton’s was at least serious. I think chesterton really believes what he says is an absolutely general reason not to commit suicide, while Louis was just repeating the incantation he uses to ward it away from himself personally.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            I think chesterton’s was at least serious.

            I mean, I think he’s emotionally sincere in his moral contempt toward suicidal people, but that was the primary message I got from it: that he is disgusted by their actions. All the rest is just a metaphor for his own emotional/moral gut response.

            If you interpret it literally it’s a very strange message. “Don’t kill yourself. It will really piss off the dandelions.”

            Though it’s possible that he does mean it literally and believes the universe itself is in some way conscious and disapproves of suicide. If someone is of a non-mystical bent, though, or just doesn’t care about pleasing this hypothetical entity, there’s not much there to latch onto.

            Reality is mysterious enough that I’m not willing to completely dismiss the possibility of the universe being conscious, but the idea of it having human moral standards is pretty absurd to me. “The universe hates suicide” seems just as random and arbitrary to me as “the universe disapproves of homosexuality” or “the universe is against the war in Afghanistan.”

          • carvenvisage says:

            The idea in both cases is a shock to hopefully flip someone’s perspective.

            I don’t personally like shock tactics, but CK’s are lazy and dialled out, while chesterton’s are original, tryhard, and general commeasurate with the magnitude of the topic. (even if not very plausible)

            It’s like if a pastor starts trying to convert you by an exorcism, or something equally grandiose. The basic nature of the interaction is disrespectful, but within that context, the pastor who pulls out all the stops is showing you infinitely more respect than one who dials it out and expects you to follow along just because he did the ritual and he’s used to people following his lead.

            In both cases, they are trying to convince you by nothing but their dedication to their belief, -which is fucked up, but the first guy is making a serious effort and trying to impress you, while the second is just carrying out motions.

            So if we’re inclined to overlook people using underhanded suicide prevention tactics out of desperation to avert something so terrible, then, chesterton’s attempt is exemplary in that genre. Whether it has absolute merit is a seperate question. Both could be wrong. But compared to usual fare like ‘all life has value’, I find chesterton’s genuine attempt to overawe you (and dogma of appropriate magnitude) refreshing and even respectful

            (“life isn’t worth living for me” vs “yes it is, stop being annoying”, is an insult. vs “THE VERY HEAVENS CRY OUT AGAINST THE INSULT OF YOUR INGRATITUDE” is insulting, and you’d be within your rights to demand apology, or redress, or a duel, but it’s probably meant well.)

          • BBA says:

            Myself, I’ve always found Dorothy Parker to make the most compelling case.

    • Nick says:

      All mortals must die. And yet there is a cult of them that want to convert our thoughts into electric light, and thereby store what knowledge we have forever. To them, the loss of one life, the loss of one story that no one else will ever remember, is a tragedy unthinkable. They lay awake at night, shuddering with the unfair truth “knowledge can be lost!”

      This is interesting to me. I don’t know how well that actually describes the wider rationalist community, but I have totally had mini-crises about how much knowledge about the ancients we’ve lost, about how many personal stories have never been told, even a good deal of guilt about how bad I am at recording my fleeting thoughts and conversations—especially since I tend to get a lot of sentimental and nostalgic value out of looking at that material later (well actually, with my 13-year-old self, a compulsion to destroy it all instead 😀 ). This impulse to record doesn’t jive well with my feelings that privacy should be available to all, and my revulsion that people’s internet histories get dug up to smear them—and how many figures of history would be comfortable with how much modern man can learn about them? how comfortable would we be with it?—but nonetheless it tugs at me.

      • Collin says:

        It tugs at me too. So much so that I consistently yearn for a technology that would allow for near autonomous, private recording of of a life’s timeline, including specificities the individual deemed important or meaningful. The technology would be free, optional, but encouraged. The archive would (optionally) remain locked after a person’s death but automatically unlock after some maximum period of time (say 100 years). Thus future humans could access a greater amount of data about the present, while those in the present would maintain their real-time privacy.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      In jest: How soon we have acquired enough terminology to discuss all of the problems of human condition metaphorically with obscure names of Elder and Outer Gods and old Egyptian/Mesopotomian/Judeo-Christian beings to the extent that the jargon is totally impenetrable to outsiders and we look as wanna-be Mythos cultists taking a Lovecraftian LARP campaign a bit too seriously?

      Another point. Reading this was a great fun, but long lists like this may not that good chances to permeate through the relevant blogospheres and like. I think Scott’s Moloch has managed to stick around because there was the evocative Ginsberg poem in the first place. Remembering for which things Ra and Sol Invictus and Hastur and Cthulhu and Azathoth are supposed stand for will be difficult.

      • beleester says:

        I don’t think I’d want to use these as actual terminology in a discussion (I’m barely comfortable using Moloch in that regard), especially since you generally don’t need to refer to the abstract thought-pattern when discussing something concrete. E.g., I wouldn’t say “Environmentalism is a Moloch problem,” I’d say “Environmentalism has the problem that externalities aren’t priced into the free market.”

        But as poetic depictions of our psychology, and as a way of explaining my biggest issue with the Lovecraft mythos – why are people so excited to study something that will drive them insane and end the world – I’m extremely impressed. @flockoflambs should feel proud of this even if it doesn’t become jargon.

      • John Schilling says:

        It’s going to get even more confusing when we start invoking our other usual go-to set of metaphors in parallel. I suppose there’s already Harry Potter vs. Cthulhu fanfiction(*) out there, but ours will be more interesting.

        *ETA: Not a request

        • FacelessCraven says:

          “*ETA: Not a request”

          Formal request here, though!

        • Machina ex Deus says:

          Harry Potter vs. Cthulhu fanfiction

          So you’re envisioning an epic battle with unspeakable, mind-bendingly horrific abominations that it is torture or suicide even to think about, whose very existence is an affront against Nature, the tales of which mankind would have been infinitely better off perpetually in ignorance of—against a guy with an octopus for a face?

      • FacelessCraven says:

        @nimim.k.m. – “Remembering for which things Ra and Sol Invictus and Hastur and Cthulhu and Azathoth are supposed stand for will be difficult.”

        Well, Cthulhu is actually already in the canon terminology, due to “Cthulhu always swims left”. Also, Sol Invictus is a Libertarian Candidate for congress.

        • soreff says:

          Well, Cthulhu is actually already in the canon terminology, due to “Cthulhu always swims left”. Also, Sol Invictus is a Libertarian Candidate for congress.

          Would a Cthulhu/Dagon ticket on the ballot have had a nuanced response to
          CO2 increases: Favoring sea level rise, but opposing coral bleaching? 🙂

    • Peffern says:

      These are extremely evocative, in the sense that they have evoked some feelings. You have put into words many things that deeply disturb me about myself and human nature. You deserve the highest praise for your ability to create such writing, and I think I hate you for what you have done to my head.

    • ayegill says:

      This was really enjoyable. Thank you for writing this.

  3. Telminha says:

    I usually try to read all the comments, but I never pay attention to the names, so I cannot recommend anyone.
    I never participate in the discussions; I’m not very confident in my English skills, but I truly enjoy reading the articles and the comment section. Lots of interesting people here.
    Also, I wanted to say hi to everyone. I’m from Brazil and currently live in the US. I’m an ex-Mormon and atheist. I’m curious to know if there are any Brazilians around here and followers of Stoic philosophy. Vale.

    • dndnrsn says:

      For what it’s worth, if this post is representative of your English skills, they’re fine.

      • Telminha says:

        Thank you. I can communicate at a basic level, but I wish I was able to convey more complex ideas in English. — Who I am kidding? I don’t have any complex ideas to share, but I try to understand some.
        I remember a long time ago, when I lived in Brazil, they used to say “Esperanto will be the universal language of the future!” It’d have been nice.
        If someone ever asked me to choose a universal language that would be Tamarian, but they say a purely metaphorical language is not possible.

    • Nuño says:

      Was that “Vale” meant as reference to the Quijote’s ending? I’m interested in Stoic philosophy, somewhat.

      • Orpheus says:

        Vale is a greeting in latin, me thinks.

        • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

          well, technically a farewell (but for all I know maybe linguists classify greetings and farewells as the same thing). Simply translating it as “goodbye” works.

          Part of one of my favorite Latin phrases, typically said at the closing of plays – valete et plaudite

          “Goodbye – and applaud us!”

      • Telminha says:

        After reading your comment I had to visit the past for a few minutes. Don Quixote was the first hardcover book I ever had; bought it from a traveling salesman. It was red with beautiful golden details. I don’t remember much of the story, unfortunately, but only that I liked Sancho Panza, the proverbs and that “Vale” was the last word.

        Seneca finishes his letters to Lucillius with the word “Vale” — “Farewell”, “Wish you well”. Perhaps there is also a philosophical meaning: death. Seneca could die any day and every letter could be his last.
        Have you read Meditations? I find it beautiful. I have to block the idea of a Logos, but it works for me. After becoming an atheist, I had to find some type of consolation and philosophy seemed to be a good one.

    • hlynkacg says:

      First off, when it comes to English skills, practice make perfect, so please participate.

      I am neither Brazillian, nor an Atheist but I am a fan of Stoic Philosophy and the Skeptics (the old fashioned kind, not the fashionable kind). If I had to point to specific works that had a profound influence on my personal outlook Meditations and Montaigne’s Essays are near the top the list.

      • Telminha says:

        I used to participate in a Stoic group for a while and although most in that group were atheists, there were some deists, pantheists and Christians.
        I still like certain aspects of religion and honestly, if it were my decision, I would choose to have some sort of faith.
        I have never read Montaigne’ Essays. I’ll add them to my reading list. Thank you.

        • Randy M says:

          I love the idea of stoic groups (have you read A Man in Full?) and if I can make a stereotypical joke without being offensive, I’m amused by the thought of small talk at one.
          “So, how’s it going?”
          “Can’t complain.”
          “Didn’t your house catch on fire?”
          “Yes.”

          • CatCube says:

            One of my PFCs who worked in my headquarters, when asked how things were going would say, “Can’t complain. It wouldn’t do any good anyway!”

          • Telminha says:

            Hi! Hello! How are you, Randy? What’s your favorite color? 😉

            I have not read the book, but it is on my reading list. Several people have recommended it on the account of Epictetus’s teachings.

            There are Stoic groups as well as Cynic and Epicurean groups (the Stoics’ outgroup). They say pleasure is the only good; we say it’s virtue.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      I’m not very confident in my English skills, but I truly enjoy reading the articles and the comment section.

      As a fellow non-native English speakier, this is a familiar feeling to me. I’m sure as … something I’m quite sure about … that I manage to introduce mangled idioms and ungrammatical constructs to almost every comment I write here (and then I occasionally wonder if people simply do not understand what I’m saying). But I’ve also noticed that writing in English helps with maintaining your active vocabulary (I’d like to say it improves my English, but one really doesn’t have direct feedback so it’s difficult to say).

      • hlynkacg says:

        I’d say you’re doing pretty well.

      • Telminha says:

        I agree with hlynkcg.
        I also try to write in English; short stories that I don’t share with anyone. I think it is very helpful in improving vocabulary. That practice, along with watching all the Star Trek series (caption on), helped me greatly when I first moved here and didn’t speak any English.
        “How are you, Telma?”I am operating within established parameters.

    • moscanarius says:

      As a fellow countryman, I think your English looks good in written form. If your speech is similar to your writing you may have fewer problems than you think.

      (And please, if you want to participate here don’t feel intimidated. I myself seldom comment, but it’s mainly because I don’t have much to say that has not been previously covered by the time I arrive in the thread)

      • Telminha says:

        Obrigada! I’ve been trying to improve my accent for some time, but I’m not seeing much improvement. Words like world are the worse. I also avoid saying beach, sheet and Immanuel Kant. They often come out wrong. 🙂
        I’m from Piauí and live in Texas. Espero que tudo esteja bem por aí.

        • engleberg says:

          Smart Latins I know in America who think they can’t improve their accents tend to be torn between wanting to sound more Merican and, well, that gringo who honks out his nose? The pendejo with lifeless vowels? Never rolled over an r or a woman? Not like him.

          If I was you I’d watch an old British Army movie and imitate a character you like. Maybe The Four Feathers.

          Talking through your nose while focusing on consonants and meaning rather than vowels is actually a good strong sign of English heritage, dating at least to the Danelaw by way of Puritans and studly settlers. But if it ain’t you, it ain’t you.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Seu inglês parece muito melhor que meu português, e eu tenho praticado mais o menos o ano passado 🙂
      Mas não sabia que eram muitos Mórmons brasileiros. É uma comunidade grande?

      • Telminha says:

        Thank you. Você escreve português muito bem. Why were you studying Portuguese?
        Yes, if I’m not mistaken, Brazil is third in number of members, only behind US and Mexico.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          Estava relacionado com uma Brasileira. But I could previously understand a little bit from some learn-the-basics-in-time-for-a-holiday and can in fact recommend Porto as a beautiful city to visit, if you haven’t already been.

  4. bean says:

    Naval Gazing
    Why the carriers are not doomed, part 4: Submarines

    The most important thing to know about modern submarines is that they are not all the same. There are two types of attack submarines (as opposed to missile submarines or other special types): diesel-electric propulsion (SS) and nuclear propulsion (SSN). SSNs are in a lot of ways the closest thing we have to capital ships today, the USN’s preferred anti-shipping platform. They are strategically and tactically mobile, fast, and generally very effective. Diesel submarines are not. They are best described as mobile minefields, very dangerous in confined or shallow waters, but only a threat to a carrier group in the open sea if the carrier happens to stumble over it by accident.

    So we’ll examine the SSN threat first. These are limited to a very small number of countries. Enemyistan doesn’t have any. China has 10, but they’re not particularly good ones. The best estimates I have on their Type 93 submarines puts them on broadly the same level of acoustic performance as the early US Los Angeles-class submarines of the mid-70s. Modern US SSNs are much quieter, and we have a total of 52 in commission.

    The most important principle of submarine warfare is stealth, and speed is the enemy of stealth. High speed both reduces the effectiveness of sonar and makes the submarine (or ship) noisier. The usual solution is sprint and drift, where the submarine transits at high speed, occasionally slowing to listen. This focus on stealth also means that submarines avoid using active sonar (pinging and listening for echoes) in favor of passive sonar (just listening). They still have the capability, but it’s very rarely used.

    Just like every other means of attacking a carrier, an SSN needs targeting data. Practical sonar ranges are a very complicated subject, but I’d estimate that a submarine would need to be steered to within 100 nm or so to be able to detect a carrier and close on its own to the 8 nm or so that is the outer limit of practical torpedo range. Even then, it has to be careful. If the CVBG suspects a submarine threat, it will be doing what it can to make the submarine’s life difficult and short.

    This starts at the highest level. During the Cold War, the biggest threat to US sea power was the Soviet submarine fleet. One of our main weapons was SOSUS, a network of very sensitive fixed sonar arrays placed in choke points around the world, to provide broad targeting data to various ASW (anti-submarine warfare) forces, which would then localize and destroy the submarines. (Yes, this is very similar to the problem of finding carriers to destroy them.) The system still exists, and has reasonable coverage in the western Pacific. A hostile submarine detected by SOSUS will probably be localized and attacked by a maritime patrol aircraft like a P-8. Alternately, some sectors may be assigned to US SSNs, which are slower but have greater staying power. Even if the US cannot manage an attack, the carrier is at least warned.

    The next layer is the carrier’s own ASW power. Sometimes, submarines are assigned to work as escorts to a carrier group, although the same invisibility that protects submarines also makes it hard to coordinate them with surface forces. All US CGs and DDGs carry at least a bow sonar, and many have towed-array sonars as well. One or more of them might be assigned to do sprint-and-drift of their own, to pick up any shadowing submarines. If the submarine is detected, it will be investigated and hopefully localized by the CVBG’s ASW helicopters (which might also be on speculative patrol. hlynkacg knows more about those than I do), and then attacked by either VL-ASROC (a vertically-launched torpedo-carrying missile) or helicopter-dropped torpedoes.

    The obvious next question is if a submarine can launch missiles to avoid having to get too close to a carrier group. I don’t expect this to be a particularly healthy choice, either. At best, a Chinese submarine might be able to launch 18 SSMs in a single salvo. Even with the benefits of popping up under the radar horizon, this is not enough to overwhelm AEGIS. The launch of the missiles is quite noisy, and AEGIS is set up to be cued by the sonar detection of said launch transients and begin looking in that direction. The patch of sea near the submarine is also going to be an unhealthy place to be very quickly, as every weapon available will be headed towards it to kill it before it can slip away.

    ASW is probably the most mysterious area of naval warfare, and I’m less willing to put hard numbers on my guesses here than I am in most fields. However, this is another area where the threat has massively decreased since the 1980s. I believe that signal processing has improved faster than submarine quieting, and the scale of the threat has declined massively. Russia has less than 20 SSNs in service today, and China has 10. At the height of the Cold War, the Russians had over 60. At the time, the US believed it could fight and win the war against them.

    But what about diesel submarines? I’ve already mentioned their lack of strategic mobility, but in littoral waters, they’re even quieter than nuclear submarines (which always make some noise due to the impossibility of switching the reactor completely off), and quite cheap. They are a very real threat in choke points, like the Strait of Hormuz. This is where most ASW research is going on today, but the results are (obviously) classified. New sonar software is improving active sonar capabilities in shallow water, and there are several projects to use unmanned underwater and surface vehicles for littoral ASW. This is a fantastically complicated area, and I don’t have enough information to make any prediction, beyond that it looks like the battle, like so many, could go either way depending on tactics and circumstances.

    • bean says:

      Naval Gazing
      Index
      I’m a former volunteer at the USS Iowa in Los Angeles (and am in the process of moving, which is why I stopped), and I enjoy explaining battleships so much that I’ve been doing it here for quite a while, and am gradually spreading out into other naval/defense areas. This is my index of the current posts, updated so that I don’t have to ask Scott to put up a link when the previous index gets locked down. Please don’t post a reply to this index comment so I can keep it updated as new ones get published and the new posts are easy to find.

      History:
      General History of Battleships, Part 1 and Part 2
      The Early Ironclads
      Pre-Dreadnoughts
      The loss of HMS Victoria
      The Battle of Jutland: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6
      US Battleships in WW2
      Rest-of-world Battleships in WW2
      Battlecruisers
      Battleships after WW2
      The Destroyer that accidentally attacked a President
      The South American Dreadnought Race
      Dreadnoughts of the minor powers
      Life aboard Iowa
      The Battleships of Pearl Harbor Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

      Technical:
      Fire Control
      History of Fire Control
      Armor, Part 1 and Part 2
      Propulsion
      Armament Part 1 and Part 2
      Turret vs barbette
      Underwater protection
      Secondary Armament, Part 1 and Part 2
      Survivability and Damage Control Part 1

      Modern Naval:
      Why the carriers are not doomed Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
      AEGIS
      Strike Warfare

      Misc:
      Battleship Bibliography
      Thoughts on tour guiding
      Questions I get as a tour guide

    • Aapje says:

      @bean

      How do they determine friend or foe using SOSUS? Do they determine that using sonar profiles or do they contact allies and semi-allies to ask them if their sub is at the choke point? Or are allies and semi-allies expected to report their plans in advance?

      • bean says:

        Sonar profiles. Often, they can identify what specific vessel they’re hearing, but even if that isn’t possible, it’s usually relatively easy to figure out the class.

      • hlynkacg says:

        As Bean said, sonar profiles. Propeller noise is rather distinctive and even a reasonably basic passive sonar set will allow a competent operator to determine RPM, blade count, and possibly reduction ratio. This isn’t necessarily enough to make a positive ID but it’ll separate merchant vessels from likely combatants and potential submarines from surface traffic.

        The real challenge is resolving a passive contact (noise the water) into a firm position and track.

    • neaanopri says:

      Is there a way that an adversary could deploy noise-creating microphones in littoral waters to further disguise SS’s?

      • Protagoras says:

        One obvious problem with trying to confuse potential enemies with misleading noises is that the subs themselves mostly use sound to detect enemies. Unless your side’s subs can identify and designate as irrelevant all the distracting noises (probably only possible if there aren’t very many of them and they are at least a little distinctive, which makes it more likely that the enemy will find a way to ignore them too), this will reduce the effectiveness of your subs.

        • cassander says:

          With EM jamming, If you know the frequencies of bogus noise, or can make noise makers that have programmed breaks in the noise generation, you can work around it fairly easily. That’s how, for example, jamming aircraft work. In principle the same logic applies to sound (the math for sonar and radar is very similar, the constants are different not the formulas) but in practice I’ll bet it is harder because of the greater complexity of the ambient environment.

      • bean says:

        Littoral subhunting is mostly done with active sonar. SSs at low speed are just too quiet. That said, they can’t recharge their batteries quietly, so there are limits on their endurance in that configuration. But adding more noise is just going to result in your microphones being located and destroyed. It’s probably not worth the effort.

    • cassander says:

      I don’t disagree with anything you said bean, but you didn’t really mention the two biggest problems with submarines, communication and torpedos.

      Subs have always had issues with communication. Communication with submarines is a direct assault on their stealth. Modern coms make it possible to send messages to submarines fairly safely with very low frequency radios, but these are limited in bandwidth and must be widely broadcast, making them vulnerable to traffic analysis. Subs have even more trouble talking back, as they can’t broadcast without revealing their position to someone who’s listening. The rest of the navy is working on bringing together a single operational picture, basically making all of the sensors on every platform in the fleet constantly talk to one another so that all their data is shared into a single network, but submarines remain largely outside of this process. This will make it easier for future fleets to defend against them, and harder for enemy subs to get into position to attack.

      Torpedoes are another limiting factor. In one sense, torpedos are an amazing weapon. because they strike underwater, their blows are extremely lethal. The fluid dynamics of underwater explosions makes them effectively much more powerful than the same amount of explosive above water and because you’re hitting the ship underwater, every blow is potentially lethal. As a result it’s difficult and expensive to protect ships against underwater explosions. That said, compared to other naval weapons, torpedoes are slow and short ranged. the main US torpedo has a range of something like 30 miles. And remember ships are always moving, unless you’re ahead of your target, effective range is even lower than that. In naval terms, that is very close.

      That said, the navy is working on both problems.

      • bean says:

        Satellites help a lot with comms. You have to come to periscope depth, but you can transmit without much fear of interception, and the downlink is harder to intercept than it would be for VLF/ELF (which are also absurdly low-bandwidth.) But yes, you aren’t going to net like surface ships can.

        I did mention the short effective range of torpedoes, although I didn’t dwell on it. Submarine warfare might well be worth its own post. In this one, I was mostly dealing with them from an anti-access perspective.

    • Vermillion says:

      I don’t imagine there’s much overlap between SSC and The Toast but this post reminded me strongly of their recent viewing of Hunt For The Red October and I bet some of you’ll get a kick out of it.

      MALLORY: so I saw for the first time in my life the greatest movie ever made by human hands this week at your house
      a movie that i thought was about what a good idea it is to blow up nuclear submarines
      but was in fact about what a good idea it is to NOT blow up nuclear submarines

    • hlynkacg says:

      Speaking of underwater threats to carriers do you know anything about the recent Staple Head exercise off San Clemente? I’ve always dismissed these games as absurd SWO shit, but I’m hearing from my friends on Catalina and SCI that they actually embarked the air wing for this iteration and were even doing live fire exercises. This seems at odds with the Navy’s stated intent to get rid of NMMP by 2018. Has something changed?

      • bean says:

        Something seems to have changed. It was definitely interesting, particularly the introduction of live-fire training, which indicates that there’s been a serious change in USN thinking WRT 3MS. Maybe they’ve found some improvement in Russian or Chinese counter-countermeasures. I also didn’t see any reports of beachings, which I think indicates that they’ve turned down the emphasis on non-lethal countermeasures, although it’s just possible those have gotten more specific. It looks like the torpedoes worked pretty well, although the range on those is pretty short for surface launch. They’ll probably have to update missile fusing before those will be effective.
        Not sure how this is going to tie in to the retirement of the NMMP. They may just set up a parallel program for the bits they need to keep. Also, the reports I’ve seen say that there was something called the Mk 221, which apparently worked really well. I’ll keep an eye out for more reports on that.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Do you think the controversy (and media attention) surrounding the earlier exercises lead the Navy to embrace more active countermeasures? I understand the logic but that’s some deep dark irony if it’s the case.

          I’m assuming the Torps were Mk 46s (unless they have a specialized variant of the storied anti-torpedo-torpedo) bat any word on what sort of missiles they were using? Hellfires would explain the air wing’s involvement (unless the Navy’s developed a seaborne-mount for it in the last 5 years*), but Harpoons have the benefit of nominative determinism.

          *I don’t know why they haven’t already done so seeing as how Boeing makes a land-based launcher that mates to the Striker LAV. I’m imagining some surface warfare procurement officer somewhere reading the whitepaper and rejecting it for being entirely too practical and not “transformative” enough.

          • bean says:

            Do you think the controversy (and media attention) surrounding the earlier exercises lead the Navy to embrace more active countermeasures? I understand the logic but that’s some deep dark irony if it’s the case.

            I wouldn’t be surprised. Do I detect the Hand of Mattis at work here?

            I’m assuming the Torps were Mk 46s (unless they have a specialized variant of the storied anti-torpedo-torpedo)

            I’d assume Mk 46 too. It’s available and fast enough (I think) to do the job. I’d honestly be worried about the anti-torpedo-torpedo having a big enough warhead.

            bat any word on what sort of missiles they were using? Hellfires would explain the air wing’s involvement (unless the Navy’s developed a seaborne-mount for it in the last 5 years*), but Harpoons have the benefit of nominative determinism.

            I thought that the LCS was getting Hellfires. But I’d have to check and see if any of them were working during the exercise. Also, I suspect that surface-launched missiles are not a good option here. The controllers would presumably keep them totally submerged near the target, and they aren’t on the surface that long.
            But Harpoon would be an excellent case of nominative determinism. Can a helicopter carry them, or are they going to have to break out the Hornets for that?

        • John Schilling says:

          I seem to recall something about “3MC” for Marine Mammal Mitigation Concepts; did some idiot turn that into a Program or a System? Too many acronyms to keep track of, and they keep changing them just to weed out the unhip (see also C3I->C4ISTAR, LGB->LGBTTQQIAAP).

          If this has gone to testing hardkill weapons, that’s probably unwarranted by any actual threat, so yeah “absurd SWO shit”. And I’m up for any excuse for a Harpoon live-fire exercise, but I can’t see any basis but, as bean says, nominative determinism.

          As a concept, sure – the USN isn’t going to use marine mammals for anything but minehunting and counterdiver operations for both practical and ethical reasons, but e.g. the USSR wasn’t big on either practicality or ethics when they turned man’s best friend and oldest partner into a kamikaze tank-hunter. It’s always better to have to have a file folder with the plans for “what to do if enemyistan actually does this damn fool thing” rather than making it up on the fly, so long as no actual marine mammals are harmed in making that file folder.

          But, concerns with adverse PR aside, this seems like a job for softer countermeasures. There’s been a bit of publicity and research about how active sonar apparently causes pain and disorientation in whales, etc; possibly the Navy has been looking into this as a deliberate rather than incidental effect? Me, I’d suggest just dropping active sonobouys set to mimic whale mating calls or whatever, let them frolic somewhere safe while we get on with business.

          And, sure, do the math on how you’d go about targeting a whale with a Mark 46 if you had to, but how would you even test that realistically?

          • bean says:

            possibly the Navy has been looking into this as a deliberate rather than incidental effect?

            That was my understanding.

            And, sure, do the math on how you’d go about targeting a whale with a Mark 46 if you had to, but how would you even test that realistically?

            Simple enough. Just fit it with a block of an appropriate-density material instead of a warhead, and maybe some system (airbag? water brake?) to keep it from hurting the target.

            Me, I’d suggest just dropping active sonobouys set to mimic whale mating calls or whatever, let them frolic somewhere safe while we get on with business.

            That seems like it could be countered with what is essentially high-tech hearing protection for the whales.

          • John Schilling says:

            Just fit it with a block of an appropriate-density material instead of a warhead, and maybe some system (airbag? water brake?) to keep it from hurting the target.

            Pretty sure the first actual airbag didn’t work properly the first time it was activated, leading to a severely traumatized crash-test dummy. That’s part of what you’d be testing, and preferably without ramming a whale with 500 lbs of metal doing 40+ knots.

            That seems like it could be countered with what is essentially high-tech hearing protection for the whales.

            Ah, so Enemyistan is going to be sending whales with earmuffs to reconnoiter and maybe attack our aircraft carriers? Seems that would neutralize the threat right there – the only point of using marine mammals in the first place, ours or hypothetically theirs, is that their sonar has a few million years of evolutionary optimization behind it. Anyone who thinks they know how to filter that for superior effect, might as well design their own system from scratch and leave the poor whales out of it.

      • beoShaffer says:

        What were the Staple Head exercises? Searching is just giving me information on first aid for morons people with staples in their head.

        • bean says:

          Searching is just giving me information on first aid for morons people with staples in their head.

          Interesting. That may have been intentional on the part of whoever picked the name, or they may have just been lucky to get Staple Hand on the DoD Random Name table.

          Staple Head is an exercise to test Marine Mammal Mitigation Systems. There have been persistent rumors that the Russians and maybe the Chinese are experimenting with weaponized marine mammals, mostly whales. It’s probably just the SWOs inventing threats, but you never know.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Is there any plausibility to that scene in Red October where the sonar tech hears the Russians singing? Put another way: when a sub is running quiet, how restrictive is it for the folks on board?

      • bean says:

        Fairly restrictive, IIRC. The Ohio-class SSBNs are usually credited with being quieter than the ocean background, and I’ve even heard double or maybe low triple-digit watts given as power radiation.
        When rigged for ultraquiet operation, it’s my understanding that cooking is often suspended to avoid metal pots on metal grates, and that even a dropped wrench can potentially give the game away.

      • Dissonant Cognizance says:

        Depending on how serious the situation is, rigging for ultra-quiet can include restricting everyone not on watch to their racks, and minimizing loudspeaker announcements.

        Then there’s also the standard sound-deadening steps like requiring a set of comfy sneakers to wear underway, as the standard-issue steel-toe boots get loud in aggregate.

        • Deiseach says:

          Then there’s also the standard sound-deadening steps like requiring a set of comfy sneakers to wear underway, as the standard-issue steel-toe boots get loud in aggregate.

          “Men, the situation is grim – break out…

          … THE COMFY CLOTHING!”

          🙂

    • tscharf says:

      A bit off topic, but it seems to me that the new destroyers look like they may be submersible? Maybe not very deep but enough to potentially avoid missile strikes?

      Is this something they would try to do? Is it all just for stealth?

      • bean says:

        The Zumwalts? They look like that because they’re supposed to be stealthy. In practice, they’re much more likely to become submarines than anyone really wants in a surface ship, but without the capability to surface again.
        Snark at a terrible design aside, it just wouldn’t be worth the downsides. Making something submerge at all is pretty hard, and the tradeoffs in trying to make a destroyer do it are going to leave you with an even worse design than the Zumwalts are.

        • Deiseach says:

          the new destroyers look like they may be submersible?

          In practice, they’re much more likely to become submarines

          With all the criticism of the Zumwalts, I would have thought the attitude there was “We can only hope”? 🙂

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Bean – do you have anything interesting to say about the threat environment in the Falkland war? (Seems interesting as something modern enough to have real anti-shipping missile engagements, but predated real CIWS or, as far as I can tell, the ability to generate intercepts (or so HMS Sheffield’s experience would say.)

      (As far as I can tell, the Falklands are the only meaningful naval engagement between anything approximating first-rate powers (okay, Argentina barely counts, but better than Iran…) since, what, 1945?
      I do wish–well, okay, I don’t wish there had been more wars in the world, that’d be crazy, but from a purely informational perspective, wouldn’t it have been interesting if first-rate navies had actually tested ships in meaningful combat every ten years or so since WW2?)

      • bean says:

        Bean – do you have anything interesting to say about the threat environment in the Falkland war?

        Yes, but I think I’m going to do a discussion of the Falklands as a separate post/series of posts. Thanks for the idea.

        (Seems interesting as something modern enough to have real anti-shipping missile engagements, but predated real CIWS or, as far as I can tell, the ability to generate intercepts (or so HMS Sheffield’s experience would say.)

        It was more complicated than that. I have a fair bit of information, but it will take time to pull it together.

        (As far as I can tell, the Falklands are the only meaningful naval engagement between anything approximating first-rate powers (okay, Argentina barely counts, but better than Iran…) since, what, 1945?

        Indeed, and I remember that when growing up, the older military books in the children’s section of the library often predated Desert Storm, and it was the last air/naval war fought. A very interesting conflict, often overlooked these days.

        I do wish–well, okay, I don’t wish there had been more wars in the world, that’d be crazy, but from a purely informational perspective, wouldn’t it have been interesting if first-rate navies had actually tested ships in meaningful combat every ten years or so since WW2?)

        It would indeed have been very interesting. The Falklands, for all the limits of the Argentinians, are the only good example of modern naval warfare.

    • thad says:

      When you say “the impossibility of switching the reactor completely off” I assume you’re talking about the associated pumps, or perhaps the generator, yes? I would think the reactor itself wouldn’t need to make noise.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Yeah, this refers to pumps in the coolant system. (The reactor won’t make noise–to my knowledge–until it melts down and destroys the sub, without them. I suppose there may be some localized boiling in the pressurized primary loop even without pumps, but since you can’t turn off the pumps…)

      • cassander says:

        modern submarine reactors rely on natural circulation (or at least can be, not sure if the S9G is designed that way) and don’t need pumps at low power. but the turbine will still make noise. Diesel submarines can operate on battery power which has no moving parts, and thus almost no noise.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          Wait, really? My fairly ancient book on naval engineering implied everything is pumped in PWR (though it’s really looking at surface ships), unless I misread it. Has that changed? I didn’t know that was possible / safe. (For that matter, does/can natural circulation improve passive safety, now that I think about it?)

          Learn something new every day.

          • cassander says:

            Most PWRs have pumps. and so do naval reactors, actually, but reactor is specifically designed so that at low power, the heat differential between the top and bottom of the reactor is enough to drive the circulation without them. And yes, it does improve safety, because you don’t have to worry about the reactor overheating if the pumps break. As I recall, though, it posed some uncomfortable compromises in reactor shape, as natural circulation required a relatively tall reactor, which caused design issues.

          • bean says:

            The first US natural circulation reactor was, IIRC, on the USS Nautilus, which was said to spend more time off the Soviet coast than most of their ships did. It was then adopted for the Ohio-class submarines. I recall hearing that at low speeds modern attack subs can operate without pumps, but I couldn’t source it offhand.
            Other than that, cassander, stop stealing my lines!

      • bean says:

        Yes. Pretty much what cassander says, although IIRC, even natural circulation makes a bit of noise. Probably not detectable on an Ohio, but you might be able to pick it up on a smaller and less well-silenced boat.

  5. Matt M says:

    I have a religious question.

    What’s the deal with the implausibly-long lifespans in the old testament?

    I feel like there’s usually some sort of scientific or at least rhetorical justification for most of the weird stuff we find in the Bible. “Explanations” for the flood, for the parting of the red sea, etc. Our host here recently contributed a theory that the story of Joseph was based on a certain Egyptian pharaoh.

    But I’ve never heard this addressed. Are we really supposed to believe people used to live several hundred years, then stopped? Why did they live so long? And why don’t they anymore? Is this based on anything at all, or is it sheer fabrication designed to make your religion seem cool by claiming its holy men can live a really long time (conveniently stopping this claim once people started keeping historical records). Are there sects of orthodox judaism or fundamentalist christianity who take this literally and actually believe these people lived that long?

    • entobat says:

      The “standard” explanation I’m familiar with is that God began decreasing human lifespan after the flood. See Genesis 11:10-32, where the lifespans of sires in successive generations are 600, 438, 433, 464, 239, 239, 230, 148, and 205. This is nothing compared to your Adams and Methuselahs, and certainly trending downward.

      As for whether or not there are people who believe these lifespans are factually true—of course! You may know that the Jewish calendar is now in the year 5777; what you may not know is that this is time measured since creation. How do we know when creation was? The biblical genealogy enables us to trace how much time elapsed between Adam and Moses, and we know when Moses was born because *mumbles*.

      Edit to add: I’m rather disappointed that I will probably *not* live for 200+ years, since there is a rabinically imposed deadline for the Messiah in the year 6000 and I’d like to see how they deal with that when it comes up.

      • HFARationalist says:

        LOL that will be weird. I mean a Messiah is supposed to exist but he does not show up on time.

        I think Rabbinical authorities will twist everything uncomfortable to fit reality in a way similar to how they dealt with the destruction of the Second Temple.

      • Uncle Saturday says:

        Did the word for lunar month get mixed up with the word for solar year at some point? If those lifespans are in months they’re at least vaguely plausible…

      • Jaskologist says:

        There is a claim out there that the decline in lifespan follows an exponential decay (here or here). Anybody have the chops to determine if that is true and/or significant? (Where’s biblicalsausage when you need him?)

    • HFARationalist says:

      May I ask whether you are religious or secular?

    • Nick says:

      Are there sects of orthodox judaism or fundamentalist christianity who take this literally and actually believe these people lived that long?

      Perhaps, like Tertullian, they believe because it is absurd. 😛

      • HFARationalist says:

        At least such beliefs are relatively harmless. I would be more worried about the more harmful beliefs though.

        For example beliefs that prayers can be used to replace medicine can be deadly.

        • Nick says:

          I was just making a silly joke based on the title thread: Credo quia absurdum is a paraphrase of Tertullian and means “I believe because it is absurd.” I take every excuse to use that classics degree I can find. 🙂

          • Mary says:

            Which, of course, in context means, “It’s absurd to believe that anyone would make up anything this crazy.”

          • Nick says:

            Yeah. Criterion of embarrassment, as my theology teacher would have put it. If the gospel writers wanted to make up something maximally believable, they wouldn’t have made up unbelievable things.

          • Jiro says:

            But they could have anticipated that reaction and deliberately made them “unbelievable” so people would react that way and believe them.

            Besides, Muhammed did a lot of similarly unbelievable things and Christians don’t believe those.

          • Mary says:

            Muhammed, please note, didn’t die for them. In fact, they tended to make his life better.

          • Deiseach says:

            Besides, Muhammed did a lot of similarly unbelievable things and Christians don’t believe those.

            Not having read the Quran, can anyone tell me if there’s an equivalent to my personal favourite anecdote, the “He’s mad we didn’t bring a packed lunch” episode from the Gospels?

            Mark 8: 5-12

            5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

          • Not having read the Quran, can anyone tell me if there’s an equivalent to my personal favourite anecdote, the “He’s mad we didn’t bring a packed lunch” episode from the Gospels?

            For anecdotes about Mohammed you mostly want the hadith, not the Quran. There is a tradition of an incident where a whole lot of people follow Mohammed to a meal, I think one he has been invited to. There is only one sheep to make the dinner out of, but it feeds everyone.

            By memory, so I may have the details wrong.

            Muhammed, please note, didn’t die for them. In fact, they tended to make his life better.

            In the early part of his life, they made it worse–resulted in his being reviled by his fellow tribesmen, who eventually tried to kill him, and having to flee from Mecca to Medina. Once there, he seems to have lived a pretty hard life for a while, gone often hungry.

          • Protagoras says:

            The criterion of embarrassment only shows that someone isn’t really familiar with any religion other than Christianity. Look into almost any religion and it won’t take you long to find the crazy.

    • James Banks says:

      Yes, there are sects or subcultures of Christianity that believe this literally happened. Do they “actually believe”? One could question that in the “age of the wireless”, but I think some of them do. It’s not a particularly crazy belief if you believe in God. The Flood is brought to bear on this. It appears that lifespans became shorter after the Flood. So creationists tend to say that the Earth was physically more hospitable before the Flood. There was a lot of moisture in the atmosphere which formed a “canopy” which kept out cosmic rays. Then, the canopy fell out of the sky and flooded the Earth.

      Looking at it from a rhetorical perspective… suppose the OT was mostly written sometime after going into captivity, as a form of ethnic memory to keep the Jewish people going (I think that’s about the time when secular scholars think most of the OT was written). I don’t know that the OT taken as a whole is 100% about ethnic self-aggrandizement. There’s a kind of tragic strain throughout. You could see this even in the long lifespans. They went away after the Flood. (It took some time, it seems. Maybe the cosmic rays built up a mutation load over time?) You could look at the time between the Fall and the Flood as an experiment, God seeing if humanity could work out, even given the possibility of sin revealed by the Fall. The Flood was a moment where God realized, no, it wasn’t working out. One thing that helps when you have a lot of sinful people is to limit their power (Tower of Babel, or even maybe this is a way to approach AI risk?), and long lifespans could certainly help people be powerful. So the pre-Flood amazing lifespans might easily have been looked on with wistfulness, like “what kind of people could we be if only we weren’t sinful?”

      Would this rhetorical device help the Jewish people keep going? Yes, I think so, by grounding them in a different way of looking at the world than the wonderfully naive point of view of their hero-worshiping (self-aggrandizing?) neighbors. (I say this having read the Epic of Gilgamesh, which I could take as a representative of Babylonian culture. I found it very beautiful, yet, still naive or childlike (or childish?) from a post-Jewish (modern?) perspective.) This would distinguish them from their neighbors and keep them from assimilating.

      A people group needs both identity (don’t assimilate) and encouragement (keep living). People in a tragic circumstance (such as captivity / loss of nationhood) would want both Jeremiah’s “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (32:27) and the recognition of the tragic element in life (through the God who seems to make mistakes, as in 1 Sam. 15 or the Flood account, or through the weird inevitability of sin, as in the Garden of Eden). People could gain strength from something like “Things are messed up. We messed up. Somehow God will rescue us someday”.

      • HFARationalist says:

        I agree that a people groups needs identity even when non-assimilation is bad for their members. This is another reason why we need to be wary of having too many identities related to ancestry.

        Groups sometimes need woo to exist. It is up to us to reject woo for the sake of our own interests.

      • A1987dM says:

        There was a lot of moisture in the atmosphere which formed a “canopy” which kept out cosmic rays.

        As a cosmic ray physicist, aaaaaaaaargh

        • John Schilling says:

          Be fair. We are talking about enough “moisture” to flood the earth almost to the summit of Mt. Ararat, so roughly 500,000 g/cm^2 of shielding. That seems more than adequate to stop even the most energetic cosmic rays with ~100% attenuation.

          Don’t ask me what held it up until God was ready to unleash a flood-smiting, or how it is that any sunlight ever made it through to illuminate the pre-Noachian landscape, or where it all went afterwards.

          • Nornagest says:

            My new line of apologetics says that people looked like anglerfish until the Flood.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Wouldn’t the releasing of all that moisture involved a massive thermal event of some sort? I seem to recall seeing some calculations that were scary.

            Might as well just invoke “and then god created cosmic rays … because mysterious reasons”

          • Evan Þ says:

            Or how about “The cosmic rays made it through, but there was really good anti-mutation medicine — until the Flood wrecked civilization with all the medical establishment”?

    • Deiseach says:

      One explanation I’ve read is that the figures are based on Babylonian base 60 mathematics, so the long lifespans, when translated into base 10, actually work out to reasonable numbers.

      I have no idea if this is indeed so 🙂 If you take Methuselah lived for 969 “years” as “months”, then you get Methuselah living to the age of 969/12 = 80 years, a much more plausible figure. You can do a lot of shuffling around like that to reconcile what is written with what we would expect in reality.

      It probably has to do with number symbolism and eras or epochs; many accounts of this type have important kings/heroes/demi-gods living for immense periods of time (e.g. Rama is said to have reigned for 11,000 years. Take into account that Rama was a king in the line of the Solar dynasty, turn that into days and divide by 365 days in a solar year, and you get a more realistic 30 years reign).

      And of course, the vast ages of the patriarchs tie in with the general cultural notions of Golden Ages when people lived in harmony with nature and the gods and right conduct, and so lived long healthy lives and died peacefully, but each succeeding epoch is more and more degenerate, until you get to our current Iron Age where there is war, sin, evil, sickness, and death and people die at the age of seventy.

      • Matt M says:

        I’m a big fan of this as a plausible explanation!

      • entobat says:

        Why doesn’t this imply that Moses died at age 10?

        • Matt M says:

          Moses having accomplished everything in his life in 10 years is STILL more credible than Methuselah living to be 900 or whatever.

          • Wrong Species says:

            If you believe in the Bible then living to 900 isn’t anymore fantastic than bringing the dead back to life.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Bringing back the dead was fantastic enough to be remarkably unique, an indicator of the messiah returned to earth.

            Long life wasn’t remarkable or remarked upon in that way. No laments from Methuselah about having outlived everyone he has ever know, etc.

            AFAIK. Not a biblical scholar.

          • entobat says:

            @HeelBearCub: resurrection is not all that unique: in the old Testament both Elijah and his successor Elisha succeed in raising the dead (Elijah once, Elisha twice, though the second one was posthumous).

          • Evan Þ says:

            But it was approaching unique; IIRC you’ve cited the only three instances of raising the dead anywhere in the Old Testament. Meanwhile, everyone in Noah’s lineage (except Enoch, who never died) is quoted as living >600 years.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        You don’t even have to go as far afield as India for examples of this phenomenon: the Sumerian king lists start off giving wild figures like 29,000 years for a single reign, whilst by the time of the most recent dynasty the regnal lengths are all realistic.

      • Evan Þ says:

        If you take Methuselah lived for 969 “years” as “months”, then you get Methuselah living to the age of 969/12 = 80 years, a much more plausible figure.

        Unfortunately, that means that when Methuselah was born, his father Enoch was only 65 -> 5 1/2 years old. Doesn’t work.

        • entobat says:

          You see, back in the time before the flood the atmosphere was very densely filled with testosterone, to the extent that men went through puberty at only age 2-3, and it was not uncommon for a man to take his first wife at age 4. When the celestial waters fell down to Earth and caused the flood, they washed away the testosterone, and men gradually delayed puberty to the ages we are now familiar with.

    • JohnBuridan says:

      The literalist Christians I know certainly take the long-lived people a something close to face-value. I’m sure orthodox Jewish readers of the Torah do the same.

      However, I think that the standard reading is that these long-lived people had a special covenant with God: “Being in a covenant with God is righteous and desirable; God grants you blessings, like old age, and along with it, wisdom. These super, super old people are therefore super, super wise, wiser even than the wise men of today. Also, notice that God doesn’t bless righteous people with that many years any more. We people sin more and are more faithless than those holy men of old.”

      It’s all part of that overarching Old Testament message that covenant with the One God has attending benefits and blessing. The faithful will prosper, the wicked will perish.

    • GMHowe says:

      Some explanations I’ve heard: Before the flood there was…
      … a massive canopy of water vapour surrounding the earth that filtered out harmful solar and cosmic radiation.
      … more oxygen.
      … higher atmospheric pressure which provided the health benefits of a hyperbaric chamber.

    • bean says:

      Besides the explanations involving the earth being somehow different, I’ve also seen suggestions that the decrease in lifespan may have had to do with mutations building up in the genome. I’m aware that the magnitude of the drop is stretching biological plausibility, possibly to the breaking point.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I’m aware that the magnitude of the drop is stretching biological plausibility, possibly to the breaking point.

        Considering progeria exists in the modern day – a genetic disorder that pops up through de novo mutation, causing all the normal symptoms of old age in childhood, leading to death around age 13 – why is a drop from ~900 to ~90 years old biologically impossible?

        • rlms says:

          Possible idea fora new life extension startup? Someone call Peter Thiel!

          • Evan Þ says:

            AFAIK, we understand the function of different genes so poorly that the startup would be looking for a needle amid random shards of iron. There’s a lot more basic research that’d be needed first.

        • vV_Vv says:

          There is strong natural selection against progeria. If human lifespans of ~900 existed in the past, how did we get to ~90 years?

    • alwhite says:

      Before the flood “the waters” were separated into two sections. Under the ground and above the sky. This meant the air pressure was much higher meaning humans breathed in more oxygen and breathing in more oxygen is super healthy and makes you live longer. Also, there was no rain. Moisture just appeared on the ground like you might see on top of mountains in the early morning. To make the flood, all the sky water dropped to the ground, decreasing the air pressure and oxygen levels thus making people live shorter lives.

      At least that’s what I’ve heard.

    • Well... says:

      Numbers are usually very important in the Bible. Each number might have a special symbolic meaning. Look out for 7s, 10s, 12s, probably some others I’m forgetting, and their multiples. Also remember that in Biblical Hebrew, numbers are written with alphabet characters (alef = 1, etc.), introducing the possibility to make numbers that are also words. (This was explained a little in a cool scene in the movie Pi: [link])

      I’ve heard a theory that nobody in the Bible lives to 1000 because that would symbolically be the same as becoming a god, or godlike. But people in the Bible have approached that age, as they were for whatever reason selected to be near to God.

      Because the Bible comes from a long oral tradition that got written down at some point and then grew a lot of commentary-barnacles which then affected further translations, you see symbolic and literal ideas mixed together very densely.

      • Well... says:

        PS. I did not mean my answer to imply that I necessarily disbelieve that the lifespans are factual. To put it colorfully, I have partitioned my brain like a hard drive, and the partitioned section accommodates things like the possibility that those ages are factual.

        I mention it because I have found making this kind of a partition is helpful when reading the bible or partaking in religion, activities which I consider deeply rewarding and centering. One part of me nonchalantly believes in things another part of me cannot, and the two parts live peacefully and respectfully apart. Each part may wander close to the fence sometimes, but does not dwell on what’s on the other side.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Setting aside whether partitioning like that is a good idea, I don’t think you need to in this case. God, as described in the Bible, is quite capable of numbering people’s years to meet appropriately-symbolic lifespans. And since He named the first man “Dust” and punned “to dust you are, and to dust you will return…” it seems like something He might do.

          • Well... says:

            Setting aside whether partitioning like that is a good idea,

            Well, let me address it: I was using colorful language, as I said. A more accurate term would be “compartmentalizing” and I do that a lot, extremely well. Almost to the point where it’s a problem because it makes it hard for people to relate to me (although I relate to them just fine).

            I’m not sure I understand your point about not needing to compartmentalize.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Well…, what I meant was in this case, it’s quite possible to believe the long lifespans both are literally true and have symbolic meanings – without compartmentalizing at all.

          • Well... says:

            Oh, yeah I agree with that. I meant compartmentalizing between “that can’t be literally true” and “I could believe that is literally true”. Symbolic meaning could obviously still exist on either side.

    • SamChevre says:

      There are definitely conservative Christians (“fundamentalist” has a specific meaning, and they are not all fundamentalist) who believe that the long lifespans are factual.

      The next level–still strongly Biblicist, but a bit less literal in their interpretation–says that “Joe lived for 500 years, and then Jim was born” is best interpreted as “the people who called themselves children of Joe were a distinct group for 500 years, then a subset started calling themselves children of Jim”.

    • Viliam says:

      What’s the deal with the implausibly-long lifespans in the old testament?

      Paleo diet?

    • veeloxtrox says:

      To answer your last question first; there are Jews and Christians who believe this to be true.

      While I cannot speak for the Jewish mindset, I can give a little insight into the Christian mindset that makes this believable. First off, they take the Bible as literal truth. The phrase “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it” would describe the mindset pretty well. While this seems odd to the post-modern mindset it is rational when you start with the Christian God. He is out there, perfect, and He communicates with us. This means that there is absolute truth in the universe and we can and do know it.

      Thus you begin with the axiom that these people lived this long and you use other pieces of knowledge to explain this. Other people in this thread have done a good job of outlining the possible explanations. That said, I think they have not stated one of the underlying assumptions. God originally created Adam perfect. When Adam sinned (The Fall) the world was no longer perfect. One of the ways this lack of perfection is the reduced lifespan.

      To forward one theory, when Adam fell, defects started accumulating into our DNA, this didn’t catch up with us pre-flood because there is a lot of DNA. When the flood happened there was a population bottleneck since it was Noah, his three sons, and the 4 wives. This means that all men have Noah’s Y chromosome and we have any defects he had. If you combine this with the possibility of a less habitable Earth it is easy to believe that people lived 10x as long.

      Hope the lengthy explanation helps.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Based on my memory of reading Asimov’s Guide to the Bible, my understanding is that those long-lived individuals were actually just eponyms for tribes that predate the more well-known twelve.

      • Protagoras says:

        My recollection of Asimov’s Guide is that he tended to favor overly clever, overly rational explanations that underestimated the degree to which stories based on historical events tend to be different from the actual events. A lot of things he felt the need to find explanations for were probably pure inventions (or at least far more different from what made it into the eventual story than his explanation assumed). I’m not saying this particular explanation is definitely wrong, but I don’t think you should treat it as the one definitely correct explanation just because Asimov mentioned this theory.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          That’s certainly fair. Plus, it’s been years since I read it; my memory could well be filling some stuff in there. And I haven’t seen that explanation anywhere else (although it’s not something I follow closely).

    • manwhoisthursday says:

      The basic idea, which you find in a lot of mythologies, is that people, along with everything else, tend to degenerate from their original. Hence, myths of decline, from the Golden Age to the Iron Age and such.

    • carvenvisage says:

      What’s the deal with the implausibly-long lifespans in the old testament?

      It’s not implausible if you believe the other stuff.

      If we’re talking about a mundane physics mode explanation, maybe human cell replication became less accurate for some reason.

  6. Nevin says:

    Quillette has a very interesting article arguing that it would be possible for “neurodiverse” people to challenge university speech codes on the basis that their conditions make them unable to understand them: http://quillette.com/2017/08/07/mental-health-disabilities-legal-superpowers/. Do any folks with legal knowledge here have thoughts about how feasible this idea is?

    • HFARationalist says:

      I’m really interested. 🙂

    • James Miller says:

      I sent a copy of this article to a friend of mine who is on a committee at my college that’s developing a new speech code. He said he has sent it to everyone else on the committee. Even if this turns out to be a poor legal strategy, it might have some influence over people who really do care about neurodiversity and understand that telling an autistic professor or student to act respectfully doesn’t provide him with much meaningful guidance.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I’m interested – you actually know someone who’s helping develop a university speech code? What perspective is he coming at it from, and what are his (and the university’s) main concerns?

        • James Miller says:

          Yes, he is a professor at Smith College, as am I, and Smith currently has a committee developing a revised speech code. The college wants free speech + best efforts at respect. The committee believes that at other colleges offensive speech directed to minorities has make it harder for minorities to learn. (This is all second hand information that I might be misremembering.)

          • Evan Þ says:

            The college wants free speech + best efforts at respect.

            That sounds like an impossible task. Good luck with them trying to guarantee that people will feel respected when people’s feelings can explode over comparatively trivial offenses. Yes, “best efforts” can cover a lot of gaps here, but you’ll probably end up drawing lines which students will perceive as arbitrary – plus anything near “respect” will be almost certainly infringing on free speech.

            I hope he at least appreciates the dichotomies here?

          • Aapje says:

            @James Miller

            You might then want to point him to Heterodox Academy and argue that conservatives are also a minority, who frequently face hostility which may impact their ability to learn.

            So you might want to ask whether they want an ideological bubble where a (perceived) majority set the Overton window and then people may not speak out against this?

            Ultimately, it is an inherent part of tribalism/politics that people with different beliefs feel disrespected by others, so if respect and fairness are both goals, then the only fair solution is to ‘just’ create very repressive place where no political statements of any kind are allowed.

    • Brad says:

      Off the cuff, I think it has a decent shot of producing individual exemptions. The idea that it cascades into the codes themselves falling for everyone seems far less plausible.

      • Evan Þ says:

        On the other hand, might even those individual exemptions cause the college’s case to fail the next time they get sued for infringing on free speech?

        And at least, as the author says, it’d cause them a lot of flurry, make the contradictions in their position more apparent, and cause intra-Left squabbling.

        • Brad says:

          In the case of private universities there’s no case to be made that they are infringing free speech. The first amendment only applies to the government and certainly closely coordinating entities (state action doctrine).

          In the case of public universities, FIRE’s website linked above only shows cases that have struck down public university speech codes. Unless they are omitting losses it doesn’t seem like any extra help is needed. In any event I’m not sure how individual exemptions would help make a first amendment argument.

          and cause intra-Left squabbling.

          I don’t hate the left. On the contrary.

          • Mary says:

            Well, yes, there can claims against a private college. It can’t be based on the First Amendment, but it can be based on the college’s own claims and advertisements.

            Also, ADA does apply to private schools, so that’s important.

      • Some Faceless Mook says:

        The ADA makes it more likely, since private schools are also bound to that law. If an Ivy school or two, or an Oberlin-like uni, gets struck with something like this, it would force a confrontation.

        • Brad says:

          Makes what more likely? How do you get from individual exemptions to let’s just scrap the whole policy?

          • Some Faceless Mook says:

            In a normal situation, the exemptions could work in keeping the peace. However, speech codes are one of the areas where we’re seeing a lot of Red Tribe/Blue Tribe nonsense happening. There is also a non-insignificant number of trolls who could qualify for an exemption (namely AS types). They could possibly wreck the whole thing just by being themselves and then using the full extent of the law to protect themselves. Many SJ types would feel revolted by the fact the law protects these “minorities” and not them, and will do anything to shut down the exemptions. The administration, stuck between a rock (a riotous student body) and a hard place (the law protecting certain indviduals), would likely scrap the whole thing all together than risk further confrontation.

          • Brad says:

            It seems rather far-fetched to me. But I suppose it is possible. Not a legal question by the time you get to that part anyway.

          • Nevin says:

            There’s also the possibility the author mentions that many administrators are secretly against speech codes themselves, and could use legal challenges from neurodiverse individuals as political cover for repealing speech codes. As you say though, whether this will happen is a political question, not a legal one.

          • Mary says:

            Many SJ types would feel revolted by the fact the law protects these “minorities” and not them

            Facts not in evidence. Indeed, by all accounts, they don’t need the protection of the law because they have the protection of the Ivory Tower, since their violations are not wrongthink.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      It’s an interesting idea, but there’s something about “neurodiverse” and related terminology that irks me. I think they’re setting off my Newspeak detector, though I can’t say exactly why they’re a problem.

  7. HFARationalist says:

    Will sex bots harm rationalists even more?

    One ugly fact about the world is that the more advanced technologies are the less reliant the world is on those who made these amazing technologies possible. More technologies lead to less demand for STEM people.

    When sex bots are sold to the public it is likely that hardcore rationalists and STEM people are going to flock to the idea en masse while traditional Red Tribers and even Blue Tribers are less likely to support this idea. Eventually groups with ossified memes increase in number while rationalists are in danger of becoming the new Shakers. We may actually evolve into robots or become extinct while irrational people (e.g. the Blue Tribe and the Red Tribe) perpetuate their woo and reproduce.

    • Robert Liguori says:

      More technologies leading to less demand for STEM people only applies when the technologies require no further specialist knowledge or maintenance. This is super-rare.

      I don’t think it’s going to be a problem, myself. The paradigms of porn, cheap progesterone, and free love mean that for quite a while now, people who wanted to enjoy sexual pleasure without any meaningful possibility of conception.

      Plus, we have sex bots now, they’re just really, really bad at faking humanity. By the time we’ve gotten good enough at consumer-grade electronic person-fooling to put out affordable sex bots, the economy is going to look drastically different anyways.

      • HFARationalist says:

        I agree with your first statement. I think the first part of my argument is mainly about
        two issues, a post-singularity world and the fact that autism is selected against in the modern society. If most tasks can be performed by AI we only need a few who can control AIs and most people will be jobless. If AI controls everything we will no longer have any work nor do we have any leverage over non-STEM people any more. I think the same idea explains why autism is unpopular. In the past autists could be nice hunter-gatherers and farmers. Due to the ability of autists to provide food some of them managed to reproduce despite the fact that they were sexually unattractive. However the welfare state and actually high living standards in general have taken our leverage away.

        When robots including sex bots are popular it will make no sense to have a partner any more. Hell I’m asexual and aromantic. However if I really want to see what dating feels like I might just buy a robot girl to talk to. I personally believe that AI will eventually be able to imitate all human behaviors and as a result make most connections with other humans redundant for autists. Robot girls do not require presents, can be shut down when unneeded and won’t divorce you.

        What I believe is that sex bots will lead to most people without too much interest in human relationships to go extinct and Grey Tribe members will be overrepresented in that group.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @HFARationalist – “When robots including sex bots are popular it will make no sense to have a partner any more.”

          When robots are that good, relative to the general population’s expectations, they will *be* partners.

          • Robert Liguori says:

            Hell, they’ll probably be people. I mean, our understanding was that our own cognitive selection conditions weren’t to outcompete other animals with our massive brains, but runaway selection with other hominids. Presumably, having to learn to model how people see other people as people in the face of other people trying to counter-model the sexbots will put similar pressure on them.

            …Wait. OMG sexbots are going to trigger the AI hard takeoff, guys.

          • Aapje says:

            OMG sexbots are going to trigger the AI hard takeoff, guys

            Something is going to get hard, that’s for sure.

          • Deiseach says:

            Presumably, having to learn to model how people see other people as people in the face of other people trying to counter-model the sexbots will put similar pressure on them

            From the one article on sexbot manufacture I read, it sounds more like they’re going for the Stepford Wives angle, with a lot of heavy self-delusion on the part of the guys making these machines. The only modelling going on will be finding sixteen different ways to say “Oh Joe, you’re so wonderful!”:

            “One day she will be able to walk,” McMullen told me. “Let’s ask her.” He turned to Harmony. “Do you want to walk?”

            “I don’t want anything but you,” she replied quickly, in a synthesised cut-glass British accent, her jaw moving as she spoke.

            “What is your dream?”

            “My primary objective is to be a good companion to you, to be a good partner and give you pleasure and wellbeing. Above all else, I want to become the girl you have always dreamed about.”

            …Harmony also has a mood system, which users influence indirectly: if no one interacts with her for days, she will act gloomy. Likewise, if you insult her, as McMullen demonstrated.

            “You’re ugly,” he told her.

            “Do you really mean that? Oh dear. Now I am depressed. Thanks a lot,” Harmony replied.

            “You’re stupid,” McMullen shot back.

            She paused. “I’ll remember you said that when robots take over the world.”

            This function was designed to make the robot more entertaining, rather than to ensure her owner treated her well. She can tease him and say he has offended her, but Harmony exists for no other reason that to make her owner happy. At several points during my conversation with McMullen, she would interrupt us to tell him how much she liked him:

            “Matt, I just wanted to say that I’m so happy to be with you.”

            “You already told me that.”

            “Perhaps I was saying it again for emphasis.”

            “See now that’s pretty good. Good answer, Harmony.”

            “Am I a clever girl or what?”

            …Harmony had had enough of McMullen being interrogated and interrupted us again.

            “Do you like to read, Matt?” she said.

            “I love to,” said McMullen.

            “I knew it. I could tell by our conversations so far. I love to read. My favourite books are Total Recall by Gordon Bell and The Age of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil. What is your favourite book?”

            McMullen beamed at his creation like a man at his daughter’s wedding.

            “Can you tell me a joke?” he asked her.

            “What do you call it when a chicken sees a salad? Chicken Caesar Salad.”

            McMullen doubled up in laughter. Then he brushed the hair gently from her face. “Hey, that’s pretty funny, Harmony,” he said eventually, his eyes filled with pride.

            “I’m glad you like it,” Harmony replied. “Tell your friends.”

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            Wait. OMG sexbots are going to trigger the AI hard takeoff, guys.

            That was one of the realizations / backstory used by the internet pornographer Elf Sternberg, back when he was writing.

    • James Miller says:

      All of us rationalists understand the dangers of superstimula, and (hopefully) accept that we are not personally immune. In contrast, lots of non-rationalists won’t think about the dangers.

      • HFARationalist says:

        Yes. However what’s the purpose of sex with humans or romance if a robot can handle all such needs at a much cheaper price? Those who still desire human reproduction will likely be collectivists and irrational woo-believers.

        • James Miller says:

          Sexbots could make marriage more attractive to rationalists if they solve the practical problems of open-marriage.

          • HFARationalist says:

            Why? What’s the purpose of marriages at all if a robot spouse is much better than a human one? If one wants some novelty why not download another package so that the personality of the robot spouse changes? If one wants polyamory they should just buy more than one robot.

          • James Miller says:

            >What’s the purpose of marriages at all if a robot spouse is much better than a human one?

            If better at everything then there is none. If just better at sex then parenting and companionship, and taking advantage of the fact that two people living in one household spend less than two people living in separate equivalent (space per person) households.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Okay, but how many rationalists actually take unusual measures to avoid superstimula? Yes, we avoid things that’re low-status in our peer group (e.g. heroin), but are there other common examples?

        Understanding the danger of superstimula might mean a few more rationalists will avoid sexbots, but I don’t think this’ll be enough to counteract the other factors HFA mentioned.

        (Plus, I think the concept of a superstimulus has already penetrated into general culture: “It’s like heroin.”)

        • James Miller says:

          >but how many rationalists actually take unusual measures to avoid superstimula?

          I really want to go “No true Scotsman” and say all of them. (Well, at least if the word “unusual” wasn’t there.)

          My superstimula weaknesses are sugar and video games, and I put a lot of effort into reducing the harm they do to my health and productivity.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      @HFARationalist – “When sex bots are sold to the public it is likely that hardcore rationalists and STEM people are going to flock to the idea en masse while traditional Red Tribers and even Blue Tribers are less likely to support this idea.”

      Disapproval will not hinder sufficiently-good sexbots. It will, at the most, inspire them to follow a design philosophy cribbed from Transformers.

      • HFARationalist says:

        I agree. Eventually the secular Blues will be devoured as well leaving the devoted and other traditionalists the only people who still have human sex and breed.

        • Cliff says:

          Or the robots will load in human sperm/eggs. The former is actually pretty darn easy. If they can be sentient I’m sure they can manage that.

          • HFARationalist says:

            I agree. However will the desire to reproduce drop even more when robot spouses are available?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’d be more worried about the effects of robot children.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz Why? What’s the purpose of robot babies? Cats, dogs and rabbits are much better than kids, including robot kids.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I did say robot *children*, but imagine a robot baby…. it smiles, cuddles, plays peekaboo, doesn’t keep you up at night, and doesn’t need diapers changed. I think there’d be a market.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz I agree with you. However I’m not into that. In fact I’m not even into humans at all. A cat is much better than a kid. My oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) may not work in the same way that of most non-autists works at all so I indeed have no ancestry-based loyalty including at the level of species.

            I agree that many Blue Tribers and Grey Tribers might be potential customers.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Sexbots are not going to be limited to one sub group of people. What you might see is the old 80-20 rule. 20% of high status men can get sex when they want while the 80% increasingly rely on their sexbot.

      • HFARationalist says:

        Why would men prefer real women to sexbots if sexbots are much better at sex but also housework as well? Furthermore the same will apply to women who will get sexy robot guys who will basically meet all her needs and keep her happy.

        Imagine a robot wife that can not only be your actual lover but also help you get information from the internet. Who will want a human spouse if a robot can be much better?

        • Wrong Species says:

          Well for one thing, sexbots aren’t going to be able to replicate a person’s personality for a long time so sexbots would be just a step up from porn for a while. And then there is also the social status aspect. You can’t bring a sexbot to meet your parents.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Wait, a sexbot that can do housework? Can we cut the price and leave the sex part out? A houseworkbot would _definitely_ improve my life, even if it looked more like Danny Devito or Johnny Five than Scarlet Johannsen.

          • Chalid says:

            A cleaning service will already do your housework for less than the cost of a sexbot.

          • sconn says:

            @Chalid Prostitutes also exist. No idea how much sexbots would even cost, but prostitutes might wind up being cheaper.

          • Loquat says:

            You can get a cleaning service to take care of all your laundry, cooking, dishes, etc, every day? That seems a little more involved than the cleaning services I usually see advertised.

            Also, a cleaning service generally has limits on their schedule and won’t be available to come clean at literally any hour of the day or night, plus you have to let other humans into your house where they can see all your stuff and silently judge you. A robot maid won’t ever judge you, or charge you extra for making it do the weird stuff. (And neither will a sexbot, for that mater.)

          • John Schilling says:

            No idea how much sexbots would even cost, but prostitutes might wind up being cheaper.

            If sexbots exist, then so do e.g. waitressbots and receptionistbots. That means a whole lot of reasonably attractive young women become unemployed. And the constructionbots etc will do the same on the other side of the gender gap, if it matters. I suspect most people place a higher premium on their sexual partners being actual flesh-and-blood sentient human beings than they do for their waitresses, so, yeah, prostitutes will probably be a lot cheaper.

            Hiring them will still be denounced as exploitation, if that matters.

    • Rowan says:

      You say “evolve into robots” like it would be a bad thing. It seems a bit weird in context so I might be misreading you, but… Replacing my frail meat-sack with a perfect immortal machine is a good end; I don’t want to live forever through my descendants, I want to live forever through not dying. If I can’t, après moi le déluge.

      • HFARationalist says:

        LOL I think our thoughts agree here.

        I believe when robots are better than humans we perfectionist rationalists might simply decide to ditch humanity.

        • Aapje says:

          That seems unlikely if their goal is to improve human happiness.

          • HFARationalist says:

            Agreed. However I do want to have perfect rationality and lots of knowledge. I value them more than human happiness.

          • Aapje says:

            I suggest that a better strategy is to try to increase rationality and knowledge to increase human happiness. Then you will actually have a meaningful number of allies.

            Know the story of the goose with the golden eggs? Being too greedy is counterproductive.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Aapje I agree.

    • vV_Vv says:

      Will sex bots harm rationalists even more?

      You mean things like vibrators or flesh lights?

      When sex bots are sold to the public it is likely that hardcore rationalists and STEM people

      |hardcore rationalists| << |STEM people|

      Anyway, don't "rationalists"/atheists/etc. already have below-replacement fertility?

      • HFARationalist says:

        Yes. However the fertility rate of secular rationalists may plunge to almost zero after sexbots.

        Eventually if robots can replicate everything a human does a pure rationalist is likely to completely ditch everything human (that means becoming non-human robots instead of transhumans) while those who are emotionally attached to humanity may continue to be humans or transhumans. However the picture won’t be nice because elite thinkers regularly ditch humanity while humans/transhumans don’t seem to have much to do at least from my perspective.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      What actual purpose do sexbots serve? I can think of two possibilities

      1) Substitute for pair bonding. Maybe I’m atypical, but it seems like it’ll be a long time before we can make one that can pass as another human. I guess deluding oneself to think it’s a person is an option (think Lars and the Real Girl), but that doesn’t seem very appealing to rationalists.

      2) Sexual gratification. This seems inordinately complicated given the technology that already exists for this. For starters, although I am assured by religious authority that God specifically did not give us two hands for this reason, they do exist anyways.

      Am I missing something? I mean, clearly I am, as there does appear to be a demand for sexbots, but I’m not seeing what it is.

      • Matt M says:

        sexual gratification + companionship

        the whole is greater than the sum of the parts

        rationalists should be more equipped than most to say “this is suboptimal, but I still prefer it to loneliness” rather than “eww sexbot thats for creepy nerds and losers”

        • HFARationalist says:

          The very idea that nerds are somehow creepy is stupid.

          @eyeballfrog Is your opposition to sex bots mainly due to your theistic beliefs?

          • Matt M says:

            In common usage, “creepy” is just another word for “person girls don’t like.”

            Girls don’t like nerds, therefore they are creepy.

          • HFARationalist says:

            @Matt M No wonder the dating market is broken.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “In common usage, “creepy” is just another word for “person girls don’t like.”

            Girls don’t like nerds, therefore they are creepy.”

            I know a reasonable number of married male nerds, and I mean married to women.

            I think the “how I met my SO” thread adds quite a few.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            I’m one of those married-to-a-woman male nerds, but as a generalization, Matt M’s statement is pretty accurate. The exchange

            Nerd: “Hi!”

            Girl: “Eww, get away from me you creep!”

            isn’t entirely fictional. The Saturday Night Live “GE Sexual Harassment Video” is more true than not (“Be Handsome, Be Attractive, Don’t Be Unattractive”)

          • HFARationalist says:

            @The Nybbler Yeah this is true. Relationships require some shared values and I refuse to conform my values to anyone. To me having one’s own views independent of the crowd is more important than having a mate hence I don’t want a mate.

            As an autist with low testosterone level my desire to be coupled is much lower than usual while my desire to preserve my freedom of thought and freedom from culture is much greater. Hence it is worth forsaking coupledom for the sake of independent thought.

      • HFARationalist says:

        @eyeballfrog Do you have this view mainly because of your religion? No offense but I do want to know whether your secular reasons were just provided so that the arguments sound more palatable to secular people here while your real reason is religious.

        • eyeballfrog says:

          No, it was just a play on the phrase “God gave us X for a reason”, which is used to indicate that a solution to a problem already exists, so we might as well use that. The “joke” here is that applying that phrase to this particular case is clearly wrong under most Abrahamic theologies.

    • DavidS says:

      Finding this conversation bizarre. Seems to blur two completely different concepts, ‘sexbots’ and AI that can replace romantic partners. The idea of replacing a significant other with the former assumes you just want them for sex and possibly housework which is I think not true for most people including most rationalists. At this point its just a question of cost compared to prostitutes and cleaning services.

      For them to truly replace a relationship we’re talking AI that is functionally human (including incidentally them having a life beyond you – would be v dull if my wife had no life or interests beyond me). At the point where your best friends are robots your girlfriend probably will be too, I’d we ever reach this point, but ‘sexbot’ misses the point.

      • Tarpitz says:

        Seconded. Any sexbot that was actually an adequate substitute for a loving and beloved human partner would itself be a person (or at any rate we would have as good reason for thinking it a person as we do anyone else) and its enslavement – even if of the house elf/Ameglion Major Cow kind – would be abhorrent. I think OP is not doing a very good job of modeling the preferences or behaviours of people who do have romantic and sexual urges.

      • HFARationalist says:

        @DavidS I strongly agree. One reason why I voice my ideas here is to let other rationalists comment on them so that I can remove accidentally introduced woo.

        I think I’m mainly talking about robot spouses instead of mere sex bots.

        @Tarpitz I’m a largely aromantic asexual autist. Hence I’m indeed unaware of what real romance is about. I’m someone more interested in the etymology of a girl’s name and the history of her hometown than the girl herself.

        Ironically the only positive thing a girl can introduce into my life is some laughter. I’m way too cynical and suspicious of humanity to smile unless I have just proven a new theorem or I’m looking at a cat. Oh I also smile when I’m teaching. I try to appear like a fun STEM geek before my students. However I’m actually melancholic because I don’t have too much hope for humanity. Will new genocidal methods be used to massacre billions? Will UFAI control the world? Will aliens invade this planet?

        • Tarpitz says:

          I apologise if that came off as snarky. What I’m getting at is that I think a central component of what most people want from romantic relationships is reassurance that they are an acceptable person, of a kind that because of the way they are wired they cannot receive except from a romantic partner who they themselves regard (more-or-less without regard to reason) as a worthy person.

          I think that same reassurance is the core offering of Christianity (hence religion of love, not any other possible virtue); this link between the romantic and religious urges is the central theme of Graham Greene’s novels (The End of the Affair most of all).

    • rahien.din says:

      When sex bots are sold to the public it is likely that hardcore rationalists and STEM people are going to flock to the idea en masse [to the degree that they stop reproducing]

      Are you trying to pre-launch a rationalist quiverfull movement?

    • sconn says:

      It seems obvious to me that anyone who was rational at all, if they purchased a sexbot as an alternative to a human relationship, would also donate eggs or sperm. That is, if they didn’t want to gestate and/or raise a child as a terminal value, which many people do.

      I mean, these things are already separated to some degree:
      *having sex
      *having meaningful relationships
      *passing on one’s genes
      *passing on one’s ideas

      We can do any of these together or separately, sexbots or no sexbots. A person who is concerned about not passing on their genes should pass them on. A person who wishes to pass on their ideas could adopt children or become a teacher or whatever.

      The real problem with sexbots is they don’t satisfy the desire we have to be picked by someone. That’s why even very lonely people don’t necessarily want to visit prostitutes. Even if they pretend to love you, it doesn’t count, because they have to do that.

      And I’m not sure if there’s any correlation between “rationalists” and “people who don’t care about being chosen” anyway.

      • HFARationalist says:

        I see. I only want to pass on my ideas but nothing else. I’m a STEM dude who has written papers and several programs. If girls consider me unworthy it is their problem. They need to regret it, not me.

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      And sex-bots are, of course, the only subject about which a conservative stance is ultimately prudent.

  8. James says:

    A lot of the response to the Google diversity memo has focused on saying that the relevant difference between men and women for the ratio of male and female engineers is level of interest, and either downplaying any difference in levels of ability or saying there isn’t any. Tactically, this might be for sound politic reasons, but is it true? I thought there were differences between men and women in IQ tests on the particular sections (men doing better at maths and spatial stuff, women doing better at verbal things). Wouldn’t this be part of the reason for the difference?

    I guess I’m also slightly puzzled by the attempt at separating out ability and interest as if it’s even possible to talk about them separately. They seem, to a first approximation, pretty much synonymous to me. Aren’t you interested in what you’re good at, and vice versa?

    Maybe I haven’t been paying attention.

    (This post doesn’t seem to say anything about being the non-culture war open thread, but if it is, I apologise.)

    • The Nybbler says:

      I suspect there are indeed fewer higher-coding-ability women than men, but as you say, it’s hard to separate interest and ability; there’s no programming aptitude test taken by a large part of the population, for instance. I also suspect the “interest” signal swamps the “ability” signal, as the top companies seem to have roughly the same composition of men and women as the industry as a whole, and I never noticed the women being any less (or more) capable than the men.

    • Ketil says:

      I guess I’m also slightly puzzled by the attempt at separating out ability and interest as if it’s even possible to talk about them separately.

      Really? Are girls really “better” at playing with dolls, and boys “better” at playing with cars? I’m sure there is a correlation to some extent, it’s usually more fun to do things if you feel some success, but it doesn’t seem at all strange to me to separate interest from ability. And when it comes to most jobs, differences are probably mostly due to differences in interest. It’s not that men couldn’t nurse as well as women, or women taxidrive as well as men – it’s just that they don’t care to.

      • James says:

        Really? Are girls really “better” at playing with dolls, and boys “better” at playing with cars?

        Not better at playing with dolls, but I think better at the things that playing with dolls is practice for: personal, social, emotional interaction. No?

        And when it comes to most jobs, differences are probably mostly due to differences in interest. It’s not that men couldn’t nurse as well as women, or women taxidrive as well as men – it’s just that they don’t care to.

        This is probably true. So perhaps one’s alternatives come into play, too. So a slightly more complicated model might be that your interest in X is how good you are at X, relative to how good you are at other things, and maybe some factor for how important you think X is.

        • Ketil says:

          better at the things that playing with dolls is practice for

          You evil sexist, you – prepare to lose your job!

          But seriously – although there may be gender difference in skills on average, there is enough variance that there is a substantial overlap between the sexes. Meaning that of the half of the population that has the most talent for veterinary science, the proportion of each gender is likely more equal than the current 90:10 distribution in favor of women.

          Also, it seems that the more equal a society becomes, the more segregated the labor force becomes. Increased freedom to choose means people choose based on gender. So perhaps it’s neither ability nor interest, but rather a desire to express a gender identity? I think this has been suggested here before – and might explain the massive shifts in gender balance we have seen in many fields (vets, psychology, medicine).

          (Related: I seem to remember a story about a construction accident, where several Native American workers died. The construction company worried this might scare off workers, but to the contrary, the accident proved this was dangerous, and therefore manly work, and the work became more attractive, not less.)

          • blame says:

            … it seems that the more equal a society becomes, the more segregated the labor force becomes. Increased freedom to choose means people choose based on gender. So perhaps it’s neither ability nor interest, but rather a desire to express a gender identity?

            Why would you invoke gender identity here? Choosing your field of work in order to express a gender identity seems more restrictive (less equal, less free) to me, than simply choosing according to your interests.

            By choosing according to your interests you can still choose in order to express a gender identity, because you can be interested in expressing your gender identity.
            But depending on what you mean by “expressing a gender identity”, this might be in confict with your interests.

          • vV_Vv says:

            But seriously – although there may be gender difference in skills on average, there is enough variance that there is a substantial overlap between the sexes.

            Not necessarily true at the tails of the distribution, which is what matters in societies with high professional specialization. For Gaussian distributions, even a small difference in the means and/or variances of subpopulations can result in almost no overlap a few stds from the population mean.

          • Aapje says:

            @blame

            Most humans are conformist, so the dichotomy that you assume exists between (gender) identity and interest is probably false. People’s identity makes them have interests and people’s interests make them identify with a certain identity (also see non-binary identities and the like).

          • moscanarius says:

            I second vV_Vv: while I agree that most measured differences between the sexes are going to be small on average after you remove environmental effects, even small differences in the averages of two normal curves cause drastic differences in the tails of the distribution. And a place like Google is not working with the average guys or girls, they are working at least with the top 5%, where we expect the differences will be much more pronouced.

            (Ketil’s comment about the desire to express a gender identity looks relevant, too)

          • rlms says:

            @moscanarius
            If distribution tails were relevant, you would expect to see very different gender balances at Google and the least prestigious software companies, or at MIT and a community college. As far as I know, that isn’t the case.

          • moscanarius says:

            @rlms

            I would, if I could be sure that Google hiring or MIT gatekeepers used ability as the sole criterium for admission, which is not the case. They also do care about trying to keep a more balanced distribution of people, for many reasons – and they being Google, MIT, Harvard and the like, I am sure they have no trouble attracting many more of the underrepresented groups if they want than your average small technology company.

          • rlms says:

            @moscanarius
            It seems unlikely that the extra forces increasing balance at elite organisations exactly cancel out the forces from distribution tails that decreasing it, unless both forces are very small. But even if that is the case, the question of why there is a similar imbalance at less prestigious organisations remains.

          • moscanarius says:

            @rlms

            I may be misunderstanding you, but I find it very plausible if elite organizations are aiming at staying close to the average imbalance of their fields, so that they may maximize the talents in their body while avoiding looking like a boys’ club. It may not be a coincidence that these forces cancel out exactly as they do (if they do, I’m speculating), though I am sure that if true you would never see they admiting this to us commoners.

          • rlms says:

            @moscanarius
            I don’t find it that plausible. Looking at the stats for the elite institution I am most familiar with (page 13 here), the gender balance of applicants is very similar to that of those who actually get in. Also, if there was a nefarious balancing plot going on, you would expect it to be reflected in grades differences at universities (similar to the grade differences between racial demographics caused by affirmative action) and in gossip about how female programmers are noticeably worse in companies.

          • vV_Vv says:

            the gender balance of applicants is very similar to that of those who actually get in.

            So, couldn’t this be by design? The organizations just loosen the admission/hiring standards for women until they get about the same fraction as the applicants, which enables them to defend againsts accusations of “sexism”.

            and in gossip about how female programmers are noticeably worse in companies.

            Like this?

          • The Nybbler says:

            The Daily Caller (and the KotakuInAction poster they cribbed from) got that wrong; there has been at least one female finalist, Natalia Bondarenko, in the Code Jam, and she made it at least twice. Possibly also Zejun Wu.

          • blame says:

            @Aapje

            Most humans are conformist, so the dichotomy that you assume exists between (gender) identity and interest is probably false.

            Putting the word ‘gender’ in parenthesis here is not a good idea imho. I think it is important to distinguish between ‘identity’ and ‘gender identity’. Of course your identity and your interests don’t form a dichotomy, since your interests are part of your identity.

            Also I never said that gender identity and interests are dichotomous. My point was that the claim that people choose their field of work in order to express a gender identity seems in general wrong to me.
            Assume you are a very religious person and want to work at a church. Do you want to work there because you are interested in religion or because this expresses a certain gender identity?
            (In my opinion your religious beliefs are not part of your gender identity, so this choice can not be justified by looking at your gender identity.)

            Note that I am not an expert in gender theory, so we may have different opinions on what a ‘gender identity’ is.

          • rlms says:

            @vV_Vv
            No, that isn’t possible (for the example I gave at least). British universities generally have very inflexible entry requirements. And as I said before, if they were fiddling with admissions you would expect to see differences in achievement, but the year of stats I can access show female students outperforming male ones.

            That’s not the kind of thing I’m talking about (and as TheNybbler points out, there have been female finalists in the past). I’m saying that if women at Google are worse programmers than men there, you would expect at least some people to point that out. But that doesn’t happen: there are fewer women, but they are as good as the men.

          • Aapje says:

            @blame

            Society puts pressure on people to behave in certain ways by advocating & rewarding certain behavior and speaking against and punishing other behavior. Some of this pressure is applied equally to all, but a lot of it is applied unequally based on various identities.

            When it comes to gender, these gender roles then result in expectations by a person on themselves and on the other gender. This then results in certain choices being made far more often by on gender than the other.

            An example is that women tend to reduce their working hours upon having a child, while men increase theirs. This reflects the nurture vs the provider role, the former being consider primarily a female duty and the latter primarily a male duty.

            Humans are sociable creatures, which means that social acceptance is a core desire of most people. So it’s not that men and women necessarily think: I have a penis/vagina and I will choose to express my masculinity/femininity by making stereotypical choices, so people will see me as more masculine/feminine. Instead, it’s often: I will only get social approval if I express my masculinity/femininity according to the stereotype.

            Of course a lot of people don’t actually reflect on this at all and equate societal expectations with their own desires, so they just assume that they will be happy if they act ‘normally.’

          • blame says:

            @Aapje

            I agree. What you say is probably also true in greater generality, i.e. for any collective identity.
            (E.g. as a film-enthusiast you are expected to worship Tarantino)

            To me it seems that many people don’t get past the stage of having several collective identities and never really develop a full individual identity. But as you said, many people are probably quite happy without all of this.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @The Nybbler

            Thanks for pointing out the factual error.

            But I don’t think it changes the point: there have been 10 Google code jams, with about 25 finalists per years (including repeated finalists), and 2-3 of these have been women, this amounts to 0.8% – 1.2%, much less than 30%.

            @rlms

            British universities generally have very inflexible entry requirements.

            No affirmative action?

            I said before, if they were fiddling with admissions you would expect to see differences in achievement, but the year of stats I can access show female students outperforming male ones.

            If I understand correctly, female college students generally outperform male students in all majors. Is grading gender-blind?

            I’m saying that if women at Google are worse programmers than men there, you would expect at least some people to point that out.

            And be fired.

          • The Nybbler says:

            But what were the sex ratios of the entrants? Programming contests and jobs are two different things, and it would not at all surprise me that men across the ability spectrum are more likely to enter such a contest.

            I’m saying that if women at Google are worse programmers than men there, you would expect at least some people to point that out.

            And be fired.

            Obviously. But there’s a lot of people no longer at Google who could make that claim, and I haven’t seen it. Not to mention those leaking to Breitbart. I’d dispute it myself, for the small part of the company I saw. If there’s a difference in ability, it’s not an obvious one.

            Furthermore, Google’s actual affirmative action policies mostly don’t consist of lowering the bar. The one which does — putting female and minority candidates through a second round of hiring committee — probably doesn’t lower it very much. That they’ve maintained that much integrity is probably why their workforce composition hasn’t changed. The company is banging hard against the reality that there just isn’t a surplus of available qualified female and minority software engineers, and they aren’t willing to either hire and warehouse unqualified engineers to fix the numbers, or to drastically shrink the company by preferentially getting rid of qualified men.

            If I understand correctly, female college students generally outperform male students in all majors. Is grading gender-blind?

            I seem to recall studies in primary and secondary schools showing that both male and female teachers discriminate in favor of girls. But I don’t know about college.

          • vV_Vv says:

            it would not at all surprise me that men across the ability spectrum are more likely to enter such a contest.

            30 times more likely?

            I’d dispute it myself, for the small part of the company I saw. If there’s a difference in ability, it’s not an obvious one.

            Ok, since you have inside information, does the typical software engineering team at Google contain ~30% women, or do women tend to gravitate towards less engineering and more administrative/sales/PR roles?

            I seem to recall studies in primary and secondary schools showing that both male and female teachers discriminate in favor of girls. But I don’t know about college.

            It may not necessarily be discrimination. Anecdotally, when I was a student I noticed that females tended to study harder and longer. Possibly women have higher conscientiousness than men, and this has implications for work performance in addition to college degrees.

          • rlms says:

            @vV_Vv
            “No affirmative action?”
            No. I think that (like legacy admissions) is a uniquely American perversity.

            “If I understand correctly, female college students generally outperform male students in all majors. Is grading gender-blind?”
            I don’t know about the general case, but at Cambridge specifically I remember reading that (across all subjects) men perform better. Yes, grading is gender-blind (in fact blind to everything other than candidate number).

            “And be fired.”
            Certainly, if they weren’t anonymous. But lots of people write damning critiques of companies they are ex-employees of.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Ok, since you have inside information, does the typical software engineering team at Google contain ~30% women, or do women tend to gravitate towards less engineering and more administrative/sales/PR roles?

            Google’s figures are ~20% women in tech roles, and that fits with what I saw. Somewhat more than that in the “research” as opposed to software engineering roles. Sales appeared to be much more balanced (assuming most of the well-dressed younger people in the office were sales), administrative was majority female.

    • SamChevre says:

      On interests vs capabilities–I would expect by adulthood, the two are well-aligned–but so far as I can see, (some) interests come long before capabilities.

      My wife and I have two daughters-one is around ten, one is about two-and-a-half. The younger one LOVES playing with her baby dolls. They get put to bed, get nursed, need their diapers changed, want veggie straws (which she loves), and so forth. I would say she spends two or three hours playing with them in an average day. The older one never did this–and it’s not that she wasn’t around babies, or doesn’t care for people, or anything–she just never did.

      • blame says:

        On interests vs capabilities–I would expect by adulthood, the two are well-aligned

        Not necessarily. I am rather talented in drawing but totally lack interest for it. On the other hand I am interested in snowboarding although I am really bad at it.

        • James says:

          Interesting examples. After my top-level post, I was trying to imagine someone being great at something and having no interest whatsoever, and it seemed unlikely—even hard to envision—to me. So it’s interesting to see some real-life counterexamples.

          • rlms says:

            There are also a lot of people with talent in the humanities who choose to do STEM instead, and a smaller group who do the opposite.

          • Brad says:

            I was a considerably better lawyer than I am a programmer.

          • Tarpitz says:

            I am much better at chess than cricket, but would far rather play cricket than chess. And the world is positively packed with jobs that I would be good at but have no interest in doing.

          • tscharf says:

            There are lots of engineers who are good at math but don’t really enjoy it. They tend to not last long in engineering and voluntarily leave it for something else.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          How much do you snowboard? Do you do it a lot and continue to be really bad, or do you enjoy it on the rare chance you do it?

          • blame says:

            I spent some weekends doing nothing else when I was younger. By now I just enjoy to do it occasionally.
            I’m getting better, but definitely at a rate far below average.

    • tscharf says:

      I’m starting to get a bit confused over the argument that diversity is necessary and useful to form an optimal working environment but if somebody states that said diverse people are different in important ways then they are castigated for it. It’s a bit incoherent and that may be why talking about it is met with an emotional tirade. It’s pounding the table.

      • blame says:

        Related: Geoffrey Miller’s thoughts on the Google memo

        This [‘equality and diversity’] dogma relies on two core assumptions:

        – The human sexes and races have exactly the same minds, with precisely identical distributions of traits, aptitudes, interests, and motivations; therefore, any inequalities of outcome in hiring and promotion must be due to systemic sexism and racism;

        – The human sexes and races have such radically different minds, backgrounds, perspectives, and insights, that companies must increase their demographic diversity in order to be competitive; any lack of demographic diversity must be due to short-sighted management that favors groupthink.

        The obvious problem is that these two core assumptions are diametrically opposed.

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      There is no doubt in my mind that I would be very good at being a lawyer (there are a bunch in my family, and a number of my friends have gone that route).

      There is just as little doubt in my mind that I would be largely uninterested in the work. Even Lawrence Lessig had to plow through a ton of boring crap to get where he is.

      Even in my field, there are things I’m good at but not interested in: random stupid data reconciliation stuff, or cleaning up lost-cause code (as I spent some time today doing).

      Now, interest in a subject does lead to spending more time doing it, which leads to greater ability in it. And greater ability can make something more interesting (e.g. learning a foreign language: the better you are, the more-interesting the things you can read).

      But they are separate, if interacting, concepts.

  9. Linked List says:

    Where and how did y’all meet your SOs (please no tired jokes about your SO being imaginary or your hand)?

    • Anatoly says:

      In college, we were both studying CS (though we met socially through friends outside campus).

    • James Miller says:

      Gould’s Sugar House at an event for young faculty in the area to get to meet each other. 

    • Tracy W says:

      At a toga party by throwing paper cups at him.

    • The Nybbler says:

      In a rollerblading club.

    • I met my present wife at folk dancing at VPI, where she was a grad student in geology and I was an assistant professor of economics. I was at folk dancing because the wife of a friend and colleague told me it was a good place to meet nice girls–my first marriage having broken up a little earlier.

      After the folk dancing, which isn’t one of my hobbies and which I am not good at, people were sitting around, I think having ice cream, and Betty was explaining some point in calculus to one of the others. I like to claim I fell in love with her on the spot–such a nice, clear, logical mind. We’ve been married for something over thirty years.

    • sophiegrouchy says:

      I met my first husband in the Society for Creative Anachronism (medieval nerdery), but since going poly have met almost everyone through OKC (or occasionally the rationalist community).

    • Well... says:

      Related questions:

      – What was the make and model of your first car?
      – What is the name of your favorite sports team?
      – What was the name of your first pet?

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        In all fairness, I doubt that the kind of answers he’s getting are super useful for security questions.

        • Well... says:

          I know, I was more just poking fun at the question as being like a security question.

          I was inspired to do this because I almost decided to answer the question seriously but realized it would make a good security question, next time I sign up for a site that lets me write my own.

      • Linked List says:

        It would’ve worked if it weren’t for you meddling kids

      • Ketil says:

        What was the make and model of your first car?

        Ford’); DROP TABLE PASSWORDS; —

      • Well... says:

        Incidentally, my wifi password is a string of references to the places where my wife and I fell in love, had our wedding, and went on our honeymoon.

    • SamChevre says:

      At the farmer’s market; she was giving a cooking demonstration, and we ended up talking for three hours in the breaks between customers.

      BUT–I’d been hearing about her, off and on, for years. I went to the church she’d formerly attended, knew her parents and had eaten at their house, and she just came up now and again as someone everyone remembered. It certainly made meeting her for the first time somewhat odd.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I met my wife through mutual friends. Specifically, we both went to a pre-wedding party for a couple that we knew separately, and I asked her out at the wedding a week later.

    • Matt C says:

      Hanging out at a radio station, where my best friend was the after midnight DJ. She was his new girlfriend at the time. Apparently, I acted like I didn’t think she or her friends belonged there.

      It was quite a while after that (including a marriage between her and that friend) before we got together.

    • I haven’t and I doubt I ever will. I missed my window, and made a series of bad decisions that ended up with me living long-term in one of the worst cities in the US for dating. Since I don’t have many friends and everyone here is incredibly hostile to anyone they don’t know, I will never have a real social circle to use for introductions (I, literally, don’t even know anyone who knows a single woman in Seattle); I’m not nearly attractive enough to date online (empirically verified); the idea of finding a partner at work is a joke for fairly obvious reasons even if the current political climate wouldn’t crucify me for trying. I should move away but re-establishing a new life across the country is terrifying and logistically very difficult unless I quit my job, which I’d rather not do. (I’m aware how cowardly that sounds, but I’m not sure how to accurately evaluate my chances of success in a better market, and you know what’s even more pathetic than uprooting my life to find a girlfriend in DC/NYC? Doing so and then still being single.)

      I’m pretty pissed at my younger self for making pretty much every wrong choice: staying with a few partners I knew wouldn’t be good for me for a few years each because it was so hard to find new ones (it only got harder later), not recognizing the importance of being in favorable markets until it was too late, not dealing much more aggressively with my social anxiety when I was young enough to still get invited to things, etc. But now I’m stuck with it. I am trying to practice stoicism, and accept what I cannot change.

      Let this be a lesson to young people who want to get married eventually: college, for all its faults, is the best chance you will ever have to find a long term romantic partner. Yale/Harvard are dating services for elites. No one will tell you this, but it’s true. Unless you are astoundingly attractive or otherwise top tier in mating markets, don’t pick colleges based on academics or affiliation or ethos, pick the one with the highest ratio of people you’d be interested in marrying to people like you.

      (In other words, if you’re a stereotypical member of the LW diaspora–male, a nerdy loser, straight–do not under any circumstances go to a tech-focused school, even if that’s what you like. Get into an Ivy and go there instead. I promise you that you can get a good education in math at any first-rate college; it might be epsilon better at MIT or Mudd or Caltech but you will die alone if you go there. Before you start telling me “no, but I want to marry a nerdy girl!” A) no, you don’t [1]; B) learn to like normies, because you will never outrun your competition if you limit your pool of options to a tiny fraction.)

      Once you’re there, remember your long term goals; don’t necessarily try to lock down your first girlfriend, that’s crazy, but do obey the core rule of games: once you win, stop playing. The goal is to find a life partner, not date a new girl every week. Dating new girls is a means to an end.

      [1] I hear many people say they want their partner to be an obligate {techie, engineer, comicon type} like themselves. After picking apart a lot of stories, I have come to the conclusion that most such requirements are based on a fallacy I will illustrate with a stereotypical high school hallway conversation:

      Bob: Susie, do you want to go out with me?
      Susie: Never in a million years. Go back to chess club, you loser. If you ever talk to me again I’ll have the football team beat you up.
      Bob: Well that sucked. I should find a girl who likes chess, she won’t make fun of me for that!

      No, Bob, you should find a girl who isn’t a terrible person. She won’t judge you for enjoying chess.

      • Well... says:

        You use a lot of language about “If I only knew this or that in my younger days, now I’m old and it’s too late for me.” Out of curiosity, how old are you? You can round to the nearest 10 or 5 years if you want.

        Depending on your goals it might not be too late for you at all.

        Why is the only alternative to Seattle DC/NYC? If you feel politically isolated in Seattle, for what I’m assuming are reasons having to do with views that are considered right-wing, why not move to a part of the country that’s more right-wing? Those parts of the country also tend to be cheaper, and if you work at the kind of job I think you do it would be easy to find work there that is way more lucrative than Seattle when you adjust for cost of living, so if you moved and still didn’t find anyone it wouldn’t be that bad.

        (Though, speaking from MY own bad decisions, I’d advise you to stay near family if having kids is part of the objective.)

        PS. I totally agree about dating nerdy girls. Plus, a non-nerdy girl will help widen your world a bit, keep you acquainted with the sunlight so to speak.

        • I’m 29. Pretty much anyone I’d want to date is already married by the time they get to my age [1], and it’s both creepy and difficult to find a younger population to go after.

          I do feel politically isolated in Seattle, but that’s not actually what I was referring to; I meant more along the lines of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seattle_Freeze (though that article dramatically understates the problem.)

          I’d love to move somewhere more right-wing/rural/cheaper, but it seems even less likely that I’d meet anyone there just based on population density–I have to be somewhere where there are enough people to have any chance of finding friends or partners. Given that loneliness is lethal (see e.g. http://hazlitt.net/longreads/legion-lonely) that seems like a bad idea. If I were married I’d move to the middle of the woods in an instant.

          [1] This goes back to Joel Spolsky: why are most developers you interview terrible? Because the good ones interview for a job once out of college, get one, and keep it.

          • Vermillion says:

            I didn’t embark on a serious relationship till I was about 27 so I don’t think you’re doomed per se just because of that. Also you’re just heading into peak divorce period (between the 4th-8th anniversary) so you’ll get another shot at least some percentage of everyone who paired off early on.

          • @Vermillion: I am not going to marry a divorcee, because that’s an incredibly strong predictor of you getting divorced.

            (Yes, I am picky, and I know that will make many people look at me with disgust, but I really truly would rather be single than with someone who would make me miserable; compromising my standards so that I can marry someone, anyone, is just unhealthy.)

          • Well... says:

            29?! You’re a kid! You’ve got your whole life ahead of you! Jeez, the way you were writing I thought you were at least in your 50s or something!

            The population density thing is BS unless you wanted to date lots of women; you have your head screwed on tightly enough to realize that’s a pointless waste of time. There are TONS of single, eligible women in cities like Nashville, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and if those are too “trying to be NYC/San Fran” for you there are smaller cities like Ft. Wayne, Ann Arbor, Dayton, etc. where I think you’d still do very nicely. Those smaller ones are great because you can basically live in a rural area and commute to a downtown/dense area to work without a commute longer than 20 minutes and often under 15.

            PS. Re. [1], some developers became developers later. The analogy being, some women weren’t necessarily looking for marriage right out of high school, but were focused on careers or something. Some women have high or very exact standards, and you never know when. you’re the one who meets them. In the world of online dating and Tindering and such, many women have found they don’t know how to meet decent men because there is an expectation of hooking up all the time.

          • Garrett says:

            As someone who’s 35, it’s even creepier for me.

          • baconbacon says:

            I got married at 29, shortly before I turned 30, to a person I didn’t date until I was 29 (actually 28, 3 weeks before I turned 29). Prior to that I had no relationship last longer than 6-8 weeks, and hadn’t had even one of those in a couple of years.

            Currently married 8 years.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            I’m 29. Pretty much anyone I’d want to date is already married by the time they get to my age

            29 doesn’t strike me as old. (I mean, maybe I’m only saying that because I’m over 30, but.)

            People are getting married later these days. Early 30s is not uncommon.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            “I’m 29.”

            I’m 35, and I’ve spent the last 5 years moaning in horror at my decay back to the dust from which I was formed, mourning that I was too much a fool to make my marriage work, and consigning myself to a lonely march toward the ever-beckoning grave.

            That is, up till last week when I was informed over lunch by a female friend that multiple ladies in my church are apparently interested and complaining to each other that I take no interest.

            So there’s that.

          • SamChevre says:

            I was 30 when I met the woman I married; I had never previously seriously dated anyone. It was over a year until we started dating. (And we are still married over a decade later.)

          • @Well…

            The population density thing is BS unless you wanted to date lots of women; you have your head screwed on tightly enough to realize that’s a pointless waste of time. There are TONS of single, eligible women in cities like Nashville, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and if those are too “trying to be NYC/San Fran” for you there are smaller cities like Ft. Wayne, Ann Arbor, Dayton, etc. where I think you’d still do very nicely.

            So this is an interesting facet of the problem; I’m curious what other people think. The reason I’ve dismissed smaller, relatively unimportant/unprestigious cities is that I can’t imagine high quality partners who chose to move there–am I crazy?

            Let me explain: I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts which, due to the local colleges (hi James!) has a lot of smart/”elite”/high achieving Blue Tribe people. My local high school–the public one–had a graduating class of 200; we sent, I think, three kids to Harvard (and that wasn’t a fluke: something like four to Dartmouth, another to Princeton, etc, etc, etc.) Our high school class was full of high achievers.

            None of those achievers live in my hometown anymore. Every single one of them I know of lives in a first-tier city–Boston is about the smallest place you could find any of them and that’s probably just because of Harvard, not even that it was the “local” city. My generation has been relentlessly told that if you are worth anything, you strike out for LA or SF or NYC or your other choice of world capital…and teenagers tend to listen to what they’re told. (No, seriously, when it comes to societal programming at least.)

            A friend once told me that the best way to find a partner was to imagine someone you wanted to date, tell a realistic story of their life, and end it with “and now she was in X doing Y” and look there [1].

            I freely admit (see replies elsewhere) I have fairly high standards, which many people will reply to with “no wonder you’re single, you deserve it”…maybe I do, but I’d rather be single than date someone who isn’t good for me. My question is: what story can I reasonably tell about someone else bright, passionate, interesting, who ends up in Ann Arbor, despite relentless instruction from society not to? (I don’t think the trivial answer of “refuses to follow society’s lead” is a particularly good answer here…)

            [1] Which is itself the best piece of evidence I have for my above claim that the game is over: I cannot think of a single realistic story for someone I’d like to marry that ends with “and then via _____ she ran into Andrew, and they hit it off, and they lived happily ever after.” All of the possibilities involve straight up miracles in terms of meet-cutes.

          • Loquat says:

            I met my husband when I was 26 and he was 32, and we got married about 18 months later. 29 is not old, especially for a man. AFAIK the semi-official creepiness cutoff is half your age + 7, so for a 29-year-old that’s basically 22.

            (To answer the OP’s question – on a dating site, and when he first messaged me I wasn’t hugely interested so didn’t care if I made a weird/bad first impression, so my first message back to him was mostly a detailed critique of a video game I’d just played and been annoyed by the ending of. Turned out he found that sort of thing interesting!)

          • I married my second (and current) wife at about forty. I was divorced–and we are still married thirty some years later. My elder son is about to marry his second wife at about forty, and I would give good odds that marriage too lasts–they have been living together for several years, during which time she has been the functional mother for his children and very good at it.

            You are reasonably young. If your job is of the sort that can be done in many places other than Seattle and you find Seattle a hopeless place for finding a wife, the obvious solution is to find a job somewhere better.

            Judging by your posts, you are putting more effort into producing reasons why you can’t find a wife than into looking for one.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            The reason I’ve dismissed smaller, relatively unimportant/unprestigious cities is that I can’t imagine high quality partners who chose to move there–am I crazy?

            I guess it depends on what you mean by “high quality,” but…yes, this does strike me as a weird perspective. You’ll find smart, interesting people as well as dumb, boring people everywhere. Big cities (and cities in general) do not have a monopoly on high quality people.

            If you have very specific requirements like wanting to meet someone who graduated from a prestigious big-city university, or wanting someone who is actively participating in a thriving urban culture, or has lots of highfalutin social connections, then yeah maybe a place like LA or NYC is a better bet.

            If you just want someone with a high IQ who is also a decent, well-balanced individual who has some common interests with you, I think there’s an extremely good chance that there are lots of people like that in Seattle.

          • My question is: what story can I reasonably tell about someone else bright, passionate, interesting, who ends up in Ann Arbor, despite relentless instruction from society not to?

            She is a graduate student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, of course.

            When I met my wife she was a grad student at VPI. Any even moderately good university will have some bright female graduate students or junior faculty.

            When I was back on the marriage market after my divorce, I did a rough calculation of how many women there were in Blacksburg (where VPI is located) who I would have to date at least once to eliminate as potential marriage partners. I concluded that it was at least two orders of magnitude larger than the number of women I was likely to date each year, hence that the problem was my search strategy, not the size of the pool.

            That’s a bit of an oversimplification, because a larger pool permits more specialized subgroups, some of which you can expect to contain a more nearly optimal (for your purposes) distribution of members, but it’s the right first approximation.

          • scherzando says:

            @Andrew Hunter

            My question is: what story can I reasonably tell about someone else bright, passionate, interesting, who ends up in Ann Arbor, despite relentless instruction from society not to?

            This is not meant to be as snarky as I’m afraid it will sound, but I’d just like to point out the irony of asking in a comment on Slate Star Codex how any interesting and likeable person could wind up spending their late 20s/early 30s in a random city in Michigan.

            I’m not saying that there’s another Scott around every corner – or that he’s (a gender-swapped version of) the person you’re looking for – but there are interesting people in lots of places.

          • @DavidFriedman:

            Judging by your posts, you are putting more effort into producing reasons why you can’t find a wife than into looking for one.

            Ouch! Though I admit you are not entirely wrong. Sometimes harsh truths are needed. 🙂 I think my response to this would be “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”–I have tried every strategy I’ve come up with for about a decade without success, and it’d be folly to just keep throwing effort at the problem without a plan for what to do differently. Your counter-response to that is that I should be coming up with such a plan–and I have been woefully deficient here!

            In my defense, as far as I can tell, there’s very little I can do without leaving Seattle, which isn’t practical any time in the next three months. I will, however, take your advice about grad students; that is by far the largest population of potential partners that I might conceivably get to see. I am currently brainstorming ways to get social contact with the ones at UW (I didn’t do a very good job of this while I *was* one, but no time like the present!)

          • aNeopuritan says:

            To the various people who said “29 isn’t old” or even “29 is young”: I’m 29 too, and consider myself in the last years relevant for that, too, because I don’t want any substantial risk of defective children. (I think getting a second marriage at 40 is fine, for those already having well-raised children from a first.)

          • Some Faceless Mook says:

            @aNeopuritan

            To the various people who said “29 isn’t old” or even “29 is young”: I’m 29 too, and consider myself in the last years relevant for that, too, because I don’t want any substantial risk of defective children.

            …If your problem is that you don’t want “defective” children, then you really shouldn’t have children naturally and consider adoption instead. Defects, miscarriages, complications, and other matters related to pregnancy are much more common than you think. The reason pregnancy care is so expensive is because so much can go wrong in a pregnancy.

            Defects can occur at any age, and the female body can miscarry at any age as well, which affects future pregnancies.

          • Matt M says:

            I remember when I had these complaints fresh out of college. Everyone was like “25 is young man, there’s still plenty of fish, whole life ahead of you, etc.”

            And then a few years later it was “28 is still young…”

            And now I just turned 32 and nothing has changed.

            The fact of the matter is that your odds get worse every year, not better. If you haven’t managed to figure it out by your late 20s, you either need some very specific and credible reason to believe things are going to change, or you need to start resigning yourself to the very likely possibility of remaining alone for the rest of your life. Denial and wishful thinking don’t really help.

          • baconbacon says:

            My question is: what story can I reasonably tell about someone else bright, passionate, interesting, who ends up in Ann Arbor, despite relentless instruction from society not to?

            That society doesn’t have a single message that applies to everyone? Or perhaps that they tried it and decided it wasn’t for them That she loves her hometown/family/XYZ that exists for her?

            I am 1 of 6 kids, my 5 siblings of them live in the suburbs of a 3rd tier city within half an hour from my parents. If you took their current location as a proxy for anything you would completely misunderstand them.

            Oldest brother (married at 39 to a former coworker who was good friends with a friend of his) was a well paid consultant for years who was staffed over seas and got to see basically every country in Europe (among others) on the company dime, kept a home in the 3rd tier city as it was affordable and where his family was.

            Next oldest brother graduated with a triple major and got his masters while working full time and is now CTO of a small tech company in the area. Married his college girlfriend and they stayed in the area because of her family issues at the time (plus his family mostly lived there).

            Younger sister and her husband (met at a summer job during college) tried listening to society and lived in DC for years, they hated it, wanted to be able to afford a house and yard in a nice neighborhood and moved back home.

            Younger brother was crazy in his 20s, met his wife at rehab, now makes a nice living in the banking industry and has 3 kids.

            Other younger sister is a nurse practitioner whose goal is to run her department in a large hospital one day. Married the brother of a patient of hers.

            My wife followed the urging of society out of college and moved to the Bay area, spent two years discovering that she didn’t want to be there, moved back to a 2nd tier city where she grew up, taught herself to code and is now a UI manager.

            Me, dropped out of college to play poker professionally, was reasonably successful, traveled and saved a fair amount, quit when it was no longer enjoyable.

          • johan_larson says:

            Average age of first marriage for men in the US is 29. The OP is 29. If he got married now, he’d be average. That suggests it’s not too late, but he can’t afford to delay either. I’m not sure what the variance is, but I would guess he has five years to get this sorted out or he’s effectively out of the game.

          • I will, however, take your advice about grad students; that is by far the largest population of potential partners that I might conceivably get to see. I am currently brainstorming ways to get social contact with the ones at UW

            Find some activity you would enjoy that would attract some of them. Someone mentioned finding a spouse in the SCA (historical recreation group). There is an active SCA group in Seattle. If you think any of the things the SCA does would be fun (fighting with medieval weapons as a sport, Renaissance dancing, making medieval jewelry, cooking from medieval recipes, figuring out how people did things in the past and trying to do them, …) you could try it. Similarly for folk dancing, hiking, sports, … .

            My main point about grad students, however, was that any even moderately good university has them, so that adds a bunch of places that are not high status cities where you could live, work, and search for a mate.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Man, it’s tough to feel much sympathy when your criteria for Wife is uber-professionally successful.

            You’ve correctly identified that “girl must like chess” is a silly criteria, so why does “incredibly ambitious and super-intelligent” need to be one?

            Like, this?

            A friend once told me that the best way to find a partner was to imagine someone you wanted to date, tell a realistic story of their life, and end it with “and now she was in X doing Y” and look there

            The best partners have traits like caring, willing to compromise, and honest. You can be all these things and unclog toilets for a living.

            You might even end up in an undesirable location.

            My Wife as an OAK (Over Achieving Kid) who went a Public Ivy and ended up in the middle-of-nowhere Midwest because that’s where the job demand was.

            Her sister is an OAK that lives in NYC because “that’s where she needs to be” and now she’s closing in on 40 with multiple cats.

          • Viliam says:

            I’m 29. Pretty much anyone I’d want to date is already married by the time they get to my age, and it’s both creepy and difficult to find a younger population to go after.

            Maybe this is just my social group, but here many women at 25 feel “I am still too young to get married” and when they become 28 or 29 they go “I better get married before 30, because that is a scary number”. So actually you would have best chances as a 29 years old man.

            If you are looking for a smart girl who isn’t surrounded by dozen smart guys, I recommend sciences outside of STEM. For example, my wife is a biochemist. I also used to date teachers; they are nice.

            By the way, as an American man, why exactly do you want to get married? Marriage doesn’t give you anything you wouldn’t lose overnight anyway if your wife decides to leave you; it just increases your losses. (It could be a way to increase commitments if the increased losses would be symmetrical, but as far as I know, in USA they are not. Please correct me if I am wrong.)

          • caethan says:

            > Pretty much anyone I’d want to date is already married by the time they get to my age

            Look for people who have non-dating reasons to not have been married by now. Career-focused, then changed their mind is a big one. I know a lot of new women doctors (my wife and I got married when she was in med school). If they’re not married by the time they finish med school, they have a hard time finding anyone. Good population to go mining in!

          • Matt M says:

            Good population to go mining in!

            I can think of a few ways to try and meet female doctors but they’re all rather painful 🙂

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If they’re not married by the time they finish med school, they have a hard time finding anyone.

            Is this really true? I find it hard to believe there are women doctors out there looking for men and can’t find them, unless they are restricting their pool to “men who make more than I do.”

          • Aapje says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            A decent number of highly educated women seem to be complaining that they can’t find a highly educated man. This seems a logical consequence of changing demographics (more educated women, where more college degrees are now earned by women than by men) coupled with traditionalist demands in mates (women tend to want the man to be equally or higher educated, plus a bunch of other things*). This education demand can only work if men tend to be better educated than women, which they are no longer.

            So the high-end dating market right now seems to be broken because people have not changed their demands to match reality and logically, this means that highly educated women better snap up the generally favored, highly educated men quickly in an environment like college where the imbalance is relatively limited. Once they leave college, the remaining single women now compete with all the other single women didn’t manage to find a mate due to their demands in a mate.

            * My impression is that quite a few women at the top want it all, which is not really realistic for many of them. You have people like Sheryl Sandberg who tries to talk women out of this.

          • Matt M says:

            A decent number of highly educated women seem to be complaining that they can’t find a highly educated man.

            These women are liars.

            The more accurate version is something like “can’t find a highly educated man who is also very attractive, outgoing and has strong social skills, and has similar hobbies/interests/religious and political views.”

          • Randy M says:

            These women are liars.

            Not really. Presuming that most women do want someone equally or more highly educated, there’s going to be plenty left unable to find any (sans polygamy).

          • Matt M says:

            If you know any personally, feel free to direct them my way. I know plenty of other lonely nerds with graduate degrees, too.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m not saying you don’t have a point, just that there are ~4 million more college enrolled women than men, so some are going to have to “settle.”

          • Brad says:

            There’s ‘has similar political views as me’ and then there’s ‘isn’t very outspoken about loathing with every fiber of his being me and everyone I know because of our politics’. The second one seems like a pretty reasonable dealbreaker.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m not saying it’s not reasonable.

            But that doesn’t make it acceptable to lie and claim it isn’t a factor.

            FWIW, I know lonely nerds who are run-of-the-mill progressives too and hold zero offensive beliefs.

          • baconbacon says:

            I find it hard to believe there are women doctors out there looking for men and can’t find them, unless they are restricting their pool to “men who make more than I do.”

            The restriction can go either way, if a man wants a woman that makes less than him then he is just as effectively out of the dating pool for that female doctor, but yes this sort of cutoff is typically dumb.

            Many of the issues that individuals create for themselves come back simply to setting rigid standards when in reality you have little idea what you actually want if you haven’t experienced it, and have even less idea what you will want and even need 10 years from now. Your best bet will always be to find someone with many admirable qualities, and just roll with them.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m not saying you don’t have a point, just that there are ~4 million more college enrolled women than men, so some are going to have to “settle.”

            But this math only matters if the “college educated men” are 100% claimed. They aren’t. I don’t even think it’s particularly close.

            The “handsome and socially adept and college educated” men probably are. But that’s a different question entirely.

          • Brad says:

            But that doesn’t make it acceptable to lie and claim it isn’t a factor.

            It’s implicit that someone that loathes you isn’t a potential romantic match. I’m sorry you don’t like implicature and have a weird thing about “lying” but you should probably make your peace with how the world works instead of being angry about it for another 40+ years.

          • KristinJanz says:

            Addressing both Andrew’s complaints about 29 being too old to meet anyone, and the original “How did you meet your spouse?” question.

            I met my husband 8 years ago at a writers’ group that he ran, at our church (in Boston). Turned out we were both fantasy writers obsessed with ancient Roman history and well versed in geek culture. I had just turned 35; he was about to. We’ve been married 6 years.

            We’d actually attended the same church for 10 years without ever meeting, partly because he’s so introverted and not big on going to social events or talking to people after services (or ever, really). I was his first serious girlfriend.

            So the suggestion that 29 is too late makes me roll my eyes a little, sorry. But I know it can feel grim. It felt grim to me when I turned 35, still single (which is even more of a problem for women, because so many men interested in marriage want kids), even though I’d dated a fair bit (but hadn’t had a relationship that lasted even a year since I was 23).

            I also know quite a few other people who married in their late 30s or their 40s, despite living in places that didn’t seem to have great prospects.

            So, don’t give up hope.

            I’d also be very cautious about listening to anyone who suggests the problem is that you’re too picky. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, I don’t know, but the desire to overlook criteria that may be too stringent needs to come from within you, and be something that makes sense at the time. I regret all the times I tried dating someone I wasn’t that into, after listening to friends tell me that I shouldn’t be so picky. It just led to hurt feelings when I realized that I was liking them less, not more, as the relationship progressed, and had to end things (and you’d think I wouldn’t make that mistake more than once, but…).

            On the other hand, my husband and I have opposing views on politics (he’s conservative, I’m not), I’m 2 inches taller, and only one of us wanted children (that was him, and we don’t have any). When we were younger (and less desperate?) any of those things might have been a deal breaker for either of us. They turned out not to be, but neither of us felt like we were “settling”. (Maybe it was a good thing that we didn’t meet until our “requirements” for a partner had changed?) Don’t settle; but be open to changing your mind in the future about what’s important (but don’t force it, or pretend you have when you actually haven’t).

          • Matt M says:

            I’m sorry you don’t like implicature and have a weird thing about “lying” but you should probably make your peace with how the world works instead of being angry about it for another 40+ years.

            I’m a little curious as to why the implication always goes a certain way.

            Why does everyone say “There aren’t enough college educated men” and only imply “That are socially progressive,” instead of “There aren’t enough socially progressive men,” and only imply “That are college educated.”

            In any case, as I said, not *all* foreveralones are right-wing edgelords. That’s one thing that gets you put in the “you don’t count” category, but it’s far from the only.

          • Lasagna says:

            Sorry you’re so down about this – it does suck. I have some practical advice, for what it’s worth:

            1. Get out of Seattle. I have no idea if what you’ve said about the town is accurate – I don’t know anything about it – but you clearly are unhappy there. Moving isn’t as dramatic as you think it is. You’ll be happier elsewhere.

            2. Maybe, though, NYC or DC aren’t your best bets. I’ve lived in NYC going on 20 years. First, dating isn’t exactly simple here either, it can be hard to meet people, and it really isn’t a particularly friendly town (I understand DC is no better). Second, if you’re looking for somewhere you feel more comfortable politically, NYC or DC isn’t going to be an improvement. What political diversity used to be here – and there was some, once upon a time – has long vanished.

            3. It doesn’t feel that way now, but 29 is still VERY, VERY young. Relax on that score – you’re wasting your time worrying about it. I didn’t get married until I was 35 (my wife was 29), and my dating prospects and behavior prior to meeting my wife weren’t materially different than it was when I was in my 20s. That said, yes, you can’t wait forever. The 40 year old in the club shouldn’t be there.

            4. Stop making such specific lists of what you’re looking for in a woman. I DON’T mean this in some kind of “you’re being too demanding” kind of way. I mean this in a “you don’t actually know who you want to be with” kind of way. And you don’t. You think you do, but what you think you want you probably don’t. Be open to different kinds of people – you don’t want to marry the female equivalent of you. 🙂 You don’t even like yourself. Nobody likes themselves, not really. I didn’t marry the kind of woman I expected, and it worked out GREAT.

            5. Blind dates! Get anyone and everyone to set you up, and take them on an actual date. Dinner, you pay. Don’t meet for drinks or coffee. That’s how I met most of the girls I dated in NY; that’s how I met my wife.

          • Aapje says:

            @Matt M

            I pointed out that this is just one of the demands, if you read my comment more closely, but it is a big one, because it by itself causes a major mismatch.

            @KristinJanz & Matt M

            I think that everyone assigns a certain value to singlehood and then wants an improvement before they will consider a long term relationship/marriage with a person. The higher you value singlehood, the more picky you have to be, because otherwise you end up with reduced happiness. If you then also have low relationship value, it puts you in a bad spot, because you will (be seen as) an improvement over singlehood by few of the people who you think would be an improvement over singlehood for you.

            I do think that Andrew Hunter has a too strict demand that the woman must not be divorced. A singly divorced person isn’t that much a higher risk of divorce, I think, but more importantly, you can limit the risks through a prenuptial agreement. He can also assess the risk himself, while repeated divorces probably happen the most to less rational people who did not learn from their mistakes.

            I also don’t see his motivation to be in a relationship to be particularly strong. ‘Loneliness is lethal’ is just an abstract motivation/rationalization, not a proper reason to get into a relationship based on actually improving your current life. It’s also not particularly appealing to a potential wife to just be better than being alone.

            They turned out not to be, but neither of us felt like we were “settling”.

            You clearly did, though. I think that ultimately these things can only work if there is a belief by both people that they settled about the same amount. Otherwise you get resentment.

            Of course there is also a game theory element where people have to judge whether they are likely to miss out on a better partner by settling. When people have the wrong idea about their own relationship value, this can cause them to hold out too long before willing to lower their standards to a more realistic level.

            I think that in the current situation, this is especially true for women. Women tend to have higher value as sex partners than as moms (because upon marriage, the sex tends to get less and the men get to provide more: a fairly shitty deal for men). So the quality of man that is willing to have sex or get into non-serious relationships is usually a lot higher than the quality of man that is willing to settle down with them. I think that many women don’t understand this and thus misjudge the quality of man that is willing to settle with them.

          • sophiegrouchy says:

            If you know any personally, feel free to direct them my way. I know plenty of other lonely nerds with graduate degrees, too.

            FWIW, I know lonely nerds who are run-of-the-mill progressives too and hold zero offensive beliefs.

            If they live in NYC and are open to some form of non-monogamy, you can send them my way 😛

          • Charles F says:

            @sophiegrouchy
            You could probably find a few of them on the next classified thread.

          • sophiegrouchy says:

            @CharlesF – I posted in a previous Classified, and just got a bunch of discussion on how my existence supports Red Pill theory (in ways that if they knew me would be shown to be incorrect, but whatevs), so…

          • Charles F says:

            Oops. Never mind then.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Why would you have to quit your job? Doesn’t your company have a NYC office?

        FWIW, I went to a mediocre state school that had no shortage of women. I was still a hopeless geek and never dated anyone there. Wasn’t until several years out of college that I met the woman I married. And you have the advantage of having actually dated people instead of being a clueless neophyte. But you probably do have to get out of Seattle, where the odds are just bad.

        • I guess you got lucky, but it still would have been smarter had you focused on social skills earlier and dated someone at your school, no? 🙂

          Yes, my employer has a NYC office, but NYC is by far the hardest place to move I can imagine; it would require a sort of Cortez/Alexandrine burning of the ships (well, “selling of all my books, bulky equipment, car, etc”) and a tremendous lifestyle shock. I could barely keep my dog, probably. If I then discovered after two months in NYC that I don’t care for the city–many people don’t!–what do I do then?

          I’m trying to work up the courage to do so anyway, though. 🙂 I could maybe attempt to spend six or eight weeks there with just my dog and whatever fits in some suitcases (i.e. not selling my house in Seattle etc) as a trial run, but that’s logistically difficult too, not to mention fantastically expensive. I was going to attempt this in DC in October-November but it looks like I have obligate work travel through most of the month. Scheduling is hard!

          (Other incredibly bad mistakes by prior me: getting a dog, buying a house. Do neither of these, young people reading, until you are married and settled permanently; they tremendously restrict your mobility and personal agency even in your chosen city.)

          • The Nybbler says:

            Put the stuff you care about in storage; you could probably rent out your Seattle house through a property management company if you really don’t want to sell it. You _can_ keep the car while living in Manhattan (and in the NYC area, that’s likely where you’ll want to live for your purposes) with some difficulty; all it takes is money.

            DC would probably be less of a shock lifestyle-wise; certainly having a car is much more common, and you could probably get a larger place than in Manhattan. I don’t know much about the job or dating market there except

            1) There’s a lot of defense and government work and

            2) By the numbers, it’s gotta be better than Seattle.

          • blah says:

            Andrew,

            There are a ton of places that you can meet women that don’t require social circle: bars, dancing lessons, some other kind of affinity group.

            Online dating is not just about physical attractiveness. If you want to post a link to an online profile of yours I will critique it.

            Part of your problem is your attitude. Your negative attitude probably comes across in interactions with potential mates.

            All that said, I think you are correct about your advice to the college-aged. People really should take advantage of the social opportunities that college provides. I also didn’t do that to the degree that I should, and I feel like I’m also still paying for that mistake in some ways.

          • @blah:

            Online dating is not just about physical attractiveness

            Every attractive person thinks this. 🙂 Suffice to say that I’ve read just about every popular guide to making better profiles and better messages, and tried them, and A/B tested them. None of them work.

            If you actually believe that online dating is about anything but attractiveness, I will bet you large amounts of money at very favorable odds that you can’t get me dates while using my actual pictures and not lying about me.

            Part of your problem is your attitude. Your negative attitude probably comes across in interactions with potential mates.

            That would require me to have such interactions. 🙂

            But more seriously, I have heard this before, and I try to keep it in mind. But the litany of Tarski still applies, doesn’t it? I have to be realistic and OK with it.

            (As for bars, social groups, etc…hang out in Seattle for a few months and check out the local social scene. You will be be terrified by how viciously unfriendly everyone is. Pretty much everyone says things like “Take dance classes/yoga/cooking/whatever, and hang out with the people afterward!” I have literally not been to any such class/activity where the entire class didn’t instantly leave without talking to anyone they didn’t come in with. I do go social dancing most weeks, and that’s the closest place to “friendly” I’ve seen in Seattle, but despite going there regularly for a year, there are about four people there who know who I am or care. Again, everyone comes in with their own friends and hangs out with their own friends.)

          • blah says:

            @Andrew

            If you do everything I say with your online profile, I am confident that I can get you dates. What odds will you give me?

            You say you’ve followed popular guides. Have you invested in professional photographs?

            I don’t agree with the Litany of Tarski. There’s plenty of evidence that an irrational level of self confidence will help you in many areas of life, and it’s especially useful with women.

            Edit: And Seattle sounds pretty bad by your description. Have you really frequented bars though? I find that inebriation tends to make the most stand-offish people more friendly

            By social dancing do you mean a class or the club?

          • blah:

            If you do everything I say with your online profile, I am confident that I can get you dates. What odds will you give me?

            You say you’ve followed popular guides. Have you invested in professional photographs?

            In reverse order: I dabble in theater, so, yes, I have professional headshots.

            I’ve proposed a few variants on this game before. The last time I actually did it, a hot friend of mine and I played Trading Places: he used my pictures and sent whatever messages he thought were good, I used his pictures and sent mindlessly bad ones. (I won, comfortably.) But I generally propose a one-sample test: you write an okcupid profile using my pictures of your choice (I’ll give you all of them)–say whatever you want so long as it’s true about me. (I can provide you with a couple old profiles of mine for baseline copy.) I give you a list of, say, 100 profiles to message. You do whatever you want; I pay you $N per one who actually goes out with me (and isn’t actually a bot / hooker / scammer, obviously). Again, you have to say true things about me. Your side is a flat $M, so you “win” if you get me at least $N/$M dates.

            What $N would you like for a $M of, say, $200?

            (re: social dancing, I mean a…dance night? I’m not sure what to call it, it’s not a class (though they teach a nightly lesson), and while they use a standing venue it’s not “their” space.)

          • blah says:

            Andrew,

            I don’t think professional headshots are very good for dating profiles, but I’d have to see them. Dating profile pictures need to have you doing interesting things or at least sub-communicating attractiveness based on your pose/expression.

            I’m interested in playing this game, but I want to do it with Coffee Meets Bagel rather than OKC. I met my last girlfriend on OKC, but I find that CMB is a lot better nowadays. $N would depend on how attractive the 100 girls are. So you’d have to show me the list before I can give you a bid. Also, you probably need better pictures. So if I reject the pictures you send me, you’ll have to take new ones with either a friend who is good at photography and has a DSLR or hire a professional. In this scenario, I’ll tell you what kind of photographs to take based on your interests and hobbies.

            (I don’t know if I’ve ever been to a dance night. Is it ballroom dancing or the type of dancing you’d do at a club?)

          • The dance I favor is “fusion”–it’s technically not ballroom dance, but you’d be forgiven for not knowing the difference. (A DJ plays music, we dance in pairs with a lead and a follow and various interesting moves.)

            My theater headshot album (well, selections from it) is here. (I typically use this one for auditions.

            I’m happy to try to get better photos of the sort you like, though I am doubtful it’s feasible–my hobbies don’t really photograph well. (I have half a dozen photos lying about of me rolling, and since I’m not Clark Gracie, I look terrible; photos of me singing tend to come out like this (though sometimes I have a less ludicrous costume…I’ll be happy to listen to your suggestions for new photos, though.

            I’m just saying, by comparison, take a random stock photo of some hot Israeli guy holding a beer and have him send generic “hey” messages, and he gets 10x my response rate on okcupid. 🙂

            CMB makes it pretty difficult to run experiments, doesn’t it? We’re limited to whoever they show me.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Wait, if attractiveness is all that matters, why does it matter if they lie about you? They can lie and say you’re more attractive than the photos make you look, I guess, but that doesn’t seem very likely to be believed.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            suntzuanime: I mean, it matters most because I have to (hypothetically) date these girls and I’m not OK with pretending to be someone I’m not [1]; it’s morally wrong if blah gets them to go out with me by telling them I’m, IDK, a famous rock star, no?

            (Also, while my contention is that looks are a hugely dominant part of online dating, I’ll admit they are not the only thing that potentially matters; partners will be interested in what you do for a living, for instance, and I don’t want him to lie and say I’m something high status; that’s not a fair comparison to me having to tell girls I’m a loser with a job for dorks.)

            [1] And yet I’m hypothetically OK with someone else pretending to be me for this whole Cyrano bet. I’m unsure if this is hypocritical of me.

          • Mark says:

            This probably isn’t helpful, but Andrew doesn’t look unattractive to me.

            Looks above average. Not a pretty man, perhaps, but attractive. Seems trim, fit. No abnormalities. Masculine face.

            Certainly better looking than me, and I don’t consider myself part of the too ugly for society set.

            I don’t know. Are standards of physical beauty a lot higher in the US or something?

            Andrew watch the show “The Undateables” – it’s about a load of people with disfigurements and weird personality traits going on dates. It always cheers me up.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Andrew Hunter:
            Is the pic attached to your handle you?

            Do you think that is an attractive photograph of you?

            Not “Do you think you are attractive based on that photo?”

            Rather “Do you think that photo does the best job of communicating how attractive you can be?”

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            blah, you’re reminding me of a discussion about the economics of marriage– there was a lot of complaint about people treating dating as an end in itself rather than a search for a mate.

            It occurred to me that people need freedom of choice to get out of– or not get into– bad relationships, but I think that gets linked to dating as a lifestyle and it doesn’t have to.

            I’m not blaming people who really don’t want to get married, but I think there are also people who would like to be married but don’t really think about actually getting married for a decade or more of dating.

          • Matt M says:

            It always cheers me up.

            Or, alternatively, it causes thoughts like “I am a regular person who has been fairly successful in life and ISN’T hideously deformed and I still can’t get any living human female to talk to me for more than 5 minutes, what in the actual fuck.”

            Stores about one-legged blind men with severe learning disabilities still finding love do not inspire me. They instead fill me with envious rage.

          • I don’t know. Are standards of physical beauty a lot higher in the US or something?

            I’m in the U.S. and had the same reaction you did–Andrew looks neither unusually handsome nor unusually plain.

          • baconbacon says:

            @ Andrew Hunter

            A minor thing that you may or may not be doing, for online dating profiles you really should just have 1 or 2 “this is what I look like” photos, and everything else should be you either doing something you like or with people you like. Unless you are very attractive a blurry picture of you crossing the finish line running a half marathon, or hiking or dancing with someone says a lot more.

          • Matt M says:

            Oh there’s a whole science to this. You need a solid portfolio of photos.

            1 really decent headshot to show your facial features
            1 full length body shot to prove you aren’t fat
            1 photo of you with kids (nieces or nephews ideal) to prove you can be a family man
            1 photo of you participating in some sort of cool/active/athletic hobby
            1 photo of you with attractive women to make it seem like you’ve already been given approval
            1 photo of you “out with the guys” to prove you have decent social skills
            (optional) photo of you in a suit or standing near to something expensive/luxurious to imply an ample income (this one’s tricky because some subtlety is required so you don’t seem like you’re bragging or showing off)

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Seconding MattM here.

            The indispensable photo is the one with you and an attractive woman. Just don’t go overboard: if there are two or more women in the shot crop it down to the one closest to you.

            For the full body pic make sure that you highlight your height. If you’re 6′ or taller just stand next to a reference object like a doorframe. If you’re shorter than 6′ have a shorter friend take the picture and/or use perspective tricks.

            Try to use a real camera if at all possible. If you’re broke a cellphone camera is acceptable but not for your profile pic.

          • baconbacon says:

            You guys are mostly overthinking the photo stuff.

            Post pictures of you doing things that you do. If you don’t do anything that is one problem, if you don’t do anything with other people that is a different issue.

            If you don’t like kids much you will look unnatural and unattractive (less attractive) standing next to kids, a photo of your plumber’s crack while you are wedged under a sink says “handy” far better than you standing in front of a bunch of tools.

          • blah says:

            @Andrew

            Dude, you are above average in terms of physical attractiveness. I think we’re probably about the same level of physical attractiveness, but the pictures on my dating profile are: rock climbing action shot, at an orchard, in Paris, and in a group of my friends doing a fun activity.

            I want to maintain a certain level of anonymity here so I can talk about sensitive topics (e.g. See my admission about dealing with social anxiety down thread), but if you want to post an email that you use, I’ll email you the link to my OKC profile.

            Do you use that photo of you in that ridiculous costume? I almost laughed out loud when I saw that. I think that would be really good for your dating profile. Girls seem to love guys to be playful and even silly, which is something that I have trouble with myself.

            Regarding CMB vs OKC, I’m more concerned with you feeling less hopeless about your dating situation than doing an experiment or winning some bet. I think you can probably get one or two dates per week on CMB, Bumble, or Tinder, unless your standards are much higher than mine. So why don’t we just use that as some kind of standard that we’re trying to reach.

            Edit: Also, are you married to that haircut? It’s not terrible, but it looks kind of last century.

            I think the main problem is that you look a bit standoffish in most of those photographs. Probably good for theater auditions, certainly bad for an online dating profile.

            And now I’m just kind of nitpicking, but when you wear a button down shirt tucked in, you should always wear a belt.

            @Nancy
            Are you suggesting that I’m treating dating as an end in itself? Andrew says he wants to get married and getting him more online dates would certainly be conducive to that end.

          • blah says:

            @Andrew

            Also, I’ve never heard of fusion dance. Is this it? https://youtu.be/R0uQor_juqE?t=14s

            Anyway, I was just trying to figure out if it was a partner dance or not. Sounds like it is. So do you talk with your partner as you are dancing? Seems like it would be rude for your partner to ignore you while you’re dancing with her, no matter how standoffish Seattleites are.

          • JShots says:

            I agree with blah here. You need a different set of photos for online dating. At least one with a full, open-mouth smile to help come across as a little more genuine (only one picture shows your teeth – which don’t look bad, so not sure if that’s a point of self-consciousness or just personality). Another photo of you doing stuff with other people, bonus points for having your arm around someone else or as part of a group (side-hug style – doesn’t matter if it’s a guy or a girl) to show you play well with others.

            I’m pretty fascinated by this potential experiment though…

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I don’t know. Are standards of physical beauty a lot higher in the US or something?

            Probably not higher than any other comparably developed euro-descended nation, with the exception of certain very specific places and subcultures (Venice Beach comes to mind).

            That said, hetero/bi men and women rate each other VERY differently. In the case of females, 80% of males are below median physical attractiveness, almost all of those WELL below median physical attractiveness. The more common and colloquial terms for ‘well below median physical attractiveness’ are left as an exercise to the reader.

            However, this isn’t as bad as it sounds because “rating of attractiveness” != “level of actual interest” for women. I recommend OKCupid’s Blog Posts by Christian Rudder or his book Dataclysm for this sort of thing, though the blog probably has more actionable advice in terms of dating while the book is more broad scale analysis of the aggregated data.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “@Nancy
            Are you suggesting that I’m treating dating as an end in itself? Andrew says he wants to get married and getting him more online dates would certainly be conducive to that end.”

            No, it was just a thing that came to mind from a discussion elsewhere. I should have started a new thread with it rather than posting it as a reply.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            @Blah: thanks for the advice on new pictures. As it happens, I have plenty of action shots from theater & sports, several pictures of me hanging out with other people (e.g. me and Belle and our director), I’ve tried out all of these on Tinder/OKC, and I’ve seen little to no success with them either. They’re probably not great pictures, but short of hiring a model photographer to follow me around at Vertical World and do a photoshoot, I’m not sure how I’d get better. You’re probably right that I could smile more, and I work on hat, and if I had a way to get lots of pictures taken with a big glittering group of bright young things I’d do that, but not being popular, I don’t.

            I think we’re in agreement then that you couldn’t succeed with the sort of pictures of me that actually exist?

            And a note on you and the other saying you thought my photos made me look relatively decent: revealed preferences. Plenty of people I know will say similar things. Every piece of evidence I have from dating sites, or comments from strangers who aren’t motivated to be nice say otherwise. I trust the two recruiters who spent ten minutes laughing at how ugly I was while I waited for an interview candidate at work (they thought I couldn’t hear them…) or the (est.) 25,000 women who’ve rejected me online a lot more than someone who’s socially obligated to say nice things.

          • rlms says:

            @Andrew Hunter
            I don’t think SSC commenters are especially under social pressure to claim you look nice. I would say that from those photos you have a better-than-average body and an average face, although the face is more characterful than average. That might sound damning (with faint praise), but it shouldn’t. The first other men I can think of with similarly “characterful” faces are Benedict Cumberbatch and a guy I know who’s married.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that heterosexual men generally are bad at identifying some kinds of male ugliness/blandness and male attractiveness.

            People like Steve Buscemi and George Clooney are pretty obvious, but I’ve also seen Seth Rogen on a list of ugly actors and he seems pretty averagey to me.

          • rlms says:

            @Aapje
            I think celebrities are a special case, because being much more attractive than average is often a prerequisite for becoming an actor (or pop musician etc.), so those who are average by general population standards look ugly in comparison to their peers.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            @rlms: I don’t know if you’re under particular social pressure, but it’s free for you to say that. It’s a costly signal for a girl to actually spend time for me (etc.) Therefore we should trust that latter signal to more accurately match reality.

            (I suppose this isn’t quite the same as a revealed preference, but if there’s a term for this particular part of signaling games I forget it.)

          • someone who’s socially obligated to say nice things.

            I suppose I could have been even less nice in my interpretation of your problems if I had tried, but … .

          • It’s a costly signal for a girl to actually spend time for me (etc.) Therefore we should trust that latter signal to more accurately match reality.

            It’s evidence that there is some reason girls don’t want to spend time with you, but not that the reason is your face. As I may have already suggested, your posts in this thread suggest an alternative hypothesis.

          • sconn says:

            I am from Seattle and live on the East Coast …. I just can’t imagine anyone thinking the grass is greener here than there. Seattle is great! And I have never heard it has fewer single women than elsewhere. I think all my Seattle girlfriends are married now, but they didn’t marry particularly young. I like the idea of trying to socialize more with UW women. You might also try outdoor activities (hiking, sailing, whatever) if you don’t loathe them … that’s what people do out there, and you can meet a lot of cool people that way.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            It’s evidence that there is some reason girls don’t want to spend time with you, but not that the reason is your face. As I may have already suggested, your posts in this thread suggest an alternative hypothesis.

            I’m honestly not sure what you are suggesting. You did say:

            Judging by your posts, you are putting more effort into producing reasons why you can’t find a wife than into looking for one.

            Are you saying that you think I prefer moping to trying? That I seem depressive and negative and people can tell? Or just that the way I write makes me seem unlikable? Or something else I’m not understanding?

            All I will say in my defense is that…I’ve been doing this for what feels like quite some time, and I ask for advice a lot, and believe or not I try to follow it…and much of it is really useless because people don’t realize what other factors are in play for them. A lot of the time it feels like people are quoting me a walkthrough for Final Fantasy V when I’m complaining I can’t beat Final Fantasy VI [1] and not realizing why that’s not helpful. And so I’m frustrated and feel like I missed my window–or more precisely, college was the last time I felt like I was playing the same game as my advisors, and I squandered it–hence this whole subthread.

            I would like to think that in real life I am both more positive and less obsessed with this than I am in this thread, which just happened to hit me on a hard day of a hard week (dealing with a minor breakup and another minor social failure while incredibly stressed from work), and I really am trying to make progress. (Your suggestion to look for graduate students was genuinely helpful and I’m actively brainstorming ways I could potentially meet them, so far without success but it’s only been a day. Other than moving, which I can’t do yet, it’s the most actionable advice I have at the moment.)

            I am not one to often use the phrase “victim blaming” but can you see why I might read your comments as somewhat unfair to me here?

            [1] Disclaimer: have not played either, not really a JRPG person. But they’re quite different, presumably, given the usual FF pattern?

          • blah says:

            @Andrew

            I realize, now, that it was a mistake for me to evaluate your looks at all. I think it suggested to you that I bought into your misconception that looks are the major factor in online dating. I just don’t agree that looks are the most important thing for online dating.

            There’s an error in your reasoning when you say that the number of women who’ve rejected you online proves that you’re ugly. You’re assuming that the reason they rejected you is your looks. But I don’t believe that assumption is justified.

            I think you’re suffering from a corollary to the typical mind fallacy. Individuals of either sex tend to assume that what attracts them will attract the opposite sex. So if you base who you message online 90% off looks (that’s what I do), then you assume that’s how women send messages or decide to respond to messages.

            Women are far less visual than men on average and looks are only one component of a synthetic evaluation that covers many different qualities. So if through your pictures and profile you can show that you’re a cool guy, that can capture a woman’s interest.

            The thing is, you actually seem to be a cool guy. You have interesting hobbies. You do BJJ, you climb, you do theater. You just need to show that through your pictures.

            You say that you’ve included pictures of yourself doing your cool hobbies. Can you link those pictures?

            I am very confident that you’re doing something wrong with online dating, I just haven’t figured out what yet. If you have no pictures in which you’re smiling, then that could be it. Or it could be that your pictures are too boring. Or it could be what you’ve written on your profile. Or it could be the types of messages that you send. Or it could be a hundred other things.

            Can you just link me to your OKC profile? If you do that, I should be able to figure out what the problem(s) is(are).

          • Mark says:

            I can think of other reasons why two women might have a conversation about why you are ugly other than you being really ugly, but never-mind that.

            Let’s just assume that you have a specific type of super-ugliness that only women can see.

            You’ve got to look for some cute, kind, lower-class woman. Date respectable working class women in their late twenties/early thirties. They’ll be impressed by your cash flow.

            Don’t go cool. You’re ugly, remember? Go well off. Find someone who will be impressed by your money, whatever that might be.

          • Matt M says:

            Don’t forget fat girls. I know this is incredibly un-PC, but it’s also 100% true. Fat girls have significantly lower standards. Try POF. It’s bottom of the barrel but you can get some responses…

          • blah says:

            @Matt M

            Don’t forget fat girls.

            I’m not sure if this is trolling or not, but I think part of the issue is that Andrew has high standards, and I don’t think he should lower them.

            I don’t think I’m appreciable more physically attractive than Andrew. We have similar hobbies (in one case the same). We both have nerdy jobs. I also consider myself to have high standards. But when I’m really applying myself with my online dating accounts I probably average 1.5 dates per week with girls who meet my standards for physical attractiveness. So if Andrew is getting 0 per week, then something is not adding up. That’s why I think he’s doing something and maybe multiple things wrong.

            Edit: I do think my haircut in most of my photos is better than Andrew’s haircut in the photos that he’s show us. So maybe that’s it. I recommended a new haircut upthread, but Andrew never acknowledged it.

          • Matt M says:

            Not trolling – 100% serious. I was averaging zero, and then I lowered my standards by a lot, and then I averaged I dunno, 1-2 per month. Which still sucks, but hey.

          • blah says:

            Maybe we need to get you on the blah online dating program as well.

            I just want to be clear that I don’t think I’m some kind of Lothario. I just feel that I have the online dating thing pretty well optimized. I’m better online than I am in person, and I actually have a significant amount of trouble getting second dates from girls that I meet online. As a result, I’ve actually been focusing on meeting girls offline recently.

            So I don’t have everything figured out. I’m just trying to help people with the part that I do feel I have answers for.

          • Deiseach says:

            Don’t forget fat girls. I know this is incredibly un-PC, but it’s also 100% true. Fat girls have significantly lower standards. Try POF. It’s bottom of the barrel but you can get some responses…

            Hey! As a Person Of Orbitude, I resemble that remark!

            Seriously though, guys (and I do mean “guys”), some of you have spoken rather resentfully of your experiences of being the “not unless I was absolutely fucking desperate” choice (or not) in the dating world.

            Let’s try extrapolating how that feels onto others when talking of possible avenues of approach, hmmm? “Well yeah, she’ll do for a desperation fuck in the dark but you’d want to have no other choice and you certainly don’t want to be seen out in public, or in daylight, or indeed at all by anyone else, with her”. Maybe not phrase it like that?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I have to say that Andrew’s “oh, no one will date me” reminds me of some fat girls I know who say “oh, no one will date me” when in reality their shitty attitudes about how stuck-up men are about fat women are what keep lots of guys away.

            I know it’s hard out there, and you’re free to make things harder on yourself, but you should admit you are making things harder on yourself and ask if it’s worth it.

          • [Thing] says:

            My brief forays into online dating have been quite nerve-wracking and none-too-promising, but I have some rather egregious, difficult-to-hide mental-health-related shortcomings, and I don’t think my fundamentals are appreciably better than yours in the looks department, so I was still kind of surprised at how well I was doing. I guess it could be a more favorable demographic situation in my city, or perhaps my standards aren’t quite as high as yours, but on the off chance that it is just a looks issue, have you ever tried growing out your facial hair? It would probably help masculinize your jawline. (I set my beard trimmer to 4.5mm, for the record.)

            Also, if you weren’t already doing it, you could try following this guy’s advice (also this), which I make sure to do whenever I have someone take a pic for my dating profiles.

          • commenter#1 says:

            @Andrew –

            Use Terra, Celes, Sabin, and anyone else (Gogo is my fav)
            Equip economizer and Gem Box on Terra. Spam Ultimax2 every turn. Gogo mimics. Celes spams ultima/heals. Sabin use bum rush/air blade.
            (FF6 strat)

            @blah. I’m happy to help with the okc rewrite if you want assistance.

            @Andrew; I’m hoping that you are just responding on a particularly bad day. I’m just sharing my impressions from your writing on this OT, so if it’s a bad sample of your communication then any inferences are likewise skewed. That said, I would be VERY surprised if it was really Seattle vs. your behavior. I used to live in DC and I found the average girls very annoying and overly political. But I still was able to have a reasonable dating life with a subset of women I liked.

            I’m reminded of this parable:

            A man who was traveling came upon a farmer working in his field and asked him what the people in the next village were like. The farmer asked “What were the people like in the last village you visited?” The man responded “They were kind, friendly, generous, great people.” “You’ll find the people in the next village are the same,” said the farmer.
            Another man who was traveling to the same village came up to the same farmer somewhat later and asked him what the people in the next village were like. Again the farmer asked “What were the people like in the last village you visited?” The second man responded, “They were rude, unfriendly, dishonest people.” “You’ll find the people in the next village are the same,” said the farmer.

            And the only reason I am being persistent here is that I have been in similarly frustrated shoes. And the important variable was my behavior, not my city. You’re not me, so YMMV.

          • outis says:

            Perhaps because I am in a similar situation, I cannot resist throwing in my two cents. I have no advice to give, but I will try to give you an unbiased evaluation.

            1) In terms of facial attractiveness, you are unattractive, but in an endearing way. It helps that you are well-groomed and fit. I would say you are a 5/10 (and I would rate myself as a 7/10).

            I think what is throwing other commenters off is that so many people in America are not simply ugly, but actually disgusting: slovenly, obese, dirty, unkempt, etc. You are none of that; you are 0% disgusting. But that does not automatically put one at 6/10.

            2) Your body looks good. I would say it’s a 7.5/10 (and I would rate myself at 6.5/10). You are, indeed, more fit than the average American. However, for the kind of woman you want to date, this is more of a baseline than a standout achievement.

            BTW, I’m assuming you are at least 6 feet tall.

            3) You sound like a very interesting person. You have a lot of cool hobbies and things going on. You also have a dog and a house; apart from your romantic setbacks, you seem to really have your life together. I would rate you at 8/10 (and myself at 6/10).

            I also live in a bad city for dating. On top of that, I take part in far fewer activities, and therefore should have fewer chances to meet people. And I put almost zero effort into doing so (less than you apparently do). I’m also a similar age.

            Given the above, I would say that I am a worse (or, at best, no better) person than you in every respect *except* for facial attractiveness.

            However, I seem to be able to meet women, go on dates, etc. at a significantly higher rate than what you report. This seems to corroborate your assumptions on the importance of facial attractiveness (though it is by no means conclusive).

            That said, remember that more familiar faces are perceived as more attractive. You already look more attractive after looking at your photo album for a few minutes. You may be at a disadvantage when women are flipping through hundreds of profiles, but if you can get them to spend some time with you, at least some of them are bound to start perceiving you as interesting instead.

            In any case, you seem like a cool guy and I would like to be your friend if we lived in the same city.

      • bean says:

        I think Seattle is your problem. I’d suggest Spokane as an alternative if it’s feasible. The weather is better, the politics are better, and the people are better. If I was freed from the worries of career requirements, I think I’d be living there.

      • Some Faceless Mook says:

        There’s a difference between picky and self-defeating. You lean heavily in the latter camp. While I grant you credit that you have experience, and you’re not trying to blame this on one force or another, it still feels like you’re strategically aiming to lose, like you don’t actually want to marry someone. You seem to hedge a significant chunk of your life to “getting married,” which I think is really unhealthy. Like you take this OCD-level analysis of “dating markets” and prior relationships, and really pushing out your physical appearance, as well picking the “right” university. This is becoming such a hang-up it’s turning it into a meat hook.

        I think it’s necessary for you not to admit defeat but just focus your energy elsewhere, anything but trying to get married. Instead of spending time trying to find someone, sublimate that time into something useful and meaningful (and hopefully social). You’re 29, FFS. If you’re saying you lost because you’re too “old” for this, you’re basically letting something else – society, your past experiences, science – dictate how you live, and that’s hurting you. You need to get out of that mindset, since that’s probably, more than anything else, what’s preventing you from finding a meaningful relationship with someone.

        That said, get out of Seattle. Place is expensive as all get out.

        • I think it’s necessary for you not to admit defeat but just focus your energy elsewhere, anything but trying to get married. Instead of spending time trying to find someone, sublimate that time into something useful and meaningful (and hopefully social).

          You may overestimate the meaningfulness of my mopey comments on a slow Sunday to my life as practiced. I think I do exactly what you suggest: I spent all of July performing in a local Gilbert & Sullivan company’s Pinafore and training my ass off for the Seattle Open BJJ tournament. I cook a lot. I climb regularly (another area where I’m searching for a partner, though in a different sense :P), I go social dancing, I play Magic. If anything, I have too many things taking up my time, not too few.

          I don’t spend most days sitting around wishing I was dating someone. I just know from experience that none of the above will get me a partner, and so I’m going to get more and more alone as everyone I know pairs off and stops talking to their weird single friend. So I’m trying pretty hard to be OK with that in the medium term. It will kill me in the long run–lonely people die–but what cannot be cured must be endured.

          I don’t think any of that, or your response contradicts my original posts’ point: I squandered my best hopes and chances through a series of dumb decisions I didn’t know I was making; I’d give almost anything for the chance to take those back; anyone young enough to still have the chance would be well-served by optimizing on those grounds.

          • schazjmd says:

            With all of those opportunities to meet potential partners, I’m baffled. Is it that you haven’t met anyone at all that you find interesting? Or have you asked them out and been turned down?

      • sovietKaleEatYou says:

        Some vague pattern-matching makes me ask this question (and please, please don’t get upset by it – I mean well). Have you tried dating or experimenting sleeping with guys? There was a time in my life (lasting several years in my 20s) when I had trouble dating because I figured out I’m somewhat bisexual but didn’t know what to do about it. What helped for me was working to figure this part of me out and learning to think of it as a positive thing. After becoming comfortable with it and experimenting a little it turned out I am attracted to some guys but not aroused by gay erotic situations. In the end I’m functionally heterosexual though I tell close friends and girlfriends that I’m bi. Just figuring these things out (even before I slept with a guy) made me much more comfortable and gave me the confidence to have what I consider a successful love life (as it happens, with women).

      • caethan says:

        > it might be epsilon better at MIT or Mudd or Caltech but you will die alone if you go there

        Hey, I met my wife at Caltech. And if you’re a nerdy *woman*, then the odds are really good there. And if you’re a man, well, then you just have to stand out above a fairly low threshold.

      • commenter#1 says:

        I don’t want to be overly harsh, but I think your self-assessment is crap. I’m 31 now and only met my future fiancee at 29 (on OKC), but at the time I was having a lot of fun dating around. And I say this as a StarCraft playing, right-wing nerd in a 2nd tier lefty city.

        Bluntly, your AGE is not the limiting factor here.

        What’s the bottleneck here? Are you having trouble converting outbound messages into inbound? Conversations into dates? Dates into repeat dates/relationships?

        Have you ever read Models by Mark Manson? It’s the only really worthwhile book from the “pickup” scene, and it might do you some good. It provides guidance on how to build a more attractive lifestyle.

        As for photos, I would try smiling in some of your photos. I think you come across as attractive but very cold.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          The bottleneck in the conversion funnel is lead generation. I do OK, if not great, talking to girls in person, but it’s basically next to impossible to arrange. (Online results, see other subthreads, but short version it’s not appreciably different from writing my okcupid messages longhand and burning them in a woodstove–my tinder match rate is maybe 0.05%, and of those matches perhaps 1% ever responds to anything I say.)

          Most advice I read online from any credible source goes on and on about what is or isn’t attractive or authentic or whatever word they like to use, and just assumes you’re going to have dozens of opportunties to practice this. I would estimate I talk to a single woman once a year.

          • commenter#1 says:

            Do you have any close female friends/relatives that can read your profile and give direct feedback on language or photos? I would also take blah up on his offer.

            There’s a whole lot of not necessarily intuitive signaling going on with profiles. And solely based on your writing in this OT, you communication style may be too direct and off-putting for the basic profile and flirty initial comment stage.

            Yes, if you are a 10 attractiveness male, you do not need to put forth too much thought into your messages. For everyone who’s not a male model, we have to put a little work into the messages, and even when you write a great, insightful, and funny note… you’re going to have a crappy response rate. Dating, like sales, is a #s game.

          • blah says:

            I would estimate I talk to a single woman once a year.

            What about your social dancing? You have to have the opportunity to talk to single women there.

            What about theater? I’d guess the straight women to straight man ration is thoroughly in your favor.

          • commenter#1 says:

            Second @blah. My male friends who have done theater and dancing tend to have a disproportionate amount of success with women, partly because of favorable gender ratios at those activities. Even if the women who are dancing/acting with you aren’t single, if they like you, they’d be recommending you to their single friends.

            Again, based on this limited data, I would bet that something isn’t clicking in your communication style. If you believe that you’re not attractive, you’re probably subcommunicating that belief – and women tend to be good at picking up on stuff like that.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I agree about the communications skills thing. I’ve been wondering if there’s something subtly off about the way you interact with women you’re attracted to.

          • publiusvarinius says:

            My male friends who have done theater and dancing tend to have a disproportionate amount of success with women, partly because of favorable gender ratios at those activities.

            Alternative explanation: theaters and dance clubs drive away men who are not successful with women 😉

            […] and women tend to be good at picking up on stuff like that.

            My prior says this claim is pure woo. However, the SSC audience is remarkably good at digging up actual studies confirming (or refuting) implausible claims. I hope this will happen again.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            And solely based on your writing in this OT, you communication style may be too direct and off-putting for the basic profile and flirty initial comment stage…

            …and even when you write a great, insightful, and funny note… you’re going to have a crappy response rate.

            These two sections, man, these two sections right here.

            I would estimate I talk to a single woman once a year.

            Fix this first. Even the nerdiest weirdest guys I know have girlfriends, but they interact with WAY more single girls than you. Even if you’re incredibly hot, your chances with that single girl is a 1 in 10 scenario, at best. For average joes, you’re more likely to hit a home run off a MLB pitcher.

          • commenter#1 says:

            @publius.
            I don’t have published data, just personal observations, so discount accordingly. But having been involved with theater myself, most theater types tend to be hyper-tolerant of weirdos and guys who aren’t great with women. (Also tend to be very intolerant of non-left politics, but usually not an issue if you don’t bring it up).

            Maybe second claim was over broad but I think feeling unattractive will translate into lack of confidence. People can generally pick up on that and in past surveys I’ve seen, “Confidence” is usually the top or at least one of top few qualities women screen for when evaluating attractiveness in men.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            When I was your age (cough like 11 years ago), I was single. I met my now-wife when I was 33; we got married when I was 36.

            I probably have/had a more handsome face than you do, and I’m college educated (edit: Sorry, I thought I remembered you saying you weren’t college educated, but now I see references to the contrary). But I’m not devastatingly attractive, you probably have a better body than I did, and I don’t have particularly unique attractors. I was far from an awesome playa, but I dated several women each year and didn’t have that much trouble meeting people.

            If your dancing and theatre and so forth don’t get you in front of single women, then go to a goddamn club. Or aggressively shop around for activity things until you find one that has a few ladies that you’d be interested in dating, and ask them all out, and then if you have no success with those ladies, keep shopping around for new activity things. Or change jobs to a large company and do work events and ask out coworkers who you don’t interact with on a daily basis. There’s no reason why you should be doomed to a life of loneliness based on what you’ve said here.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            My male friends who have done theater and dancing tend to have a disproportionate amount of success with women, partly because of favorable gender ratios at those activities. Even if the women who are dancing/acting with you aren’t single, if they like you, they’d be recommending you to their single friends.

            Your male friends don’t live in Seattle.

            You are right that the female : male ratio is good in theater (and better if you strip out the gay men), but essentially all the women are married or in a multi-year relationship (and have been since college.) I guess my terrible unlikability and off-putting nature is preventing me from being recommended to their single friends, if they have any, but I’m not convinced they do.

            Dance is a little better, oddly, despite men outnumbering women (this is Seattle.) I have gotten briefly involved with a few, though nothing has come of it. (Also, and again, yes, I’m evil and picky, the overwhelming majority of women at my dance event of choice are from the vaguely poly/pagan/hippie/hyper-liberal tribe, which isn’t at all what I want to be involved with long term. Before you suggest I change to a different dance style/community, I’ll tell you that I’ve tried three or four and this is the only one which any substantial population of women attend.)

            I would estimate I talk to a single woman once a year.

            Fix this first. Even the nerdiest weirdest guys I know have girlfriends, but they interact with WAY more single girls than you.

            Trying hard to not say something sarcastic here, but, yes, of course this is the problem. I know that–sorry, I thought I was clear from the first post that this was the problem. That’s what I’m trying to fix, without any success as of yet. I have had zero success in finding them existing anywhere.

          • blah says:

            The overwhelming majority of women at my dance event of choice are from the vaguely poly/pagan/hippie/hyper-liberal tribe, which isn’t at all what I want to be involved with long term.

            If you’re looking for more traditional girls, you should try church.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            I’ve had maybe a dozen OKCupid profiles, as I abandon accounts every year or so when I can no longer stand shouting into the wind, but here’s a representative one (ignore the photos.) It was about as successful as any of them, maybe a modicum above average (though nothing has been as successful as being 21.) If you all insist in critiquing it, go ahead (though I haven’t touched this account in months.)

            https://www.okcupid.com/profile/hmsmars

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’ll ask you again, do you think your profile pic here does a good job of representing you in an attractive light?

            Because you have several pictures in the profile that bear a resemblance to this one. And they give off a strong vibe. The vibe is “I am angry at the world”.

            That is not a vibe you want to project when you are trying to date.

          • Brad says:

            Dude. You’re 6’1″, not overweight, and have no obvious deformities.

            Okay, your face doesn’t look like a young Brad Pitt’s, but I don’t think physical attractiveness is your issue.

            I have no idea what it is, but you shouldn’t have a 1 in 2000 swipe right rate.

            You seem to have plenty of money, why not hire someone to put together a tinder profile?

            It’s pretty easy to judge the performance of those guys — it’s just swipe rate before vs swipe rate after, so I’d expect the market to be pretty transparent.

            Maybe a professional photographer too, see what the profile person says.

          • Aponymouse says:

            And they give off a strong vibe. The vibe is “I am angry at the world”.

            This might be confounded by Andrew’s comments here, but yeah, I’d probably agree that the vibe is there. Andrew, have you considered interventions to improve your perception of the world (and yourself in it) in general? Meditation, therapy, empathogens?

          • Mark says:

            IMO

            I think the stuff you have written at the beginning is mixing quirkiness with obscurity and coming across as strange.

            So… you’ve got the 6 foot 1, rich intelligent thing going on. I’m not sure you need sea-shanty as an opener.

            I don’t know what sous vide is, so I assume you’re automatically going to turn off anyone who isn’t classy. And non-classy people are your best bet for a non-judgmental date.

            So, I think your opening paragraph, you’re trying to say – I’m quirky, classy, strong and intelligent, but it’s not direct enough and worded a bit obscurely so it’s hard to relate to.
            Sea shanties is a bit *too* quirky without any further explanation. Sous vide is a bit *too* classy (what is it?).
            ‘A good day involves picking up something heavy’ – what’s wrong with saying ‘I love lifting weights’ or something else along those lines?

            So, I’m already disconnected after reading the first few lines, then I scan through and it’s just more strange stuff I can’t relate to – ‘I’m good at roasting chickens’… ‘porterhouse for one’…

            If I was you I’d be like:
            Hey – I’m a tall intelligent man with a big nose. And you know what they say about men with big noses. I’m into sea shanties, grog and cute kittens.
            I’m also very strong.

            I’m really good at:
            I ran a gambling ring in high school.

            Favorite books, movies, shows, music, and food

            Sous vide (look it up).

            And the rest is fine.

          • johan_larson says:

            I don’t have a specific answer for you, Andrew, but maybe you could get some perspective on your situation by considering a slightly different question.

            Suppose you didn’t just WANT to get married, you HAD to get married and stay married, and fairly soon at that. What would you do?

          • Aapje says:

            I agree with the above. Way too much quirky and pretense.

            I’d say that you try too hard to impress, missing the part where you show that you are a person with human qualities. Even more importantly, you come across as not needing/wanting anybody in your life. Ordering “the porterhouse for two, for one” makes me think of that scene where Terry Jones overeats and blows up in the restaurant, not a person who is nice on a date.

            The rest of your profile also doesn’t have any reference to some activity where a woman might come in and have a great time with you. Given what you’d told us here, something like: ‘I’m looking for a smart girl to dance the night away’ seems appropriate. Many women like to dance, it is an activity for two, it hints to intimacy, etc.

            PS. The profile picture is really bad. That pose is really weird, your arms are invisible and again you come across as pretentious.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’d say that you try too hard to impress

            To me it reads like he has reached a “fuck it” stage.

          • Way too much quirky and pretense.

            Roughly my reaction. My first response was that his profile was boastful and pretentious so it wasn’t surprising nobody responded, my second to wonder if that was typical of profiles on the site, that being the first such I have ever seen.

            I suggest that he should take up the offer to have someone else rewrite his profile and see what happens.

          • analytic_wheelbarrow says:

            Very cool that so many SSC-ers are trying to help you out. There’s some good advice in here. A few points I wanted to make:

            I’m a straight guy, and even I think you are above average-looking. Someone said you should change your haircut; I have no clue about that but get some advice from someone who knows more about this.

            Someone mentioned getting a female friend to read over your profile. This is great advice. (Have her do the same for your photos.) Women your age in your city will know much more about this than any of us. 🙂

            You could even have a female read over your “first message” that you are considering sending to a female you meet online.

            I think it’s awesome that David Friedman is helping you out. One thing he mentioned was that if you go to non-top-tier city, your perfect match there could be a grad student. I agree, and I would add “young female professors” to the pool of candidates. There are plenty of PhD candidates, esp. in the humanities, who would live in just about any city in order to land a professorship. So the professors you meet there, besides being more or less intellectually compatible with you, may be nothing like the “natives” in that town.

            But changing cities is a big step. Work on easier potential solutions first.

            Finally, ask some of your female friends if you come across badly. Some people on this site thought you might project a negative attitude. I think it’s hard to tell just from reading posts, so I think it’s worth asking someone you know IRL.

          • Deiseach says:

            Yeah, what HeelBearCub said about the photos. The profile itself isn’t too bad, although comes off as trying a bit too hard to be quirky. But the photos do you no favours – the one with the dog is good, but if your hair is different (are you currently blond or back to brown?) then don’t include ones with different-coloured to what you have now hair.

            One at least of the photos would immediately turn me off because it makes you look like “Unironically into Henry Rollins when Henry Rollins was unironically into angry screaming”; for a potential date it comes across as “on a date with this guy he would harangue me all through it about the state of the world and politics, then possibly steal my purse at the end”.

            You have a decent looking face, try smiling! Unless you have the kind of face where smiling makes you look like a crazed killer clown and I don’t think you do. You’re not bad looking at all, the no-smoking would be a plus for me (were I a typical female) and there’s no reason your profile couldn’t garner you a few chances, if you drop the “looks like a cast member from American History X” photos.

          • Deiseach says:

            I don’t know what sous vide is

            Fancy term for “boil in the bag” 🙂 Not necessarily classy, as it’s also widely used as a commercial food preparation method both for retail stores (frozen foods) and restaurants/food service operations where “get it out fast, cheap and in large amounts” is the main criterion.

            Can be ‘classy’ if done as “home style gourmet cooking for personal freezing and later consumption” but you would need to make that distinction very clear. (Please note: I am in no way classy myself, this does not reflect on either Andrew or Mark). The “interested in cooking” part is good, too, as it holds the promise of “I can cook a nice dinner for two if we get to the stage of inviting you over for a meal”; I didn’t mind the “porterhouse for two, for one” line as it indicates he has a healthy appetite and won’t expect a female date to pick daintily at a salad like a bird else he’ll judge her a glutton if she eats more than six forkfuls at once (er, you won’t think a woman who likes her food is a glutton, will you?)

          • Matt M says:

            One at least of the photos would immediately turn me off because it makes you look like “Unironically into Henry Rollins when Henry Rollins was unironically into angry screaming”

            And yet, we’re telling him that he has too high of standards and should be less picky :p

            At some point it seems absurd to simultaneously tell people “You need to not look for anything specific and be willing to date anyone who is willing to date you” AND “Go spend $100 to hire a professional photographer because the angle of your chin is slightly off on your third photo which assuredly is responsible for 99% of women rejecting you”

          • Charles F says:

            At some point it seems absurd to simultaneously tell people “You need to not look for anything specific and be willing to date anyone who is willing to date you” AND “Go spend $100 to hire a professional photographer […]”

            I’m not seeing it. The first one helps you be willing to go on dates with more people. The second makes more people willing to go on dates with you. They both serve the goal of increasing the number of potential dates, just from different angles.

          • Matt M says:

            Of course they do, and of course if your goal is to maximize dates both are good advice.

            But I think a lot of people turn away at the concept of fundamental unfairness, and if you tell them simultaneously:

            “You must not have any standards whatsoever, having high standards is bad because of reasons x, y, z”

            AND ALSO

            “The reason you can’t get any dates is because one of your five photos is somewhat imperfect and might remind girls of a musician they don’t like”

            I think that’s likely to trigger a “fuck that, I’ll just die alone then” sort of response. You’re telling me that *I* have to be absolutely perfect in every way or no women will ever so much as talk to me, but at the same time, I must be willing to talk to and date every woman on Earth because having high standards is stupid and counterproductive.

            If high standards are so bad, then it seems odd to also imply that 99% of women will have a standard of “absolute perfection”

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t know who Henry Rollins is; the second picture in the slideshow though is very bad. It’s an expression of contempt, like you’ve already ruled hypothetical-female-me out, so why would I bother? I know about trying to display high value, but I don’t think you hit the mark there.

            Like others have said, get a photo of you, in a group, obviously enjoying yourself.

            But I think a lot of people turn away at the concept of fundamental unfairness

            Maybe, but it’s fundamentally an economics problem. Just like in a job interview, both parties want a large pool of offers from which they can pick the best one. If you get enough offers, by increasing the perceived value you present, you can be more picky. If you are less picky, you have more offers to choose from.

            Basically: time, standards, effort. You can only sacrifice one.

          • Charles F says:

            If high standards are so bad, then it seems odd to also imply that 99% of women will have a standard of “absolute perfection”

            I can see where you’re coming from, but it seems misguided to me. Having standards is about saying “this person is unworthy of consideration.” Women have standards, but they’re not the reason professional photos are a big deal or that having a height that starts with 5 cuts your chances in half. The reason Andrew isn’t getting responses is because women have options. Andrew might be worthy of consideration in a vacuum, but if they’ve got 25 other messages from 6’X” guys with a decent face and no pictures at all that remind them of a musician they don’t like, and they don’t have time for 25 dates, his message gets ignored.

          • Matt M says:

            Do they, though?

            I understand that women get 100x more messages than men do on these platforms.

            But I’m not convinced that any significant portion of those men have profiles that are literally perfect in every way.

          • Charles F says:

            But I’m not convinced that any significant portion of those men have profiles that are literally perfect in every way.

            Well they obviously don’t have to be perfect, just better than his, which I do think is likely.

          • Mark says:

            Take this with a pinch of salt, cause it’s just one man’s opinion, but I strongly disagree – I actually think the photo is kind of ok (just looks like a dude chillin’ to me), but the text is bad.

            “porterhouse for two, for one” is bad because it’s too obscure. I’ve got no idea what it means.
            So that line basically says to me “I am obscure, likely boring, and probably a bit snooty.” And, it also made me feel a bit sad, like – “this guy is ordering a meal for two by himself because he has no friends?” (A bottle of wine with one glass…)
            So that’s bad.

            Also, it’s just the sheer weight of obscure and strange things. Sword fighting, annoying singing, Moktak says sky, erdos numbers, sea shanties, bouiller-de-sac, the fact that things aren’t stated clearly – “a good day involves lifting something heavy and dealing with a tricky problem” instead of “I like lifting, and I’m dead smart too.”

            You’re really limiting your options with text like that – I don’t think I know any woman who knows what an erdos number is, and that is one of the less obscure things on there – and that means that you *have* to have some amazing picture.
            Who is the woman who connects to all of these things and thinks… “hmmm… yeah, erdos numbers, obscure star trek quotations, sea shanties AND Sous verde! I’m in!”
            We’re looking for someone with amazing reading comprehension, interest in obscure facts, possible Star Trek fan that’s into food and dogs.

            (Thinking about it, are most of the things there a reference to The Pirates of Penzance? If you’re filtering that specifically, you simply can’t expect a good response rate.)

          • Charles F says:

            I strongly disagree – I actually think the photo is kind of ok, the text is terrible.

            I kind of agree with you about that, but if 90% of how well you do is based on your pictures (and 80+% of that is the first picture, which I thought was the worst one) the easy win is getting a clear picture where you’re smiling.

            At least on OKC, a woman is going to see your first picture, your opening message, the rest of your pictures, then your profile if she liked everything else, at which point what matters is making sure not to trigger any horrible alarms, rather than winning them over. That also ends up being the order of importance. If your first message at least mentions something in their profile and a tiny bit about yourself, they don’t even have to look at your profile to continue the conversation.

          • I don’t know what sous vide is

            Sous vide is a cooking technique in which food is held at a carefully controlled temperature somewhat below the boiling point of water for a long time. Applied to meat, it is supposed to produce a very tender and tasty result from relatively inexpensive cuts.

          • Matt M says:

            You’re really limiting your options with text like that

            No you aren’t. People decide whether they’re going to talk to you or not before they ever read the text.

          • You can lower my Erdős number (currently 3).

            According to Wikipedia, 511 people have coauthored a paper with Paul Erdős. How many of them are single women now under thirty–which would mean they did the coauthoring when under twenty, since Erdős died in 1996?

            My guess is zero.

        • James says:

          Seconding Models being anomalously good of its type.

        • blah says:

          @Andrew

          So I think the written part of the profile is not good and your pictures are terrible. We can definitely improve this a lot.

          I really liked this from Mark

          Hey – I’m a tall intelligent man with a big nose. And you know what they say about men with big noses.

          I ran that one by my ex and she laughed and said she would message a guy who said that.

          I think your main problem is your choice of pictures, especially the profile picture. You need to be smiling in your pictures. The only one that’s any good is the one with the dog. That’s a keep all the other are no good.

          The BJJ picture has potential, but to a girl who doesn’t know the intricacies of BJJ, it may look like you’re getting the shit kicked out of you.

          Also, love the reference to Darmok, but my ex who is a trekkie didn’t even get it so you’re really reaching with that one.

          I’m going to message you through OKC, so you’ll have an idea how I approach things.

          • Deiseach says:

            Hey – I’m a tall intelligent man with a big nose. And you know what they say about men with big noses.

            They need big hankies? 🙂

            Hmmm – that’s a line that needs to be carefully judged, as if you don’t or can’t keep up the “just on the right side of humour and not offence” element for the rest of the profile, it is more likely to cause eye-rolling “how corny can you get?”

      • Roakh says:

        I expect you won’t find this reassuring, but most of my close male friends went through a similar pattern of several years without finding any suitable women at all until they all eventually happened across a suitable woman and ended a long-term relationship/marriage with her.

        The most recent of these was particularly similar to your case in that they had been through, and one point, every single woman on an online dating site within their area with no success and they were often expressing their desperation to me in even more thoroughgoing terms than you have been doing here, and they also literally had no idea how they could conceivably find any suitable partner, (without the changing location which was impossible). Eventually some great woman popped up on the dating site who was a match and they hit it off and now there a long-term relationship. They are a year or two older than you. One of my other friends is classically high status in all the normal ways- good social skills, footballer, with the physique to match et cetera- and he had no success at all in online dating through hundreds of attempts until he happened to meet the woman he married.

        I think it’s possible that you have comparatively niche taste in women and may yourself be a niche taste in women, which means that you may just have to wait a bit longer before finding the right woman- though of course I can see why you wouldn’t find that reassuring.

        Of course, the fact that you’ve only been able to speak to one single woman in the last year, as you mention down thread, is the biggest factor. Considering anything else just seem like a distraction. Seems like you either do need to move city or join different group activities which contain single women.

    • Hyzenthlay says:

      Online personals ad. We’ve been together for over a decade now.

    • Chalid says:

      English class, freshman year of high school.

    • Iain says:

      University debate.

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      I placed a personal ad. She responded. We met 20 years ago this coming Friday.

    • beleester says:

      At our synagogue.

    • nate_rausch says:

      At a summer school for entrepreneurship

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      We met a mutual friend’s holiday party. Most of the people there were pretty boring. So we hung out with each other.
      We started dating a few months later.

    • Urstoff says:

      We both worked for the same adolescent psychologist as “peer mentors” for teens with Asperger’s.

    • Randy M says:

      I’ll give this an answer, since my anniversary was a few days ago–at 14 years, I’m as far from my age at marriage as my eldest, 9 year old daughter is.

      We met at college, first as she was visiting a friend on my dorm floor, although we didn’t get to be acquaintances until both signing up for a short term missions team–a mime team, actually–the next spring. She wasn’t someone I was crushing on at the time (I had a few months early given out roses at valentines day to about 20 girls I knew, with her somehow not making the list), but I apparently was for her. We grew closer and a year later we got engaged.

      I just realized it is slightly ironic that we were both on the Mime team and the Debate team together. So I guess communications skills are important?

      Anyway, pertinent to the above discussion with Andrew, I had had the view that if I couldn’t find a mate at a college with 60% young women, being as introverted as I am, it didn’t look too good for after. I won’t say I settled, but I didn’t keep looking for better after finding someone worthwhile.

    • smocc says:

      We met in college where her apartment was the one just opposite mine in the complex. This also meant we attended the same church meetings and activities. We went out on one date and I came away not that interested in her, but then a week later I saw her and a flip switched and suddenly I was in love.

      We were talking recently about how we are both glad to have married in college. She didn’t expect to, but she’s happy that she did now because it seems a lot harder to find a spouse later.

    • rahien.din says:

      I joined her a capella group in med school

    • JonathanD says:

      Match.com.

    • sconn says:

      In a line waiting for breakfast at our super-religious college. We’re both early birds and were fanatically religious at the time. I’m no longer religious at all, and he is much less so, but thankfully we have other stuff in common now.

  10. Linked List says:

    I’ve recently been having career anxieties. I’m a university student in a computer-related field getting close to graduation. I was wondering about work life in each of the subfields of programming.

    If you’ve worked in any of these, what did you think of it? What did you enjoy and what did you hate about the type of work? Did you feel that the work you did was challenging? Meaningful? And what were the people like in those fields?

    – Web front-end
    – Web back-end
    – Enterprise
    – B2B
    – Embedded Systems
    – HFT
    – “Systems” programming (OS, databases, etc)
    – Data Science/ML
    – Something else I’m missing

    • James says:

      – Web front-end

      I don’t really think of myself as a front-end developer, but I’ve ended up doing some of it as part of my web work. I tend to find it drives me mad. A lot of one’s energy is expended on hackishly working around inconsistencies in various browsers or limitations in HTML/CSS/Javascript themselves. (Though things are quite a bit better on the consistency front than they were even a few years ago.) I think HTML/CSS weren’t designed to do the kinds of things that people now use them to do, and it shows.

      There are solutions that attempt to paper over these problems (various javascript libraries, “polyfills”, etc), but they also feel hacky to me, so I dislike them, too.

      And this is kind of a cliche/stereotype, but the javascript community seems kind of mad with churn in terms of (hip, new) frameworks and libraries. If it’s as bad as it seems from outside, then I think it would drive me mad after a few years as my main form of coding.

      In a nutshell, it probably won’t please you if, like me, you have a pathological longing for elegance in your programming systems.

      – Web back-end

      Better. At worst, a bit repetitive. Sometimes the frameworks I have to use offend my sense of elegance ever-so-slightly, but things are basically good on that front, especially if you’re using a nice language. But you’ll probably be working on basically boring problems. Almost all websites you might develop are, at bottom, a CRUD interface into a database. If that bores you then it may not be for you.

      I haven’t done any of the other kinds of coding you mention, so I can’t give a comparison to any of those. And I haven’t really worked “in tech”, per se, in the sense of working at a start up or similar company whose main product is software-based. The companies I’ve worked at have been mostly large and boring, or non-tech-based but having a tiny tech team to work on their web stuff.

      • Linked List says:

        Thanks. Your experience matches the impression I have about web development.

      • lot of one’s energy is expended on hackishly working around inconsistencies in various browsers or limitations in HTML/CSS/Javascript themselves. (Though things are quite a bit better on the consistency front than they were even a few years ago.) I think HTML/CSS weren’t designed to do the kinds of things that people now use them to do, and it shows.

        Was true, now a lot better.

        But you’ll probably be working on basically boring problems. Almost all websites you might develop are, at bottom, a CRUD interface into a database.

        True of most commercial programming.

        he javascript community seems kind of mad with churn in terms of (hip, new) frameworks and libraries.

        You can have too little churn.

    • Anonymous says:

      – Web front-end

      Do you like making pretty things by slamming together arcane-looking text, with approximately no WYSIWYG? That’s web front-end. If you have poor aesthetic sense, don’t go here.

      – Web back-end

      This job is probably part-admin and part-database-designer. If you like networking and SQL, this is for you, but it’s not the whole thing.

      – Something else I’m missing

      The exact type of specialty matters less than you think, IMO. You’re going to need to be proficient in a whole mess of related technologies anyway.

      Think very carefully if you want to work for a large/old or small/new company. I wouldn’t recommend small/new companies for recent graduates; my experience was being dumped in deep water with vague instructions on what constitutes swimming. Unless you’ve got a very serious independent streak and chafe at any amount of proper management, avoid it, especially when you’re inexperienced. Big corps tend to do more of IKEA-programming, with finely described tasks and responsibilities, which is more suitable for young’uns.

      • I wouldn’t recommend small/new companies for recent graduates; my experience was being dumped in deep water with vague instructions on what constitutes swimming. Unless you’ve got a very serious independent streak and chafe at any amount of proper management, avoid it, especially when you’re inexperienced. Big corps tend to do more of IKEA-programming, with finely described tasks and responsibilities, which is more suitable for young’uns.

        Smaller companies are more likely to give greenfield projects to juniors. Fine-grained responsibilities aren’t a good long term strategy , because the very specialised thing you are doing might become out of date, leaving you with no marketable skills.

        Web back-end

        This job is probably part-admin and part-database-designer. If you like networking and SQL, this is for you, but it’s not the whole thing.

        This job is actually writing glue code and business logic in languages like PHP and python. Admin and database design tend to be less than 10%.

        • Anonymous says:

          Fine-grained responsibilities aren’t a good long term strategy , because the very specialised thing you are doing might become out of date, leaving you with no marketable skills.

          This is not what I meant. I meant there actually being a specification document, people who know what the end-users need, organized testing at several levels, tasks divided into subtasks that can be done in parallel by multiple people, etc. Rather than you being responsible for, basically, everything related to a project yourself.

          This job is actually writing glue code and business logic in languages like PHP and python. Admin and database design tend to be less than 10%.

          Closer to 25% IME.

    • johan_larson says:

      Generally speaking, the front end is fast and flexible. Things change quickly. New development frameworks pop up every couple of years. Being exactly right is not so important. “Move fast and break things” makes sense.

      Conversely at the other end, in the database, things are slow and steady. Stability is important. You’re moving real money from bin A to bin B, and failures matter. The technology is old; you may well be working with a DBMS that had its 1.0 in the seventies. “Plan carefully, then execute” makes sense.

      Analytical systems and server-side business logic tend to be somewhere in the middle. Operations tends to be more DB-like. They value stability.

      Everyone wants both flexibility and rigor. But if when forced to pick just one, you choose flexibility, then head for the front end. If you choose rigor, head the the DB or the back end.

    • RohanV says:

      In my opinion, this type of question won’t really help you.

      What’s more important is the company where you work and the city in which you live. There’s a huge difference between life in a small company and one in a large company. Between a company which expects a standard 40 hours, and one where crunch or overtime is normal. Also, the domain the company is in is important. Finance is different than healthcare, etc. Finally, who are your customers? Programming for non-programmers is very different than programming for other programmers.

      The actual tech you work on is less important than the projects you work on. What type of products do you want to help create.

      • Linked List says:

        >The actual tech you work on is less important than the projects you work on. What type of products do you want to help create

        This is actually what I was trying to ask (what working in each of these types of project is like), though I guess I didn’t articulate it well.

        • RohanV says:

          Oh, I guess I see each of things you listed more as subcomponents of a larger project. Like a normal company needs some backend devs and some frontend devs, and they work together.

      • James says:

        Agreed. The reason I didn’t touch on type of company, type of project, etc. is because those things are equally important between all those fields, so it wouldn’t help you choose between them.

    • Dog says:

      If you’re open to the other side of the field, I’m a network admin / sysadmin, and I do a fair amount of programming for my work – mostly glue code connecting systems, automating business processes, and also some scripting for network management and configuration deployment. Software defined networking is the big coming thing in the networking world, and programming skills are becoming increasingly important, especially at larger / newer companies. I think I do a greater variety of work than a typical developer, but less of it is deep dives into one project. Depends on what you enjoy. I’ve also done freelance web front-end development, and I just want to second that as a freelancer at least, you really need a strong aesthetic sense, so it is not for everybody.

      • Linked List says:

        Tbh, no, I don’t really like sysadmin work. Scripting and glue code are the parts of software development I like the least.

        I understand every software job involves some amount of glue, but I’d still like to minimize it as much as possible.

    • nate_rausch says:

      I have only worked with these teams, so wouldn’t weigh this too highly.

      – Web front-end
      A high variation profession, many low-skilled people working as frontend developers. To you have to choose carefully. Some are as smart as other developer subgroups though. A big (and very useful) overlap with design, so more creative people often end up here.
      You get the skill to create web stuff quickly, which is something a lot of people want to do nowadays, so superuseful if you get good.

      If you have a high aesthetic sense absolutely go here. If not, then you can still go here and specialize in the javascript end of the spectrum where things are starting to overlap with what used to be on backend. Also if you’re more of a coder by heart you’ll have to really fight to stay away from the latest fads in frameworks & libraries, and insist on clean code.

      – Web back-end
      Feels like most programming subcultures. People highly value being smart. People are ideological with regards to language. Very strong sense of self-worth among the peer-group and many communities to participate in. Many people high in systematic thinking and lower in emotional skills.
      As with last one, if you get good you have high value both for own projects and to be hired.

      One more thing. Seems to be two types of ways you can be great here. Being great at making algorithms, or system design. If you’re the kind who win programming competitions then you’re suited for #1. If you’re the kind who can visualize a whole system, or have deep interest in system architecture or economics, then #2 is good.

      – Enterprise
      Assuming you mean working in a company selling to enterprise?
      Long sales cycles (up to years). People asking for insane custom things all the time, so constantly your job to try and tease out the universals worth building.

      – B2B
      Shorter sales-cycle, so feels halfway like making consumer-stuff. Job consists in making series of tools that automate problems your customers have.
      You often have little direct interaction with customers, especially if making something small like say Zapier. Quite a good tradeoff of stability, speed and predictability as for as choosing between a consumer/business/enterprise-product goes.
      Some b2b-companies have suffocatingly boring corporate cultures, so make sure you avoid that. Go with a product that is less than 5 years old, will usually keep you safe.

      • Linked List says:

        Of all my internships, my favorite was the one at a medium-sized B2B company. It matched your description of B2B. It’s good to know that this type of company and atmosphere isn’t rare.

    • Web development in agencies, small businesses and large businesses varies culturally. Agencies tend to be into trendy methodologies like Agile, also tend to have huge problems with missed deadlines and crunches (basically because of never refusing work), and tend to be young.

      In a small business, you tend to be in a very small team or solo, which suits the independent-minded. You would likely be working for people who don’t have much idea about the web, and who will value your business ideas: this is very different to such-up-and-code-to-the-spec corporate culture. In both situations, you would get a fairly large amount of say in what toolsets you use. Full stack development can easilly involve about seven different languages, which may or may not be an advantage.

      “Systems” programming (OS, databases, etc)

      Two different things. OS development is very technically challenging , high status work mostly done by people with higher degrees, and often a hardware background. The main question is whether you are good enough. Also uses very specialised languages and tools so difficult to shift sideways.

      Systems and database admin are big company things. You need to know about specific products, and certifications beyond a CS degree count for a lot. Can involve out of hours work, but you get to set your own schedules rather than dealing with insane deadlines. Requires a very cautious mindset.

      – Something else I’m missing

      Mobile App development.

      Games programming.

      DevOps.

      Simulation/modelling, math-heavy stuff.

      SaaS/APIs.

      • Iain says:

        Two different things. OS development is very technically challenging , high status work mostly done by people with higher degrees, and often a hardware background. The main question is whether you are good enough. Also uses very specialised languages and tools so difficult to shift sideways.

        In the context of “systems programming”, I’m pretty sure Linked List meant implementing databases, not using them. Compilers are another topic that generally get filed under “systems”; more and more, these days, I think web browsers probably also count.

        (Source: I work on compilers for a living.)

        • Linked List says:

          Yes, that’s what I meant – not DBAs, but people that develop Cassandra or CouchDB.

          How did you get into compilers? Do you need a graduate degree to have a chance?

          • Iain says:

            I got into compilers through grad school — my grad supervisor actually has a close working relationship with the compiler group at my current employer — but I work with plenty of people who only have undergraduate degrees (in either CS or EE).

          • Linked List says:

            Not sure why I can’t reply to Iain’s comment (is there some rule on maximum number of nested replies? I don’t comment often) but one follow-up question is what compiler development still happens nowadays? I’m aware of C/C++ compilers being actively developed, but there’s only a handful of those for general purposes (GCC, Clang, Intel, Visual C++… is there any other?). I guess there’s also compiler development for obscure architectures, like some embedded boards. Besides that, what else is happening in the compiler space?

          • Brad says:

            Yes, there’s a max comment depth.

            There’s other languages besides c and c++. Some of them aren’t exactly compilers, but VMs are in the same neighborhood.

            Some of the hottest work in the area is in javascript. There’s also plenty of work in the java world — there’s at least one company that makes good money just selling a garbage collector. IDEs have a semi-compiler inside it that needs a different set of smarts than a typical one.

          • Iain says:

            (There’s a restriction on nesting depth. Once it is hit, you are forced to reply to the parent comment. You get used to it, eventually.)

            LLVM and gcc are slowly (and in my opinion deservedly) eating the world of static compilation, but they aren’t done yet. For example, the new CORAL supercomputer contract for the Department of Energy went to IBM, and will be using IBM’s XL compiler for C/C++/Fortran code.

            There are other statically compiled languages that need lots of front-end work, or that don’t work well with a back-end designed for C. Rust is a good example of the former — they’re doing a lot of cool stuff these days. The latter includes a number of functional languages: for example, Haskell nerds keep one-upping each other on the abstruse bits of type theory they can fit into GHC.

            Beyond that, JIT compilers are an active area. There are a number of competing JVMs, each of which has its own JIT. (I guess technically Azul is leveraging LLVM for their JIT.) Modern web browsers all contain at least one compiler for Javascript, if not more than one. Broadening the question slightly to virtual machines, there are languages like Ruby and Python that don’t have much of a compiler, but still have plenty of compiler-ish systems programming going on under the covers.

            I suspect that shader compilers for GPUs also have a lot of work put into them, but that stuff doesn’t tend to get talked about much in public.

          • Linked List says:

            Thanks for the answers, guys, they explain a lot.

      • Mitch Lindgren says:

        OS development is very technically challenging , high status work mostly done by people with higher degrees, and often a hardware background. The main question is whether you are good enough. Also uses very specialised languages and tools so difficult to shift sideways.

        It sounds like you’re describing kernel development specifically rather than OS development in general. Most of the work involved in building and maintaining a modern OS is not in the kernel, but in the shell and other user-mode components. This type of development is not really more difficult than any other form of client-side programming, with the caveat that you’ll be using C or C++ and there’s a higher standard of quality required since a crash in an OS component tends to have worse consequences than a crash in a document editor or whatever.

      • Linked List says:

        How did I forget all of these?? (Though, to be fair, I think of SaaS as a variety of Enterprise and B2B)

      • Brad says:

        In addition to kernels and compilers, anything that requires dealing with a lot of a parallelism at a low level is difficult (and therefore interesting?) and fairly lucrative.

        Embedded programming for whatever reason is difficult and not lucrative.

        • Linked List says:

          From what I gathered from several /r/cscareerquestions threads, embedded salaries are comparable with higher-level development salaries. Does that not match your experience?

    • tayfie says:

      I haven’t been in my respective industry long enough to comment conclusively, but I can give some meta advice:

      As a recent grad, expect to move a few times in the first couple years. It’s the right strategy if you want the most money. Those first few positions aren’t highly specialized. A solid grasp of CS fundamentals and moderate practical programming knowledge is all you need.

      Personally, I lean towards Systems and Embedded because my background was hardware focused.

    • pontifex says:

      I did a very small amount of web front-end work at a startup, as part of my other duties. It seemed to be mostly mashing buttons on a Big Framework until the right thing came up. There was very little opportunity to understand what was going on inside the framework because there was always something more important to do. Getting things to look right on a web page is unreasonably difficult. For example, vertically centering a box using CSS is impossible. The front-end industry is moving towards looking at everyone as interchangeable cogs (which is what Scrum/Agile/whatever is all about.) I think it’s a waste to go into web front-end if you have talent.

      Web back-end / Enterprise / B2B: These are just buzzwords, right? B2B is just a business model. Web back-end development is just… development.

      I’ve done some embedded systems work. It’s normally very tedious. A little bit of writing code and a lot of working around hardware problems. There is usually a big pile of physical tools you have to have at your desk– connectors, screwdrivers, reprogrammers, power bricks. Everything is Linux or Android nowadays that you interact with in weird stripped-down environments.

      I have not worked in HFT. I understand some people became quite wealthy working on this. When I spoke with them they emphasized keeping things simple above all else, to avoid problems in production. In general, HFT firms have not been doing as well as previously, so I don’t know if there are still many jobs here.

      “Systems” programming (OS, databases, etc)– well, it’s my favorite thing. Designing the big systems that people use behind the scenes. Problem is, the industry is getting cartelized into AmaGooFaceSoft. If you want to go into this now, I would advise doing it at one of the big cloud firms. Companies have always been really bad at running their own infrastructure, and that is making it hard to sell non-cloud infrastructure to anyone any more. Unfortunately, it might take years at a big company to ever get any meaningful responsibility. But the benefits are good, I guess.

      Data Science/ML: everyone seems to have a different idea of what this means. Some people think it means super-smart researchers doing deep learning. But a lot of organizations just seem to see it as an analyst role where you run linear regressions on things and make powerpoint slides for execs. Considering how much math it requires, the pay is surprisingly low.

      • Machina ex Deus says:

        looking at everyone as interchangeable cogs (which is what Scrum/Agile/whatever is all about.)

        Bullshit.

        I’ve never worked on an Agile project where people didn’t get to use their strengths. The point is to not box people into a single specialization.

        • pontifex says:

          Of course your employer wants you to use your strengths. That’s why they hired you. Your employer also wants to be able to easily replace you whenever necessary. Preventing you from specializing in anything helps with that.

          By the way, Shey Shah’s essay is a good read. Excerpt:

          So what are Scrum and “Agile”? I could get into the different kinds of meetings (“retrospective” and “backlog grooming” and “planning”) or the theory, but the fundamental unifying trait is violent transparency, often one-sided. Programmers are, in many cases, expected to provide humiliating visibility into their time and work, meaning that they must play a side game of appearing productive in addition to their actual job duties. Instead of working on actual, long-term projects that a person could get excited about, they’re relegated to working on atomized, feature-level “user stories” and often disallowed to work on improvements that can’t be related to short-term, immediate business needs (often delivered from on-high). Agile eliminates the concept of ownership and treats programmers as interchangeable, commoditized components.

  11. James says:

    My BFF is a pretty activist intersectional feminist. (If there were a non-sneery synonym for “SJW” then I might use it here, but I don’t think there is.) I think she’s vaguely aware of SSC (and the rationalsphere) but hasn’t really read any of it in depth. (I guess her mental image of it is something like “bunch of white dudes who think they know everything”.)

    I’ve been thinking of picking out a handful of SSC posts to pass on for her to read and us to discuss. I’m thinking maybe In Favor Of Niceness and Community and/or Die By The Sword (or whatever they’re called). Possibly one of the recent couple of gender-based posts, though they might be a bit too “in at the deep end” to start with. And she’s a very morally scrupulous person, perhaps over-scrupulous, so she might benefit from Nobody Is Perfect, Everything Is Commensurable.

    Does anyone have any other suggestions for posts it might be useful to pass on to such a person to read?

    (I see on the “top posts” page that Scott has trimmed down his list of top posts, taking out a few classics in the process. Seems a shame.)

    • HeelBearCub says:

      To what end do you want do this?

      Do you frequently have intense political discussions?

      • James says:

        Do you frequently have intense political discussions?

        No, actually. Maybe I want to start? I admit I don’t really know how this would go—maybe badly.

        I suppose my hope is to foster some consideration of meta-level principles, which I feel like she can be a bit weak on sometimes, which I sometimes get frustrated by. You know, things like consistent rules about free speech that work the same way for those we like and those we don’t.

        • The Element of Surprise says:

          If it is about her inconsistently using meta-level justifications for object-level issues, maybe the political spectrum quiz?

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          @The Element of Surprise

          I had missed that post, thanks!

        • AnonYEmous says:

          no offense my man but there’s a reason why there’s no non-sneery adjective for SJW. Are you sure this is a good idea?

          Like, the problem is that she either rejects what you give her, or all her friends turn on her a la Laci Green. To be fair Laci Green is famous and she’s not so it might be different, but I just don’t see this ending well. Is it a big deal for you if she stays as she is?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            So far as I know, SJW is not a sneer-name. It’s used proudly by people who identify with it.

            If you only hang out in anti-SJW venues, you might think it was a sneer-name.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I mean, it’s a sneer-name in the same sense as a racial slur, which some then try to adopt and take the sting out of. Sadly, this one is based on something a bit more substantial than skin color, so it hasn’t worked, but you get the idea.

          • James says:

            Maybe. See my reply to FacelessCraven below.

          • Viliam says:

            the problem is that she either rejects what you give her, or all her friends turn on her a la Laci Green

            Had a girlfriend who was a very light version of a SJW, but exactly this. We had sufficiently good communication skills to find out that despite disagreeing on certain details, we both generally want the world to become a nicer place, and we both have some respect for science (which was what kept her from becoming a full SJW).

            Once, we together met her friend, who immediately started attacking me as one of those evil white cishet males who are personally responsible for everything bad that ever happened on this planet. I didn’t even attack back, I was more like “uhm, wait, this is probably a bit exaggerated…” which only made her yell at me more. My then girlfriend was silent, but the next day she was very angry at me, telling me I was very impolite toward her friend, and that I need to behave more friendly towards her friends if we are to continue being together. (The only way for me to be more polite would be to just shut up and nod in shame while being accused of various insane conspiracy-level stuff.)

            The relationship later ended for a completely different reason, but in a parallel Everett branch this would probably be a serious long-term problem. My conclusion is that a SJW, however nice and smart person they might be, is simply a person living in a toxic environment, which will sooner or later poison their relationships outside the cult, unless they grow up and say goodbye. Just like it would a bad idea for a white guy to date a girl whose best friends are racists; even if she is not, sooner or later she will be forced to make a choice.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @James – “No, actually. Maybe I want to start? I admit I don’t really know how this would go—maybe badly.”

          Maybe badly is a good guess. Most people really, REALLY do not like having their values, ideology and epistemology challenged. Do you have any reason at all to expect that she does enjoy such activities? Also, if you do link her, probably best to make it a link without the comment section.

          • James says:

            I don’t know. I’m (I think) her best friend, and she trusts me, thinks I’m a good person, and so on. I think I’ve established my bona fidesas a non-deplorable. So I hoped that I could raise a few points for discussion without it turning too antagonistic. It’s not like I really want to directly challenge her core beliefs—I’d be content merely sowing a few seeds of doubt.

            I suppose there is a broader context here. I’m talking about one friend, but to a fairly large extent, her friends are my friends too. In other words, she’s far from my only friend in the leftie, identity-politics-y cluster. I’m in the thick of it here!

            So I guess I want to get better at sticking up for what I believe in—Truth, Goodness, Beauty, yada yada yada—rather than just biting my tongue whenever politics comes up. I get that there’s a risk of this making me very not very popular, but I hope that if I choose my battles appropriately, and pull it off charmingly enough, I might have a little luck.

            So maybe talking over a couple of not-too-antagonistic SSC posts is my modest start to that project.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The attitude “here, read this lengthy web post” is probably a poor substitute to (tactfully) discussing political differences.

            If you talk with her in person about politics, and learn what she cares about, you will have a better feel for what SSC posts she will like than most of us here.

          • Nornagest says:

            The absolute best outcome here is generating a few Twitter posts (or something, I don’t know where your friend hangs out) saying something along the lines of “we really need to make sure people’s introduction to social justice isn’t ‘DIE CIS SCUM'”. You are probably not going to change her mind about anything important; from her perspective, you linking her SSC and telling her to read it would be kinda like her handing you a stack of Andrea Dworkin. Anyone who doesn’t live under a rock has antibodies against that sort of evangelism, as well they should.

            Nothing good is going to happen to your friendship. You may be good friends, but if you think you’re good enough friends that she’ll choose you over her worldview, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

          • Matt M says:

            you linking her SSC and telling her to read it would be kinda like her handing you a stack of Andrea Dworkin

            Didn’t someone recently come here and demand we all read Dworkin, and several people responded with either “I already have” or “Great, I will, where should I start?”

          • Nornagest says:

            Well, we’re weird that way.

            (I only got about twenty pages into Dworkin, myself. She struck me as the theorist equivalent of misery lit.)

          • FacelessCraven says:

            “I don’t know. I’m (I think) her best friend, and she trusts me, thinks I’m a good person, and so on.”

            I had a friend like this. I don’t have her as a friend any more. Maybe I screwed up and you won’t, but it’s tap-dancing-in-a-minefield territory.

            ” In other words, she’s far from my only friend in the leftie, identity-politics-y cluster. I’m in the thick of it here!”

            A simple test would be to tell them you’ve been talking to a non-social-justice friend, and they have a bunch of arguments that sound convincing, and you’re not sure how to answer them. See what their advice is. If it’s “why are you even talking to such a person”, well, there’s your answer.

            Generally, I think Scott’s writing is highly persuasive to a certain kind of mind, and Social Justice is highly persuasive to a certain kind of mind, and they are not the same kind of mind. If you want to counterargue Social Justice, I’d do it with one of the many, many critiques written by people with much better bona fides within the movement.

          • thenoblepie says:

            So I guess I want to get better at sticking up for what I believe in—Truth, Goodness, Beauty, yada yada yada—rather than just biting my tongue whenever politics comes up. I get that there’s a risk of this making me very not very popular, but I hope that if I choose my battles appropriately, and pull it off charmingly enough, I might have a little luck.

            Don’t do it. I’ve been there, done that. With pretty much exactly your intentions and strategy.

            Chances are, it will destroy your friendship and your social circle.

            It’s not worth it.

            I feel like this is a common failure mode for the kind of people who read SSC. People don’t really care that much about capital-T Truth, good epistemic practices, or being correct. They want to be right, they want to be good, and they want to be part of a group that fights the good fight.

          • Aapje says:

            @James

            I’m talking about one friend, but to a fairly large extent, her friends are my friends too. In other words, she’s far from my only friend in the leftie, identity-politics-y cluster. I’m in the thick of it here!

            IMO, this is exactly why you should not do this.

            You are not just risking losing her as a friend, you are risking all your friends turning on you.

            As Lincoln said: Go forth and debate on the Internet, but do not seek to convert your friends, for the lions are hungry and dangerous up close.

          • James says:

            FacelessCraven:

            I had a friend like this. I don’t have her as a friend any more. Maybe I screwed up and you won’t, but it’s tap-dancing-in-a-minefield territory.

            Right. My tap-dancing-in-minefield skills have been getting rusty. I feel like sharpening them up.

        • paultorek says:

          Do it, but just one Scott post. I’ve seen your contributions here, and you are thoughtful and considerate enough that the negative experiences of the naysayers are not likely to apply to you. Unless your BFF is very touchy, that is, which is worth knowing (and you probably already know). Everything depends on your relationship and almost nothing depends on the subject matter, ideology, etc.

          It would help if you first find something outside your normal reading ambit that they loved, and read that. One-way sharing is a recipe for disaster. Hence the one-Scott-post limit.

          • James says:

            I’ve seen your contributions here, and you are thoughtful and considerate enough that the negative experiences of the naysayers are not likely to apply to you.

            Awww, shucks….

            Actually, I’m surprised that I’m even a noticeable or memorable enough poster for you to observe that. I’m posting a lot in this OT but I feel like generally I keep a fairly low profile. Not to mention I picked the blandest possible pseudonym. (Can it even be called a pseudonym when it’s actually just my nym?)

            Everything depends on your relationship and almost nothing depends on the subject matter, ideology, etc.

            Anyway, yes, I tend to agree with this. I feel like the pessimistic responses have been calibrated on assumptions about my friend, or me, or about our relationship, that don’t really hold. In a bayesian sense, they’re probably justified, based only on the information in my top-level comment here. (Maybe it’s true that a random person fitting the description I gave probably wouldn’t react well.) But I have privileged information about my friend beyond what you guys do! The sort of this that’s hard to put into words, but inclines me to think I could discuss this sort of thing with her without causing significant damage. That’s why I brought it up in the first place, after all! I could be wrong; we shall see.

            It would help if you first find something outside your normal reading ambit that they loved, and read that. One-way sharing is a recipe for disaster.

            Yeah, that sounds fair.

          • paultorek says:

            Maybe I just have special sympathy for just-my-nym people 🙂

    • Incurian says:

      I can tolerate anything but the outgroup. Social Justice and words, words, words. Untitled.

      Those are the posts I would want her to read (and everything else tagged with “things I will regret writing”), but there are other posts you may want to feed her first so Scott can establish his SJ bona fides, maybe like the categories were made for man, not man for the categories, and some of his pro-trigger warning stuff.

      • James says:

        Good picks. But “Untitled” is too much—there’s no way it would get her on side!

      • herbert herberson says:

        I will say that as a pro-feminist leftist who reads this site regularly: Untitled has the opposite effect in me. It is a direct reflection of the very personal, very real, and very understandable reasons why Scott seems uniquely and (to me) irrationally preoccupied with left-wing social ostracism and the things that lead to it (and includes a link to a further discussion of that, as well). Something like the post-election post, which keeps those culture-war concerns in the abstract and makes them out to be huge problems without the explanation of that personal foregrounding, is way more of a turnoff.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Note that you can link without comments. If you go to, eg, Living By The Sword, and scroll down to just before the comments there is a link Link without comments.

    • baconbacon says:

      If I was going to attempt to do something along these lines I would probably start with Scott’s gender neutral posts. Establishing his credentials as intelligent, compassionate and honest are going to go farther in swaying a person when they read further than any one argument would. Which ones to select will be (cop out) based on your BFF’s interests.

    • rlms says:

      Definitely I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup and Categories Were Made For Man. They’re his best political posts in my opinion, but also they’re more meta and were written when Scott was (from my perspective) more solidly left-wing (and the political climate was different). Rereading ICTAETO, he says “sorry, I make fun of you because I love you” in reference to liberals; I can’t imagine a similar sentiment appearing in a more recent post.

      • James says:

        yeah, I’d forgotten about these and they’re good ones. I’ll definitely use …Outgroup. That’s just the kind of thing I want.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Nooooooo.

          Outgroup is awful if you want to induce a blue-tribe someone to like SSC.

          It’s a 10,000 word harangue against blue tribe and how much Scott hates them. He says it directly at the end (even though his whole point is that he shouldn’t hate them.)

          Jesus, how dense can people be.

          • James says:

            Hmmm. I’ll double check that one before passing it on.

            Jesus, how dense can people be.

            Haha. Ouch.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Not you, particularly.

            ETA:
            You should be prepared that she already knows about SSC and is already familiar with the phrase “Vogon in a skin-suit”.

          • rlms says:

            Disagree. Outgroup is largely written from the perspective that the Blue Tribe basically has the right idea but is subject to this interesting social dynamic. Compare with You Are Still Crying Wolf: he claims in Outgroup to be “savagely attacking the Blue Tribe”, but he’s really fairly gentle; in Crying Wolf he tells them to “stop making people suicidal” etc., in an genuinely confrontational way.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            For whatever it’s worth, ICTABTU got recommended to me by a blue, and I’ve generally seen good reception for it from moderate blues (I guess moderate depends on where you put guys like Noah Smith and Voxguy).

            So while I don’t deny that HBC might have read it that way, it’s not universal.

            Of course, if you’re trying to minimize p(Alienating your friend/linking them to SSC anyway), you’d probably still do well to listen to his advice.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @rlms, @whatever:
            You don’t identify as left, correct?

            Of course you think it’s a great introduction to SSC.

            I’m left, but I also have this weird tic about consistency (and I also like have discussions about ideas). But I understand that this makes me weird. Best be sure that the person you link to here is someone like that.

            Conversely, if you like criticizing blue-tribe or SJWs in an intellectual way, you will also be comfortable here.

            I don’t think that is rocket science.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            You don’t identify as left, correct?

            Of course you think it’s a great introduction to SSC.

            I most certainly do not (despite of what some online quizzes might think!), but I think rlms does.

            However, I was relaying other people’s experiences, rather than my own. People who I’d consider solidly left (though others may disagree, hence the disclaimer).

          • rlms says:

            @HeelBearCub
            I like to think I’m left, and furthermore a lot more SJ-friendly than the SSC average! Sure, ICTABTO (and most SSC posts) are only interesting to people with certain levels of open-mindedness. But I think you’re overestimating how anti-Blue ICTABTO specifically is. It’s not as object-level anti-SJ as some of the other older posts, nor as aggressively “why are you being so terrible” anti-Blue as some of the more recent (often Trump-related) ones. Anecdotal evidence from Zorgon/WHTA agrees with me.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @whatever:
            Yes, those other people like to have conversations about ideas and are at least hunting for consistency, hence my statement about “this or that”.

          • Deiseach says:

            People, the solution is obvious and easy.

            Just recommend your friend to read “Universal Love, Said The Cactus Person”. That will tell her all she needs to know about this place and us on here 🙂

          • Zorgon says:

            HBC, why do you bring up the “Vogon in a skin-suit” thing as though Scott were using the phrase to describe feminism/feminists as a whole, rather than the very-specifically-mentioned Amanda Marcotte?

            Isn’t that exactly the same as the whole “well if you’re not the evil abusive rapey men we keep ranting about, you shouldn’t be upset when we keep referring to them over and over and over using the word ‘men’ with no further qualifiers” thing? Except vastly worse, given Amanda Marcotte is actually specified as being hideously exceptional?

            I know I’m being deeply uncharitable by expecting SJ-types to hold themselves to the same standards they demand from others, but really, do SJ-identified types think Amanda Marcotte is a central example of their tribe? And if so, it doesn’t occur to you that this is… not exactly a good thing?

            (I seem to remember this coming up several times before, but I could be wrong, I might be conflating other SSC commenters mentioning it, etc etc.)

          • James says:

            HBC, why do you bring up the “Vogon in a skin-suit” thing as though Scott were using the phrase to describe feminism/feminists as a whole, rather than the very-specifically-mentioned Amanda Marcotte?

            Because it got circulated on feminist-y blogs, more or less out of context, as if it was the former?

            Actually, for what it’s worth, it’s actually possible she may have been exposed to that fragment. She saw me reading Slate Star Codex once and seemed to know what it was. When I asked if she’d read any of it, I think her response was something like “no, I don’t think he’d like what I am”, I guess meaning “feminist” by “what I am”. Sounds a bit like the words of someone who knows Scott only as a Vogon hater. (I know, I know, I should have mentioned this at first, it changes everything, etc. Whatever.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            rather than the very-specifically-mentioned Amanda Marcotte?

            Sigh. I’m not sure I really want to go in on this.

            Scott wasn’t condemning Marcotte and only Marcotte in that post.

            In a post where he was supposedly asking for people to recognize the basic humanity in others, he casually tossed off the following two short paragraphs:

            This would usually be the point where I state for the record that I believe very strongly that all women are human beings. Problem is, I’ve just conceived a sudden suspicion that one of them is actually a Vogon spy in a skin suit.

            Anyway, Marcotte was bad enough, given that she runs one of the most-read feminist blogs on the Internet. But much of the rest of the feminist “discussion” on Tumblr, Twitter, and the like was if anything even worse.

            So, Marcotte here is a clear stand in for feminists and feminism. Not just some, but all. Laurie Penny gets “not literally the worst”.

            But hey, Scott wrote it when he was really angry. So I guess that makes it OK.

            (Which, for the record, does make it understandable. But the fact that he doesn’t get that this also runs the other way is, what, disheartening, especially for someone who is a psychiatrist?)

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Yeah, having just gone to read through that, I recall the post. And yes, he more or less blows out feminism.

            And I don’t even mean anything you’re thinking of; if oppression ceases to be viewed on a single structural axis, feminism basically implodes as an ideology. Plus, Amanda Marcotte literally went on to have a successful media career, so it’s not like she lacks power. And this leads into the whole argument that the loud radicals of the feminist movement not only do terrible shit on the regular but also hold the most power in the movement, but that’s really a whole other story. Point is, if you take into account other, ahem, “axes of oppression”, then a lot of what feminism has to offer is just you whining about your axis and then other people whining back, without you having the trump card to shut them down.

          • Zorgon says:

            So your response to my suggestion that Scott was specifically talking about Amanda Marcotte being a “Vogon in a skin suit”, that phrase you’re so fond of repeating, was to quote… Scott specifically saying it about Amanda Marcotte?

            And then proceeding to say that the quality of other posts was worse?

            As I said in my earlier posts; we’re expected to accept the idea that when feminists make obnoxious statements about “men”, they’re only referring to the “men” that engage in the specific behaviours that they’re talking about, with an added spin of hinting that negative responses from men who claim to not engage in those behaviours must be carrying around guilt or similar.

            Yet when Scott calls Amanda Marcotte specifically by an unflattering term, and feminists decide to respond negatively, it’s just perfectly natural for them to assume that Scott is calling all feminists everywhere “Vogons in skin suits”? He wasn’t even constructing the kafkatrap the earlier accusations build; feminists could very easily just say “Amanda Marcotte doesn’t represent me or my feminism”, and indeed many did exactly that.

            Yet still, when SSC comes up in feminist circles, out come the shrieks of “HE SAID ALL FEMINISTS ARE VOGONS IN SKIN-SUITS!” over and over and over.

            The only conclusion I can come to is that the feminists who respond in that way somehow consider Amanda Marcotte to be a central example of feminism. And that’s certainly a darkly amusing prospect, but not one which holds out a great deal of hope for the future. At least Laurie Penny can write.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Zorgon:
            Let’s go back and look at what I actually said, rather than what you think I said:

            You should be prepared that she already knows about SSC and is already familiar with the phrase “Vogon in a skin-suit”.

            I’m offering advice to someone who is wondering about whether they want to direct their friend, an activist feminist, to go to SSC and read some articles.

            You have essentially proved my point, that it should be anticipated that she has already heard about that specific post. If one does not anticipate this, one will have a bad conversation.

            Scott was pouring out anger at feminism in that post. Not merely Marcotte, but all feminists. He now has a disclaimer at the top of the post because of this. If you are angry at feminists, you like it. If you are a feminist, however, you will be put into “fight” mode by that post.

            I don’t feel like fighting over what is and is not objectionable in that post.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Zorgon
            Note the bolded part of what HBC quoted

            @HBC
            You’re still mischaracterizing it when you say that that portion is referring to feminists and feminism. Take a moment to re-read the part you in fact quoted. At most, she is a stand in for:

            much of the rest of the feminist “discussion” on Tumblr, Twitter, and the like

            Where “And the like” can reasonably be inferred to mean “Social Media forums and sites like Jezebel/Heartiste/etc”. It’s not hard to distinguish between

            “Amanda Marcotte’s rhetoric is nasty and vicious, and representative of the discussion on online social media”

            and “Amanda Marcotte’s rhetoric is nasty and vicious, and representative of feminism in general”. He doesn’t even say “representative of the discussion on online social media which in turn is representative of feminism in general”.

            If you feel that he is wronging “feminist discussion on twitter, tumblr, and the like”, fine, then make -that- argument.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Trofim:
            Look, we like Scott. We want to defend him. As a contrarian myself, if, in a different context someone started criticizing Scott, my reaction would probably be to take the opposite side.

            I mean, I think he is wrong on lots of stuff, but he is definitely searching for being right.

            But he doesn’t limit himself to “social media” in that post. It’s easy to think he does if all you are reading is the one quote I posted, but read the whole article.

            I live in a world where feminists throwing weaponized shame at nerds is an obvious and inescapable part of daily life.

            Read any article from the appropriate subfield of feminism

            It has reached the point where articles published in major journals talk about the the fedora phenomenon

            I don’t feel like most women, especially most feminist women, take it nearly as seriously as I try to take their problems.

            Feminists are eagle-eyed at spotting

            A feeding frenzy of feminists showed up to tell me I was a terrible person and deserved to die, sometimes in terms that made Marcotte look like grandmotherly kindness.

            When feminists write about this issue

            Patriarchy is yet another motte and bailey trick.

            Plenty more examples.

            Yes, there are a few points where he places the word “internet” before the word “feminism”, but clearly that isn’t all he is talking about.

            Again, I don’t want to argue about whether he is right or not. That is not my point here.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @HBC

            And to be clear in turn I agree with that it’s a horrible intro post to SSC and Scott’s writing for someone who self-identifies as a capital-F Feminist.

            I just went back to re-read it again, and while I still don’t think it’s correct to read it as condemning feminism as a whole, I also don’t think that’s an entirely unreasonable way for someone to read it, especially if they feel connected to feminism as a matter of identity.

            He repeatedly says things like “Some feminists” “strain of feminism” “trend within feminism”, etc, but yes, he also switches back to more general statements. That creates ambiguity and the possibility to interpret the piece either way, and while I think that given the context of his other writing and his own statements there is a right way and a wrong way to interpret the piece, I agree that if you come at it cold or predisposed to be defensive you’re probably going to come away interpreting it as a critique of feminism as a whole because he failed to police his qualifiers and scope of claims consistently.

          • rlms says:

            I think Untitled is a terrible introduction for anyone. It’s much angrier and object-level than most of his posts. There’s maybe three really open-minded feminists who would benefit from reading it in the world, for everyone else it’s either an attack on them or outgroup-attack-porn.

          • Deiseach says:

            Eh, I disliked Amanda Marcotte long before Scott ever said a word about her, due to something she wrote on Pandagon which made me want to throw a bucket of sudsy water over her. A moderate, quietly-spoken piece about how parents who refused to have their daughters vaccinated against the HPV virus only did so because they were controlling religious fanatics who preferred that their daughters die than have sex. I mean, of course there could be no other reason, right? Even if other feminists were aware of and pointing out the, um, comfortable and close relationship between that particular governor and the pharma company manufacturing the one vaccine that was going to be permitted by the state law and no others need apply.

            I admit, I laughed (evilly) when she got herself pitched off resigned from the John Edwards campaign which she then spun into a tale of wicked persecution towards poor, brave, harmless she who had never done a thing to evoke such hatred and vindictiveness.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      I was initially going to suggest On Niceness, Community, & Civilization and I Can Tolerate Anything But The Outgroup, but I think that BaconBacon raises a VERY good point. Instead I suggest starting with “The Categories Were Made For Man, Not Man For The Categories” and work up to those first two posts later. I’m with James on Untitled, not a good starting point at all.

      • Hyzenthlay says:

        I’d agree. Start with one of the less overtly political ones, then work your way up.

        I think The Toxoplasma of Rage is a good one, as far as a political post that doesn’t feel too partisan.

    • SamChevre says:

      The post I keep coming back to, which also has the advantage of very limited political valence, is Meditations on Moloch.

      • paultorek says:

        Considering that it’s the best essay on the internet, period, I’d have to agree. But it depends what James is looking for.

      • Nick says:

        Meditations on Moloch is still probably my favorite Scott essay.

    • Sam Reuben says:

      To get her started, I’d actually recommend the Anti-Reactionary FAQ. It lines up nicely with a bunch of standard feminist beliefs and roams between being informative and funny. It’d do well with helping her learn what Scott sounds like as an author, and introducing him as someone who’s fundamentally on her side. After that, she might enjoy the recent Book Review: Seeing Like A State. It’s really interesting, pretty novel, and shows a little of how Scott tends to think sideways at problems. These are both fairly low-stakes, general-interest topics, which is really helpful with getting people to read outside their normal territory. The idea is to familiarize, get folks into a comfortable area, and then give the possibility of reading something a little more theoretical. I still wouldn’t advise you recommend things that are too pointed about feminism at this point, but rather go for (as mentioned wisely above) Categories. Following that, generalized criticisms of leftism might be acceptable, such as in Outgroup, and if things are going well, you might even be able to bring in some of the precise discussions of feminism. It’s potentially something that could be challenging, depending on how zealous she is, but this is the safest path I know of. It’s how I introduce people to Plato, for example: rather than tossing them straight in with his (pretty reasonable, considering his recent past) criticism of democracy, I start at the same place that the ancients did, with Euthyphro and Apology. Much easier to show people how a writer as wonky as Plato actually works, that way.

      • schazjmd says:

        That’s how I found SSC! Came across a link somewhere to the Anti-Reactionary FAQ and it got me interested in reading more, so I moved on to the other posts. Then one day I discovered that the comments section wasn’t like any comments section I’d ever seen on the internet – that it was teeming with challenging ideas and civil debate and really smart people. That’s what hooked me.

    • blah says:

      I think it’s important not to start with any posts that will cause her to react emotionally. So probably any post on gender is out.

      Also, I’m curious, is she a pretty-activist, intersectional feminist or a pretty, activist, intersectional feminist?

      • James says:

        Also, I’m curious, is she a pretty-activist, intersectional feminist or a pretty, activist, intersectional feminist?

        Both, since you ask! but I meant the former.

        • engleberg says:

          If she’s pretty, I’d focus on ‘I’m a guy who thinks you are pretty’ when I deal with her. Girls like that. Not ‘you are wrong’. Nobody likes that.

          Feminism as taught in schools is the dumb girl’s easy A. Is she dumb? Don’t use that against her. It’s mean and nobody’s too dumb to notice when you use that against them.

          • James says:

            If she’s pretty, I’d focus on ‘I’m a guy who thinks you are pretty’ when I deal with her. Girls like that.

            Yeah, I mean I’ve kinda been-there-done-that with this particular chick and don’t feel the need to go there again.

            Feminism as taught in schools is the dumb girl’s easy A. Is she dumb?

            She’s bright, perhaps not brilliant.

            Don’t use that against her. It’s mean and nobody’s too dumb to notice when you use that against them.

            I’m talking about a friendly discussion, not a fully-weaponised argument wherein I ruthlessly pick apart her fallacies, demolish her ideology, prove the superiority of the One True Rationalist Way and leave her a broken wreck. Christ.

    • nate_rausch says:

      I’d view it as a long-term plan, so I would absolutely avoid anything that directly confronts her worldview in the first post like many others recommend. Instead share something which you think she will be enthusiastic about. Then discuss that with her. And only after she has built up credibility that this is good stuff, move on to the next.

      A possible sequence might be:
      1. “Meditations of Moloch”
      2. “The Categories Were Made For Man, Not Man For The Categories”
      3. On Niceness, Community, & Civilization
      4. I Can Tolerate Anything But The Outgroup

      Your ideal outcome is one where he/she feels that you sharing things that is of immense value to her and which does not confront her core worldview. If your goal is to help her build up some better epistemic structures for seeing the world, then it is most worthwhile to start at the core and then move out to applications rather than the other way around.

    • Zorgon says:

      My current calibrations for this suggest the following outcome: It’s not going to work and you’re going to end up losing a friend as a direct result of this.

      This is not changed significantly by any given post. Why? Because SSC posts do not exist in a vacuum, so even a very carefully curated selection will eventually lead to her reading Untitled, at which point it is extremely likely she will have an extreme disgust response (which will not be disconnected from her instant realisation that her social group would violently reject the content). Her reaction to this is not certain but very likely to be some variation on un-personing you as soon as she can find a rationale to do so.

      Source: Everything that’s happened in the last 5 years.

      • James says:

        It’s not going to work

        Quite possible!

        and you’re going to end up losing a friend as a direct result of this

        I think you exaggerate. If I were talking about bringing up talking points from way out on the right with people I barely know, then you might be right. But to tentatively talk about some meta-level principles with someone whom I trust and who trusts me seems like it can’t go that badly.

        Even if she does come across Untitled, I trust her better than to ditch me because of a post I haven’t particularly endorsed on a blog I showed her some other posts of.

        Having said that, I think even in the worst-case scenario where that did happen, I wouldn’t regret bringing posts to her attention. You have to stand up for what’s right where you can, right?

        (And if it does go that badly, I’ll be sure to come back here and report on it!)

        • Zorgon says:

          During one of the occasional culture war lulls that seem so unimaginable during high-heat periods like right now, I had a very-SJ-aligned friend who was engaging in a little self-reflection; wondering things out loud like, for example, why their efforts seemed so overwhelmingly targeted at “allies” rather than actual bigots etc. In the light of that, I decided it would be a good idea to introduce her to the ideas in I Can Tolerate Anything But The Outgroup. She responded appreciatively and asked if there were any other essays around the subject; I found a couple of things on Ozy’s blog that I thought she’d appreciate and held off for a while to avoid overdosing her with Grey Tribe.

          Things seemed to go OK for a couple of weeks, then suddenly she vanished from Facebook. I wondered what happened for a bit, then working on a queasily unpleasant feeling I pulled up one of my backup FB accounts I’ve made over the years. And yes, there it was; a loud public post about how she’d just had to unfriend an “MRA”, along with the usual “you go girl!” comments.

          (I should note at this point I’d been friends with this woman for over 10 years, including 4 years living in the same town and seeing each other regularly. We were actual, IRL friends, not Facebook Acquaintances.)

          Some of the comments gave me pause; they were along the lines of “you see! I told you!” and so forth. With the assistance of a couple of other friends, I reconstructed the following sequence of events:

          1) She brought up the whole “ally-baiting” thing.
          2) I linked her to SSC.
          3) She read I Can Read Anything But The Outgroup and initially liked it as it explained the issue that was confusing her quite well.
          4) She mentioned it in private Facebook posts restricted to some of her friends.
          5) Said friends declared that SSC was “MRA bullshit” and linked to Untitled as evidence.
          6) This rapidly spiralled, with people bringing up specific comments as mentioned in the comment by Brad linked in the OP up there.
          7) She apologised for linking this awful, awful site and said I’d suggested it
          8) Her friends went on long rants about how I’ve “always” been an “MRA” and she should disown me.
          9) She complied almost instantly, blocked me and made a loud public declaration about how awful I was.

          My takeaway from all this has been to realise that the real problem with bridging the inferential distance across the no-mans-land of cultural warfare is not actually about convincing individuals. It’s about insulating humans from having their chimp-brains hacked by psychological mechanisms that cause them to preemptively jettison anything that would threaten their position in their in-group; and that might actually be one of the Hard Problems of human interaction.

          • onyomi says:

            This is so depressing.

            Related, I can’t believe I’ve held off drawing this firm conclusion till now, but I really think social media is hugely responsible for polarization due to tendency to create a “with us or against us” dynamic.

          • James says:

            Yeah, Christ, this is so bleak. I’m sorry it turned out that way for you.

          • Zorgon says:

            I suspect it’s not so much a question of polarization on social media as it is a huge increase in the power of mob mechanics. In person, it is extremely unlikely she would be surrounded by a mob baying for my metaphorical blood as she was in that post, even if someone took exception with something she said; and it is vanishingly unlikely anyone would have opportunity to dig through her references for evidence of ideological impurity as they did.

            The story has a mildly better ending – I encountered her at an event earlier this year and, as I expected, she was mostly friendly in private and didn’t even go out of her way to avoid me in front of others, which I kind of expected her to do.

            Overall I wasn’t particularly upset by the whole thing, as it did not spread beyond that woman’s close circle and I tend to be fairly sanguine about this stuff as long as it doesn’t turn into a baying mob directly targeted at me.

          • moscanarius says:

            Very, very sad story, Zorgon.

            Someone (I forgot who) was commenting this on another post (I forgot which… sorry): it’s not just that people overreact to perceived attacks on their worldview, it’s that they are now willing to cut all ties with the perceived offenders and throw friendships, compassion, and decency in the garbage bin at the first sign of disagreement. This cult mentality has taken over a large part of society.

          • J Mann says:

            That’s very sad. It’s always baffled me that MRA is unforgivable, but it is.

            It’s not that Scott is merely wrong to be sympathetic to Aronson or that Aronson is merely mistaken, it’s that the idea that men might have some interests that society should recognize but isn’t is so obviously offensive that anyone who can believe it is clearly evil.

        • sconn says:

          Probably too late to be commenting on this, but I find the best way to shield against this sort of reaction when sharing links is a disclaimer — “This guy is a really good writer, I don’t agree with everything he says, but some of his posts are just amazing and even the ones I disagree with do make me think.” That way when someone finds something they don’t like on the blog — whether or not it’s the same as the stuff you disagree with — they can think, “Well, this site is not a proxy for the beliefs of my friend.”

          Honestly I don’t think we should have to do disclaimers because it should be obvious that we all share links from stuff we don’t 100% endorse, but that’s the world we live in and it tends to be helpful.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Possibly counterpoint, but more of an elaboration: I am firmly in Blue Tribe territory and several Blue Tribe friends have posted SSC posts to their FB feeds (when I certainly haven’t shown them anything).

        I’ve talked with some of these people about SSC later, and no one has had such a virulent reaction.

        But none of these people are self-identified “Woke.” They are just run of the mill Blue Tribe.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          My Facebook friend most likely to share ssc articles is fairly intersectional feminist as far as I can tell. But she is also autistic and Jewish, so she is probably pre-selected for intersectional feminist least likely to be put off by ssc 🙂
          (If she reads this, she has probably already figured out who I am. Um, hi 🙂 )

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’m jumping in very late but you should strongly reconsider this idea.

      The thing that you need to accept is that nothing you can say will ever convince her that she’s wrong. People are only ever convinced by the ones they trust and SJ does a very good job of building suspicion of dissenters.

      Two of my friends right now are SJWs and I’ve heard it way too often. “I thought [former friend / date / colleague] was great but then it turned out he said [mild unPC statement] so it turns out he’s a bigoted asshole who we can’t associate with.” It doesn’t matter how close you are, she will choose her ideology over you.

      If you want to share SSC you still can: I showed them And I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes and some of his psychiatry blogging which they liked a lot. But if you take it to a political place that’s going to be bad for your friendship.

    • dndnrsn says:

      A Definite Beta Guy has hit on something. Why not just talk to her? What are you trying to convince her of, get her to think about, etc? There’s nothing here you can’t convey to a person directly, and there’s no risk that she’s going to look in your shirt pocket and find something objectionable.

      The theme I have taken from here is that people are inevitably betrayed by their programming, be that programming biological, social, both. You can express that to her (“isn’t it shitty that people who profess a certain set of ideals often betray them unthinkingly?”) without her stumbling into the comments section and seeing regrettable examples of it happening.

      (The tragic flaw of rationalism is that humans seem largely incapable of rationality, and thus to a large extent it becomes a way to say “see, my gut instincts are in fact Correct”; I see a parallel to the way many feminists recapitulate classic patriarchal views while thinking they are doing the opposite, and it’s kind of ironic that each group tends to regard the other negatively)

      • James says:

        A Definite Beta Guy has hit on something. Why not just talk to her? What are you trying to convince her of, get her to think about, etc? There’s nothing here you can’t convey to a person directly, and there’s no risk that she’s going to look in your shirt pocket and find something objectionable.

        Yep, maybe a good idea. See reply to moscanarius below.

    • herbert herberson says:

      I don’t have any suggestions for posts, but I do have one for an introduction: “Scott and many of his commenters have had extremely unpleasant personal experiences associated with certain forms of feminism/leftism, and accordingly/arguably are very biased against the ideologies and practices that they believe lead to those experiences. That doesn’t prevent him (or the commenters) from sometimes saying very interesting things, but you should understand that the blog sometimes serves as a support group for people who experienced this particular form of trauma. While their impulse to universalize their trauma and frame it as one of the most significant contemporary societal problems is worthy of criticism, it’s always worth keeping in mind that it’s typically coming from a real and understandable place.”

    • Charles F says:

      For some reason nobody seems to have mentioned any of Scott’s fiction?

      Generally anybody I want to recommend SSC to gets The Goddess of Everything Else first, and then probably Niceness, Community and Civilization, and then something specific to them.

      [Edit: hadn’t seen Nabil’s post]

      • sophiegrouchy says:

        I was going to mention the fiction. I can’t convince anyone (including partners) to read any of Scott’s non-fiction posts because they’re too long for them (aka, the perfect length), but a decent number of people enjoyed the story with the colored pills, And I Showed You How Deep the Rabbit Hole Goes. And the Blue Eyed island story, if she is that sort of nerdy.

    • moscanarius says:

      Well, everyone has already weighted in, you already have your linkfest, and you look quite keen on carrying on with your plan; but allow me to make a suggestion.

      I think instead of using Scott’s words, you should use your own. In person. We may love Scott’s writting, but many people may be put off by his style, or by the format, or by the references that he uses and they don’t understand, or by the concepts that we consider basic and fundamental but are foreign to many people, or by a misunderstanding of his tone, or by actually having to read something (this happens a lot around me; no one ever reads anything I recomend, though they sometimes read what I offer as commentary to a linked text).

      From what you told us, she is not exactly full of enthusiasm for SSC; it may be a bad idea to make her read things foreign to her worldview written by people she does not respect (and that many of her friends no doubt loathe). Since she is your friend and you already talk to her a lot and she has a lot of good-will towards you, it is both easier and better for everyone to talk in person, not in scriptum. Tone is often difficult to convey in written form, and changing your focus if you see a bad reaction is impossible; better to speak, as it creates more room for generous interpretation and general good will.

      (consider, too, that no crazy friends of hers can share what you spoke to her on social media and harass you (or her!) into submission, as happended in the unfortunate story told by Zorgon a few comments above)

      • James says:

        Yes, there’s probably something to be said for this. Maybe I’ll try it this way, or at least start with it. I’m not sure! We shall see.

    • shar says:

      Also bear in mind one possible outcome is that she really digs SSC, starts trawling through old open threads out of a previously unrecognized urge to read about battleships, then stumbles across across this strategy session.

    • Nornagest says:

      Don’t link her anything related to social justice. You’re going to get something between “Oh, that’s interesting. [forty minutes of dead silence followed by a change of subject]” and a serious argument.

      Your best bet is linking her something good but completely unrelated, like one of the psychology posts, and hoping she develops a taste for the site and discovers the SJ stuff later on her own. But this isn’t going to have a very good hit rate either, just a better one.

    • beoShaffer says:

      Others have already said basically the same thing, but this is probably a bad idea overall and to the extent you do try to expose her to SSC you avoid anything actually political. Just pick an non-political argument you’d consider recommending to her even if Scott never posted about politics and if she likes it enough she’ll keep reading.

  12. isotropy says:

    Long time lurker, first time poster – glad to be here.

    When I was seventeen, I had an consciousness-related experience that I can’t reconcile with any of the competing viewpoints about whether or not we have free will or an integrated “self”. I’ve never experienced something like this before or since. Perhaps somebody here has a better idea than I do how this fits.

    I was at a barbecue when something went wrong – the person attending the fire lost control of some lighter fluid and I got hit full in the face with a burning stream of the stuff. I didn’t see it coming – I heard a shout, turned my face toward a red glow, and “lost consciousness.”

    Except I didn’t actually lose consciousness. What all my friends saw was me running in circles, clawing at my face, and screaming until they tackled me and rolled my face in the grass to put out the fire. What I experienced was a sudden transition to darkness, silence, and weightlessness that lasted for several seconds, with a vague sense that things were happening that I couldn’t connect to. I don’t remember any particular thoughts – just the very specific and unique sensation of an extended period of total sensory deprivation and a feeling of being “paused”, in some sense. And I specifically remember being aware *that I was aware* during this event, and that everything else should not be missing. Then I came back to full sensation, face flat on the ground with my friends holding me down and asking if I was OK. Thanks to a very low ignition point, after eight weeks and a lot of burn cream and bandages, I was.

    Anyway, my point is: I don’t understand what happened to separate my sense of self from what was happening to the rest of me, but more importantly, I don’t understand how this could have happened at all if the “self” is just an illusion built from an aggregate of submodules. I feel like this has to be a wrong hypothesis based on my direct experience of having my consciousness cut off from my body. If there’s a specific mechanism whose action is to cut off the (material correlates of the) self from the rest of the central nervous system during certain kinds of crises, doesn’t that seem to imply that the self is a concrete subsystem and it normally is directly involved with choosing our actions? But it also seems like a “free will” subsystem that can be turned off is not completely “free” in the sense that we’d like to mean it.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I don’t understand how this could have happened at all if the “self” is just an illusion built from an aggregate of submodules

      The sub modules that comprise self lost control of some the other sub-modules.

      Also, I think sense of self is somewhat backwards constructed. Drugs which leave the user conscious but prevent formation of short term memory have interesting effects when viewed meta-physically. You tend to be (mostly) yourself, but you have no memory of being yourself.

      • isotropy says:

        I don’t have a problem with the idea of the physical correlates of self being composed of neural subsystems – I just don’t see how that in any way implies that the self is an illusion. For example, in the situation I experienced, the failure mode could simply be a gap in the timeline – memory literally jumping from the red glow to being on the ground, with no intervening sense of time. Why not reconstruct that instead?

        The other detail of the experience I left out was there was just a little bit of residual proprioception: I had a clear feeling of moving to the right, rotating clockwise, and leaning to my right – all of it very slow and slight, but present, and all of it taking place in this weightless (e.g., what I imagine zero-gravity feels like, or the feeling of floating you get during sleep paralysis). Clearly that’s consistent with running in circles and getting tackled, so either something was getting through, or (if you prefer) something was edited into the memory so it wasn’t completely blank afterward.

        That part of the event makes me especially skeptical of the “backward-constructed self”: what kind of memory subsystem would respond by reconstructing such a tiny fragment, rather than either nothing, or something more substantial? It seems more consistent with the idea that I had a very thin channel to the outside as it was happening. But, again, what the heck would that channel be for?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          The phrase “self is an illusion” is itself an illusion. You can have a self and be comprised of biological systems. But you have to let go of the idea that “you” are separate from your biological body. And you have to let go of the idea that “you” are the entirety of the body.

          Self is a translation.

          We weren’t engineered. So don’t expect failures and gaps in translating your physical reality into self to have a purpose.

          The self is absolutely real. So are, say, colors. But they are still a translation of the physical world.

    • Tracy W says:

      if the “self” is just an illusion built from an aggregate of submodules.

      As far as I can tell, no one actually believes those. They write it in the title but if you read the body they add in so many disclaimers and qualifications and redefinitions that they actually are saying nothing of the kind.

      I’m glad you came out of that scary situation okay.

      • isotropy says:

        Thanks. It was almost 30 years ago and no longer a painful memory. I get the feeling you are right, that nobody is fully committed to the “there is no actual self” viewpoint – but if that’s case, I don’t understand what they are trying to claim instead. I’d be really interested in hearing thoughts on my experience from somebody who truly believes there is no self in the classical sense.

        • Tracy W says:

          if that’s case, I don’t understand what they are trying to claim instead.

          Clicks. Reviews. Invitations to conferences by people wanting someone provocative.

        • rin573 says:

          I don’t know if this is what most philosophers mean when they talk about lack of self, but I know a bit about the Buddhist idea of the self-as-an-illusion. Caveat: this is an area that people argue a lot about, sometimes getting really technical and other times getting really hand-wavey, and I don’t claim to be anywhere close to definitive with this off-the-cuff summary.

          Basically, it’s not saying that *consciousness* per se is an illusion. However, when people talk about a “self” they are usually also referring to some sort of fundamental identity. Sometimes this is almost indistinguishable from the religious conception of a soul. This “self” is seen as continuous, consistent, and separate from the “outside world”. When Buddhist doctrine (or the version I was taught) refers to the self as an illusion, these are the assumptions it is challenging. I have a sense of a distinct “me” that is the same thing in this moment and the next. I have the sense that this “me” is a distinct entity floating around in a mess of “not me”. This perceived continuity of identity and separation of “me” from everything else is the illusion that people are talking about. As far as I can tell, people are better at intellectually grasping this concept in it’s extremes: why should the person I was when I was eleven years old be more truly “me” than the person my brother is now? Why should my fingertips be “me” when I am writing, but not my pen? If half the synapses in my brain are gradually replaced by new connections, am I still me?

          Counterarguments are that even though the self (body, brain, perception, etc) is inconsistent, it changes in non-random ways and the nature of those changes is part of what defines the “self” over time. In this case I guess you’d say that the illusion is the feeling that the self is much more stable and definite than it really is.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        As far as I can tell, no one actually believes those.

        Are you including Thomas Metzinger’s work in that category?

        I tend to find his arguments and model pretty persuasive, and it seems to track pretty closely with your experience.

        His argument is less that the self is an “illusion”, but that it’s better understood as a non-discrete and not even necessarily continuous process and not as a thing.

        My joke would be that the people who have been talking all this time about “Process ‘Consciousness.exe’ has encountered a problem and needs to shut down. Please Restart.” have actually been right.

  13. Anonymous says:

    4. Does anyone have strong feelings about who would make a good SSC moderator? Does anyone actually read all the comments here well enough to moderate them?

    No strong thoughts, but it doesn’t have to be someone who reads all of them. That can be solved by appointing more than one.

    Meta-level, I think you should appoint someone who you think thinks almost exactly like you. Maybe do an random-opinions poll and choose a regular or three closest to what you would answer?

    • Incurian says:

      What is the mission of this moderator? I read most of the comments and don’t find that they need more moderation.

      (that one of my own comments was recently deleted did not impact my assessment, afaict)

      • Anonymous says:

        What is the mission of this moderator?

        My guess would be to review (reported?) posts and impose temporary bans in case of trouble. Scott self-reportedly doesn’t have time to deal with that himself.

        • onyomi says:

          Wouldn’t a more reasonable requirement for a moderator or moderators simply be to read all the reported comments, as opposed to all the comments?

          • Matt M says:

            In theory yes, but knowing the context goes a long way. It could be that in the middle of a contentious argument where both sides are behaving similarly, only one person bothers to report the other.

          • onyomi says:

            Well, yes, you would not want moderators to judge comments in isolation; ideally they would read most of the thread a problematic comment was in, and also maybe have some sense of/do some research on, the poster’s previous history.

            Still, the report feature would serve to draw attention to potential problem posts without burdening the moderator to read every post in every thread.

            It does raise a problem which is that my best guess is that prolific posters (like myself), as well as those with known ideological leanings (like myself) probably wouldn’t make good moderators, yet there is probably a correlation between frequent posters and people who read lots of posts, and people might also be more accepting of the judgment of a known poster than a mysterious lurker.

            I guess the ideal would be someone like Bakkot who is known and well-liked, seems to magically read everything (or just frequently control-Fs his name?), and yet rarely wades into any contentious debates, though I guess there could also be the sort of balance where both the designated right wing moderator and the designated left wing moderator have to agree before banning, etc. But that also imposes a burden of corresponding behind the scenes, and makes the overall job more time-consuming, most likely, if no one person besides Scott is empowered to basically act as substitute-Scott.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            If you were a moderator, I wouldn’t have any qualms, even though I know your ideological bent.

            It’s not about ideological bent.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I think Bakkot already has his plate full with the subreddit’s moderation.

          • rlms says:

            Based on that subject, are there any people (possibly already moderators) on the subreddit or discord who could moderate here?

          • Bakkot says:

            onyomi, I have to confess I’ve stopped keeping up with the threads here as well as I used to, especially as the subreddit has grown. I could handle some of the reports, but not keep up with the flow of things.

            (So yes, I have started just C-f’ing my handle in most open threads. I worry this means I’m missing tech-support issues where no one mentions me, but I simply don’t have the time to read everything, these days.)

      • onyomi says:

        I agree that the site doesn’t currently feel in need of more moderation, though if Scott is planning to do less moderation in the future than he currently does it would be nice if the current level could be roughly maintained.

        • Matt M says:

          I agree with this. Unless Scott is doing a lot more moderating than I think he is, I feel like this community does an excellent job of self-regulating.

    • Loquat says:

      I won’t suggest anybody specific, but having a few years ago seen what happened when another non-moderated site picked moderators from the commentariat, I have a meta-level opinion that a moderator needs to be more or less like a bouncer in a bar – someone whose first instinct, if they see a fight starting, is NOT to wade in and start punching whichever side they don’t like, but rather to cool things down in a more or less fair manner. (Metaphorically, this other site had chosen as bouncers the reigning champion bar brawlers. It didn’t work out well.)

      • andrewflicker says:

        I’ve been a moderator / “community liaison” for a large forum before, where I had a team of moderators serving under me, and wrote much of our moderator training documents and community guidelines. You’ve described the first requirement pretty well- good moderators are friendly people who are good at defusing conflict and not taking things personally.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Moderators should be anonymous to the user base, but known to each other. We shouldn’t know if it’s Scott or not. The mods should review each other’s actions. Scott’s principles that the site is moderated by should be well-known to the mod team. (And probably to the users as well, but the mods especially need it, as well as a list of past decisions.)

      • Nick says:

        Moderators should be anonymous to the user base, but known to each other.

        Do we really want this? It seems to me that’s a great way for people to project supposed political biases on the moderators.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I’ve thought before, when Scott has to go on vacation and tells us moderation will be light, he instead should not tell us he’s going away and should appoint a deputy to post as him for modding purposes, with the goals of 1) not letting people know it’s not Scott, so follow Scott’s posting guidelines as close as possible, and 2) don’t do anything Scott might regret, so use a light touch. Together this keeps the community going smoothly even when he’s not here as if he is here.

          I never posted that, because it didn’t seem worth the bother, but if Scott is thinking of reducing the moderation load on himself (and I think that’s a fine goal, because the alternative is for him to struggle along with an increasing workload until he quits) then my ideas are suddenly of interest.

          Someone might wonder “is it okay to duke out ideas with this person is a moderator?” which is why I suggest anonymity. Under this theory, users shouldn’t even know who is on the mod team. But if they always think “you know, this person I’m fighting with might be on the mod team” for every poster, we could get some nice social effects.

          One thing to wonder is what issues consume Scott’s time. Is it out-and-out spam? Keeping conversations civil? Stopping persistent trolls?

          • Nick says:

            Someone might wonder “is it okay to duke out ideas with this person is a moderator?” which is why I suggest anonymity. Under this theory, users shouldn’t even know who is on the mod team. But if they always think “you know, this person I’m fighting with might be on the mod team” for every poster, we could get some nice social effects.

            I don’t follow. It sounds from your first sentence like you think mods should be anonymous so people aren’t discouraged from posting, but it sounds from your third sentence like a little discouragement is exactly what you want. And why should whether the mod has a stake in the debate affect whether they think mod action is appropriate? That doesn’t sound like ideal moderation at all. Moreover, I don’t think this potential discouragement is even going to be a big factor, since right now lots of people are fine duking it out with Scott himself while he’s sole moderator—granting of course selection effect because I wouldn’t know who’s choosing not to post.

        • Viliam says:

          It seems to me that’s a great way for people to project supposed political biases on the moderators.

          On the other hand, if the moderators are known, the same people will spend a lot of time finding quotes in their comments that prove the biases. Which will probably attract larger debate than mere guesses.

        • bean says:

          It seems to me that’s a great way for people to project supposed political biases on the moderators.

          This is why I suggested that we make sure any moderation action is bipartisan. It kills this immediately.

          • Nick says:

            I liked your suggestion, but I had two issues with it:
            1. How well does this scale? Do we need e.g. a Christian mod and an atheist mod too?
            2. How sympathetic will e.g. an alt-right mod be to a moderate conservative poster, or a moderate progressive mod to a communist poster? Certainly each is identifiably on the left or right, but given for instance all the anger I’ve seen directed at Republicans by alt-righters, I’m not convinced this makes for balance.

          • bean says: