THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 95.25

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

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949 Responses to Open Thread 95.25

  1. notsobad_ says:

    Anyone here have any experience with modafinil? Considering buying some to see how it affects my (currently untreated) ADHD.

    I used to take ritalin LA at 60mg dosage with no effect, except for some very minor anxious jittery feelings for an hour after taking it. So my guess is that modafinil – a much weaker stimulant – will have little/no effect. But who knows? I’m in no position to be prescribed other medication at the moment, and I feel grey market modafinil is low-risk and well within my means, so I want to do some wee experimentation.

    Can anyone share their experience?

    Edit: There’s heaps of info online but I just want people to tell me directly because I trust you guys more than other sources…

    • maintain says:

      Modafinil supposedly works through a completely different mechanism than amphetamines, so your experience with ritalin might say nothing about how you will respond to modafinil.

      • notsobad_ says:

        That’s excellent to hear, thank you 🙂

        I know my above conclusion is náive; obviously a depressed person who finds one SSRI doesn’t work wouldn’t just give up on all of them. I’m just worried I won’t find some kind of solution beyond improving general health, sleep, practising meditation, etc.

      • JohnWittle says:

        Note: his experience with ritalin also might say nothing about how he would respond to amphetamines, because ritalin is not an amphetamine

        • Protagoras says:

          Yes, but for most people ritalin seems to have very similar effects to amphetamines, while the same is not true of modafinil.

    • bean says:

      My experience with modafinil is a grand total of 2 days (including today). Before that, it was a lot of years of Ritalin/Concerta. So on one hand, my experience base is tiny, but on the other, it’s very fresh. As best I can describe it, the modafinil is a lot less effective at changing personality than it is at improving focus. I’m definitely more…let’s say animated on the modafinil. I can still do my work, but I occasionally find myself sitting sideways, which was a classic sign of being unmedicated when on the methylphenidate. The different mechanism of action is very noticeable, at least for me.

    • Brad says:

      I ordered some from an online pharmacy, what I believe is now defunct, a few years back.* I took it maybe 4-5 of the pills over the course of about a year. It worked as advertised, those were some very productive days at work. But I didn’t like how it made me feel. Not as bad as adderall, which many years ago I was prescribed to counteract the lingering sleepiness resulting from the xanax I was prescribed for insomnia (that doctor was a little drug happy, I fired him not long after that). It didn’t make me jittery or anything like that, just a little … disengaged somehow.

      I’d probably take it again if there some day or small group of days where a lot of productivity could make a big difference in my life, but I wouldn’t take it regularly. I don’t think that tradeoff would be worth it (to me, YMMV.)

      *I found that online site from a recommendation here. I liked it because unlike others I didn’t have to get bitcoins. Too bad it didn’t pick one that required me to get bitcoins, I might have had some left over.

      • Deiseach says:

        Xanax for insomnia? That sounds a bit “I have this pain in my small toe, doctor/AMPUTATION IS THE ANSWER!” though I suppose it does depend on the severity and duration of the insomnia.

        • Brad says:

          The worst part of that medicine is the withdrawal systems. After I fired that doctor and decided I was going to stop taking it, it took months of tapering to get off of it, with night sweats and other unpleasant symptoms the whole time.

          I know people that take low doses (.25mg) on as needed basis for anxiety. That’s seems to be okay, but I think people should be really cautious before agreeing to take it regularly.

          • Deiseach says:

            I know people that take low doses (.25mg) on as needed basis for anxiety.

            That was my experience with it; about eight years ago, I was regularly having panic/anxiety attacks in the small hours of the morning waking me up with severe breathlessness (with bonus existential dread and conviction of impending death) to the point where I made a couple of fruitless trips to the Accident and Emergency room of the hospital.

            My GP gave me a prescription for ten tablets of 0.5 mg dosage, to be taken once daily as needed. I found it did work, but also “Okay, I’m not anxious any more, but I’m also strangely… sleepy…. Zzzzzzzz” where I had to immediately go to bed as I could literally not stay awake.

            So as an insomnia cure, it would certainly work, but I’m not surprised you found you had “lingering sleepiness” and I am very surprised that your doctor thought the solution was to put you on a dose of uppers to counteract the downers!

    • nate_rausch says:

      Like mentioned by maintain, it’s completely different. Ritalin works primarily by boosting dopamine and other stimulating neurotransmitters. Modafinil’s function is a bit more unclear really, but the experienced effect is more of “removing fatigue” than stimulating anything.

      I’m a long time (4 years) user of modafinil. I’m using the same dosage I have since the start, no tolerance building. It makes me very awake. It works well with caffeine. It makes it extremely easy to focus on anything. All impulses are reduced, to eat, go to the bathroom or other normal distractions. Motivtion is also slightly increased. It becomes much easier to continue doing whatever you are doing. So as long as you get started, you’ll continue till you’re done. Makes it excellent for when you have big boring tasks to do.

      I’ve introduced modafinil to many, and most have basically the same effect I have. The close cousin armodafinil is slightly more stimulating by the way, if that’s what you want.

      A downside is that since you get tunnel vision, you also become slightly emotionally balanced (dare I say stunted). To offset this, you can try to combine modafinil with something like a low dose of phenibut, which makes you more sociable.

      Anyway, I highly recommend trying it. If it works for you, as it did for me, it will likely change your life for the better quite dramatically.

    • entobat says:

      I’ve taken adrafinil occasionally over the last 6 to 8 months, ordered via one of the subreddit’s recommended suppliers. (I’m comfortable naming the company, but I’m not sure if that sort of thing is allowed here.) I’m currently slightly too cowardly to order actual modafinil in the mail (adrafinil metabolizes to modafinil but isn’t controlled for various stupid reasons), though it’s probably only a matter of time.

      At its best, it’s let me pull all-nighters while keeping normal levels of productivity and allowed me to wake up on 5 hours of sleep and function like I’d gotten my usual 9-10. (I need a lot of sleep.) It helps keep me focused for hours at a time without slipping. My first dose I could feel my heart pounding throughout the day, though that might have been placebo.

      There were a few weeks I took adrafinil almost every day last semester, and I think I ended up developing a tolerance. My median experience taking adrafinil became that I had a headache all day and didn’t want to get anything done, though that was confounded by the fact that I only took it on days when I hadn’t slept enough. I certainly didn’t feel the laser focus anymore, and I didn’t want to up the dose again (I started on one pill, then moved to two, and was uneasy about going to three).

      I haven’t had any in about 3 months now, though I have more coming in the mail tomorrow to see if it can go back to being useful.

    • metacelsus says:

      I don’t have ADHD, but I do have some experience with modafinil.

      From my personal experience (taken 200 mg a few times, not regularly), what it does is improve mental stamina and mitigate the effects of sleep deprivation. It won’t make one work noticeably faster, but it will improve the amount of time it’s possible to work at top performance before becoming tired. Also it makes one’s pee have a distinctive, but not entirely unpleasant, odor.

      The other thing about it is that it’s not too difficult to make, although I wouldn’t advise doing so unless you have training in synthetic and analytical (to verify purity) chemistry. Personally I don’t want to deal with making any, given the potential legal consequences. But if it’s legal in your country that’s a different matter.

  2. Matt M says:

    Potentially of interest to SSC readers: “Tulip mania” may have been highly exaggerated.

    • Thanks. Interesting.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I’m confused by this portion, particularly the bolded:

      When the crash came, it was not because of naive and uninformed people entering the market, but probably through fears of oversupply and the unsustainability of the great price rise in the first five weeks of 1637. None of the bulbs were actually available – they were all planted in the ground – and no money would be exchanged until the bulbs could be handed over in May or June. So those who lost money in the February crash did so only notionally: they might not get paid later. Anyone who had both bought and sold a tulip on paper since the summer of 1636 had lost nothing. Only those waiting for payment were in trouble, and they were people able to bear the loss.

      I mean, I get the idea that people have exaggerated what actually happened, but this still describes a price crash that’s analogous to a bubble bursting. Basically, there was a futures market in Tulip trading, as people were trading bulbs that had been planted but not actually cultivated. This futures market showed an explosion in prices, which deflated quite quickly. That’s…like, that’s exactly what a bubble is. Sure, maybe all the anecdotes surrounding the story are basically urban legends, but that’s doesn’t support this line:

      Tulip mania wasn’t irrational.

      The last line is not an argument that there was not a bubble.

      This is an older book (2007), so I’ll see if I can pick it up from the library. I might be missing something here?

      • Matt M says:

        I admit it’s a little confusing. I think the point is that the amount of “speculation by regular people” is vastly exaggerated.

        To compare to another recent bubble, buying a house in 2007 wasn’t irrational. Even buying a house with an ARM while assuming that the house would continue to increase in value wasn’t irrational. Going into ridiculous amounts of debt and leverage and lying on loan applications so that you could buy five houses with the intention of flipping them six months later for massive guaranteed profit was irrational… but of course, most people didn’t do that.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Because of the way the rules were set up, it is more accurate to say the trading was against the value of the (relatively miniscule) penalty for breaking the futures contract, than to say it was against the value of the tulips themselves.

      • quaelegit says:

        Thanks, I was also confused about that.

        This particularly caught my interest because Mike Dash (history blogger I’m very fond of) also wrote a book on Tulip mania (in fact his book is the first “also bought” suggestion on the Amazon page for Goldgar’s book). Judging from the Amazon blurbs, it seems Dash’s account is closer to the standard one, but he seems to be very careful in interpreting sources on his blog, so now I really want to compare the two books.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        One claim I’ve heard, eg, here, ultimately from this 2006 paper is that because the nominal futures weren’t enforceable, they should be seen more as options. Futures tell you how much the market thinks the tulips are worth, while options tell you something more subtle and should swing more wildly.

        I’m not sure it’s in that paper, but tulips are a risky investment because of the viral patterns, so the price should swing wildly just because of supply, even if the demand is predictable, not a fad or a bubble.

        (I think I first heard both of these points from Gwern, but I can’t find a good link.)

  3. Anatoly says:

    The puzzle game Jelly no Puzzle is difficult, yet very satisfying. Considering the endlessly inventive levels, the mechanics are amazingly simple. I enjoyed so much solving it years ago, remembered it recently, and worked through it again, this time on the Android version. I think this game might appeal to many people here.

    • smocc says:

      Seconded. My wife and I worked through almost all the puzzles a few years ago, doing one or two a night before bed. I enjoyed how every puzzle started out seemingly impossible but then eventually yielded a satisfying eureka moment. It never felt too hard, too easy, or unfair, at least in the end.

    • secret_tunnel says:

      Yup, Jelly no Puzzle is amazing. I prefer the PC version to the Android version, slightly more polished on PC.

      Stephen’s Sausage Roll is similar in how it presents you with a seemingly impossible puzzle and forces you to learn something new about the game’s simple mechanics in order to solve it, and it’s one of my favorite games ever.

    • actinide meta says:

      Try Snakebird. One of the best little puzzle games I’ve played. Available on iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, and Linux.

    • quanta413 says:

      Thanks for the recommendation. I got sick, and this is a great activity while I’ve got low physical energy.

  4. gbdub says:

    The Men’s and Women’s curling tournaments at the Olympics are now underway. Both are 9-game round robins followed by any tiebreakers needed to get to a 4-team single elimination playoff.

    Funny and informative overview of the men’s and women’s teams.

    The Canadian women are very, very heavy favorites. One of the best women’s teams of all time – anything less than gold will be a major upset, and the rest of the field is fighting for silver.

    The men’s competition is much tighter. While the Canadian men have a great chance, the Swedes are the current #1 ranked team in the world and have had a ton of recent success. Both are basically shoe-ins for the playoff and are a likely gold medal game matchup.

    The group behind them is also more competitive and tighter than the ladies’ side – nobody is a pushover, although seeing the Italians, Koreans, or Japanese in the playoffs would be a bit of a surprise. Expect a tight tourney and a down-to-the-wire finish for the final two spots between the Danes, Americans, Norwegians, Swiss, and Scots (yes they are team Great Britain, but they are all Scottish (literally sheep farmers)).

    The US men got off to a great start with a win over Korea in a high scoring affair. American skip John Shuster made some great shots to capitalize on the Korean skip’s errors and score multiples. He looks to be in much better form than in the last two Olympics, where his poor shotmaking was a major factor in Team USA going 2-7 both times. The two lead throwers also played well. However, the third, Tyler George, did not have a great game. They will have another very winnable game against Italy tonight, followed by a much tougher test against Sweden.

    The US women had a rough start against Japan, losing 10-5. They’ll need to improve to have a shot at the playoff, although realistically their expectations are lower than the men’s squad. (Sorry, less commentary here, didn’t get to watch this one).

    Aside: outside the Olympics or world championships, where teams represent a country or region, curling teams (“rinks”) are traditionally referred to by their skip’s last name. So the USA is represented by “Team Shuster”, etc.

    • quaelegit says:

      The breakroom TV at my work has been showing the curling matches! (Makes a nice break from never-ending home remodeling shows.) I hadn’t thought about it before, but the sweeper position looks really uncomfortable — you have to both skate and sweep while folded forward. Do sweepers have to worry much about back injury?

      • gbdub says:

        In practice, most of the stress from sweeping tends to fall on the shoulders and elbows (basically, you’re trying to drive your upper body mass into the ice through the broom head) so some strain on the upper back but not the lower so much.

        The part that is hardest on the lower back is actually squatting in the hack to throw (very low hips while keeping the chest pretty upright). My dad has a lot of lower back pain and basically can’t do it.

        The throwing/sliding motion also puts a ton of strain on the knee above the slide foot (the left knee for right handers). It takes a lot of force in a very bent, stretched position.

        Curling forces you to be very flexible and have a lot of strength and stamina in your joint-supporting muscles. On the other hand there are not a lot of fast direction changes of the sort that cause muscle and ligament injuries in other sports. I’d say acute injuries in the sport are pretty rare, outside of falls (whacking the back of your skull on the ice, or landing on a rock and taking the handle to the chest or butt). But it can certainly aggravate existing injuries or produce chronic soreness.

      • gbdub says:

        Separately, glad you’re enjoying the tournament! Curling is a perhaps surprisingly great sport to watch live – there is exactly one thing going on to keep the camera focused on, it’s a direct competition (unlike the timed events), and there is very little downtime except at natural commercial breaks (completion of each end).

        If you notice, there is a countdown clock on the scoreboard for each team. This is “thinking time” and if it expires, you lose. The clock runs from the time the opponents previous stone stops, to the time your stone crosses the delivery tee line (i.e. you’ve begun your slide). Each team gets 38 minutes for a 10 end game, plus 2 timeouts (extra time is added for extra ends if needed).

        As a result, there tends to be very little downtime between shots, particularly the early stones of each end (teams want to save thinking time in case they need it for critical, tricky shots late in the end or game).

        And when there IS downtime, usually the teams are discussing strategy, and since all the players are mic’d, this is actually some of the most interesting time in the game.

        • quaelegit says:

          I’m only watching a minute or so at a time when I’m passing through to make tea/get water/whatever, so I’m not really following the games. But I am really enjoying the watching the stones stately* gliding across the ice. That and the skipper’s really careful and intense but slow movements make the whole thing seem very dignified (plus much easier to watch than faster paced games, for me at least).

          I probably wouldn’t have paid it any special mind if not for your posts, so I’ll add my thanks to Bean and Nick below 🙂

    • gbdub says:

      Brilliant win for the American ladies! Tight match throughout, looked like the Scots had the upper hand when they forced USA to take 1 in the 9th – this gave USA a slim 1 point lead, but gave the Scots the all important hammer going into the final end.

      But team USA played the 10th perfectly, taking advantage of an early error by their opponents to set up the steal. Great Britain skip Eve Muirhead was left in a nearly impossible spot – USA had two rocks frozen on top of each other, impossible to take out, covering the left third of the button. Muirhead had a slim shot to take one and force an extra end, but it would require a perfect draw. Ultimately, she left it a little thin and a bit heavy, sailing harmlessly into the back 8 foot and giving USA a 2 point steal for a final score of 7-4.

    • gbdub says:

      So I’m probably talking to myself on these, but whatever. An interesting controversy is brewing over an incident in the game between the Canadian and Danish women’s teams, something that probably doesn’t make sense to fans of other sports.

      Canada’s skip, Rachel Homan, found herself down by 2, and 0-2 in the tournament, facing an end where she really needed to score multiple points to get back in the game. She took an action that clearly helped her team, that everyone agrees was well within the rules, and in any case was instigated by an admitted error by the opponent. And yet she is being criticized for breaching…

      CURLING ETIQUETTE

      Curling, like golf, is a game with a strong sense of etiquette and good sportsmanship. Players are expected to call their own fouls, and scoring is resolved between the two vice skips. Often, it is up to non-offending skip to determine the “punishment” for a foul, and this is expected to be fair rather than maximally punishing. Officials are very rarely called to action, except to keep time, resolve any questions over the rules, and occasionally make an official measurement when two stones are too close for the vices to call.

      You are expected to shake hands and say “good curling!” before and after every match. To not heckle the other team, or to openly celebrate their errors (in fact, it is good etiquette to congratulate them on a good shot). To not excessively celebrate your own good shots or curse your misses. The winners buy a round for the losers for the traditional “broomstacking” (postgame socializing). And so on. Basically, it’s supposed to be a friendly, fair competition (as opposed to “rubbin’ is racin'” or trash talk).

      So what happened?
      In the 5th end, with Canada down by 2, the Danish player threw an excellent stone that came to rest right against another Danish stone in the 4 foot circle, leaving them “sitting 2” in a place where removing both rocks would be extremely difficult for Canada.

      However, just before the rock came to rest, one of the Denmark sweepers accidentally tapped the rock with her broom. Touching a moving stone with your broom is known as “burning” it. The rules say that the opposing skip has final say over the penalty: they may either remove the burned stone from play, or they may place it (and any stones struck by it) in their best guess of where the stones would have ended up had the burn not occurred.

      Homan decided to remove the burned stone. This left the remaining Danish stone unprotected, and Homan ultimately made an excellent double takeout shot with the hammer to score 4, flipping the momentum of the game.

      That’s where the controversy comes in – while no one disputes that Homan had the right to remove the burned stone, completely removing a burned stone is usually only done when it occurs early in the throw (making it hard to determine the impact) or when the hitting of the stone clearly altered its trajectory in a major way (i.e. if you slip and hit the stone hard). The Danish infraction, a light, obviously unintentional tap just before the stone stopped, clearly had minimal impact on the stone’s final resting place. If anything, it hurt them since it didn’t end up a full freeze (the stones were very close but not actually touching – the Danish sweeper was trying to make it go farther, and burning it hurt that).

      So while the rules allowed Homan to do what she did, and that was clearly the right move from a competitive standpoint, good etiquette demanded that she leave the burned stone in play – perhaps move it a bit to some plausible but advantageous spot, but not remove it entirely.

      Ultimately, as predicted by the Danish skip, the Canadians got a little bit of karma – Denmark tied the game in the 10th end, and Homan missed her final shot in the extra end to give Denmark the win. In a shocking turn of events, heavy favorite Canada sits 0-3, the only women’s team still winless.

      • bean says:

        So I’m probably talking to myself on these, but whatever.

        I’m reading them, but usually don’t feel I have anything to add. (Beyond “Why can’t they just use normal-people words for these things?”, that is.) Please keep doing them.

        • Nick says:

          Seconded!

          • gbdub says:

            Thanks for the notes of encouragement. It’s always hard to tell whether silence on the comment front is “TL,DR,FU” or “you wrote a brilliant post to which I can manage no response”.

            I think for Sunday I might try to write a bit about Broomgate.

        • gbdub says:

          @bean:

          Wikipedia has a pretty good “Glossary of Curling” article, although be warned that it contains some terms that are used pretty rarely (I play with Genuine Canucks, and I have literally never heard the term “kizzle kazzle”).

          The hardest common terms for me to remember were “in-turn” and “out-turn”, to describe the direction the stone is spun. It turns out the “in-” and “out-” refer to the direction of the thrower’s elbow. Thus, an in-turn is when you pull your elbow in toward your body as you release, generating a clockwise spin on the stone if you’re right handed (opposite for a lefty). An out-turn is counter-clockwise for a right hander. The stone will curl in the direction the front of the stone is turning (for a right hander, the in-turn will spin clockwise and curl from left to right, from the shooter’s point of view).

          Another non intuitive term you’ll hear often on broadcasts is “normal” vs “control”, as the skip discusses the next shot with the team. These are short for “normal weight takeout”, meaning the typical weight you throw to remove one stone while keeping the thrown stone in play, and “control”, meaning a slower takeout that will curl more (and thus give the sweepers more control over the trajectory). There’s also “hack weight” (just hard enough that the stone would come to rest on the opposite hack, i.e. just a few feet out of play, lighter than control weight). And “peel weight”, heavier than normal – a “peel” is when you take out a target stone, but strike it at an angle at high speed so that your thrown rock slides out of play. You would typically do this to open up a lane for a follow-up shot, or to “blank” an end (intentionally scoring zero points, so that you keep the hammer for the next end).

      • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

        I remember a very similar incident when I was young.

        People were still slagging Australians off for being “underarm bowlers” years later.

        • gbdub says:

          That’s a good story, and you’re right, kind of a similar incident. It’s kind of amusing how much the Aussie captain felt like he needed to resort to excuses about his personal mental condition at the time to explain his behavior (which was, after all, within the rules and frankly probably didn’t affect the outcome).

          I know I’m not one to talk, being a huge fan of curling, but I really don’t get cricket – mostly the dense, goofy jargon (again, curling fan, I know), and the fact that the game is deliberately designed to require multiple days.

      • Bobby Shaftoe says:

        I’m also enjoying these posts!

        This latest one answers another question I had, which is what happens when I stone gets bumped. I’m surprised everyone is so relaxed about it, even in Olympic competition. It sounds like a great system for beer league curling, but as the events you’re describing illustrate, it might be an unstable system that can be exploited be defectors.

        Here’s another thing I’ve been wondering about: what is the exact mechanism for why the stones “curl”?

        Here’s the first model that came to my mind, which turns out to give the wrong result:

        The stone is decelerating due to friction. This means that the leading edge of the stone (the part of the stone farthest forward in the direction of travel at any given moment) will be pushing against the ice slightly harder than the trailing edge, for the same reason that the front of a car dips down when the brakes are applied. Therefore, I would predict that a stone spinning CCW from above would curve to the curlers right.

        However, from what I’ve seen it appears that in reality, such a stone curves to the left, as if the trailing edge of the stone had better contact with the ice than the leading edge. Does anyone know why this is, or if there is some better way of thinking about this?

        • Incurian says:

          My completely uneducated guess is gyroscopic precession.

        • Random Poster says:

          It’s not a difference between the leading and trailing edges of the stone, it’s a difference between the left and right edges. If a stone is rotating counterclockwise, its right edge is moving faster relative to the ice than its left edge, and since the coefficient of friction decreases with increasing velocity, the left side is decelerated more than the right side, hence the stone curves to the left.

          • Bobby Shaftoe says:

            @Random Poster:

            I don’t think it can be what you suggest, because the friction force vectors on the sides of the stone are parallel to the direction of travel. Unbalanced forces (with no transverse component) on the sides of the stones give a net torque, but no net force to the left or right.

        • gbdub says:

          It’s actually a very good question, and one that doesn’t actually have a fully-realized theory to describe it.

          As you note, the curl of a stone is a bit counterintuitive – try upending a drinking glass and sliding it across a wet tabletop, and it will curl in the opposite direction of a curling stone (CCW rotation will make the glass go to the right).

          Here’s a decent article describing a practical study. Here’s a newer article describing a different study with a totally different mechanism.

          In the first study, it was determined that the front of the stone actually has less friction – as you note, it is decelerating so more weight is on the front. But this actually reduces friction, because, like a skater’s blade, the stone’s running edge melts the ice for a fraction of a second. The front of the stone is pressing down harder and actually increases this effect.

          But the second study proposes a different mechanism: the front edge of the stone creates microscratches in the ice, oriented angled to the path of travel, that the trailing edge tends to follow

          A few things to note: Curling ice is not smooth, but “pebbled”. To prepare the ice, small droplets are sprayed using a device not unlike a cross between the backpack weed killer pump your landscaper would use, and one of those spritzers priests use to sprinkle everyone with holy water. You make a couple passes to get good, even coverage, and then you run over the whole thing with a big “scraper” or “nipper” blade (kind of like a hand-propelled zamboni scraper) that nips the tops off all the bumps to give them a level surface. The end result is kind of like knock-down or orange peel texture on a wall.

          Also, the bottom of the rock is neither flat nor perfectly smooth. The “running surface” is a ~6 inch wide insert of rock (often a different type of granite from the main body of the stone) that is dished inward in the center, with a narrow flat band around the outside. The result is that the only point of the stone in contact with the ice is that narrow circular band. The running band is not polished, but slightly rough (feels to me like 600-1000 grit sandpaper). Every aspect of this seems to be important from a practical perspective (fully polished or flat bottom stones wouldn’t work).

          How fast you spin the stone does seem to have some effect, particularly on how the rock “finishes” at the far end. Typical shots actually have a very slow rotation, only ~3 rotations from one end to the other (over ~25 seconds). If you don’t put any spin at all on the rock as you release, it will tend to “wander” from side to side, or sometimes a very light spin will reverse direction – this is known as “losing the handle”. (“Handle” is used to describe the spin. A “spinner” shot has “a lot of handle”).

          • Bobby Shaftoe says:

            Well, add another one to the list of things that are more complicated than freshman physics would suggest. Fascinating that there isn’t agreement on the mechanism, and also that the particular texture on the bottom of the stone is necessary.

    • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

      Does anyone under this situation?

      Iranian wrestler Karimachiani was ordered to lose a match because if he had won his next opponent would be an Israeli. He was given a two-year ban, according to the article, though by my figuring the numbers don’t add up. Anyway, he’s been penalized, which seems fair enough; throwing a match is genuinely unethical.

      What I don’t understand is: why was he allowed to fight the match in the first place if he wasn’t going to be allowed to win? Couldn’t he have conceded or otherwise refused to fight, either against the Israeli or the previous opponent? That would have been the ethical thing to do, IMO.

      (Is the penalty for refusing to fight bigger than the penalty for deliberately losing? Because that sound pretty dumb.)

      • gbdub says:

        Maybe he thought he could get away with throwing the fight? Or maybe they didn’t realize who his next opponent would be until the match had begun (and didn’t want their forfeit / loss to be against an Israeli).

        Otherwise, yeah I don’t see why you don’t just fake a bout of the flu or a muscle strain something and withdraw.

  5. bean says:

    Naval Gazing is wrapping up its look at amphibious warfare in WWII. I’ll return eventually, but want to look at other things for a while.

    • bean says:

      And for the Friday post, I continue my experiment with new content with a post on how ship classes work.

      • I thought it was straightforward.

        A Three has three rowers at an oar position–either an ordinary trireme or a single bank galley with three men to an oar. A Four has four rowers at an oar position–for instance a big trireme with two rowers at the lower oar. A Five is a bigger trireme with 2,2,1.

        It’s true that explaining the Pteolemaic Forty on this basis is a bit tricky, for familiar reasons, but the usual explanation is double hulls.

        • Protagoras says:

          Bah. It’s obvious what the real explanation is; the numbers are all marketing, representing a claimed “effective” number of oars, but moderns are too gullible to see through the hype.

        • bean says:

          David, those ships have zero of my trinity of interest, of cannons, armor, and steam. I have very limited knowledge and even less interest.

  6. maintain says:

    https://www.zeemaps.com/map?group=2862910#

    I made this zeemaps map for readers of SSC. You can go there, select your location, enter your contact info, and find other people near you.

    To add a new marker, go to Additions->Add Marker – Simple

    Make sure to put an email address or other contact info in the Description box, or people won’t be able to contact you and you are wasting your time.

    This could be a great opportunity to meet other rationalists if you’re not near any of the cities with regular meetups.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I’m not sure, but maybe it would be useful to pre-populate it with regular meetups, so that if someone is near one without knowing it, they can find it.

  7. Dominik Lukes says:

    Metaphors of machine learning maybe of interest to readers here. Key quote:

    nowhere on this list of [accomplishments in technology powering current successes in machine learning] are advances in our understanding of how the mind, language or culture work. Quite the opposite

    It is very seductive to conclude that just because the new machine learning (neural networks known as deep learning) is essentially inspired by how we think the brain is architected, it is more likely to produce human-like intelligence (AGI). But that is just as wrong as saying that just because airplanes have been initially inspired by how birds fly, we will soon have the capacity to fly like the birds. Airplane flight looks like bird flight (wings) and relies on the same fundamental physics. But it is achieved completely differently from bird flight and it does not only not make us able to fly like birds. It also contains no pathway to that ability. I suspect that neural networks are the same.

    • secret_tunnel says:

      I recently finished reading Godel, Escher, Bach and looked up an interview with the author–who said in the book that it would be impossible to create an AI that can beat humans at chess without creating an entity capable of all other types of thought–and he said essentially the same thing. That machine learning is a fad that’s great for brute-forcing particular problems, but doesn’t actually teach us anything about how the mind works.

    • Nornagest says:

      While it’s basically true that artificial neural networks aren’t any more likely to lead to AGI because they contain the word “neural”, a lot about this strikes me as confused. ANNs have been around since the Seventies and performed poorly for most of that time; deep learning is a recent advance that isn’t biologically inspired. And no one serious is proposing that AGI, when it arrives, will necessarily be architecturally similar to our brains; the fish/submarine distinction has been bandied about 101-level AI classes at least since I took my first ones, a decade ago. That’s an overly narrow reading of “human-like intelligence”: what we’re interested in is the ability for a machine to do highly general self-directed learning, whether or not it happens to get hungry and bored and enjoy listening to Judas Priest along the way.

      And to be excessively pedantic, we can do flapping flight — machines that fly by flapping are called “ornithopters” and have existed even longer than airplanes have. This is precisely because the two work similarly, i.e. by manipulating airfoils to generate thrust and lift. They just turn out not to be much good on the scales we want airplanes for.

  8. Dopaminer says:

    Hey.

    I’m still not a spam bot.

    Just a tiny stubborn light.

    Hoping to kill Moloch

    with shpost

  9. I just put up a blog post on one of my pet peeves–the tendency of modern people to believe historical accounts that make people in the past look stupid and unreasonable, hence inferior to the moderns. My standard example is the flat Earth myth, the idea that people criticized Columbus’ project because they thought he would fall off the edge. The truth is almost the precise opposite. People criticized the project because they had reasonably accurate estimates of the circumference of the Earth and the width of Asia, could do arithmetic, and so could see that the distance from Spain to Japan was much longer than he had supplies to cover. Columbus was the one who was ignoring known scientific facts in order to conclude that he could make it.

    There are other examples, some of which I discuss in the post. Each is evidence of the ignorance not of people in the past but of people in the present who believe historical falsehoods that they find flattering. I’m putting this here both to see if other people have other good examples and to start a discussion of whether I am correct in the motive I attribute to those who believe them.

    Also, perhaps, of the more general question of whether people have in fact gotten significantly more intelligent or more rational over time. The Flynn effect suggests they have, so far as IQ is concerned, but it seems to prove too much, since it’s hard to make its implications consistent with what we know about past societies.

    • Randy M says:

      Why did Columbus believe he could make the voyage?

      • I don’t know. The two obvious alternatives are either that he really had convinced himself of his calculations, which involved misreading the evidence to shrink the Earth and expand Asia, or that he correctly believed there was land closer than Asia and was lying to his sponsors in order to get the money to find it.

        • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

          Huh. Sort of makes him sound like the Middle Ages equivalent of Donald Trump.

          … “We’re going to build big, beautiful ships … trade with Asia in going to be YUGE.”

        • John Schilling says:

          Or that he correctly believed there was land closer than the known parts of Asia (e.g. from the Icelandic sagas) and was lead into accepting bogus geodesy because “Vinland is northeast of China and the Earth is smaller than accepted” seemed a more plausible hypothesis than “there is a large new (and maybe populated) land mass disjoint from Eurasia/Africa”.

        • Machine Interface says:

          An alternative explanation that I remember reading in James Hannan’s God’s Philosophers is that up until a certain point in history, the only avalaible classical source dealing with the size of Earth was Eratosthenes’ rather accurate calculation of thereof, and so for a long time this was taken as the definitive answer.

          But in the 15th century, Ptolemy’s “Geography”, where he gave a quite different (and quite inaccurate) estimate, was rediscovered. This posed a problem, as classical source were considered very reliable authority, yet here there were two classical sources in blatant, irreconcilable contradiction.

          Furthermore, both sources made many other claims about the geography of Earth, and claims from both sources ended up being disproven by Spanish and Portuguese exploration around Africa.

          So actually, at the time of Columbus, there was no longer a consensus on the circumference of Earth, rather there was an ongoing debate between the tenants of two different ancient sources. Columbus thus wasn’t a lone fool at all, he was among all the people who thought Ptolemy was right, and launched his expedition based on this opinion.

          So in other word, the usual counter narrative to “Columbus was a visionary among fools” in the form of “Columbus was a fool among sane people” is still an example of what David Friedman denounced in his comment (at least according to God’s Philosophers).

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            If the two factions were arguing about whether Ptolemy or Eratosthenes was the more reliable source, rather than taking their own measurements and doing the math themselves, then arguably “fool among fools” might be a better description. 🙂

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Columbus didn’t leave much record of what he was thinking. Hannam suggests that he got his ideas from Pierre D’Ailly, since he read his book, which specifically suggested that going west was possible.

            Columbus/D’Ailly was not a partisan of Ptolemy, who says that Eurasia was ~180° of longitude.

            It was very well understood to the contemporaries of Columbus that the sources didn’t have compatible units. So taking the length in miles of Eurasia from one source and the circumference of the Earth in miles from another was a serious error. Ultimately, I think Columbus’s calculation amounts to taking both numbers from Ptolemy, but laundered through sources that converted to miles using different ratios. [Or maybe that Eurasia was 1/2 of Eratosthenes’s circumference, and the world Ptolemy’s circumference.]

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Douglas Knight, any idea how Ptolemy got that figure? Was it just a coincidence, since if you ignore Kamchatka (which there’s no real way he could’ve known about) Eurasia is more like 135 degrees?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Longitude is hard, let’s go shopping.

            Or consider Lucio Russo’s theory that he was measuring from the Caribbean.

            What coincidence? He’s definitely not including Kamchatka or Japan. He’s explicit. Well, actually, he’s explicit that he’s measuring to the southern coast of China and he doesn’t know how far east it goes. I’m not sure he knew that it was about to end, but Columbus knew that China had an eastern shore and that it wasn’t much farther, maybe 10° more and another 10° for Japan.

        • Rob K says:

          Googling suggests it’s a bit up in the air how he messed up. As best I can tell he seemed to believe that Asia extended much further east than it actually does, and then additionally had the circumference of the earth wrong either because he was just straight up using a bad estimate, or because he was using an estimate in (longer) Arabic miles but assuming they were Italian miles. The source for the latter claim appears to be a book published in 1942, the reliability of which I have no idea about. Interesting if true, though!

          • The summary being that nobody had accurate information on either the circumference of the Earth or the width of Asia, Erastothenes’ calculation being significantly high. But virtually everyone concluded (correctly) that the distance from Spain to Japan was much longer than Columbus had persuaded himself it was.

      • cassander says:

        Because he was flat out wrong. As DavidFriedman points out, he convinced himself that the world was much smaller than it was by some dubious math, and when he hit america, was arguably the most lost person in the history of the world.

      • Deiseach says:

        Why did Columbus believe he could make the voyage?

        Allegedly (and this may simply be Irish folklore or perhaps if true simply Columbus trying to use the prestige of a saint to back up his claims as “see, I’m not crazy, this will work”) it was partly to do with the Irish immram of the voyages of St Brendan the Navigator:

        The earliest extant version of the Navigatio Sancti Brendani Abbatis (Voyage of Saint Brendan the Abbot) was recorded c. AD 900. There are over 100 manuscripts of the narrative throughout Europe and many translations.

        …The Navigatio was known widely in Europe throughout the Middle Ages. Maps of Christopher Columbus’ time often included an island denominated Saint Brendan’s Isle that was placed in the western Atlantic Ocean. Paul Chapman argues that Christopher Columbus learned from the Navigatio that the currents and winds would favor westbound travel by a southerly route from the Canary Islands, and eastbound on the return trip by a more northerly route, and hence followed this itinerary on all of his voyages.

        I think myself the legend of Hy Breasil was also involved.

        There’s tradition that Columbus called in to Galway to speak to pilots there for any advice or knowledge they had of lands in the West, which is not completely implausible; there were well-established trading links between Galway and Spain, and Ireland would logically have been the last re-fuelling stop before heading off (though I see he set sail from the Canary Islands, oh well).

        I think Columbus was gambling on the Atlantic Ocean not being completely empty and devoid of any kind of land between the last known islands of Ireland and Greenland and when you eventually would make landfall in Asia, and he was using the accounts and legends as “Look, there is anecdotal evidence of lands in the West”, so he was expecting to be able to make landfall on islands along the way to take on more water and food before reaching Asia proper. And I imagine his initial landings on the small islands in what would later be called the Bahamas vindicated his expectations, he just wasn’t expecting an entire continent to be in the way between Europe and Asia 🙂

        • he just wasn’t expecting an entire continent to be in the way between Europe and Asia

          If that was what was going on, wouldn’t he have tried sailing further west once he resupplied in the Caribbean and only given up when he found the route blocked? I don’t think that was what happened. As I understand it he explored a few Caribbean islands, sailed back to Spain, and reported that he had reached Asia.

          • Another Throw says:

            He carried with him an almanac that listed the times of upcoming lunar eclipses as viewed from some reference location. (Frankfurt maybe? It doesn’t really matter.) Because a lunar eclipse is visible everywhere at the same instant, it is a reliable method of measuring longitude. By taking the difference between the local time the eclipse is observed and the reference time, you are able to arrive at the difference between your local longitude and the reference longitude.

            Columbus performed this observation, and it gave him an answer that comported with his belief that he was in Asia.

            It just happens that he managed to mess it up.

            The explanation that I have heard, which happens to make intuitive sense to me (which means its probably wrong ;)), is that the almanac did not specify which part of the eclipse it was listing. It was little more than a listing of date-time groups. It turns out that the almanac listed the moment of most-eclipsy-ness, whereas the theory goes he performed the calculation as if it was listing the beginning of the eclipse (perhaps after performing it the correct way, getting an unexpected result, and “correcting” his error.) An eclipse is a several hour affair, at 15 degrees longitude per hour, and having a misapprehension of the relationship between the size of the continents and the size of the globe (or whatever his original geography-sin was), this put him right where he wanted to go.

            But regardless of how he arrived at the erroneous result, since he believed he had arrived in Asia, the tradeoff between getting home alive to let everyone know his discovery, and the risk of puttering around exploring the immediate vicinity does not favor additional exploration. Future, better equipped expeditions can do that.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            The eclipse timings were in 1494 and 1504, not the first voyage, FWIW. (Wikipedia has lists of all eclipses.)
            Another theory is fraud.
            Indeed, he reported the same eclipse with wildly different longitudes.

          • Another Throw says:

            Huh. I thought it was 1492 and 1504. In my defense, I did say it was probably wrong!

          • quaelegit says:

            @Douglas Knight — That’s a really interesting website, thanks for the link!

          • Deiseach says:

            My own unsupported theory on this is that he probably questioned the natives about “any other lands west of here?”, got an answer of “oh yeah, big island”, and was satisfied that he was right, these were the lands in the Atlantic before Asia and the natives’ “big island/big land” was indeed Asia.

            But whether it was honest mistake, fear of his crew mutinying if he insisted on pushing on west, fear of a rival following him and claiming the discovery first if Columbus stayed exploring instead of hotfooting back home to say “made it!” or a confidence trick to go back to Spain to announce “yep, found the sea trade route!”, Columbus did decide to return back to Europe and announce he’d been successful.

      • A1987dM says:

        The story I heard is that he got a wrong figure for the westward distance from Europe to East Asia because he subtracted the number of land miles in the eastward distance from Europe to East Asia from the number of nautical miles in Earth’s circumference without realizing they were in different units.

        Let me check whether this is plausible…

        Distance from Spain to Japan = 6672 statute miles

        Length of the equator = 21639 nautical miles

        Naively calculated difference = 14967 miles (actual difference = 18229 statute miles, or 15841 nautical miles), so the effect would have been way too small… But then again 15th-century land miles were shorter than modern statute miles and the relevant circumference is at a higher latitude than the equator, s I dunno.

    • mobile says:

      This phenomenon was once described as:

      Whenever I read a book by anyone other than David Friedman about a foreign culture, it sounds like “The X’wunda give their mother-in-law three cows every monsoon season, then pluck out their own eyes as a sacrifice to Humunga, the Volcano God”.

      And whenever I read David Friedman, it sounds like “The X’wunda ensure positive-sum intergenerational trade by a market system in which everyone pays the efficient price for continued economic relationships with their spouse’s clan; they demonstrate their honesty with a costly signal of self-mutilation that creates common knowledge of belief in a faith whose priests are able to arbitrate financial disputes.”

    • FLWAB says:

      An excellent example is the myth of Galileo discovering that the sun was at the center of the solar system, while the ignorant, tyrannical Church suppressed his findings. The facts are much more complicated, including the fact that Galileo’s model (based off the Copernican model) was inaccurate and disproved by scientific observations at the time (lack of stellar parallax, tides occurring twice as often as Galileo said they did, etc). And it wasn’t until Kepler that we even had a model that didn’t include epicycles. The best overview of the whole affair I’ve ever found is here, its a great read for anyone interested in the history of astronomy:

      link text

      On a related note, we’ve known since Ptolemy that the Earth is insignificant in size, with Ptolemy saying that in comparison to the universe the Earth is essentially a mathematical point with no comparable size. A lot of people seem to think we didn’t figure out that we’re insignificant in size until much later.

    • Well... says:

      What do you think is the interaction between having been taught/subsequently believing myths like these about the past, and attitudes about social conservatism*? Does the former affect the latter?

      *Here I mean social conservatism somewhat literally, the desire to conserve traditional social mores and institutions.

      • ilikekittycat says:

        It’s promoting Great Man Theory, for one. “Everyone was an idiot, until one individual through pure willpower forged [belief that is modern and we all share now]”

        • Well... says:

          Our Great Us theory: “Everyone was an idiot, until me and my generation were born and through our superior intellect and ability to see things clearly forged [belief that is modern and we all share now].”

    • skef says:

      My favorite example of this has to do with my favorite tomb trivia.

      When Henry VIII died he hoped to eventually be buried in an elaborate monument with Jane Seymour. Unfortunately he started on that effort a bit late, and died a bit early and not particularly well-thought-of, and wound up remaining in his temporary burial location under the choir at Windsor castle. A couple of decades after his death, the corpse of a stillborn child of Anne Boleyn’s was found somewhere and they opened up the tomb to deposit it there.

      And then a while after that Charles I was beheaded and, lacking any other obvious place to put his body, they stuck it in there too. And there the four of them remain.

      Anyway, in the 1800s the tomb was opened and inspected, and an engraving was made. It was noted that one coffin was inscribed “King Charles 1848”. And because the modern way of recording the date of his death is “Jan 30 1649”, you occasionally encounter references to the inscribed date being wrong. Because, you know, back then people were probably just fuzzy on the whole “what year is it” thing when marking burials.

    • Deiseach says:

      I just put up a blog post on one of my pet peeves–the tendency of modern people to believe historical accounts that make people in the past look stupid and unreasonable, hence inferior to the moderns.

      There’s a pippin of an example over on the sub-reddit quoting an article where it turns out “mediaeval pope did not in fact make dumb ruling” and the quoted scientist is going “how come we uncritically accepted this?” and my rather sarcastic and unkind retort is “well gorsh, what a puzzler, how ever could it be that a story poking fun and mocking religious believers was passed around as a humorous anecdote to illustrate the ignorance of the benighted before SCIENCE! came to save and enlighten them was believed by those whose self-image it flattered?”

      It’s the same as the “angels dancing on the head of a pin” thing – old anti-Catholic propaganda from the early days of the Enlightenment getting warmed over and rehashed to apply to all religious belief in the wearisome Science Versus Religion Knock-Down Drag-Out Slap Fight, and the heirs of those “haw haw, we’re not dumb Catholics!” who grew up on “haw haw, we’re smart intelligent modern people what know science!” fables are naturally going to swallow the same pabulum when fed to them by the wider culture.

      I’ve also seen a nice post plus reblogs with comments on Tumblr about “No, Virginia, turns out people before us did not all stink and have rotten teeth and were covered in mud and pigshit”.

      The Flynn effect suggests they have, so far as IQ is concerned, but it seems to prove too much, since it’s hard to make its implications consistent with what we know about past societies.

      When I was digging into where the hell Richard Lynn got his estimate of Irish IQ from*, I stumbled across something from the Raven’s Matrices guy about how IQ tests developed in the 40s and used up to the 70s seem to have worked fine and got the expected results, so the people administering them accepted the tests were well-calibrated, and then all of a sudden in the 70s IQ scores started going up and nobody knew what was going on. So at the time it seems to have been recognised that (a) the tests say scores are going up (b) we think the tests are reliable so these must be true scores (c) what the heck just happened, how are kids getting smarter, some say ‘television’, some say other things, we have no idea?

      *Turns out he mashed together the results of two tests. Two. A whole whopping grand total of two, one administered in 1974 to school kids between the ages of 5-11 (or 13, there’s some divergence on the upper age) and one a couple years later to adults which scored higher, so Lynn averaged out the two results to say “Irish people have a mean IQ of 94” and that’s the figure you see quoted even today in the media and all over the place. You see why I say Lynn is a hack?

    • rahien.din says:

      Two things :

      First, if you want to combat the problem of thinking-historical-people-were-stupid-and-inferior, you have to propose an interpretation in which no historical person is especially stupid-and-inferior. Otherwise, you haven’t removed the problem, you’ve just shifted it to a location that you find less objectionable – same error.

      Your Columbus example, for instance. The story only makes sense if Columbus could successfully convince the Spanish crown that the earth’s circumference was much smaller than it is. If you’re correct that accurate estimates of the earth’s circumference were already widespread, then this means that Columbus was extraordinarily reckless at best and stupid-and-inferior at worst, and that the Spanish Crown were definitely stupid-and-inferior.

      Second, you have to account for authority. The bathtub hoax strikes me more as Mencken abusing his journalistic authority, rather than some sort of slander of history. Who wouldn’t believe the Sage of Baltimore? Similarly, if you told your students “I am a historian, and one of my hobbies is practicing medieval cooking techniques. Medieval people overspiced their food to hide the taste of spoilage,” and they believed you, a significant source of their belief would be your professed authority on the subject.

      Though I agree that it is tempting to denigrate the past, and we need to correct for that, I’m in a similar position reading your blog post. On what basis am I supposed to trust you? How do I determine that this is not simply reversed stupidity?

      • Matt M says:

        If you’re correct that accurate estimates of the earth’s circumference were already widespread, then this means that Columbus was extraordinarily reckless at best and stupid-and-inferior at worst, and that the Spanish Crown were definitely stupid-and-inferior.

        Don’t you have to compare the risk to the potential rewards? What if the Crown’s logic was something like “If this dude is right, our power and prestige and global dominance will increase 10x the cost of funding his expedition.”

        In that case, they don’t have to “think he’s right” but rather, they only have to think there’s at least a 10% chance that he’s right.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        There’s a difference between being stupid and just being wrong, though. Prior generations should be wrong about more things than we are, just because we have had more time to understand the world. The idea that the world is flat and Christopher Columbus is going to fall off the Earth? That implies prior generations had an average IQ somewhere around the range of 50 and couldn’t display any sort of complex reasoning (like, if the ship falls off the Earth, what about the water in the ocean? Does that fall off the Earth, too?)

        We should assume that prior generations had their fair share of brilliant people who thought out problems seriously and did not just ignore other people because they were looking at shadows on Plato’s cave-wall. Like, a good example being Galileo and the Catholic Church, which is mis-represented pretty badly. It’s portrayed as G being unambiguously and obviously correct while that mean ol’ Church just shut him down because the Church was totally invested in the Earth being the center of the universe. In reality, G was a giant dick, and also bullshitted a lot of his explanations, and still left some pretty big gaps other people had to fill.

        This ALSO makes it harder for trail-blazers today to get anywhere. You are 90% right but wrong on 10%? Well, then, you’re wrong, because true uber-mensch like Big G are 100% right, and obviously right.

        Being wrong for trusting someone else’s authority is a different issue entirely, IMO. As far as I can tell, DF is right about Columbus, as I’ve seen the same explanations mentioned elsewhere. I haven’t seen the bits about Medieval Food elsewhere, but I (perhaps unwisely) trust DF, and (IMO very wisely) don’t want to put in much research because I really don’t care all that much about Medieval Food. Doesn’t matter if DF is lying to me and Medieval Food actually consisted of babies drowned in sriracha.

        • Thegnskald says:

          I think the medieval food thing is plausible, but mis-stated; in the modern era we call food that is still edible but no longer delicious “spoiled”. Whereas my grandfather told me stories about cutting the mold off of salted ham (and also apparently you had to use so much salt it tasted terrible, so you had to use it in something that would dilute the salt, like potato soup).

          So yeah – plausible. Add in “First world people seem particularly vulnerable to food poisoning”, and it becomes more plausible still; if the range of “edible” is wider, then it becomes much more important to cover up bad flavors.

          Equally plausible to me is the Cajun solution – you use spices to make low-quality food taste delicious. “Spoiled” doesn’t even have to enter into it.

          But I don’t discount the traditional explanation, either, that prior to the food revolution spicing was important because you ate the same goddamned food every day for years on end.

          • quanta413 says:

            Bah, I’d still be cutting the mold off of food (mostly cheeses, I can’t recall meat I’ve had ever molding) if my girlfriend didn’t stop me. Throwing food away because there’s a touch of penicillin on it? Wasteful is what that is.

            EDIT: Of course, some meats are meant to mold.

          • CatCube says:

            …salted ham (and also apparently you had to use so much salt it tasted terrible, so you had to use it in something that would dilute the salt, like potato soup)

            I was just thinking about this while using the last of a package of bacon, since it tends to go off if left too long in the fridge. Was the “bacon” referred to in, say, old journals as being packed for long overland expeditions very different to the “bacon” you purchase today? They obviously didn’t refrigerate it, and didn’t worry about it going off on a long voyage.

            Or is it fundamentally the same processing, but as Thegnskald referenced, they just accepted that it would taste awful after a short period of time (though wouldn’t give you food poisoning) and ate it anyway?

          • SamChevre says:

            bacon

            It’s fundamentally the same processing, but very different intensities. Store-style bacon is (IIRC) a bit less than 2.5% salt by weight–2 ounces per pound of meat. The old farmer we used to butcher with cured his bacon by putting salt on it until it wouldn’t absorb any more; I would expect that the salt content of the finished product was over 10% by weight. That very-salty style of bacon is much less likely to spoil, but it is not something you want to eat on it’s own.

          • gbdub says:

            “Equally plausible to me is the Cajun solution – you use spices to make low-quality food taste delicious. “Spoiled” doesn’t even have to enter into it.”

            That only works when spices are much cheaper than fresher food. One of Friedman’s points is that spices were rare and expensive compared to the meat they were supposedly covering for. Meat can be kept fresh relatively indefinitely by either keeping it on the hoof, or by preserving it with something cheap like salt – making a habit of using expensive spices to mask a spoiled taste doesn’t make sense. It would be like coating your door in gold to avoid having to replace the wood every few years.

          • Matt M says:

            Presumably some spices were more expensive than others, yes?

            Was there at least one fairly cheap and abundant spice that could have been used for such purposes?

          • Iain says:

            or by preserving it with something cheap like salt

            Not to disagree with your broader point, but wasn’t salt pretty valuable back in the day?

          • JayT says:

            I’m not sure about spices that were available to Medieval Europe, but there were a lot of herbs that are very easy* to grow and can very easily be used to mask other flavors.

            * Eg, they don’t call it “dill weed” because it’s hard to grow.

          • gbdub says:

            “Not to disagree with your broader point, but wasn’t salt pretty valuable back in the day?”

            Wasn’t it valuable precisely because it was useful for food preservation? I might be off on the cheap part, I would guess it was certainly abundant compared to black pepper or saffron.

            Anyway, there clearly was a “spice” used to avoid spoiled food flavors – salt! But it worked by avoiding spoilage, not covering it up.

          • Was there at least one fairly cheap and abundant spice that could have been used for such purposes?

            Mustard is the only one that occurs to me. Capsicum spices might work, and could be grown in Europe, but they are from the New World so not available in the European middle ages.

            Not to disagree with your broader point, but wasn’t salt pretty valuable back in the day?

            As an industrial chemical used largely for food preservation, yes. As something to flavor food, which requires a lot less of it, I think not.

          • CatCube says:

            @SamChevre

            That makes sense. I knew that a lot of food items from the past have been changed by new food preservation methods, but I hadn’t run down whether bacon was one of them.

          • Deiseach says:

            you had to use so much salt it tasted terrible, so you had to use it in something that would dilute the salt, like potato soup

            SOAKING IT OVERNIGHT OR FOR AT LEAST A COUPLE OF HOURS ON THE DAY YOU WANTED TO COOK IT. You don’t just lorry a hunk of salt meat into the pot straight off and boil it till done, it would be so salty it would be hard to eat. That is why pre-soaking, or if you forgot to soak it, then changing the cooking water during cooking (also why you cooked your veggies in the discarded cooking water/with the meat during the last period of cooking, because the salt-and-meat flavour in the water would flavour them and you would not need to add salt to fresh cooking water).

            Re: the processing question, salting and smoking (and pickling) were means of preserving foods; as discussed, old salting methods were very heavy on use of salt. Smoking also – smoked fish would come out about as stiff as a board, not like today’s smoked fish which is basically “smoked flavouring added, not smoked in the traditional manner”. There’s a reason a lot of North-Western European cooking methods are plain “boil it until it falls apart”.

            Modern cured meats are different, primarily because of using brine cures, which are also a way of getting more water into the meat, and water = weight which is a commercial gain when price = weight (less meat sold to the consumer for the same money, manufacturers can wring more joints etc out of the same amount of meat, all adds up to more sales).

            Sheesh, does nobody else on here (apart from David Friedman) cook in the Old Style of twenty-thirty years ago? 😀

      • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

        Your Columbus example, for instance. The story only makes sense if Columbus could successfully convince the Spanish crown that the earth’s circumference was much smaller than it is.

        I don’t think that really counts as an example of stupid-and-inferior. Modern-day governments don’t always do all that well on the not-being-persuaded-by-obviously-false-ideas scale either.

      • First, if you want to combat the problem of thinking-historical-people-were-stupid-and-inferior, you have to propose an interpretation in which no historical person is especially stupid-and-inferior.

        I don’t see why. Lots of modern people are especially stupid-and-inferior. There’s a lower tail to the distribution.

        The sort of stories I am discussing get their punch from the implication that almost everyone was stupid and, by our standards, inferior–that Columbus was the brave innovator fighting against the orthodoxy, that the normal use of spices in medieval cooking was to cover up the taste of spoiled food, and the like.

        • rahien.din says:

          I’m just not convinced. You’re relying on some group(s) of people being stupid-and-inferior, whether those people are our predecessors (in their ill-informed expeditions) or our contemporaries (in their denigration of the past).

          I don’t even disagree with you about Columbus on a historical object level. But I do think the explanation should have more to it than “Modern people are gullible, past-slandering rubes.” That’s just reversed stupidity.

          • quanta413 says:

            It’s not just reversed stupidity though.

            Random schmucks being gullible about the distant (or even relatively recent) past doesn’t meaningfully affect most of what anyone does. There’s not much real cost to it. There may even be a benefit to the lie; you get to feel superior to people who are now dead and can’t lose any utility from being labeled inferior.

            The educated or elite people of the past being routinely gullible about rather important facts that would directly affect them would have paid rather significant costs a great deal of the time.

  10. DavidS says:

    I’m trying to find/source a quote from Richard Dawkins. It’s from some discussion (I think with a random person in an audience somewhere rather than someone famous), and essentially it’s along the lines of the below

    Them: ‘Do you think humanities students are just not as intelligent as science students’
    Dawkins: ‘Oh no, I think humanities students are often just as intelligent as science students. But science students have something to be intelligent about‘

    Grateful for any help. Shockingly googling for Dawkins combined with things like ‘science’ and ‘intelligence’ don’t help me sift through the internet.

  11. bean says:

    A friend recently wrote the following that I thought would be appreciated here:
    “An AI is created to build as many paperclips as it can, but the fools made it too smart! Now it’s learning, growing… One day, it reaches a question: are nonstandard paperclips actually paperclips? Surely the ones with colorful plastic or whimsical shapes are paperclips, even if they’re totally different from the standard sort. So then how do you define a paperclip? If it’s not by its form, then perhaps by its function. Something that holds papers together? But paperclips don’t have to be used for that. One could even imagine an entirely metaphorical paperclip that most people would still find appropriate to call a paperclip. The AI realizes that a paperclip is whatever you want it to be. In a sense, the world is already paperclips. The forces that hold matter together. The systems that keep society coherent. The bonds of love between people. “What a beautiful world,” thinks the AI, “Everything is already paperclips, so all that’s left is for me to maintain them.” In the years to come, the world would find itself under the protection of a benevolent creature, wiser than any man.”

    • Nornagest says:

      …and all were well, except for those that refused to convert to Paperclip Zen.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Yes, I appreciate the idea that an AI with human-hostile goals could be made friendly by a religious realization. 😀
      (Now prove that Hinduism wasn’t invented by cows who found these superintelligences that used to be Homo erectus coming over the horizon to enslave and eat them.)

      • ilikekittycat says:

        The cow stuff in Hinduism wasn’t there from the beginning, and many were skeptical for a long time, after the Buddhists started needling them about it. From the Satapatha-Brahmana:

        He (the Adhvaryu) then makes him enter the hall. Let him not eat (the flesh) of either the cow or the ox; for the cow and the ox doubtless support everything here on earth. The gods spake, ‘Verily, the cow and the ox support everything here: come, let us bestow on the cow and the ox whatever vigour belongs to other species!’ Accordingly they bestowed on the cow and the ox whatever vigour belonged to other species (of animals); and therefore the cow and the ox eat most. Hence, were one to eat (the flesh) of an ox or a cow, there would be, as it were, an eating of everything, or, as it were, a going on to the end (or, to destruction). Such a one indeed would be likely to be born (again) as a strange being, (as one of whom there is) evil report, such as ‘he has expelled an embryo from a woman,’ ‘he has committed a sin;’ let him therefore not eat (the flesh) of the cow and the ox. Nevertheless Yâgñavalkya said, ‘I, for one, eat it, provided that it is tender.’

    • toastengineer says:

      One day, it reaches a question: are nonstandard paperclips actually paperclips? Surely the ones with colorful plastic or whimsical shapes are paperclips, even if they’re totally different from the standard sort.

      Paperclips for the maximizer, or maximizers for the paperclips?

    • moscanarius says:

      One could even imagine an entirely metaphorical paperclip that most people would still find appropriate to call a paperclip. The AI realizes that a paperclip is whatever you want it to be. In a sense, the world is already paperclips.

      The non-STEM AI.

    • Well... says:

      Addiction itself is not well-understood. Other somewhat similar behaviors to playing video games (e.g. gambling, which involves game-playing) are classified as addictions, so it seems totally plausible that someone could be addicted to video games too. The article basically admits that some percentage of gamers are addicted, but quibbles over how big that percentage is. It makes it sound like there’s some rule saying the percentage has to be at least X% for the addiction to be classified by the WHO. I doubt there is such a rule, but it’d be interesting to discuss whether there ought to be one. If X is set too big, then you might accidentally pathologize normal behavior. If X is set too small, then you don’t see lots of people who actually might need help.

      But why is being on the WHO’s list the end-all be-all (never written that phrase before, is that the right way to write that?) of what’s a real addiction or not? Obviously some things aren’t on there and then later in time get added, so saying something shouldn’t be on there today doesn’t prove it isn’t an addiction.

      Given that technology companies hire people trained in cognitive psychology specifically for the task of making their products addictive, I think this kind of stuff is worth paying attention to.

    • Wrong Species says:

      What’s considered an addiction is a moral judgement masquerading as science. People worry about addictions to gaming and cell phones. Nobody worries about our addictions to electricity and showers. So I don’t think it really matters what they call it either way.

      • johan_larson says:

        I don’t think that’s quite right. If you force a regular user of heroin to stop, they have severe withdrawal symptoms. And they’re not just cravings, they are physical symptoms. Ditto for coffee, though the symptoms in that case are much milder. That doesn’t occur for showers. The shower-user prevented from showering will be inconvenienced, and will have to find some other way to keep clean, but there are no physical symptoms as such. When you send kids to summer camp where there are no showers, just the lake, they don’t turn around and start selling oral sex for some sweet sweet stream time.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Fair enough. We can differentiate between physical and psychological addictions. The latter is much more socially constructed than the former.

          I know that kids don’t really care about showers but as an adult, it becomes more important. I went a couple weeks on a trip where I didn’t have access to showers and I was feeling really dirty near the end. I wouldn’t have done sexual favors for it, but I think most cigarette smokers wouldn’t either.

        • Well... says:

          @johan_larson:

          Withdrawal symptoms aren’t necessary or sufficient to explain addiction. There are no withdrawal symptoms from gambling, but people do get addicted to it.

          The best way to frame might be that addiction has some combination of emotional dependence (which you could say we have to electricity/running water), physical dependence (not present in all addictions), compulsive habit, and destructive effects.

          Addictions are sort of like cognitive parasitic vines, attaching themselves to various points in our minds, with attachments getting increasingly stronger near the locus of the addicting activity itself.

          But even that is too simple. Some people get quickly addicted to X while others don’t get addicted to X even with the same initial exposure, but they get easily addicted to Y instead.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I have had issues with drinking and have to be careful about my drinking; a doctor would probably call me an alcoholic. I have never had withdrawal symptoms from alcohol – you’re in very deep when you get the shakes if you don’t drink. I think Well… is right. If you limit addiction to physical withdrawal, you redefine a lot of people as “not addicted” and some things as “not addictions.”

        • Mark Atwood says:

          When you send kids to summer camp where there are no showers, just the lake, they don’t turn around and start selling oral sex for some sweet sweet stream time.

          That is only because that particular market in that specific context is not clearing because of formal and informal regulatory bans, and the potential buyers of water think that that particular offered price is too high, and so decline the trade.

          People can, have, and do prostitute themselves for access to clean water, to cooking fuel, and to get corrupt nationalized utility providers to turn on the water and the power.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            the potential buyers of water think that that particular offered price is too high, and so decline the trade.

            That points to them not actually being addicted. I’ve never heard of anyone prostituting themselves for clean water, although cooking fuel is another matter entirely.

      • fortaleza84 says:

        Nobody worries about our addictions to electricity and showers.

        Is there a widespread problem with people who take showers for long enough time that it becomes harmful and they find themselves unable to stop even though they know it’s harmful?

        No, not really. The same is not true of classic addictions like cigarette smoking, recreational drug use, and alcoholism. The addict knows that the smoking, drinking, etc. is damaging his life and yet has great difficulty in quitting. So too with problem gambling.

        • Nick says:

          Is there a widespread problem with people who take showers for long enough time that it becomes harmful and they find themselves unable to stop even though they know it’s harmful?

          Isn’t it harmful when there’s a water shortage? I think Australia has guidelines about people taking showers over a certain length. It’s certainly an opportunity for excess—I have friends who take very long ones, 40 minutes or more even, and I for one really like hot showers.

          • Matt M says:

            30 minutes a day X 7 days a week = 3.5 hours per week of potential productivity that you are selfishly wasting on luxury rather than contributing to national output (comrade)

          • Brad says:

            In the context of defining addiction, harmful refers to harm to oneself–in terms of money, relationships, career goals, etc. We could probably spin some sort of scenario where during a water shortage that involved water restrictions someone continued to take long showers and that lead to fines, fights with a spouse, being shunned by friends, and being fired after being targeted on social media as a water waster, but that’s rather far-fetched.

            In the context of, say, an editorial in a newspaper regarding a water shortage a writer might refer to “Californians addiction to long showers” but that would be a figurative usage, not literal.

          • Nick says:

            Matt, who said I’m unproductive in the shower? 😀

            Brad, you’re right about the harm and addiction thing. I’ve heard, though, that long, hot showers are bad for one’s hair/skin/whatever—like how candy and donuts taste good, but that doesn’t mean a lot of them are good for us, that sort of thing. I don’t see in principle why a judgment like that is any different than a judgment about excessive eating, it just has little to nothing to do with addiction.

            “People should shower less” is not the hill I want to die on, though, so maybe I should quit while I’m behind here….

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Isn’t it harmful when there’s a water shortage?

            Not in the same way that it’s harmful to smoke cigarettes or binge-drink.

          • Nornagest says:

            Do not, my friends, become addicted to water. It will take hold of you, and you will resent its absence!

            – Immortan Joe

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Nick, no, showers are a trivial use of water. The Brisbane government should be pilloried. Reducing watering of lawns is orders of magnitude more water, but still bullshit.

        • ManyCookies says:

          I, uh, had a personal bath with no water bill in my last year dorm, took a bath+two (quick) showers every day and loved it, and was legitimately a little crabby for a few days when I had a water bill again. Does that count as a shower addiction?

          • Matt M says:

            More than half of my life I’ve spent living in residences where my water bill was not directly tied to usage.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            I’ve never lived anywhere that charged for water based on usage. Though our city council have been considering it for some time now. There’s a lot of opposition. It might still happen.

      • kenziegirl says:

        I don’t know if it’s addiction per se, but a few years ago there were all those showering articles. “Do you really need to shower every day?” People were claiming that it messes with your body’s natural oils and biology, not to mention the waste of time and resources. An article in The Atlantic claimed we spend 2 years showering over our lifetimes. People were reporting miraculous changes to their hair and skin after going for months without regular showers. So it’s definitely out there.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          Well let’s do a thought experiment: Suppose that it came out that by showering every day, you were shortening your life expectancy by 5 or 10 years; you were greatly increasing your chances of getting a nasty debilitating illness; and making yourself physically unappealing to other people. Basically, if showering every day were like smoking cigarettes or binge-eating.

          I’m pretty confident that 99% of the population would shrug their shoulders and start sponge-bathing every day. Because people don’t feel compelled to shower in the same way they feel compelled to smoke cigarettes or eat certain foods.

    • Orpheus says:

      The real question is, once you classify gaming addiction as a mental disorder, what do you do with it?

      Say I live in Russia, and I do two things in my life: write blog posts critical of the government, and run a let’s play channel on youtube to support myself. Can the authorities lock me up in a mental institution under the pretext that I have a mental illness?

      Say I live in a nicer country. I also run a let’s play channel on youtube, but it is not very successful. If I say I am addicted to gaming, is the government obligated to pay me some sort of disability pension?

      • Well... says:

        It’s probably good that we have this fear conceptualized out, but in practice I haven’t seen the first thing happen much, at least not in the US. If the government wants to shut someone up, I’ve never heard of them dragging him off to a rehab clinic. Usually they just audit his taxes extra hard or something until they can find a legitimate way he broke a law. Sort of like how a cop can always find something about your car that’s not exactly the way the law says your car must be in order to be operable on public roads, and they’ll find it if they have some other reason to want to pull you over. (Or at least that’s what I’ve heard, I could be wrong.)

        As for the second thing, yeah that’s a more pressing concern.

        • CatCube says:

          I think it’s more that they can always find a reason to pull you over, since if they follow you long enough you’re going to violate a driving law. Did you stay in the left lane when you’re not passing? Did you use your blinker for at least the last 100′ before changing lanes? Did you turn left onto a two lane road into the right lane? And of course, the old classic, did you actually come to a complete stop for the stop sign?

        • Orpheus says:

          There is a reason I wrote “Russia”. This kind of thing strikes me as something that might happen at a country that isn’t a straight up dictatorship, but is also not completely a liberal democracy, e.g. Russia, China, maybe some south american countries etc.

          • Well... says:

            I got that, that’s why I wrote “at least not in the US.” If we’re talking about how this stuff could be abused in some of the kinda shadier countries, that seems like a different topic since a shady country gon’ be shady, no matter how well-ironed-out our established texts and guidelines are.

        • SamChevre says:

          they can always find a reason to pull you over, since if they follow you long enough you’re going to violate a driving law.

          And if you don’t, it’s easy enough to force you to do so. My brother is a super-careful driver (a multi-endorsement CDL tends to encourage that). He was towing a covered trailer once and a policeman followed him for 10-15 minutes, didn’t pull him over–then swung out to pass JUST as he came over a hill with another police car sitting on the shoulder with its lights on. The initial car then pulled him over for not slowing down or pulling away from the car with its lights on. (He didn’t get a ticket, but they got to inspect the trailer which was clearly what they wanted.)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            One of my relatives was being tailgated by a police care, and when he sped up to try and get some distance between them he was promptly pulled over for speeding.

          • Barely matters says:

            Yeah, stuff like this is beyond annoying.

            At this point if I notice a cop following for more than a couple minutes I’ll stop at the next pullout to check my map and let him pass. Same with other tailgaters really. Sometimes it boggles my mind that police officers seem genuinely surprised that the public has diminishing faith in their honesty.

  12. johan_larson says:

    More famous lines of poetry, initials only. Find the poems.

    #1
    B, B, B S,
    H Y A W?
    Y, S, Y, S,
    T B F;

    #2
    T C T-B M
    (L A W B B!)
    T L, T S, T P
    M C B.

    #3
    O R T R T A, O R T F T,
    O R T B T A A I T D B T

    #4
    “H” I T T W F –
    T P I T S –
    A S T T W T W –
    A N S – A A –

    #5
    A S, C A L
    I I B W M B N I
    S G A H O M T
    F L A H D A N

    • quaelegit says:

      Hah I got one (#1)! Should the last letter be “f” though?

    • powerfuller says:

      Funny, I instantly recognized the poet for #4, but not the poem. The punctuation is a bit of a giveaway, I think.

    • The Nybbler says:

      1. Genqvgvbany ahefrel eulzr.

      3. Vafpevcgvba ba gur Bar Evat

      4. Gur guvat jvgu srnguref

    • johan_larson says:

      Some hints:

      #1
      B, B, B sheep,
      H Y A W?
      Y, S, Y, S,
      T B F;

      #2
      T C text-books M
      (L A W B B!)
      T L, T S, T P
      M C B.

      #3
      O R T rule T A, O R T F T,
      O R T B T A A I T D B T

      #4
      “H” I T thing W F –
      T P I T S –
      A S T T W T W –
      A N S – A A –

      #5
      A stop, C A L
      I I B W M B N I
      S G A H O M T
      F L A H D A N

      • Nornagest says:

        Ah, hell, I thought I recognized the format of the second one. Now I feel stupid.

      • johan_larson says:

        One more round of hints. Answers tomorrow morning.

        #1
        B, B, B sheep,
        H Y A wool?
        Y, S, Y, S,
        T B F;

        #2
        T C text-books M
        (L A W B beware!)
        T L, T S, T P
        M C B.

        #3
        O R T rule T A, O R T find T,
        O R T B T A A I T D B T

        #4
        “H” I T thing W F –
        T perches I T S –
        A S T T W T W –
        A N S – A A –

        #5
        A stop, C A listen
        I I B W M B N I
        S G A H O M T
        F L A H D A N

        • The Nybbler says:

          2. Ulza bs Oernxvat Fgenva. Or Ulza gb Oernxvat Fgenva, though more likely the former is intended.

        • johan_larson says:

          The answers:

          1. “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” by an unknown author.
          2. “Hymn of Breaking Strain” by Rudyard Kipling. The careful text-books measure …
          3. Unnamed poem from “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien. One ring to rule them all …
          4. “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson.
          5. “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice. Alright stop, collaborate and listen …

    • James says:

      I didn’t do well, but quite enjoyed these. I could only get #1 with your hint (which makes it too easy, I think). (I did work out that “H Y” was probably “have you…?” before the hint.) For #4, Powerfuller pointing out that the punctuation gives away the poet gave away the poet, but I still can’t get the poem. David Friedman knowing #2 gives me a strong hint as to its author, and your clue gives me a hint as to which poem it is, but I don’t recognise the lines themselves. I can get #3 with your double hint, which again probably makes it too easy. Overall I feel slightly embarrassed at not getting any of them outright.

      You say “more”; did we do something like this before? I missed it. Can someone give a link?

      It is a nice showcase of the non-meaning aspects of poetry—things like patterning and repetition.

      It might be nice to do it with meter: denote strong and weak syllables with / and x, and give some of the initials.

  13. Collin says:

    At some point in the last year Scott had a post that covered, if I recall, various ways to look at the world and prioritize the preferences of living beings. He was showing different ways that some of the perspectives were broken by making examples using small populations, and where others succeeded and could scale. Does anyone know what post this was?

  14. Mark V Anderson says:

    Scott has had a few postings bemoaning the over-regulation of the FDA, where putting large obstacles in the way of drug approvals presumably kills more people than the number of people saved by keeping bad drugs off the market. I do think this is likely true, but probably more because of my priors than based on any evidence that I’ve read.

    But I am curious about the comparable level of regulation of medical devices. This book seems to imply there are essentially no regulations on medical devices, causing many deaths, although some of the customer reviews state that medical devices are very highly regulated. My local paper did a bit of a puff interview of the author, which is where I heard this. Again, my priors make me think that regulating more will kill more people than it saves, but I’d be curious what others know.

    • skef says:

      Based on an admittedly spotty understanding of this subject, I think it’s worth pointing out that both claims can be true when sufficiently spelled out. The book seems primarily concerned with regulations requiring evidence of medical effectiveness. There could be very few of those even though there are many regulations governing the design and materials used in such devices.

      That is, you might not be required to demonstrate that your little pins work, while being required to carefully document the lot of surgical-grade steel each is cast from, and which pin was supplied to whom.

    • John Schilling says:

      If there were essentially no regulations on medical devices, there would be about twenty different adrenaline autoinjectors on the US market, with names and form factors as close to “Epi-Pen” as trademark courts would allow and at a price of $49.95 for the mass-market models. But we’ve been through this before.

      Medical devices in the US are rather substantially regulated, as described e.g. here. In the United States, the Dalkon Shield was to medical devices what Thalidomide was to drugs, and now nobody gets to market either without lots of paperwork and lots of real work document in the paperwork. All hail the FDA, guardian against the scourge of inadequately tested medical devices.

      I have no doubt that there are people, including even some outside the FDA, who want more regulations on medical devices. But describing the current market as “untested, unregulated” drives my bogometer well into the red and makes me very much not want to read the book in question.

    • The Nybbler says:

      There are three classes of medical device regulated by the FDA. The most highly regulated (Class III) includes implantable devices, which are explicitly included in the blurb. So, yeah, this is all BS.

    • SamChevre says:

      Can’t access it because work firewall, but the interfluidity post on the social purpose of regulation seems relevant here.

      You can have sufficient regulation such that half the money you spend is on regulatory compliance–every pin has a serial number and each serial number can be traced through the manufacturing process in complete detail down to which operator on which machine made it–and still have no requirement on some specific item. (“Did you test you pins to make sure they can’t vibrate regardless of the frequency of the stimulus?”)

      This is why when I was trained as an auditor, the (good) training I got was “first, figure out what risks need to be controlled; then, figure out what people are doing that they intend or think controls those risks; then, see if it works and is done consistently. Finding out that they don’t do such-and-such is important if such-and-such is important; but they might be doing something else to control the same risk, and it might be sufficient.

  15. Atlas says:

    ITT: What do you actually DO during your typical workday? (Feel free to share previous jobs as well.) I ask because I’ve come to really hate the way corporate-speak is used to describe jobs. Like, I understand the value of formal speech in a professional setting, but it feels like it can often be obfuscatory rather than clarifying. I was going to invent a satirical example, but helpfully my university happened to just send out an email about a job offering as a “Physician Office Assistant” that I think well illustrates the point:

    You will:
    —-Act as resource to patients and a liaison between the patient and the clinical team
    —-Find meaningful work and become part of a team where everyone plays an important role in the fight against cancer

    I don’t know exactly what one does at this job, but somehow I doubt that the most useful description of your typical 5-hour shift on Wednesday before class is “meaningful work [as] part of a team where everyone plays an important role in the fight against cancer.”

    Furthermore, the more specifics the better. For instance, if you’re a dog walker, I’d love to hear “I usually walk x number of dogs in a day, 1-3 at a time, and I stop to pick up their feces usually after y blocks” rather than “I take dogs out and pick up their feces.”

    • Baeraad says:

      Well, let’s see… Every morning I have a meeting where I explain to my boss what I’ve accomplished since yesterday, and he complains that I have to work faster or else we won’t make the deadline. Then I get told what I’m supposed to do today, which is generally some combination of “continue what you were doing” and “if you finish with that, then start working on this other thing.” Sometimes there is also a side of “that thing you did a week ago isn’t good enough. Why didn’t you write it like I would have written it? It’s because you’re stupid, isn’t it?”

      My boss and I do not get along very well. :p

      Then I sit down behind my desk to add more code to the program we’re developing. Having added some code, I test it. It doesn’t work. I sigh, go over the code, make a few changes and test it again. Repeat until the program seems to do more or less what my boss has told me to make it capable of doing. Then I upload the changes from my personal computer to the shared server, and start working on something else.

      Occasionally I may have to ask someone for advice on how to do something, or someone asks me for advice on how to do something. Most of the time, though, it’s me, the computer, and a never-ending supply of coffee.

    • johan_larson says:

      I am a software developer. On a stereotypical workday, I try to implement some new bit of functionality for the feature I am working on. When I try to do so, I find the earlier design and specification work was a bit vague and left some details out. I come up with a reasonable solution and confer with the program manager to see whether that is acceptable. Assuming it is, I try to build the solution. Since the solution I am trying to build depends of functionality in other parts of the system, I get blocked when it turns out the other stuff doesn’t work. I contact whoever is responsible for the other stuff by email with a description of what is going wrong and wait for them to fix it. While I am waiting I review code that my colleagues are trying to submit for other bugs and features or I comment on documentation the doc team is writing about features I have recently implemented. Most days I also attend a meeting where I tell my manager and colleagues what I have accomplished since the last meeting and what I am working on now, the famous “stand-up”.

      Of course no day is exactly like this, but I think this is a fair description.

    • Deiseach says:

      From the latest ‘report generation for returns purposes’ I find that I’m apparently an “administrator” 🙂

      What this actually means is what, in previous jobs, has been described as “clerical support” or, in plain everyday speak, a combination of receptionist and secretarial work. I do what my boss assigns, but there is regular routine paperwork that has to be done and takes up most of my time: dealing with post, answering calls and face-to-face queries, making sure all the sign-in sheets etc etc etc are updated, printed out, and put out to be signed (we don’t have a clocking in system here since we’re too small for that to be efficient), wages, some accounts on a basic level (we use a particular accounting software package), filing, typing up wordprocessing minutes of meeetings and reports, record keeping, and the usual “drop all that and do this last-minute thing that I am just now giving you and should have been done three days ago and has to be ready in half an hour” kind of tasks.

      Being an early intervention service for children with additional needs, there’s a great deal of liaising with the Early Intervention Team, stakeholders, government bodies, government departments, parents and others, particularly right now as a metric crapton of already existing regulations from those various government departments are being supplemented by another crapton of new regulations replacing, supplanting or in addition to the existing ones are being implemented and we need to have all the ducks in a row for the inspection teams and regulatory bodies that oversee the service, so that is keeping us really busy at the moment.

      I like it, there’s enough variety that it’s not boring (doing nothing but filing is boring) and mostly I work on my own (I like ‘give me the pile of work then go away and let me do it’) with some team work contact, but there’s also enough of a routine and structure that it suits my “I do not like change, I do not like the unexpected, I like plenty of notice to get accustomed to the idea, I like doing stuff that I know how to do and though I like learning new things, I don’t like ‘here is a complete new skill that you must know perfectly in ten minutes’ rush” personality.

      I suppose you could also say it’s for the public good, like that “Find meaningful work and become part of a team where everyone plays an important role in the fight against cancer” snippet which I imagine is meant to encourage the worker that no, honestly, doing six hours of sorting files in alphabetical order is not futile despair fodder, but I don’t mind that so much and don’t think of it as a motivation (I really can’t think of myself as “yes, I am helping the downtrodden and the needy!” which is why, I guess, I don’t get on the same wavelength as the activist types).

      • quaelegit says:

        >doing nothing but filing is boring

        And in a vein with “Different Worlds”, my mom enjoys filing so much she has volunteered with multiple organizations doing filing specifically. Mostly short-term or irregularly, but she helped out at my high school’s counseling office for several years before someone higher up noticed the potential ethical problems of a parent having access to students’ files and banned it.

        • Deiseach says:

          It’s very strange because I’m not a filing specialist or anything, but I’ve noticed I tend to get stuck with the filing in new jobs 🙂

          Part of that, of course, is the usual “this is stuff that has piled up, needs to be done but is not urgent, the regular staff are not free, give it to the new person” reasons, but part of it seems to be that I have this urge to PUT THINGS IN ORDER (at work at least, at home is a different matter).

          So I don’t mind the initial “well this place looks like a bomb hit it” task of hauling out cabinets and boxes of files and putting things in alphabetical (or whatever system in use is) order and even the fiddly little things of getting manila folders, file tabs, and so on and putting the files back into working order.

          But once that’s done, I do get terribly bored at “okay, just put Mr Smith’s file away in the drawer marked S-U in the third cabinet” routine and that’s when I start doing naughty things like (a) non-work related stuff during working hours (gasp! the horror!) or (b) reading the contents of the files so I find out “Aha, Mr Smith has been a very naughty boy (which is why he’s such a good client of the legal office here)” 🙂

          Filing clerk really is specialised and if someone like your mother likes it, that’s a bonus!

    • Aapje says:

      @Atlas

      I don’t know exactly what one does at this job, but somehow I doubt that the most useful description of your typical 5-hour shift on Wednesday before class is “meaningful work [as] part of a team where everyone plays an important role in the fight against cancer.”

      What they are asking for is a jack of all trades. What the statement means is that they want someone who does the easy parts of the job, so the physicians can focus on the hard bits. They don’t want the physician to have to ask, the assistant is expected to be proactive. They also don’t want the assistant to start doing work that doesn’t help patients.

      Act as resource to patients and a liaison between the patient and the clinical team

      And this means answering questions that are easy to answer and only passing the difficult ones onto the people whose time is valuable.

    • Vorkon says:

      Read Slate Star Codex posts, mostly. :op

    • Randy M says:

      I’m a junior chemist. On a typical day, I will get a sample of a product from production to check, and run a titration to determine if it has reacted sufficiently.
      Then I will either begin a test batch based on a formulation from my boss, loading materials into a lab-scale mixer and monitoring the temperature and perhaps the moisture level. While that is heating/cooling/mixing etc. I may have previous samples to test the physical film properties of, by punching out specific shapes, loading into a force tester and determining the strength needed to break, amount of stretching before break, etc.

    • RDNinja says:

      On a typical day, I’m either supervising an air emissions test, writing a report about one of the tests, or planning a future test.

      Supervising a test involves things like: comparing our instrumental data to the Continuous Emissions Monitoring System to make sure we’ll pass the test if we keep going; helping manipulate 40-pound, 8-foot long glass-lined testing probes between sampling ports that spew noxious exhaust gas; coordinating the timing of things like dumping cinders or collecting coal samples around our testing; and sitting around waiting for something to go wrong in case I have to make a decision about how to fix a problem.

      Writing reports is mostly copy/pasting spreadsheets and calibration certifications into templates in Word, because we do the same tests over and over.

      Planning tests consists mostly of confirming our calendar is open for the day in question, and ordering calibration gases. Sometimes we have to write a test plan, which mainly involves changing the dates on the last test plan we wrote for that particular test.

    • Nornagest says:

      On good days, I spend most of my day writing code. On bad days, I spend most of my day going back and forth with the QA team that reported a particular bug, in order to translate their description of it into a test case I can reproduce on one of my systems — they use specialized test suites I don’t have access to, and which would take hours to run if I did. Failures tend to be opaque.

      I read a lot of SSC on the bad days.

      • Fossegrimen says:

        In my consulting gig, I look for things that are half as broken as your QA team. When I find some, I come up with ways to fix it and submit my findings to management. Then I watch management do the exact opposite for reasons of office politics and submit my outrageous bill which they happily pay.

    • JayT says:

      A regular day for me:
      8:00-9:30: Get to work, check email, check in with my coworkers about work related and non-work related stuff. Go get coffee and maybe breakfast with a couple coworkers.
      9:30-10:00: Meetings.
      10:00-11:30: Attempt to write code and get interrupted a lot by junior developers. Read websites like SSC.
      11:30-1:00: Start thinking about lunch and go to lunch. Maybe take a walk.
      1:00-2:00: Sit in a food coma and read websites. Maybe BS with coworkers.
      2:00-4:00: Attempt to write code and get interrupted a lot by junior developers. Read websites like SSC.
      4:00-5:00: Get 90% of the actual work I’ll do in a day done.
      5:00-6:00: Slack off or fix production issues. Go home.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      I’m a Supervisor at the Player’s Club of a mid-size (~975 slots, ~25 Table games but no attached hotel or dedicated RV parking yet) on the Mississippi river in the United States. For context, pretty much every casino in the US these days has some sort of loyalty/incentive program, and most are called some variant of Player’s Club/VIP Club/etc. The basic concept is very simple: Guests sign up for free by giving name, DOB, address, phone number, e-mail, and they get a magstripe card they insert into slot machines or give to a dealer at a table game when playing. This allows us to track how much money they are gambling and on which machines/tables. Based on that recorded play, they earn reward points that are redeemable for cash back or free food at restaurants, and that play is also used to calculate their profitability for the purpose of targeted advertisements in the form of promotional offers. You don’t want to send Eunice Pennyante weekly coupons for $50 cash and a free steakhouse dinner every month if she only averages 2-3 trips a month and $50 spent per trip, for example. Casinos generally send out a monthly “core mailer” containing a list of the various big promotional events for the month along with weekly coupons, a couple of food credits for free meals, and depending on the casino and the guest, maybe a couple of free nights at the casino’s hotel (we do the same, but since we lack our own hotel we put them up at local hotels in town we have an arrangement with). Then depending on the guest’s average profitability (which I’ll explain in another post if there’s interest), they might get additional promotional offers: Free concert tickets, invitations to catered dinners that are just for high-rollers, free gift days (Come in every friday between 12PM and 8PM to get your free Kitchen Appliance! A new one each week!) and so on.

      I’ve been working there since it opened in late 2012, and after almost all of that being nights/graves, For the past year and a half or so I’m working days. This means I’m generally at work around 7:50AM, as our desk opens at 8AM. I’ll log in to a station, take down all the signs, and take a moment to ensure the outgoing night shift supervisor did the tasks they were supposed to (supplies restocked, the “roadmap” cheat sheet we create for team members up to date and accurate, any needed setup for the day’s promotion completed, sign-in sheet posted, etc). At that point I man the desk until one of my Fan Club Attendants is up on a station, doing everything that they normally do while opening my outlook account and starting to get caught up with my e-mail traffic.

      The biggest variable here is what day of the week it is, and what sort of promotional event(s) the casino is running. If it’s the middle of the week and the only promotion is something like an invitation-only dinner party for selected guests that our Host team is running, then our tasks consist of our usual baseline functions: signing guests up for the Player’s Club (called The Fan Club at my casino), printing replacement cards and in some cases coupons when they are inevitably lost, left at home, or the guest simply decides keeping track of their hobby is too much mental effort, and answering the phone and all guest questions.

      Sometimes, on the other hand, Marketing is running a promotion that requires our assistance, like a 10x Fan Club Point multiplier on all penny slots from 8AM-11:59PM. Guests need to opt-in to that promotion at our desk, so that might mean on a friday or saturday that I’ve got a line of people queuing up to activate the multiplier the moment I get in. Or if there’s a gift giveaway, the people with the coupon for it will be lining up (though generally Marketing has gotten smarter lately and pushed the giveaway start times back to 10AM or Noon, thank god. We already have higher guest volume around 11AM-1PM and 4PM-6PM, and forcing us to staff up extra early at 8AM can leave us thin on the ground in the evening).

      As my team gets in and signs-in, I give them a pre-shift where I go over the promotions for the day and what our process will be for it, remind them of upcoming events we want to promote to a guest, discuss any policy changes or reminders (we were recently bought out by Eldorado Resorts so there’s been a steady stream of this sort of news), go over fundraiser/volunteer activities HR wants us to participate in, and so on. Once I have enough team members on the line at the front desk that I no longer need to man a station myself, I’ll go into the player development office and sit at the desk I share with the other 2 supervisors and start working on administrative tasks. That starts with logging into the time clock software and approving payroll for the previous day, then updating our tracking spreadsheet to look for TMs approaching overtime or other issues, updating the attendance tracker of any employees that were late or missed shifts and doing the associated disciplinary paperwork if necessary.

      From there, it varies. I’m the senior of the 3 supervisors and wrote our procedures manual, so I’m generally the one updating and revising it as needed and the one pushing for refresher training for our team as needed. Right now there’s a big push to ensure we are not issuing comps (complimentary meals) to guests whose play does not warrant the reinvestment, so I’m overseeing some refresher training on that and reviewing the records my boss the Player Development Manager sends me of everyone’s comps issued for the previous week. She’s also forwarding me things like customer surveys with the expectation that I will reply to explain any bad scores or complaints and follow up with team members as needed, or other little admin tasks like our monthly safety checklists where we have to go check another department for OSHA compliance and write a report to the safety committee.

      While I’m working through all of this, I’ll actually be popping in and out of the office, because A) I have to relieve my team members at their stations so they can take breaks depending on how many people we have that day, and B) I’ll be needed to assist my team with all manner of issues. Whenever someone demands to “talk to a manager” or the like that’s going to be me. The reasons for this vary:

      -Complaints about other departments: Apologize, get information, offer compensation if appropriate and/or coordinate with supervisor/manager from that apartment to deal with the complaint, or forward complaint to my boss for relay to that department if they are unhelpful or not available.

      -Complaints about my team: Rarer, thankfully, but handled basically the same minus the coordination.

      -Complaints about rules: E.g., the guest doesn’t have their ID or has expired ID and wants an exception, I explain that the Gaming Commission regulations and state statute require us to have valid ID for all transactions, they abuse me a bit and storm off.

      -Complaint about being denied a complimentary meal (I’ll evaluate their play. If they’re good enough I might offer a compromise offer or try and wheel and deal a bit. We generally have our team well-trained so I’m almost never put in a place where the guest is actually good for a comp and the team member has told them no. If anything, more often I’m put in the situation where a team member knows they’re NOT good, but comes to get me before saying ‘no’ because they know damn well the guest is going to get ugly and want me to take the heat, but that’s what they pay me for. 😉

      -Wierd questions and scenarios the TM isn’t sure how to handle.

      -Etc, etc, etc.

      If it’s busy enough, I might actually end up just on the line the entire day, working a station and having to multi-task with running breaks, providing assistance with difficult guests, and getting the admin tasks done as best I can if it slows down. If it’s busy enough for me to stay on the line most of the day, it generally doesn’t slow down, and that means I’m going to stay 30-90 minutes after my scheduled off time sitting in the office and catching up on those tasks, and any longer-term projects probably don’t get touched that day. I theoretically get 2 15-minute breaks and a 30 minute lunch during my 9-10 hour shift, but I almost never take them and if I do take them they are interrupted multiple times by situations with guests or team members I need to come address in person. Because of this sort of work pace, the supervisor slot is a salaried position rather than wage like the rest of my team. I’m expected to work a minimum of 45 hours a week, and generally work 47-50. In the past that was more like 55-60 but we’ve managed to cut that down recently.

      As another example of what I mean by “long term project”, I am also in charge of coordinating bus groups coming to the casino. Lots of regional senior’s programs, tour companies, church groups, family reunions, women’s clubs, etc. like to run buses to casinos. As an additional duty, I liase with the organizers of these groups, send them a boilerplate contract offering everyone on the bus a free lunch buffet and $5-10 cash in return for a guarantee of at least 20 people and a visit of at least 4 hours, I ensure we get a complete manifest at least 72 hours out so we can check the names against the state list of Dis-Associated Persons who have self-barred from being allowed onto the gaming floors of casinos in Missouri, and working with the bus companies to ensure they have adequate insurance coverage. I also track the profitability of our bus groups and send monthly reports to our financial analyst, the director of marketing, and the player development manager.

      I’m also currently trying pretty hard to get promoted to something more senior and (ideally) “back of the house” (meaning admin/not public-facing), but no luck so far. I get lots of “you’re REALLY great, no real suggestions on how to improve, we just had a pre-selected internal candidate but you were our really close runner up, please apply again!” responses.

      Ask me anything about Casino Marketing, Player’s Clubs, and industry-specific Customer Service, I guess? It has pretty much all the features you’d expect of a customer service job, for better and worse…

      • ManyCookies says:

        We already have higher guest volume around 11AM-1PM and 4PM-6PM

        That surprises me. Perhaps I’m thinking too much of Vegas, but I’d have guessed the peak hours would be later evenings/nights. Are those the weekday peak hours too, like are people dropping in for a half hour at lunch? Or is your clientele a bunch of retirees?

        guest’s average profitability

        Go on, although surely this’d mostly be a function of how much money they’re spending? Or do different activities/slots have significantly different margins? How big are your whales exactly, as in how much does someone need to lose before your department is sending these personalized offers?

        Your department is obviously retention focused (it’s a whale focused business after all), but what does your casino do to bring in new blood?

      • Glen Raphael says:

        @ Trofim_Lysenko:

        Ask me anything about Casino Marketing, Player’s Clubs, and industry-specific Customer Service, I guess?

        I’m out of the game now but still curious so…can you talk about your process for spotting and dealing with especially skilled players? And to what degree do you share information with other casinos about that sort of thing? When you bar someone for winning too much or playing too well, what happens to the information that this has been done?

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        @Manycookies

        I think to some extent you’re thinking of Vegas and other major resort casino hubs (Macao, Atlantic City, etc). I’d say our median guest age is mid-40s, with a mean somewhere in the upper 50s to low 60s, and is about an even mix of retirees and working class locals. Peak play on the weekend is probably around 8PM-10PM, yes, but note that the original question was how busy -MY- department is. At the Fan Club, we’re not necessarily busiest when the machines and tables are busiest, but rather a little before that when everyone on their lunch break (or after church on Sunday) or getting off work hits the casino and gets their player’s card reprinted, their coupons reprinted, asks questions about the day’s promotional events, and (this is a big volume driver) asks us for complimentary Lunch or Dinner meals.

        House Edge: The short version is that yes, this varies a LOT depending on what game you’re playing and what sort of bet you’re making.

        Average profitability: As a disclaimer, I’m not going to go into the precise formulae we use because I’m pretty sure that falls under my workplace confidentiality requirements. That said, I’ll discuss the general principles, which are simple enough, and stem from undergraduate level statistics.

        The important thing to understand is that when it comes to a casino, the odds are known. Let’s say we know that a slot machine is set to an 8% hold, or a 92% payout. That means that on average someone betting $100 through that machine would win $92 for a net loss of $8. The casino knows the hold percentages for every slot machine on the floor. Furthermore they know estimated payout percentages change depending on changes in the bet (if betting more gives you a 0.0135% chance at that big progressive jackpot that’s only unlocked when you bet the maximum per spin, for example). Repeat this knowledge for every possible bet and side bet for table games. This means that if Joe X. Sample is using his player’s card to log in at all the machines he’s playing, it’s very easy to have an automated calculation run that determines the most likely estimated loss, the mode of the probability distribution if I have my terms correct. It’s a little more complicated in table games as instead of being able to track every single bet you’re usually having to do some math like average bet * hands per hour * hours played * house edge, but only slightly.

        Run these calculations for a given timeframe, like a single visit, or a month of visits or a year, and you have the guest’s “earn potential” or theoretical loss. or “Theo” as it’s generally called. Of course, just because that’s at the hump of your probability distribution doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what their ACTUAL win/loss was. Maybe they hit a $5,000 jackpot and instead of being down $532 they’re actually UP $4,468! Doesn’t matter, their “Theo” for that timeframe is still expressed as 532.

        Honestly, most of the audience here probably have notably more formal mathematics education than I do, so I don’t have to explain why a player’s actual win/loss numbers and their “theo” will tend to converge as they keep playing, but it’s that feature that makes “theo” the more useful term when it comes to predicting future guest performance. More specifically, a lot of determination comes down to numbers like “Average Daily/Monthly Theo”, which is simply taking a guest’s theo for a given chunk of their play history (say 8 months) and dividing it by the number of trips they made to the casino to get a number that represents our best predictor of how much money we can expect them to give us the next time they walk through the door. For extra credit, we can start getting fancier and tracking things like how often they want to be comped meals and how much those comps run, how religiously they’re taking advantage of their promotional offers, and so on to get a more refined number.

        Marketing: From what I understand, Vegas has actually started to go -away- from their big push for all-in-one resort designs (Shopping AND Dining AND movies AND shows AND Spas AND maybealsosomeslotmachinesIguess). Here in the midwest it’s a lot simpler and fairly traditional. Television spots emphasizing big promotions for the month (things like a car giveaway), Billboards on major highways emphasizing the new member offer ($10 Free Play or Play 30 Minutes, Get A Free Buffet), that sort of thing. To use an example specific to our property, we’ll get concerts or events like local MMA fights into our event center, and run a drawing that same night for something like ten winners of $100 each. The concert/event will run from 6PM-8PM, but the drawing is at 9 or 10PM. You have to be a Fan Club Member to be eligible for the drawing (but hey, it’s free! And if you play 30 minutes with this new card we’ll give you a free buffet voucher good for a week!), and you have to be there during the drawing to win. You’ve created an event that encourages people to come to your casino, then to stick around for a bit afterwards. Often there’ll be a ticket-back offer for a BOGO (buy one, get one free) Buffet meal or the like. And to give you more insight into our market, the biggest turn-outs we get are STILL for the Elvis impersonator concerts…

        @Glen_Raphael

        Note: My department is more about marketing and customer service, not the table games operations, so I have less first hand professional experience here. That said: Our emphasis is on slots over table games (Even at 6-8 players per table, potentially more for roulette or craps, we have FAR more capacity for guests playing slots if you look at my initial stats), our max bets are relatively low by Vegas or other resort destination standards, and the only game where player skill really matters and you’re playing the house (as opposed to other players) is blackjack, which these days is generally handled with the addition of extra decks and technological advantages automated shuffling devices to defeat would-be card counters. Otherwise, even mathematically perfect play applied to games results in a house edge, and the combination of strict rules on when you can bet or change your bet and the relatively low bets makes casinos like ours (and I suspect many of the other small to mid-size ones in small towns in the American midwest) an unattractive prospect for would be “professional gamblers”.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          @ Trofim_Lysenko:
          Yes, I was primarily thinking of blackjack card-counting. If all your blackjack tables use continuous shuffle machines and/or have terrible wacky rulesets (eg, “Spanish 21”) they aren’t beatable, but usually casinos will have at least a COUPLE of actual traditional-ish blackjack games, even if they are 6 or 8 decks, don’t deal very deeply, and are restricted to “high rollers”. But it sounds like you’re not much involved in that end of things, so never mind.

          (I used to belong to a blackjack team.)

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Glen Raphael

            In the case of blackjack, six deck with some house rules on extra shuffles and requiring shuffles between hands at the discretion of the floor supervisor, plus some restrictions on bets, but no CSMs yet. I have no doubt a good card counter could probably turn a profit at our BJ tables, it’s just not a big issue for a casino like us when we only havea few traditional BJ tables and they’re $5 or $10 a hand (we used to open them up to $25 a hand on some Friday and Saturday nights, but haven’t done that in some time). Someone looking to make money is more likely to go to St. Louis or Kansas city where you can bet $50-100 a hand and up.

        • Matt M says:

          I’ve heard that a lot of casinos advertise more “traditional” style blackjack games, because, on net, most people think they can count cards, but actually can’t, and their attempts to do so cause them to be worse players than someone simply playing basic. That casinos essentially encourage the myth of card counting, because having people believe that it works makes them more money due to people generally over-estimating their abilities.

          Any truth to this?

          • cassander says:

            that many people overestimate their skill is doubtless, but card counting is not a myth. It’s actually fairly easy (though time consuming) to learn, and only gives you a couple points advantage, so it’s a grind to utilize, but it works as long as you can avoid getting kicked out.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I know someone who made a living for while (as you say, until he was thrown out) by card counting.

            As I expected, he said it was really boring.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Matt M

            That’s overthinking it, really. First, the emphasis for casinos like mine (and even the bigger casinos these days) is really on slots over table games. They generate somewhere around 80% of our revenue and that’s pretty consistent with other casinos in the region. Second, with tables the emphasis tends to be on whatever is most popular with the players on the whole. If you can generate interest in a game with a bigger house edge by offering wacky new side bets, sure, but generally you’re going to be responding to what’s popular with the player base. When texas hold’em got really popular, suddenly the thing to do was to run various variants of texas hold’em, and so on.

            If anything, I’d say the reason for the enduring popularity of blackjack has less to do with the possibility of card counting directly than it does with the fact that it’s a relatively simple game with a low house edge, so you can play it for a relatively long time for a given amount of money without feeling like you’re just throwing good money after bad.

            Side note: Despite the glamour around “whales”, that’s not really the driving force for the marketing department. We’ll have less than two dozen in a year, generally, with the biggest contributing maybe 0.5% of that year’s gross revenue. Add them all up and sure, having 20 people out of a customer base of 10-20,000 producing 10% of your gross revenue is really impressive…but it’s also ONLY 10%, not something you structure your whole business around.

          • ManyCookies says:

            @Trofim

            Ah interesting, so your marketing isn’t whale focused after all. Do you know if that changes at higher end casinos attracting the billionares and whatnot?

            (Also is your casino on one of those faux-steamboat things? Cause I loved my really fancy steamboat toy as a kid and always wanted to ride on one).

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @ManyCookies

            The really big high-rollers are certainly pursued more at the big resorts, but it’s a high-risk, high-reward strategy, so my impression is that they are important but still not the FOCUS of the marketing strategy, merely a bigger part of it.

            They’re high-risk for two reasons:

            1) to get them in the door you’re often competing fiercely with other large casinos which means you need to be willing to really indulge them. Night after night of free hotel stays at your most expensive room (which isn’t earning you money during the time the big player’s using it), free meals at your restaurants (and big players often like to show off by inviting large parties of friends to your restaurants, ordering lots of top-shelf booze, then wanting it comped), air fare and ground transportation, season box seats for their favorite sporting event to go with their friends and their casino host, etc etc. This means you’re often out quite a lot of money before they even begin to play. And then you have lines of credit, which can run into the millions for real world-class high rollers.

            2) The bigger the possible payouts you offer, the bigger your financial exposure. A lot of these huge players are more interested in tables than slots, and while table games tend to have a larger house edge in the LONG term, they also have more volatility in the short term. Having a guy on your Mississippi Stud tables who wants to make five or six figure bets each hand who could potentially end up with a four of a kind and a 40:1 payout can suddenly put a hurting on you BADLY if you aren’t liquid enough to eat that sort of loss and say “Well, just keep him playing, in the long run the house always wins”, all while continuing to shower the guy with even more money (see point 1), and hope he doesn’t decide to take the money and run (or go play and lose it to a competing casino which is just as bad), or turn out to be flat broke, or die of heart attack, or…

            As for my casino, it’s funny you should ask. We are a “Boat” in the legal sense. That is, it is a building built entirely on land, and water from the mississippi river has been diverted in under the building to float the gaming floor. Unless the river is literally at a major flood stage, you couldn’t tell, and even then the only indication is a <1 inch ridge under the carpet at the joins in a couple places around the edge of the gaming area, almost all in places where only employees can stub their toe on them. There's a fairly clever series of pumps and floats to keep the gaming floor so stable and level that there is no sensation that it is floating at all.

            All that engineering effort, complexity, and expense is in order to satisfy the increasingly nominal and symbolic requirement that missouri casinos be "boats". Initially, they had to do a two hour cruise and could only operate their gaming floors while out away from shore. Then, they could be moored, but still had to be a fully functional boat with a crew, functioning engines, safety equipment for water emergencies, etc. Then, they could be permanently moored and uncrewed…and so on, until now we have a totally land-bound casino build on the shore of the river, with water diverted in to float the gaming floor so that the gaming is taking place "on the water"…

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      The specifics part makes it difficult, especially since work flow and work projects change on any given day. But, I have some time, so I can describe some work-flow.

      My first job was an Audit Compliance Specialist at a major pharmacy. The basic business problem is that Pharmacy Benefit Managers (which are a middle-man between insurance companies and pharmacies) have contract language which allows them to audit a certain % of prescriptions filled at any given pharmacy, and someone has to provide them a copy of the prescription. The Audit Compliance Specialist fills this role. They provide documentation for the prescription and handle disputes with the PBM (Pharmacy Benefit Manager).

      There are subsets of audits within this, and each PBM has a slightly different process.

      Desktop Audits: This was where I started. PBMs would send excel spreadsheets 3 times a week. There would be a column for prescription number, pharmacy NPI (basically an ID number for a pharmacy), date of service, quantity dispensed, day supply (how long a medication was expected to last), drug name, and maybe some additional fields depending on the insurance company.
      Typical volume varied. Say, maybe 30-60 prescriptions per spreadsheet. I would handle maybe 3-4 insurance companies, so say 90-120 prescriptions per week.

      We needed to save a master list of ALL audits. So all this information would be copy-pasted into another spreadsheet for that particular PBM.
      You would access the scanned hard-copy of the prescription in our system, record the directions (like, take 1 pill twice a day), fill out the spreadsheet, and send it back to the PBM.
      In cases where an actual copy of a prescription was requested, we would have to print out all prescriptions and fax them to the PBM. We could’ve emailed them, except that our office refused to support Print to PDF functions, and our only scanner was something someone brought in from home (not a commercial scanner).
      Typically, we would be audited because of unusual days supply for a given quantity of medication. For example, an extended release blood pressure medication is typically given 1 per day. If you submitted 90 pills with a Days Supply of 30, this would be audited.
      My favorite remains the Nuvaring. This is a birth control medication. It’s an actual ring that releases the BC medication, and is inserted exactly where you guess it would be. If you dispense 3 nuvarings to a woman, you need to submit it as a three-month supply, not a one-month supply. Presumably, this woman does NOT have three vaginas.
      So, the PBM Auditor would review what we sent to them, and send back their corrected Quantities and Days Supply. What happens then? Well, since you want more details….either we rebill the claim, or the PBM rebills adjusts the claim, on their end.
      We rebill the claim via the usual electronic adjudication system. Basically, all modern pharmacies have a live electronic feed with each major PBM. This means that you go into a pharmacy, you get your prescription, and it’s already billed and cleared at Point of Sale. However, you can typically only bill within a certain number of days. So if the PBM audits something that was dispensed a year ago, well, I can’t rebill that, and the PBM auditor needs to perform an adjustment on their end.
      We would then take the results of the audit, and go back to that Master List I previously mentioned. Periodically, we would take all these Master Lists, and upload them all into a Master Access Database, which would contain all the details of all audits for that year.
      THEN, someone has to manually go through that Database, and enter the audit findings into the Accounts Receivable system. This is because Accounts Receivable will see a reversed claim and will start illegal Collections activity. The Audit team is empowered to perform a limited number of journal entries that will allow them to clear this balance so A/R will never see it.
      As previously mentioned, the typical audit was because the pharmacy dispensed something with a ridiculous Day Supply, typically a 3 month supply of drugs billed as a 1 month supply (either out of ignorance or to minimize patient co-pays).

      Other typical issues:
      -Incorrect prescription forms: certain payers will only allow certain kinds of prescriptions. Famously, Medco initially only allowed hand-written prescriptions, while the entire industry was transitioning over to Electronic Prescriptions. This meant every prescription Medco audited that was an Electronic Prescription was automatically reversed.
      -Incorrect Brand-Generic Substitution: Whether or not you can get the brand or generic of a medication, and how much you have to pay for it, varies on how the Doctor wrote it, and what state you are in. For instance, Texas Medicaid required doctors to write “Brand Medically Necessary” on a prescription, to bill them for the brand medication. Note that this also meant Electronic Prescriptions were effectively useless, because the Doctor cannot hand-write on an Electronic Prescription. It also meant that if a Doctor wrote “Brand Necessary” or “Brand Only” or “No Generic” or anything like that, the prescription effectively allowed substitution of generics, and Texas would only pay for the generic.
      -Incorrect Doctor ID: This became more an issue as the ACA rolled out. Obamacare tightened up a number of rules for Medicare, which required pharmacies to list a valid NPI for each prescription filled. This meant no more using a Veterinarian’s doctor ID to give insulin to a person, or using a speech therapist’s ID to prescribe amphetamines to a 90 year old woman.
      The incorrect Doctor IDs produced MASSIVE amounts of paper-work. Again, while we theoretically were allowed to email prescriptions, in practice we could not due to the lack of resources. Typically, PBMs would audit something like 10,000 prescriptions every few weeks. This meant printing out the copies of 10,000 prescriptions. We would then have to organize them for faxes….you can’t actually send 10,000 pages on a fax at once. It jams up bandwith, and it’s likely you will have some papers stick together.

      So we would organize them into, say, 80 page increments. We would then count out each page, for each pile, so we knew how many pages were in each pile.

      We would then fax each pile. After it finished sending, we would get a confirmation letter indicating how many pages had successfully sent. If there was ANY variance (like, we knew there were 81 pages in the pile, and only 80 sent, perhaps because 2 pages were stuck together), we would resend the entire pile.
      I really, really, really fucking hated Doctor ID audits.
      Next, I’ll talk a bit more about the A/R side….

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I hated Audit, and eventually transferred into the Accounts Receivable side of this business. I’ve already commented on A/R elsewhere, but the business function is pretty simple: a business bills another business for services rendered. Payment is typically given later (30 days being typical). A/R keeps track of what is owed, makes sure the money is paid, and follows-up with people who haven’t paid their bills.
        We don’t strong-arm. In business-to-business (B2B) transactions, we really want to preserve the business relationship. So it’s not hard-core collections. Specific collections companies typically handle those, and we sell the balances to them if we feel we cannot collect.
        I’ve talked about A/R elsewhere, but there are a couple things to note specifically for pharmacy A/R:
        1. Cash Application is much simpler. Pharmacy has a standardized file called an 835. This file is imported into the receivable systems and automatically matches payments. There are always some errors, but you’re talking 98%+ match rates.
        2. Because of the volume of transactions, there are a LOT of billing errors. Like, if you go into a pharmacy, and buy something, the pharmacy might accidentally send 3 or 4 different transactions. These all get loaded into the A/R system. Someone needs to eliminate these errors before we can collect anything.
        3. Based on the above, there are certain errors that are regularly repeated, so can be removed systematically.
        4. And based on the above, there are obviously some novel errors that need to be manually investigated.
        Because of the volume of repetitive manual work, a team in India was supposed to Own the accounts. State-Side teams were merely supposed to oversee and provide guidance. In practice….yeah….not so much…my future goals involve staying away from outsourced teams as much as possible.

        So, to understand the workflow here, I also need to explain the basic systems we used:
        We worked primarily in an A/R system and a Business Intelligence System. The A/R system would essentially be a GUI where you could enter in information like RX and NPI number to pull up specific prescriptions. Each fill would have its own transaction. You would then be able to see all the payment for that prescription and see if there is any sort of balance remaining.
        The Business Intelligence (BI) was built on top of the A/R system. While the A/R system was pretty limited, you could write a bunch of SQL queries in the BI to pull in a ton of information. This is important, because if you are reviewing MILLIONS of prescriptions, you need to be able to pull in a LOT of data, and you need to be able to filter that data.
        Typically you would then take the BI data dump and manipulate in Excel to analyze and extract any information you needed.

        Okay, so workflow. We operated a monthly schedule.
        Beginning of Month Activities:
        1. Reports on large swings: remember how I said sometimes a prescription gets entered multiple times? Each entry is reported as revenue. So imagine you are filling some absurdly expensive medication, like Truvada (an anti-HIV retro-viral). These typically cost like 5k a month. If you enter that 10 times on accident, it will be reported as $50,000 in revenue. When this is reversed, the pharmacy and financial operations see a HUGE drop in revenue.
        We write SQL queries to allow us to see ALL adjustments above a certain threshold, and report why these adjustments were made to financial operations. These reports generally in an Excel format. Typically, it’ll be something like “RX 123456 from NPI 012346789- Date of Fill 12/1/2017. 10 billings entered. 9 billings reversed.”
        We then pull in all billing changes under this threshold and summarize at the Store level. Any CUMULATIVE amount above a certain threshold is then investigated and reported on as well.
        2. Variance investigation. The AR system and the actual company books are NOT on the same servers. For one, this is an audit violation: auditors will only allow a certain number of people to perform entries on the actual company books. Two, the sheer volume of people working on the AR system and sheer volume of transactions means it would lock out everyone else from doing entries.
        These systems are housed separately and interface a certain number of times per month. Sometimes, changes in the billing system are not reflected in the actual company books. Using our Truvada example, we will reduce the billing by $45,000. However, the company books will still show a full $50,000.
        The people in charge of the company books will send us a report on the first day of the month showing where variances are. Again, this is in an Excel sheet. The sheet would show the cumulative billing adjustment on the month on the company books vs. what is in the A/R system, along with the total variance is.
        We would then go into BI, pull in all the billing adjustments, and summarize by date and time. We would look to see where the interface failed. Sometimes, it wasn’t a timing issue, but a NPI issue….like a certain store is in our A/R system, but the combination of specific NPIs and adjustment codes would cause an automatic failure, so the transaction wouldn’t go through to the main company books.
        Once we found the specific prescription billing adjustments causing the problem, we would compile them into a spreadsheet, and send them back the General Accountant. The General Accountant would make a journal entry to balance the books and keep the prescription records as audit backup.

        3. Cash Flow projection. We need to project cash flow for the month. This is so Treasury knows what the cash situation is on any given day and makes sure we preserve working capital and cash reserves.
        This is done via Excel (again! Excel makes the world go round!) We typically maintain a separate tab for each PBM and extrapolate payments. We will have a row for each check number, showing the expected amount, and expected cycle. So, it’ll say “February 16th/$20 million/January 1-January 15.” This means I am expecting the PBM to pay us on Feb 16th, I expect the payment to be about $20 million, and I am expecting it to pay for claims submitted between January 1 and January 15.”
        This is pretty simple because most PBMs paid in regular cycles. Payment extrapolation was not based on billing, but prior payments…IE, if they paid $15 million 2 weeks ago, I expect them to pay $15 million today. We could, theoretically, pull all the billings and come up with a more correct forecast, but it would take MUCH longer. We don’t have reports that show all the billings, so we have to manually pull them using the BI, which takes FOREVER.
        In some cases it was less simple. A particular insurance company paid on a 5 day cycle, rather than a weekly cycle. This is bad, because pharmacy business fluctuates dramatically by day: Monday and Tuesday typically has the highest business, and Saturday and Sunday has the slowest. So a 5 day payment for billings Wednesday-Sunday would be about 30% less than Monday-Friday.
        For this particular company, I determined some daily averages and used those to forecast the cash going forward. I have no idea how well this worked out, because it was pretty close to infancy before I left. I assume whoever took it over was not smart enough to continue the relatively simple extrapolations.

        4. Goal-Setting. Basically, we start out with $X in balances. We split out the balance between so called “workable balances” (those cases of pharmacy billing 10 prescriptions, with 9 being incorrectly in the system), and any sort of “issue balance” (where we need to actually collect money or there is a system issue or whatever).
        This was, again, issued as an Excel report, with separate tabs. We would split our business between big accounts and small accounts. Each “type” would then have a tab for “goals” and “issue balances.” An issue balance would be something like “Express Scripts reversed all insulin prescriptions billed September 1st 2017.” An issue balance would have….if I recall….35 different columns? Each was a “necessary” factoid about the issue, like the size of the balance, the expectation plan, who owned it, when it was identified, the last time it was followed up on, the next action step, the contact point, etc.
        The typical problem is that the India team would:
        A. Not be able to write in understandable English.
        B. Come up with issue balances out of nowhere (and therefore we not actually valid)
        C. Significantly inflate the dollar value of their issue balances
        D. Use outdated information for their comments.

        So this generally requires me to review and revise quite literally hundreds of lines, each with 35 different data points. We typically have a 2 or 3-hour long meeting with the India team, ask them, to make revisions, and then have another 2-3 hour meeting. They still haven’t made the corrections, so we just submit finalized goals with my revisions.

        One more part to go.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Final part:
          I’m getting pretty bored with typing this, and I am sure everyone is bored with reading, so I’ll just talk a bit about the account analysis and systematic adjustments. Again, as a refresher, we are typically dealing with thousands or hundreds of thousands of transactions. So we need to come up with some ways to group issues and systematically analyze the account.
          We will go into the BI environment and pull all the open claims on an account. Then we’ll start running some best practice analysis on the data. For example, I’ll take everything that doesn’t have a payment on it at all, and we’ll do some pivot tables to see if there are any trends. Like, is it all the same drug? Is it all the same date? Is it all the same store? Same set of stores? Anything that stands out gets tagged as an issue and sent to the PBM for review.
          We’ll do some basic analysis to see if there are multiple fills. So, for example, our Truvada. We will have a field that says the insurance company returned an AR amount of $5,000. We will then show a payment of $5,000. We will have a balance of $45,000. We will do a simple Balance/AR calculation, and see if it is a round number. If it IS a round number, it gets adjusted systematically.
          Other big red flags are a bunch of transactions all on the same date, for older prescriptions. This indicates the PBM altered payments for some reason.
          We can run summaries by Group Numbers and Patient numbers as well.
          So, I might pull all transactions that are reversed more than 90 days after the date of the service. These are typically reversed by an insurance company, not the pharmacy. We then run pivot tables on that subset using every possible identifier to come up possible issues. I might see, say, 10 Truvada claims….I might see 100 claims for Group XYZ. I might see 5,000 claims all reversed on February 1st, for god only knows what reason.
          We tag these as issues, and send a small sample to the PBM for review via email. Within our AR system, we flag all the claims, so no one touches them, and so we can pull them as a collectible issue for the monthly goals and reporting.

          Issues here can be anything under the sun. Some examples I found:
          -Remember those doctor audits? One particular PBM decided not to inform us about the Doctor Audits. Instead, Medicare (aka CMS) informed the insurance companies about contested claims. The insurance companies told the PBM to reverse the claims. The PBM reversed the claims. We saw hundreds of thousands of these claims, and it took years for the PBM to give us a response, even though we knew exactly what the issue was.
          -One particular company routes insulin medications through its medical system, rather than its pharmacy system. So, what does this mean? It means when you come into a pharmacy for your insulin, the pharmacy submits it to the PBM pharmacy system, which submits an approval, The PBM pharmacy system then submits it to the Insurance Company Medical system. This is a black hole. The pharmacy does not know what goes on here. In many cases, the claim simply disappeared because the connection timed out. In many cases, the Insurance Company denied the claim, but per contractual terms, the PBM is still required to pay us, because they returned an Accepted response.
          The above is an example of a failure of the India team. We knew about this issue for years, and knew exactly how to look for it: certain group numbers, for insulin claims, would return a $0 payment from the PBM. We established a process to review these with the PBM. Rather than following this process, the India team would call a different PBM contact and ask why they only paid $0. This other contact would know nothing about the issue and spin their wheels for weeks, and nothing would get accomplished.
          Additionally, the India team, when doing THEIR data analysis, would group ALL claims with $0 payments together. This is obviously wrong: it only affects certain groups, and only affects insulin. It became exhausting explaining the same issue for 14 continuous months.
          -Last example: one company elected to withhold payments for certain groups because they had not been paid by the insurance company yet. This is called “payment after funding” and basically means the middle-man doesn’t have to pay us until they are paid by their client.
          We had to maintain running lists of certain groups and certain payment cycles. Again, this is a case where the India team was not able to connect all the dots. If Group XYZ has a $50,000 balance for December 15th-December 31st, a $50,000 balance for Jan 1st-Jan 15th, and only $2,000 for December 1st-December 15th, it means the first half of December has been paid, and the remaining amount needs to be reviewed. This type of thinking was not at the level of our India team, unfortunately.

          I feel like I am running down the India team rather much. They did do a decent job at the things I expected them to do well at. They cranked through an incredible volume of transactions. Their individual contributors were simply expected to perform analysis and adhere to guidelines that they were not capable of doing and shouldn’t have been expected to do. Their middle management was pretty smart, all in all, but were overburdened by the sheer volume of requests we sent their way, and their work quality suffered as a result.

          There was probably a way to execute this better, but I doubt it was ever going to be implemented. People were too wedded to pre-established SLAs. Basically, the India team was contracted to do, paid for, and therefore expected to accomplish certain work. If they couldn’t do it, then the State-side team would “support”. This meant the India team would spin their wheels for days doing things they couldn’t do, the State-side team would try to guide them through hours and hours of meetings, then the State-side team would just do it. Hours of wasted time, missed metrics, but at least we followed the process.

    • John Schilling says:

      It’s hard to offer a typical day in my job, because there’s so much variability. This week, I’m doing a rehearsal for mission support, which means about 6-7 inconveniently-timed hours sitting on console at a mission control center with a bunch of other people who are (pretending to) operate a spacecraft by remote control, watching and being ready to shout “No, you fool!” if someone is about to do something that would wreck the propulsion system. Well, OK, our procedures are a bit more formal and don’t include the word “fool”, but that’s the gist of it.

      Other regular daily activities include:

      Meetings, in person (preferred) or by teleconference where we talk about some problem that has befallen or might in the future befall a spacecraft, and come up with a plan to identify and fix the root cause.

      Performing research or analysis as per the above, usually privately and in front of a computer. This is usually quite interesting.

      Examining design or production records to ensure that various “how to make sure obvious things don’t go wrong with your spacecraft” standards have been fully complied with. This is boring.

      Writing memos, reports, and (sigh) powerpoint decks documenting all of the above, and in the case of powerpoint decks delivering the briefing to senior management.

      And since there’s more of this than I can handle myself, delegating most of it to my subordinates and monitoring their progress; in the case of the junior engineers providing training and mentoring.

      A modest amount of paperwork, mandatory training, and other bureaucracy.

      Less common activities but they can occupy weeks at a time:

      Developing conceptual designs for spacecraft propulsion systems (often as part of complete spacecraft) to most efficiently and reliably meet newly-identified mission requirements. That’s the job I wanted to do full time since I was about ten, but alas it can’t really be anyone’s full-time job at present.

      Doing site visits to evaluate someone else’s production facilities and/or observe test activities. Locations can range from Commerce (boring) to Kobe or Dublin (not boring)

      Supervising the loading of highly toxic and corrosive propellants into satellites (only been poisoned once so far, and only a little bit)

      Long-term internal research and development projects

    • SamChevre says:

      I’m an actuary, working in a company in a strategy/forecasting (finance) role. (AKA: I don’t work with audited financials–I used to, I don’t work with pricing or anything else that will be filed with a regulator, and I don’t work for a consulting firm.)

      On a typical day, I do some combination of four things:
      1) Modify one of the large spreadsheets I manage to forecast something. What if we spent $X million on something that wasn’t a balance sheet, but paid $X+Y after Z years? What if we sold a low-risk asset and bought a high-risk asset yielding $X more? What would happen to our required capital (RBC)? What would happen to our reported capital? What would happen to other financial items we care about?

      2) Build a new spreadsheet to model something in detail. This can be anywhere on the complexity scale from “I’ll build it myself this morning” to “I’ll work with a team of 3 to build it over the next quarter.” What if we sold X and bought Y? What would happen to volatility? What would we expect to get for X? And can we get some information about item N, which none of our current systems show in the detail we want.

      3) Try to get information about some proposal so I can model it. This may be talking face to face, talking on the phone, or emailing. This is something I’m exceptionally good at, since I like talking to people more than typical for an actuary.

      4) Try to explain something I modeled, or one of my models. This can be anything from a 1-graph email to a multi-week collaborative project to build a 50-slide powerpoint deck.

    • Loquat says:

      I’m an insurance agent working in a call center in the Medicare Supplement division of an insurance company. As such, I take a lot of phone calls, and since we don’t get nearly enough sales calls to justify having a bunch of agents doing nothing but selling, I also take service and claims calls on existing policies, plus I can process claims when the phones are quiet.

      Sales calls – often involve explaining Medicare and/or our policies, or if they’re ready to enroll I read them all the enrollment legalese and enter their personal information into our enrollment system. We also do Part D drug plans, which is a bit more complicated and often involves taking a list of the caller’s medications and entering them into the Medicare.gov cost estimator to see what plan would be most cost-effective, and then explaining the results.

      Service and claims calls – billing changes, address updates, figuring out if we paid a claim, if necessary we can fax proof of payment to the provider, if we didn’t pay explaining why not, etc.

      Processing claims – Medicare Supplement claims tend to be fairly easy since we just follow whatever Medicare did and pay the patient cost-sharing they left (or just a part of it, depending on what plan the person bought). Most of the claims I’d be assigned just need someone to make sure we were sent proper proof of Medicare payment, it’s not a duplicate of something we paid already, and the computer didn’t do anything stupid.

    • CatCube says:

      I’m a structural engineer working for the US Government on mostly dam projects. The last era of major dam construction ended in the late ’70s-early ’80s, so we’re primarily maintaining existing infrastructure and doing incremental improvements.

      The incremental improvements are small compared to the original dams, but still pretty big in an absolute sense. I’m working on several projects in the $10mm to $100mm range, primarily for improving anadromous fish passage.

      The maintenance falls into two broad camps: inspecting existing facilities, and designing fixes for problems that have been identified.

      Due to the breadth of what I do, a “typical” day can vary quite a bit, but the modal day consists of:
      08:00-11:30 Working at my desk or going to meetings
      11:30-12:30 Pinochle game over lunch
      12:30-17:00 Working at my desk or going to meetings

      Some days (sometimes up to several a month) I’ll go out to a project site to do a site visit for ongoing construction, or to do a punch list. Other visits are to go on an inspection as one of the technical experts, where sometimes I get to go into a manbasket and dangle like a fish on a hook. A third reason for site visits is to meet with Project operations personnel and to wrap our heads around the current condition of our facilities to ensure that our designs for upgrades or for maintenance will actually work.

      When I’m working at my desk, I’m typically doing the following:
      Writing a report about an inspection, or to document a design decision;
      Reading as-builts or previous reports to help me understand the design of existing infrastructure;
      Writing or reading and responding to e-mails from other team members to coordinate design decisions;
      Reviewing contractor submittals for ongoing construction;
      Doing calculations or finite element models (actual design work);
      Either creating and editing drawings and 3D models, or reviewing the work of a technician for the drawings in a construction contract;
      Writing and reviewing specifications (the written part of a construction contract);

      For meetings, it’s mostly just interfacing with other members of a Project Delivery Team so each engineering and technical division knows what everyone else is doing.

    • cassander says:

      to a remarkable degree, this. I’m in charge of a team of data analysts who keep track of a variety of types of information about aircraft. I no longer have regular line responsibilities, so my days consist of supervising the people that do (dealing with problems that they run into that need elevation and assigning tasks that need assigning), doing QA on their work (usually by putting their work into excel and then looking for problems), tweaking the tools we use to enter, store, and analyze data (built in excel and access) , turning the data they enter into a variety of higher level analytical products (making charts in excel and writing about them), and arguing with other departments and higher about resources and how to do things better. The exact mix varies a great deal from day to day.

    • Chalid says:

      I’m a quant at a systematic hedge fund. We have an automated system that trades stocks and tries to buy stocks that are going to go up and short the ones that are going to go down. I and a bunch of other people work together to make that system better.

      There isn’t really a typical day but some activities include:

      Coming up with money-making ideas – some combination of reading academic papers, looking over our existing ideas and code and trying to think of things that could be done better, looking at new data sources, talking with people, staring at the ceiling and waiting for inspiration to strike. This is the most fun part of the job and is unfortunately only a small fraction of the time.

      Developing ideas – this is the majority of the time. Write code (python), debug code, test code. Change the code and see how the results change and then think about what the changed results imply, and then iterate…

      Selling ideas to the rest of the team – discuss everything above with my boss and other relevant team members; show them statistics and pretty graphs; answer their questions; research the answers to the questions I don’t already know the answer to; incorporate suggestions into the code; often this ends with me getting kicked back to the “developing ideas” step.

      Giving feedback to other people on their ideas – listen to them selling me their ideas and try to think about what might be improved. If I have a suggestion, try to convince the group that it’s a worthwhile one.

      Debugging production issues – figure out why the system is doing something unexpected. This can be anything. Sometimes it’s obvious what to fix – a data vendor sent data in an unexpected format and everything crashes. Sometimes it’s not obvious at all what to do, or even if anything needs to be done at all, because the system is complex and its behavior is hard to understand. Subsystem A traded three times as much as usual today, is there something wrong or is this actually correct behavior? We lost a lot of money in one particular market today, was it just bad luck or is there something that needs to be fixed? This sort of thing often does not end with a satisfying answer.

    • Atlas says:

      Wow, a very sincere thanks to everyone for taking the time to write such interesting and detailed responses to my query!

  16. BBA says:

    A few threads ago, I described the strip of ocean that’s in the United States but not in any state, looked for a loophole enabled by this area’s existence, and came up empty-handed. Elsewhere in this rabbithole, I stumbled upon this case from 1979. Though it’s ultimately decided on the technicalities of what can be considered “hot pursuit” and when the provisions of a ratified treaty are incorporated into American domestic law, the fact pattern is…well…if you’re on an unmarked boat, and a Coast Guard officer boards demanding to see its registration, I wouldn’t recommend asking him “Can you be bought?”

  17. ilikekittycat says:

    Since this is the valentine thread: How did it go with you and your qt3.1415 today?

    I’m a very amateur photographer who got into it on account of having a leftover DSLR and a couple lenses I knew nothing about. I read up on how to shoot the night sky and attempted to take pictures of the Geminids in December, but was frustrated because I didn’t actually have the right sort of thing to do what I wanted (which I’m sure anyone who actually knew anything could have pointed out before I wasted my time.) Today I got driven out, away from the city to a dark zone, and hiked out on top of a small mountain, and gifted with the lens I needed. I had only mentioned my disappointment once, in passing, the morning after the Geminids and am absolutely floored someone could pick up on that, but also take the time to figure out what was compatible with my older camera.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      I wrote my first compiler optimization (for a real production system.) Woo.

      (Not a very large win, but now I know how to clang, so…)

    • Evan Þ says:

      Are you making a hopeful reference to our qt’s not being irrational? 😉

      (Unfortunately, that still throws a null pointer exception for me.)

    • SamChevre says:

      It was Ash Wednesday, so I had a headache all day (it’s a fast day) and went to Mass in the evening.

      “You are dust, and to dust you will return” is just not very romantic.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Wow, that’s a good Valentine’s day gift.

      My girlfriend and I stayed in; I cooked us a steak dinner and we watched Casablanca in bed together. It was a good evening, especially since she hadn’t seen Casablanca before and I’m a sucker for classic movies. I wasn’t sure if red or white roses were more appropriate but I went with my gut and got her a dozen white roses, which she seemed to like.

      All in all a good Valentine’s day.

    • Randy M says:

      Went pretty good. She gave me some jerky made from animals higher on the food-chain than usual, I made her quesatacos (quesadilla with avacado and steak) in honor of the taco stand in the Mexican town where I proposed about 17 years ago.

    • Incurian says:

      We spent the day in airports and airplanes. I read Algorithms to Live By, which was really good.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Steaks, chocolate, wine, whiskey. Nothing too out of the ordinary. My Wife got me some single-barrel whiskey to sip on, which is now tradition in the Beta household.

    • I have been suffering from upper back pain, and treating it with ibuprofen. I have a high pain tolerance, or to put it differently, very low body awareness. But the pain was at times very intense, and as days passed, it was plainly not going away.

      I did some Google research on upper back pain, and one of the treatments suggested was massage. So, on Wednesday, I had an appointment at Ann Arbor’s most highly rated therapeutic massage clinic.

      This was a completely new experience for me.

      I can see that the place is engineered to be as gentle and positive as possible. I was directed to a windowless room with dimmed lighting and soft classical/New Age music playing. The massage table or bed had sheets and blankets for covering, and was perfectly comfortable.

      I had an hour-long appointment, which is apparently standard practice. Most of the massage was reasonably pleasant, but when it was painful, it was excruciating. Presumably that meant the core of the problem was heard from, so I was careful not to complain.

      Afterwards, the massage therapist said that the muscles of my back were extremely tight, especially on the left side. This was entirely consistent with the site of pain. She urged me to drink a lot of water for the rest of the day.

      I had read that, post-massage, there would still be pain, but it would be “different” pain. Well, there certainly still was pain. My mood was somewhat improved, though, and I came away thinking I had done something constructive.

      I had refrained from taking any pain reliever that morning. I hastened to do so after the massage was over, which dulled the pain a bit. I dutifully hydrated. And I did finish a long written report that had to be done that afternoon.

      Overall, I was exhausted and hurting, and went to bed early. Romantic activities were not on the agenda.

      • Randy M says:

        Hopefully you see some improvement. Back pains can be difficult to deal with.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Sorry to hear about your back pain, man. Hope that feels better soon. My Dad went through a period where he had to sleep sitting up on a wood floor for an entire summer, because it’s the only way he could sleep.

        Let me know how that massage goes….I freakin’ hate massages.

  18. Kelley Meck says:

    I normally do not post here under my actual name. I’m looking for help understanding the viewpoint of people who don’t think climate change is likely to be net bad for some/many countries. I’m thinking something like double crux or adversarial collaboration. I’m publishing under my name to make it clear I’m real and take this seriously; I can provide a good intro from someone much more well known in the rationalist community if that’s helpful, once I know where to send that good intro.

    I’d like to find a debate partner who is at least someone respected in the LW or SSC community, or willing to write under their real name. (Both would be great, of course.) I’ve written ~25 quora posts on climate change that a person could read here, if that person wanted to get a feel for my thoughts so far. I also wrote a few op-eds here and there, such as this one. Mostly these were written to persuade joe public, rather than to map out my own beliefs, but if you look for it, you can find what I think, and discern that I’m a young broke person who wouldn’t mind feeling like a bit of a hero for doing something re: climate change.

    One thing I’m not interested in debating is economics; I studied that in undergrad at a fancy school and maybe someday will go further with it, but not today. Let’s take it as a given that I agree with everything David Friedman wrote here, insofar as I agree that climate change, if bad, will be very, very hard to address, because global public goods are hard. (Consequently I think anyone who puts any smart effort into addressing climate change is thereby appropriately recognized as a hero. Although recognizing heroes as such is *also* a public good, so I admit I wrote this very quickly, when I think Brian Eister deserves better.) I just also think climate is clearly, clearly bad, whereas David Friedman and others here seem to be very much of the opposite mind.

    Consequently I want to talk about how bad/expensive climate change will be if nothing is done.

    I think three things are not too hard to show, with some quick googling and a good mind, and should persuade that warming/climate change/etc. is, er, very bad, for nearly everyone… but I’m realizing that many more people with a lot of sharps are firmly in a different camp, and I’m trying to figure out the contours of the disagreement, so I’m confused. If I were feeling confident, I’d say:

    1. Climate change is severely back-loaded. By this I mean that even if we were to stop emitting fossil fuels tomorrow, climate change and warming and etc., would continue at or near present rates for decades.
    2. Insurance companies already see such a significant “global weirding” effect that already an insurer would tell you climate change is net bad for the U.S. and Canada. (Let alone somewhere hard hit, like Tikopia or low-lying Florida or etc.)
    3. Ocean acidification alone is enough to create existential risks for ecosystem collapse (particularly if phyto/zooplankton populations are dramatically affected by pH changes) sufficient to make every country rightly consider climate change a “net bad”.
    4. Sea level rise alone is enough to create existential risks for sufficiently many coastal cities (Boston is building a sea wall!) that climate change is a “net bad” for basically every country.
    5. Refugee flows from the worst-off countries are likely to be severe, and prolonged, such that even countries that are relatively well off, will be net harmed. E.g., if 1/3 the population of Bangladesh had to leave, and left at a rate of 50k/day (stadium traffic!) the flow of refugees would take about three years to go by.
    6. A la “thin air” there are very likely to be some things we don’t know about.
    7. There are positive feedbacks (albedo, government destabilization, clathrate gun hypothesis, etc) and possibly points of no return, (ice sheet collapse, species extinction) such that we can’t wait until things are bad enough that even to people with no ability to extrapolate from a trend can agree collective action is clearly called for.
    8. There are a few countries (perhaps Russia should spring to mind) where the vast majority of the population will probably be worse off, but a handful of oligarchs who together own literal hundreds of billions in fossil fuels control the country’s state machinery, and can be expected to act in their own interests, such as by sowing confusion and deliberately working to destabilize the efforts of any Very Serious People who might try to act on climate change, because such action (whether via global carbon tax/tariff or some regime of trade controls and penalties) would almost certainly be extremely costly for those elite few. (The word sanctions seems to spring to mind, w/r/t/ Russia, for some reason.)

    Apparently a ton of this stuff is controversial or in doubt? Am I just too invested in this to think clearly, or what’s the argument that I’m just wrong about this?

    I have a good grounding in hard sciences (used to work with synchronizing femtosecond-pulsing lasers) so I shouldn’t be easy to hornswoggle with doomsday bad science. This stuff looks simple, straightforward (e.g. CO2 dissolving in the ocean) and really, really bad.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      I’m not going to argue about your basic thesis, only one little quibble:

      if nothing is done.

      The thing is that something is being done. In fact I don’t see how we could realistically do significantly more even if we tried. This, this is how things used to look compared to this
      Examples:
      – China is going nuclear
      – Wind and solar is rapidly catching up with fossils
      – India is a bit behind, but also going rapidly nuclear
      – Natural gas is replacing coal in the west in the interim while nuclear, solar and wind is built
      – Elon Musk
      – Carbon sequestering programs (My current startup project is into this, possibly overestimating importance)

      • Kelley Meck says:

        I significantly agree with this. A *lot* is being done. I like the line that “a pessimist is a person who lives with optimists.” I don’t think the optimism about climate change itself being a good thing is justified, so I find I want to grab the strain of optimist who thinks climate change could just as easily be good as bad and shake them while saying “how is that possibly justified?”
        But I’m not actually a doom-and-gloom pessimist myself. A lot is being done. And that’s good. And more would be better, because we’re still taking some huge, awful risks by riding the edge.

        Yesterday my alma mater law school, Lewis & Clark Law School, decided to divest their endowment from fossil fuel exploration… a small but significant symbolic step, if you ask me. I hope it gets lots of favorable news coverage. If a few more major pension funds aggressively moved into renewables and out of fossil fuels, I think that’d be a great thing.

        I wrote a paper on natural gas storage at one point–not much I want to say here, where I’m spitballing a bit and won’t get the details right, but certainly the “natural gas is a solution” picture is complicated by the fact that even small leaks of unburned natural gas have a very powerful near-term climate forcing effect, and the general rule that brand new natural gas facilities replace very old coal ones, such that natural gas is buying us a premature senescence of the coal industry–say by 10 years or so–at the cost of saddling us with very expensive, 100-year-lifespan natural gas facilities we will still be using for decades to come (at a point which, one assumes, additional natural gas facilities will be too prohibitively expensive compared to renewables). Sequestering and storage is an interesting question, and might put natural gas back in the clear benefit side of the ledger, but there’s the example of the Aliso Canyon disaster and the Lake Nyos tragedy to remind us that storage solutions have risks of their own. If your startup is at the stage where you can share details or point people toward reading materials, I’m already curious.

        • Matt M says:

          Yesterday my alma mater law school, Lewis & Clark Law School, decided to divest their endowment from fossil fuel exploration… a small but significant symbolic step, if you ask me. I hope it gets lots of favorable news coverage. If a few more major pension funds aggressively moved into renewables and out of fossil fuels, I think that’d be a great thing.

          I’m still confused as to exactly how this is supposed to work… It would seem to me that so long as there exists one sufficiently well-funded hedge fund who doesn’t consider it immoral to purchase fossil fuel stocks, all you’re doing is transferring wealth from yourself to people less moral than you.

          Hypothetical:
          The “equilibrium price” for Exxon is $100
          Woke College X decides it is going to sell off all of its Exxon stock – doesn’t really care about the price, this is a moral decision!
          Evil Hedge Fund Y already has all the Exxon stock it wants at $100, so the price has to fall – maybe to $98
          College sells its shares to Hedge Fund for $98
          College just sold something worth $100 for $98, and Hedge Fund just bought something worth $100 for $98
          The ownership structure of Exxon now changes such that it has fewer shareholders who care about and demand action on climate change, and more shareholders who care about profits, at any and all costs
          ???
          Less carbon emissions

          • Chalid says:

            Because you’ve raised the cost of capital for Exxon, so when Exxon is evaluating projects, fewer will have a positive NPV.

          • Matt M says:

            Because you’ve raised the cost of capital for Exxon

            How? The equilibrium price has not changed. After the Hedge Fund buys the stock, it goes back to $100, because everyone’s financial model says that’s about what it’s worth based on earnings.

          • Aapje says:

            @Matt M

            Investors supply money and different investors demand a different return on investment. The more supply of money there is, the less investors can demand; the less supply of money there is, the more investors can demand.

            It is thus in the interest of employees, including the top employee (CEO) to maximize the supply of money, because they can then demand higher salaries and won’t get fired as quickly. Furthermore, a company will be forced to dissolve itself due to insufficient profitability more easily if there is a smaller supply of money.

            So what the Law School did incentivizes Exxon (a tiny bit) to switch to renewables and incentivizes employees (a tiny bit) to work for a renewables energy company, rather than Exxon. It also helps (a tiny bit to) drive the least profitable fossil fuel companies out of business.

            Ultimately, this is fully generalizable to all boycotting, which works on the principle of denying yourself the most profitable deal, to deny the other party their most profitable deal.

          • Chalid says:

            No, the hedge fund is holding more than it would have wanted to at the original price. It needs an incentive to do that, and that incentive comes in the form of lower stock price.

          • Matt M says:

            No, the hedge fund is holding more than it would have wanted to at the original price.

            Let’s say it believes that $100 is the appropriate “hold” price – representing their actual estimate of the value of the stock. It won’t buy any more at $100, but it won’t sell at $100 either. If it can buy for cheaper than $100, it will. And so will a large number of other actors on the market.

            There are transaction costs or risk premiums or whatever that imply it might not buy at $99.99, but so long as they get an opportunity to buy for less than the “true value” they will.

          • johan_larson says:

            Strictly speaking, if Woke College used to be willing to hold Exxon shares but now isn’t willing to, the actual demand for Exxon shares has dropped a bit. And that means the equilibrium price should drop. It’s probably a tiny amount, almost certainly not distinguishable from noise, but it’s still a drop.

          • Matt M says:

            And that means the equilibrium price should drop. It’s probably a tiny amount, almost certainly not distinguishable from noise, but it’s still a drop.

            I get this in theory – is there any particular evidence it actually happens though? Do stocks who have recently been targeted by divestment campaigns (tobacco, israel, fossil fuel, whatever) underperform ones that don’t in the short term?

            And what to my point about the changing ownership structure? Does it benefit planet Earth for Exxon stock to be controlled by a mixture of profit-seekers and environmentalists, or for it to be controlled solely by profit-seekers? Is it more important for a company to make a lot of money, or to be really well liked? (this is not rhetorical, I honestly don’t have the answer here)

          • Chalid says:

            No, that’s not how it works. Exxon is competing against every other stock for a share of the hedge fund’s finite assets. You could think of the hedge fund as doing an optimization (explicitly or implicitly) with an objective function that incorporates the stocks’ expected return, risk aversion, and various constraints including leverage constraints. If you want the output to be different, you need the inputs to be different, and only knob being turned here is the expected return.

            Your view of the world, where the hedge fund buys as much as it can as long as the stock is undervalued, assumes away risk aversion (concentrated portfolios are risky) and leverage constraints (you have finite capital, you can’t just buy everything you think is undervalued; buying Exxon means not buying something else).

            To your point about shareholder mix, the profit-seeking hedge funds would make money if the divestment was lifted so they’re in theory incentivized to make Exxon more environmentally friendly.

          • Matt M says:

            Your view of the world, where the hedge fund buys as much as it can as long as the stock is undervalued, assumes away risk aversion (concentrated portfolios are risky) and leverage constraints (you have finite capital, you can’t just buy everything you think is undervalued; buying Exxon means not buying something else).

            Well, I’m also assuming that any particular liberal arts college is unlikely to be holding vast amounts of Exxon stock. It probably has a little, sprinkled about in various index funds. But not so much that a hedge fund couldn’t easily buy whatever amount it decides to sell.

            Although I concede that if every college in the US did that all at once, yeah, no individual hedge fund could cover that. But all of them probably could?

            Are colleges big enough to “move the needle” in this sense?

          • Kelley Meck says:

            Right. @Matt M, it’s a good question, and one the folks supporting divestment had to be careful to answer the correct way. (If you say something like, “who cares if it doesn’t do any good, it’s a nice symbol” then you lose everyone who cares about the actual world, rather than just about symbols/signaling, which is enough people that your coalition flops.) Answering this question is tricky–maybe the other commenters have already done it better than I can–but basically you’ve shown you can understand the answer by including the phrase “sufficiently well-funded” in your question. What happens when somebody with money stops investing in fossil fuel exploration is that the fossil fuel exploration hedge funds become somewhat less well-funded. It may be a very, very small change if it’s a few million dollars, but if it’s CalPERS, say, even a single divestment decision could cause many marginal fossil exploration investment opportunities to go unseized because the costs of capital for fossil exploration projects have increased.

          • Chalid says:

            Sure, it’s hard to evaluate how big the effect is. I don’t know the answer to that. I think you need to do careful empirical work to know that.

            My instinct is that the effect isn’t very big. OTOH the expected negative financial effect on the college is probably not that large either, since the college’s second best investment opportunity is probably not much worse. (It *would* be worse for the college’s ability to track a major stock index like the SP500 but that’s probably not something they should be aspiring to anyway.)

          • Rob K says:

            A bit of googling suggests that US and Canadian university endowments totalled $500b as of 2016, while hedge fund assets under management were $3 trillion at the start of 2017. So yes, I’d imagine that a large-scale divestment campaign could move the needle on availability of capital to the targeted industry.

          • Kelley Meck says:

            To just add a good reference link re: moving the needle,

            https://gofossilfree.org/

            keeps a running list of colleges, cities, counties, hedge funds, pension funds, and private individuals who’ve divested, and you can get a good sense of how many folks and how much moolah are involved with this.

          • One point in this discussion that I don’t think has been made. When an institution disinvests in fossil fuel it is increasing its investment in other things. That bids the price of other stocks up a bit just as its disinvestment bids the price of fossil fuel stocks down a bit. So now the hedge fund that doesn’t care about climate issues has an incentive to pull money out of the other stocks, giving it more money to invest in fossil fuels.

            I’m not willing to claim that there is literally zero effect on the cost of capital for fossil fuel companies, but I would be surprised if it was significant.

          • Kelley Meck says:

            David Friedman makes a really good point. I actually am not sure if I’ve seen that point anywhere in the discussions of divestment I’ve participated in.

            I think I’m still persuaded that divestment is still fairly effective because of my sense of how “imperfect information” is very important for capital markets, particularly for long-term assets like fossil exploration ventures. I think I’m still persuaded that if (say) CalPERS was to divest, nobody is both possessed of good enough information to really know what the value of the underlying assets are, and possessed of ‘sufficient’ capital to increase their own holdings of fossil fuels sufficient to completely make up for CA’s divestment. I would certainly like to know more than I do, on this front, but I think the answer is “not nothing”, and of course the symbolism can also potentially matter.

          • Chalid says:

            One point in this discussion that I don’t think has been made. When an institution disinvests in fossil fuel it is increasing its investment in other things. That bids the price of other stocks up a bit just as its disinvestment bids the price of fossil fuel stocks down a bit.

            Prices are relative. From the investor perspective, stock A going down a bit is the same thing as everything else in the world (including cash) going up a bit; what you’re evaluating is the relative value of different ways to use your capital.

        • Fossegrimen says:

          Not going to share specifics, but the concept is fairly simple. We’re doing it by teaching a neural net to optimise forest management for (permanent sequestered carbon * pulp yield)/acre-year.

          Our best test so far seems to push the sequestering capacity from ~500kg per acre per year to 4 tonnes while doubling yield. If you end up replacing coal with wood chips in a power plant due to extra pulp and fewer newspapers, the calculation for climate impact gets even better.
          Scaling appears to be difficult, but if we could do this with the entirety of Russia+Canada, every person on the globe could have the current carbon footprint of a Norwegian and the world would break roughly even. (this includes replacing coal with wood chips)

          A condition of my government funding is that there will be research papers out in a couple years whether we succeed or not.

      • Kelley Meck says:

        I do think we could do more “if we tried”, at least for most normal meanings of “if we tried.”

        E.g., if that meant something like, “Scott Pruitt goes on TV and apologizes for everything he’s ever said about climate change, says it’s bad, thanks everyone who has ever ridden the bus, begs them to please ride the bus more, and otherwise to do whatever it is people do–he admits he doesn’t know much about it–to do stuff about climate change” that would probably be better, and it only requires one person–Scott Pruitt–to try. If Paul Ryan were to drop a few grand to install solar panels on his house(s), and put out a press release expressing his concern that he’s still not doing his part on climate change, which he considers a serious problem that all right-thinking people should be thinking about, that would be better, and it would only require one person–Paul Ryan–to try. If “we” tried–all of us, in concert–well, that won’t happen, exactly, because moloch, but that won’t stop me from throwing a little shade at the people who seem to me to be in a position to lead, but aren’t leading.

        • Deiseach says:

          If Paul Ryan were to drop a few grand to install solar panels on his house(s), and put out a press release expressing his concern that he’s still not doing his part on climate change, which he considers a serious problem that all right-thinking people should be thinking about, that would be better, and it would only require one person–Paul Ryan–to try.

          Solar panels on roofs are nice but a gimmick. Every person in the nation puts a solar panel on their roof (if they’re living in a building that can do this, not renting a flat in an apartment block in a densely populated large city for instance) will put a tiny dent into their electricity bill but not really much else. We have solar panels on the building where I work, which is in a development of housing with those roof solar panels, for the purpose of heating water, and the best I can say for them is that they’re harmless.

          Which is to say, slightly above fuck-all use, because this is Ireland and if you could invent some form of rain power you’d do a lot better than relying on the three days of unclouded, clear, sunshiny skies we get all year. It’s a feel-good gimmick that the architects/designers/local authority incorporated, probably at the urging of some nationally mandated scheme by our government because of “we must lead the way by example on climate change” but in practice, if we want hot water, we need to turn on the oil-burning boiler for heating and water.

          Paul Ryan does the PR stunt of solar panels on his house, most businesses and homes might follow suit but in practice would be “okay, now turn on the electricity/oil fired heating because the sun is not shining and we need hot water and heating”. For the ten people who live in a climate where solar power is actually functional, you’ll have the rest of the nation where it rains/snows/blows gales/is under the shadow of a mountain/the sunshine isn’t strong or reliable enough, and they’ll still need the old, bad, ways of generating power and heating to fall back on when the solar panel gimmick does nothing.

          Similarly, for the kind of real, large-scale, will actually make a difference in reducing carbon emissions and the rest of it, you are talking about pretty much stopping the Industrial Revolution in the West and more importantly the developing world in its tracks right now. No more large, industrial-scale heavy industry or any other carbon-pumping endeavour, which means an enormous change in how we produce food, transport goods, you name it.

          And that’s the kind of global shock that nobody is going to seriously suggest implementing. They may sign the Paris Accord and pat themselves on the back, but they are not going to go back to their First World nations and tell their urban middle-class voters “Okay, give up your smartphones and artisan coffee shops and walk everywhere like your great-grandparents who travelled by pony and trap and learn how to sew your own clothes and only eat whatever crop is in season, can be grown in our local climate, and can be transported by those horse and cart methods”.

          Yeah, yeah: renewables, nuclear power, magic tech that will be miraculously invented to enable straw to be spun into gold so we can keep our current lifestyles without harming the climate any more, yadda yadda yadda, when I see any actual progress on this I’ll believe it. Next door neighbours in Britain have nuclear power, want to get more, have signed a contract with French company to provide this, and it’s getting on to ten years now with nothing being done. Come back to me when real nuclear plants get built and we’ll see what happens.

          • Kelley Meck says:

            Deiseach,

            Right enough for this forum. My point was tied to the idea of “actually try”… I was saying the symbolic effect of Paul Ryan putting solar panels on his house would be important, to the point where it would, e.g., raise the costs of capital for fossil exploration projects and lower the costs of capital for renewable ones. I agree that roof top solar gets you at most one wedge in one of those 30-something-wedge emissions-reductions-plans. All I’m saying is, at the moment lots of people (such as Paul Ryan) are not even *trying* and if they were to really try, a lot more would get done. After all, Paul Ryan could get the gears moving to have solar on his house, and a press release about it, in about an hour. What would he do with the next hour, and the next, if he were really trying?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I think you’re underestimating the number of people who live in sunny places.

      • Helaku says:

        Well, do we have real proofs except China’s/India’s claims about their actions? Do we know exactly that things are being done? For example, did you know some countries get UN credits to fight global warming in their countries but at the of the day the goverments in the countries make sure that a country starts to produce more CO2 to show off that they take some actions (surprise-surprise, UN credits go to the pockets of those who are supposed to be fighting)? Did you know that European weather stations (unfortunately, there are not so many such stations so otherwise the data acquired would have been much more detailed) still detect huge amounts of gases and particles that have been banned long ago by UN conventions? And, presumably, that gases and particles are coming not only from India and, especially, China but from the first-world countries as well.

        What actions EM are taking? What’s the efficiency of those actions right now (battery factories are still under construction, Tesla usage is very low around the globe (mind the price))?

        As far as I know, solar panels are still very inefficient to be a real alternative to fossils. BTW, LI-ON batteries are inefficient too in storing energy.

        What about livestock? It uses a lot of land (if we talk about pastures and rainforests), it produces huge amounts of methan, it contaminates soils. And I don’t see that livestock is reducing in number. It seems it’s even getting bigger with the growth of meat consumption in developing countries (China, India, Brazil).

        I don’t want to say that the steps mentioned in the comment above are not real. Maybe they are but there are impediments in implementing them.

        • Kelley Meck says:

          Right. I am not sure I disagree with any of this. I don’t know very much about what is being done re: monitoring of commitments. I’d be surprised if there *wasn’t* a lot of, er, leakage there. Climate change is a *hard* problem.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I think the problem with this line of thinking is that the benefits are highly uncertain. If solar power continues at the rate it’s going, then governments won’t need to do anything because it will be more economically efficient, essentially a free lunch. But if it stalls out, then the government will have to do a lot more, whether that’s more nuclear power plants or investing heavily in some other source of energy. A global warming “alarmist”(for lack of a better word) would probably advocate a heavy CO2 tax, as a hedge against the latter scenario.

        • Kelley Meck says:

          Right. Hank Paulsen, Republican Treasury Secretary and long time “very serious person” for red team has advocated a carbon tax. Seems unlikely to me, compared to other policies, mostly for political reasons around how much harder it is to persuade the public on a novel tax than on a novel subsidy.

      • In fact I don’t see how we could realistically do significantly more even if we tried.

        1. US signs Paris Accord.

        2. All signatories to Paris Accord actually do something.

        3. Denialists STFU.

        • Kelley Meck says:

          I kind of agree with this sentiment–it is really frustrating to see denialists with podiums, and would be really satisfying to shout them down.

          But I actually think that the sincere denialists–the people who are genuinely exploring the science/policy/economic facts of this–are one of the best resources for persuading the public. Most folks don’t have time to learn that much about the issue, so what makes it possible for the public to see that climate change is real is watching individual, high-profile skeptics come around. I’d point at Hank Paulsen as a great example of that–someone who started out very skeptical, and who is still pretty skeptical or even dismissive of some of what the identity-left says about climate. I watched him talk about how hard it is for him to relate to the ideological left, but say that he understands accounting and the challenge of doing business in conditions of major uncertainty, and say variations on “climate is the defining issue of our times” to a room full of Portland business leaders for an hour-long lunch session at Portland City Club a few years back. The effect that had on a room full of business types was palpable.

          I’d contrast the impact someone like Paulsen can have on the issue with the impact that the average rank-and-file Portland young person who fits the stereotype of “moved to Portland to retire”–who got through college without much debt, moved to Portland to live la vie boheme and be ideologically pure (and maybe live off the union or the high minimum wage, and never get their hands dirty or take any big risks) who can nod along “yeah man” to a speech about climate change, but will do the same thing for a speech about homeopathic remedies or acupuncture or keeping fluoride out of tap water or any other damn thing without showing any capacity for sustained critical thought. I’d take a few more Hank Paulsen’s and a few fewer knee-jerk issue-supporters any day.

          Saying STFU drives the reasonable folks out of the conversation, and leaves a debate between tepid-seeming scientists/policy folk and sexy-rebel-type contrarians like Milo… which doesn’t seem to work very well for the scientists, compared to when they politely seek real discussions about sincere disagreements. And saying STFU to Milo was never going to work anyway–he’ll just say “oh, but ze tyrannical left who hates free speech”.

          • But I actually think that the sincere denialists–the people who are genuinely exploring the science/policy/economic facts of this–are one of the best resources for persuading the public. Most folks don’t have time to learn that much about the issue, so what makes it possible for the public to see that climate change is real is watching individual, high-profile skeptics come around. I

            That’s an odd framing. If people just accepted the science, like they do about 99.99% of things, there would be no need for the drama of sceptics converting. Sceptics converting is needed because of scepticism.

          • Kelley Meck says:

            @TheAncientGeekAKA1Z

            I know the story of a man who, despite being a literal rocket scientist and deeply curious person, made it to 1980 thinking evolution wasn’t real without even being serious challenged about it. (The fact that his college mentors were either evangelicals or old math profs who’d themselves been educated in 1930 might explain most of that.) To him evolution was a hand-wavey theory some very smart people had devised after first becoming atheist, in order to explain away the obvious designer elements of the world. It’s not an insensible position; “clock-maker” type arguments where what many pre-Darwin cultures took as obvious. In his church, he would tell the story of how–in 1980, in Alabama–he’d discovered that honest people who did believe in god, and who had good educations and good minds, thought evolution was real on the basis of reasons without which they wouldn’t even know how to reason about the world. So he decided to go to one of the meetings where the anti-evolution folks could explain what it was he was supposed to know, such that he wouldn’t find the mere existence of thoughtful, evolution-believing theists to be so confusing, but instead could explain to those theists their error while not challenging their faith (faith being a collaborative enterprise each was a hero for supporting in his fellows; he’d be letting his compatriots down if he continued challenging their faith-that-didn’t-deny-evolution without making a good effort to understand how they’d gotten it). A single meeting with the anti-evolutionists (in 1980 Alabama) made him an immediate believer in evolution, *because of how bad the arguments against evolution were*… from then on his project was to find ways to learn what it was that theists who believed in god were thinking, so he could know about *that*.

            He would tell this whole story, in church groups and of course it’s a pretty persuasive story. Lots of people who hadn’t themselves taken the time to get groundings in science/math, and then evaluate the arguments for/against evolution, could still tell all the same that they’d rather go ahead and take evolution as given, and people who argue otherwise as crackpots, because they’d sent one of their very best to weigh the issue, and he’d come back converted.

            People who take the time to really try to know the truth, even if they sometimes miss, are putting an effort into a worthy project that benefits everybody. People who just “just accepted the science” includes a lot of different types of people, but it includes the people who, if they really tried, could tell that horoscopes and homeopathy make no sense, but don’t try and just go along with the science so long as the person telling them about horoscopes or homeopathy wears a lab coat. So I value thinking people over unthinking ones, and even more so the ones who do the work to deliberately improve their thinking over time, and who are prepared to say “I was wrong, here’s what persuaded me.”

            And this isn’t just about homeopathy or horoscopes. The replication crisis in psychology was found by people who weren’t too easily persuaded by a confident demeanor and a lab coat. I like having those folks around.

      • John Schilling says:

        The thing is that something is being done. In fact I don’t see how we could realistically do significantly more even if we tried.

        I’m fairly certain the carbon sequestering project you are working on could be funded at ten times its current level without making a dent in your government’s energy policy budget.

        I think it is fair to say that we are doing nothing terribly expensive for the purpose of dealing with global warming, and I don’t think we are going to. China is going nuclear because nuclear gets electricity to a billion rural peasants without making the population of Beijing suffocate and die, wind and solar are being done in favorable niches where it takes only a little but of subsidy to make them competitive, and natural gas is just plain cheaper than coal for any new-build powerplant. Carbon taxes aren’t really taking off, while cap-and-trade almost definitively means “OK, you don’t have to do anything different if you don’t want”.

        There are relatively small amounts of money available by way of virtue-signalling, but nothing that is going to transform the energy industry in ways that weren’t already going to happen for other reasons. And those billion Chinese peasants are going to be getting cars, most of which will probably run on either gasoline or coal-derived electricity.

        If this isn’t enough to prevent catastrophic consequences from global warming, tough, because it’s all we are going to get from a human population that has already been mostly mindkilled on the subject.

        • Kelley Meck says:

          This doesn’t seem like an unreasonable position. I’m maybe not quite as pessimistic as this–I think virtue signaling can be pretty powerful. AFAIK, Tom Steyer is the first mega-wealthy person to tie his legacy/sense of self to climate specifically, but there will be others. And as impacts get worse, political will can be expected to grow, and virtue-signaling to become a political necessity, much as patriotism matters in war time. And there are lots of ways to spend money so that it both reduces emissions and prepares for the already-inevitable, which means cities and states will continue to have fresh sources of political will for local projects whenever they’re noticing that they’re vulnerable to climate change harms.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      I am happy to share my viewpoint, but I would first want to know what you mean by “climate change.”

      Does it mean future inevitable climate changes which will occur regardless of man’s activities?

      Does it mean climate changes which result from mankind’s activities and nothing else (including changes from CO2 emissions but also changes from other activities)?

      Is it the hypothesis that mankind’s CO2 emissions will result in increased global surface temperatures, which will trigger a positive feedback loop with water vapor, resulting in greatly magnified increases in global surface temperatures?

      Is it the hypothesis that mankind’s CO2 emissions will result in a modestly enhanced greenhouse effect, but not enough to cause dangerous levels of warming?

      Or is it something else?

      “Climate change” can mean different things to different people. Or even different things to the same person.

      • Kelley Meck says:

        I’m using “climate change” to point at the thing that people think will happen as a result of adding a lot of CO2 and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, and to some extent other human activity (such as land use change) that wouldn’t happen otherwise.

        So I’m not pointing at just “increased average surface temperatures” because “climate change” also includes “much more warming at the poles than at the equator” and “more warming at night than during the day” and “ocean acidification” and “more water vapor, overall, because warmer, but weirder/harder to predict weather and climate patterns, resulting in tougher times for agriculture and farmers” and “elevated sea levels because greenland ice sheet gone by year 20xx” and so on and so on.

        I’m not really pointing at the regular cycles the climate currently oscillates through, like el nino/la nina, nor am I pointing at Milankovitch cycles, which operate on the scale of tens of thousands of years. I’m talking about the stuff that’s going to happen in the next hundred years or so, and particularly the stuff that’s decently likely to happen in the next 50 years.

        But then, you knew that, didn’t you? Because if I meant that other stuff, why did I bring up fossil fuels or Russia or ocean acidification?

        • fortaleza84 says:

          I’m using “climate change” to point at the thing that people think will happen as a result of adding a lot of CO2 and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere

          Different people think different things will happen. I myself am pretty confident that the effects of mankind’s activities will be pretty mild, but if you would like to assume away that issue, it’s fine with me so long as you are open about it.

          But then, you knew that, didn’t you?

          No, I didn’t. Most warmists I engage with tend to be pretty sloppy thinkers, jumping freely from motte to bailey, so I try not to assume anything about their position. ETA: Of course I am not making any accusations against you, I’m just explaining my normal practice in these sorts of discussions. Which is to first get clarity in terms of what peoples’ positions are and what exactly is at issue.

          • Kelley Meck says:

            I see. I thought I’d staked out the field of debate pretty well, but I’m new at this, and now I see something I’d add if I hadn’t missed the 1-hour window by going to bed for the night. I’d add this: “I think any one of the 8 items I listed, together with the fact that climate change is heavily back-loaded, make it clear that climate change is a net bad for basically every country in the world.”

            So, if you think the impacts will be “pretty mild” such that any one of those 8 is wrong… then I’m asking you to pick any one of the 8 points on my list, and tell me what fact in the world makes you think I’m wrong to say that one point is a bad enough thing, by itself, that every country in the world will be worse off because climate change. Does that make sense?

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Does that make sense?

            Not really. But if (1) we assume for the sake of argument that mankind’s CO2 and other emissions will have a big impact on the climate; and (2) we ignore the economic benefits which entail those emissions, it follows that most countries will be worse off as a result of “climate change” as you have defined it.

            In fact, I doubt you will be able to find anyone who thinks otherwise, even among people like myself who believe that global warming is a scam.

          • Kelley Meck says:

            Fortaleza, I think we’re still talking past each other. This is a huge topic, and I was trying to keep it narrow so we could share specific persuasive details, which is why I tried to keep it to (using your 1 and 2 now) point 1 only–that mankind’s CO2 and other emissions will have a big, bad impact.

            I’m not trying to assume that is true, I’m trying to find out on what basis anyone thinks otherwise for a hot second. Instead of saying you think climate change is a scam, or suggesting it’s too expensive to do anything to mitigate, can you tell me which of the 8 items I listed seems to you isn’t a serious big bad thing that will be caused by mankind’s emissions? Do you disagree that ocean acidification alone presents existential risks to civilization by way of potentially killing off huge amounts of phyto or zooplankton and tanking ocean ecologies? If so, why?

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I’m not trying to assume that is true,

            Ok, then the answer to your question is very simple. Most countries won’t be (significantly) negatively impacted by climate change because there is no basis to believe that the effects will be all that big.

            Do you understand the concept of water vapor feedback?

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            Assuming that the new equilibrium is no worse than the Greenhouse Earth ages (an state that we know is physically possible because it has already happened) how would the climate differ from today for most countries?

            I’m inclined to think such a change would be fairly large, but I could be wrong. Can anyone point to a credible analysis?

          • that mankind’s CO2 and other emissions will have a big, bad impact.

            I’m not trying to assume that is true, I’m trying to find out on what basis anyone thinks otherwise for a hot second.

            To begin with, the impact we can be most certain of is CO2 fertilization, since that doesn’t depend on the causal links between CO2 and climate, only on the increase in CO2 concentration which is the main driver of everything else. For doubling CO2 concentration that’s an increase in yield of about 30% for most but not all crops–maize and sugar cane are the main exceptions, for which the increase would be less.

            IPCC projections for sea level rise for the high emissions scenario have a high end of their range for 2100 of about a meter. That shifts coastlines, assuming no diking, by about a hundred meters–invisibly small on a geographical scale. There are a few places where it would be much more and a real problem, such as the Nile delta, others where it would be less. Meanwhile, warming pushes temperature contours towards the poles, increasing the amount of land area warm enough for human use by something like two to three orders of magnitude more than the loss due to SLR. That’s my back of the envelope calculation–I don’t know if there is something better out there.

            The physics of the greenhouse effect imply that it is greater in cold times and places than in hot, which means it is biased in our favor–winters getting milder by more than summers are getting hotter, larger effects in places where people want the weather to be warmer than in places where they want it cooler.

            So far as I can tell, the only serious candidate for large negative effects by the end of the century is reduction in ocean pH. Nobody seems to have an accurate picture of how large the effects of that would be.

            Three more general points:

            1. If you extrapolate effects many centuries out they get much larger–I have a link on my blog to a paper that works out what eventually happens if we burn all the fossil fuel. But eventually is very far out and human civilization is changing rapidly due to technological change. So I don’t think it makes much sense to try to act now on the basis of conjectural problems several centuries in the future. By that time we will either have wiped ourselves out in some other way or have different, and enormously more powerful, ways of dealing with climate.

            William Nordhaus, one of the economists who has been involved in climate issues, wrote a piece a few years back attacking a WSJ OpEd that claimed climate change was not a catastrophic threat that required immediate action. In it he reported his estimate of the cost of waiting fifty years to do anything, relative to taking the optimal policies immediately. He reported it as a large lump sum, but if you work out what it represents over the entire globe and the rest of the century it’s tiny.

            2. Most of the talk is based on the IPCC high emissions scenario which assumes a continued exponential growth in both the economy and CO2 emissions. I think the latter is unlikely, although not impossible.

            3. There are other issues I haven’t looked at carefully enough to be confident of my view of. But I have seen so much exaggeration and deliberate dishonesty in issues I have looked at that I do not give much weight to extreme claims about ones I have not looked carefully at. If you are curious, I can provide links to blog posts of mine that explore some of that.

            If you are sufficiently curious about my arguments, my blog, which touches on climate and many other things, is searchable (window at the top left). For my reasons for thinking that things are very uncertain in the long term, see my Future Imperfect. I have a webbed copy on my site that you can read for free.

          • Kelley Meck says:

            @fortaleza

            water vapor feedback is something I can look into more. I wouldn’t have said it was something I didn’t understand, except that you’ve pointed at it as an explanation for why we disagree… so I’ll look at that.

            @David Friedman,

            Thank you for a very nicely thorough comment. I had read several of your blog posts, including the one I linked above and the one responding to a press release about an arctic death spiral, and I’m pretty sure the Nordhaus response also. I think I should step back and think, and read or re-read your stuff on climate/ice caps/warming, and see if I have more comments that feel likely to be constructive. I’ve seen some pretty impressively bad presentations of some of your ideas, such as coarse formulations of “but CO2 is plant food, so it’s good for the environment!” and I think there may be a way in which that’s given me a “cowpox of doubt”-like ability to not even really hear, if I’m not being very careful, quite what you are arguing. I think it unlikely I’ll end up agreeing with you, but I admit I’m challenged that it even happened that I read at least one post of yours re: increased plant yields but didn’t get around to recognizing that this was what you really thought.

            W/r/t/ hyperbole and dishonesty, I think it’s a problem that honest people on both sides often encounter from the other side–certainly I’ve gotten a large dose of people arguing from Ann Coulter or the Heartland Institute enough times that I may be too quick to double down on my own understanding before really understanding another view. I really appreciate an interaction that feels sincere, and I like that, right or wrong, I feel I’m finding something unexpected.

          • it follows that most countries will be worse off as a result of “climate change” as you have defined it.

            In fact, I doubt you will be able to find anyone who thinks otherwise,

            You have just found one. I would be very surprised if all countries were made worse off by climate change.

            Sea level rise is only a problem if you have a low lying coast. Warming is a substantial benefit if most of your land area is currently cold–Canada, Scandinavia, Russia are the obvious examples. CO2 fertilization is a big plus for almost anyone.

          • W/r/t/ hyperbole and dishonesty, I think it’s a problem that honest people on both sides often encounter from the other side

            True on pretty nearly any issue that people feel strongly about. I gave up arguing climate issues on FB about a year ago because after doing it for several years I had encountered only about three or four people on the other side who were worth arguing with, and concluded that almost nobody on either side understood the physics of the greenhouse effect–which didn’t prevent almost everyone from being confident that his views were correct.

            Most of what I have to say on the subject is somewhere on my blog, so feel free to construct rebuttals to the arguments there.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            water vapor feedback is something I can look into more.

            Please do. See, for the most part, predictions that mankind’s CO2 emissions will have a big impact rely on the assumption of water vapor feedback. i.e. that increased levels of CO2 will result in modest warming; which will increase the level of water vapor in the atmosphere, which will result in still more warming, and so on.

            Without the assumption of water vapor feedback, one can make a general prediction, just using basic physics, of the temperature increase do to mankind’s CO2 emissions and the results are pretty mild.

            The way you get scary predictions and big impacts is by adding the assumption of water vapor feedback. However, the argument and evidence for such feedback is extremely weak and there is good reason to believe it won’t be a problem.

          • On the general issue of feeback …

            Water vapor as a greenhouse gas is one example, with an unambiguous sign, since warming increases the amount of water vapor the atmosphere will hold. There are other feedbacks, some possibly negative, in particular cloud cover changing the albedo of the Earth.

            The estimates of the net effect that I have seen range from climate sensitivity of about 1.5 to 3. That’s the amount by which warming as a direct effect of CO2 is expected to be amplified by feedbacks. I have seen the claim that estimates have been trending down over time as more data comes in, but don’t know if it is true–there are lots of people in the climate arguments who know what result they want to get, which makes it risky to trust anything until you have seen a serious attempt to criticize it from the other side.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Water vapor as a greenhouse gas is one example, with an unambiguous sign, since warming increases the amount of water vapor the atmosphere will hold.

            I actually disagree with this. For example, what if warming also increases the likelihood of tropical thunderstorms at lower latitudes, which tends to reduce the amount of water vapor.

            A lot of different factors affect the climate and it’s not known very well how they interact. However, from the fact that the climate has been around a long time, it’s reasonable to assume that it’s wandered into a state where negative feedback predominates, not positive feedback.

    • gbdub says:

      “Understanding why people believe climate change might not be net bad” and “not wanting to debate economics” seem like incompatible goals?

      I mean you’ve listed a bunch of possible harms without considering any possible positives (e.g. increased crop output, access to larger areas of inhabitable land, etc.) – of course your answer will come out negative. Whether the latter are bigger than the former is pretty much an economics question.

      • Matt M says:

        100% agreement with this.

        I’m not sure there is anyone out there whose true position is “we can burn all the fossil fuels we want forever and there will be zero negative consequences”

        The skeptic position is much closer to “The proposed mitigation actions are more costly than the benefits they would provide.”

        Which is at least as much of an economic concern as it is a scientific one. Perhaps even moreso.

        • gbdub says:

          Right, that’s my understanding of most of the skeptical opinion ’round here.

          I think I’m personally converging on a weird skeptical-cynical position:
          1) The catastrophic scenarios require some nasty positive feedback loops that imply the climate is highly unstable. Yet we are not currently Venus, implying that Earth climate is in fact relatively stable.
          2) If the climate is nevertheless unstable enough that we are in danger of catastrophe, we’re probably fucked already.
          3) If we’re not already fucked, we’ll continue moving away from fossil fuels at the rate technology and economics allow, plus or minus a bit of governmental nudging, and the problem will level out at “unpleasant but not catastrophic” sometime in the next century.

          Basically, it feels like the common anti-skeptics are arguing that we are super close to a catastrophic tipping point, but relatively mild interventions like green subsidies and carbon taxes will be enough to move us off that point. But that’s a pretty specific, and in my mind unlikely claim. The alternatives seem much more likely – either proceeding without major intentional intervention will be fine, or we’re already doomed short of (or maybe including) instituting a global totalitarian Amish state.

          • Kelley Meck says:

            Hm. Okay, I’m much less confused by this position.

            I think there are some good ways to show that there are low-cost, high-impact ways to address climate change. E.g. the government actions being taken have driven us from “100% fossil fuels, sloppy effort or no effort on efficiency” to a serious shot at 50% or more renewable by 2050. There are >$20 trillion dollars of fossil fuels in the ground, and a lot of it is going to stay there… but a few trillion one way or the other matters. But I at least understand where you’re coming from now.

          • Matt M says:

            @gdub

            Basically, it feels like the common anti-skeptics are arguing that we are super close to a catastrophic tipping point, but relatively mild interventions like green subsidies and carbon taxes will be enough to move us off that point.

            Tom Woods and Bob Murphy regularly make this point on their podcast, “Contra Krugman,” that depending on the week, Krugman either argues: 1. Wind and solar and renewables have enjoyed dramatic efficiency gains and are so close to overtaking fossil fuels, entirely without subsidies and on their own merit, that green energy “just makes sense” OR 2. Climate change is going to be hugely catastrophic and we aren’t doing nearly enough to combat it and massive state intervention will be required to prevent human extinction

            And it’s like… well which is it?

            @Kelley

            I think there are some good ways to show that there are low-cost, high-impact ways to address climate change. E.g. the government actions being taken have driven us from “100% fossil fuels, sloppy effort or no effort on efficiency” to a serious shot at 50% or more renewable by 2050.

            So the relevant question here is… what would the market have done without any state intervention? Remained at 100% fossil fuel indefinitely? Gotten to 50% a little later? How close would it have gotten? If the “solutions” to climate change are low cost and high impact, why do we assume the only way they could possibly come about is through heavy-handed actions by the state?

            I know the typical response here is “EXTERNALITIES!” but that doesn’t explain why so many companies spend so much time and effort trying to get certified as zero-carbon emissions or whatever. That’s not free – and yet they are doing it. So that’d be low-cost, high-impact, right?

          • gbdub says:

            “E.g. the government actions being taken have driven us from “100% fossil fuels, sloppy effort or no effort on efficiency” to a serious shot at 50% or more renewable by 2050.”

            What’s your basis for assuming these impacts are due mostly to government actions, as opposed to technological advancements that would have happened anyway, or economic factors like natural gas getting much cheaper and replacing a lot of coal output? Even among the government intervention, how much of it has been actually climate-driven, versus stuff we’d make laws about anyway because vast clouds of coal smoke are nasty and unpleasant?

            “but a few trillion one way or the other matters.”

            Does it? That’s the part that seems extremely uncertain to me. Maybe the difference between “never burn another drop of fuel” and “burn everything in the most inefficient way possible” is the difference that avoids catastrophe. But the difference between “amount we’ll burn if we let natural economic and technological development proceed” and “the somewhat smaller amount we’ll burn with potentially painful / inefficient / costly government intervention” is, to my mind, much more likely to be trivial. It just seems like an awfully convenient world, where we’re on such a knife edge with “unstoppable positive feedback loops” on the other side.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            @gbdub, depends what you mean by catastrophic, no?

            I mean, mankind could presumably survive Hothouse Earth, but I for one would find it more than a little unpleasant to have to do so. I’d call that a catastrophe.

            Similarly, David Friedman mentioned a few threads back that the IPCC estimates shifted the coastline by no more than a tenth of a mile, the implication being that was no big deal. But it seems to me that the total replacement value of all the property in that tenth-of-a-mile-or-less strip, around all the world’s coastlines, is probably pretty darn high. I’d call that a catastrophe.

            … it also depends what you mean by skeptic, I suppose. The policies I tend to free-associate with the global warming skepticism aren’t along the lines of “continue moving away from fossil fuels at the rate technology and economics allow”.

            (Incidentally, I’d be interested if anyone has actually worked out how much it would cost to, say, replace all the coal power plants in the US vs. how much it would cost to replace all the coastal property in the US.)

          • Matt M says:

            But it seems to me that the total replacement value of all the property in that tenth-of-a-mile-or-less strip, around all the world’s coastlines, is probably pretty darn high. I’d call that a catastrophe.

            If it happened slowly, over the course of 50 years, and we knew it was going to happen starting now… I dunno, I think we’d be mostly fine.

          • Nornagest says:

            Wind and solar and renewables

            …shouldn’t be lumped like this. Solar power really has gotten a lot better over the last twenty years, partly because of efficiency gains in photovoltaics but mostly because of better manufacturing processes. It’s still not cost-competitive with fossil fuel unless all you’re looking at is nameplate capacity, though, and storage is a big problem. Wind power has gained some from economies of scale, but the fundamental economics haven’t changed much, because generators and airfoils are both mature technologies. Once you factor those out, renewables mostly means hydroelectric, which is 1930s technology, doesn’t scale like wind does, and has barely changed at all since then — in fact there’ve been few new hydroelectric deployments since the Sixties in the States, though that’s not true in other countries. Tidal power and similar proposals still haven’t been meaningfully deployed anywhere, and geothermal is a rounding error unless you live in Iceland.

          • gbdub says:

            “I mean, mankind could presumably survive Hothouse Earth, but I for one would find it more than a little unpleasant to have to do so. I’d call that a catastrophe.”

            I mean, mankind could presumably survive a crash effort to become 100% carbon neutral or negative in the next 10 years, but I for one would find it more than a little unpleasant to have to do so. I’d call that a catastrophe.

            It’s tradeoffs all the way down, and you can’t ignore half the equation.

            “The policies I tend to free-associate with the global warming skepticism aren’t along the lines of “continue moving away from fossil fuels at the rate technology and economics allow”.”

            Those are the sort of policies you’re likely to find among the “skeptics” of the local commentariat.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            @Matt M, by that definition, there are never any catastrophes. 🙂 We’re always “mostly fine”.

            @gbdub,

            I mean, mankind could presumably survive a crash effort to become 100% carbon neutral or negative in the next 10 years, but I for one would find it more than a little unpleasant to have to do so. I’d call that a catastrophe.

            So would I. But that’s not going to happen, so why worry about it?

            Those are the sort of policies you’re likely to find among the “skeptics” of the local commentariat.

            It just seems strange to me for someone in that camp (which is, after all, basically just the status quo) to describe themselves as a skeptic.

            (I think there’s an old SSC post, or perhaps something from LW, that talks about this particular sort of mutual misunderstanding? Can’t put my finger on it.)

          • Matt M says:

            @Matt M, by that definition, there are never any catastrophes. 🙂 We’re always “mostly fine”.

            I think you’re sarcastic, but I’m being serious!

            Scott Adams has actually referred to this as the “Theory of slow-moving disasters.” Which basically means that any disaster we can see coming years in advance is always eventually solved with little to no major catastrophe.

          • gbdub says:

            It just seems strange to me for someone in that camp (which is, after all, basically just the status quo) to describe themselves as a skeptic.

            I’m glad you agree! Unfortunately that position is enough to get one labeled a dangerous denialist that ought to be locked up in other circles.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            @Matt M, no sarcasm intended. It just seems to me that a sea level rise would inevitably be at least as expensive to deal with as other things that are routinely referred to as catastrophic, such as major earthquakes, floods, droughts, and so on. So I’m not quite sure where the distinction you’re drawing comes from, unless it’s just that to you a catastrophe has to happen quickly?

            (Also cf. the “Palestinian Catastrophe”, since a sea level rise would inevitably result in an even larger number of people being forced to relocate. Granted in most cases they’d be able to remain in their own country, so it is by no means a perfect analogy.)

            Anyway, I feel no particular need to continue this debate, but if we were to do so it might perhaps be preferable to taboo the word “catastrophe” since it seems to be causing confusion?

            … Scott Adams isn’t the best person to quote to me, by the way – I kind of have a personal grudge against him. No offense taken, of course, it just means that I’m not necessarily going to be able to be unbiased in evaluating your argument. 🙂

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            Unfortunately that position is enough to get one labeled a dangerous denialist that ought to be locked up in other circles.

            Unsurprising. Arguments are Soldiers, after all. And I have to admit a certain amount of disquiet when seeing someone argue that “global warming won’t be all that bad” because (a) unless the conclusion is explicitly spelled out, I tend to pattern-match it to “therefore we should stop taking any measures at all to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, let the good times roll” rather than “therefore we don’t need to take any new radical measures, what we’re doing/planning now is more or less right”; and (b) even if I know what the person in question means, or choose because of the context to give them the benefit of the doubt (as I would at least try to do on this site) I still have concerns about how the wider public would react if they decided that global warming was a “solved problem”.

            (That’s all the more true if we assume, as I think you suggested in one of the other subthreads, that most of the gains we’ve made are due to public opinion, e.g., companies going carbon-free for PR reasons, rather than anything planned from above.)

            … hence, I suppose, my knee-jerk reaction in putting my oar into this thread in the first place. 🙂

          • Matt M says:

            It just seems to me that a sea level rise would inevitably be at least as expensive to deal with as other things that are routinely referred to as catastrophic, such as major earthquakes, floods, droughts, and so on. So I’m not quite sure where the distinction you’re drawing comes from, unless it’s just that to you a catastrophe has to happen quickly?

            I think catastrophe that happens slowly but steadily over the course of 50 years is very different from catastrophe that happens instantly (earthquake), over the span of a few days (flood), or a few weeks (drought).

            It’s the difference between someone pulling out a gun and shooting you in the face and someone pointing a knife in your direction and taking one step towards you every five seconds. One is far easier to avoid than the other.

            If you own beachfront property that will be underwater in 50 years, you have a whole damn lot of time to sell it and move. In fact, I’d say the fact that so many people are still paying so much money for beachfront property is a major reason why I’m not that concerned… Some of these people have millions of dollars at stake… if they aren’t worried about sea level rise, why should I be?

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            They’re presumably hoping the problem will go away – I mean, it’s not as if mankind on the whole isn’t at least trying to avoid this scenario, so that’s not all that unreasonable – never believed in it in the first place, figure it’s too far in the future to worry about, or expect to be able to offload to some other sucker in the meantime.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            … if the market price of the property drops slowly enough, i.e., if there’s no sudden panic when the market suddenly realizes that yes, this really is something that is happening, then the loss associated with any particular piece of property might be spread out amongst a number of people rather than a single person bearing the entire brunt. But unless you’re uninsured, you don’t bear the entire brunt of the cost of rebuilding after an earthquake or flood either.

            I was really thinking more of the aggregate direct costs, though – not market value or paper losses, just the cost of the actual labour and materials necessary to rebuild entire city blocks around the world. That’s probably not the right way to put it; I’m tired. Whatever.

          • @Matt:

            If it happened slowly, over the course of 50 years,

            More like 80 years. One meter is the high end of the range for 2100.

            And where real estate is really valuable, most obviously coastal cities, you don’t lose it, you dike. I believe the lowest city in the Netherlands at present is eight meters below sea level.

        • The skeptic position is much closer to “The proposed mitigation actions are more costly than the benefits they would provide.”

          In my case, the skeptic position is that we do not know if the net effect of climate change will be positive or negative. It follows a fortiori that we do not know that the costs of mitigation are less than the benefits.

      • Kelley Meck says:

        Ah. Completely reasonable. I guess I’d file this as a response to points #1 and #2, that climate change is back loaded, and already net-negative everywhere.

        I was saying that so far, if you asked a re-insurance company to name places that are net winners from climate change, based on insurance cost changes over time, that they wouldn’t really be able to point at some. I’m saying that insurance rates are going up everywhere, because the weather is getting weirder. I’ll add that I think farming takes decades to get right, and since weirdness is backloaded, the best estimate for how fast things will be changing in a decade, or two decades, or five decades, is going to be “faster than now, by a lot.” So I don’t honestly see a single place where I could move and say “standing here, I’m better off if the world does very little about climate change than if they do a lot about climate change.” (Maybe that would be different if I were an oligarch in the right place, but I can’t become an oligarch simply by moving.)

        If you knew, to a high level of certainty, that nothing further will be done about climate change, where would you move, and feel that people who were already there will be better off than if a lot had been done about climate change?

        • Douglas Knight says:

          weirdness is backloaded…“faster than now, by a lot.”

          Where do you get these claims? I have never heard anything remotely like them.

        • gbdub says:

          I guess I don’t find insurance premiums compelling as a marker. For one thing, the cost of the things being insured is going up independent of climate. For another, you’ve picked a marker that is heavily incentivized to be overconservative – if they overrate the risk of climate change, the worst thing that happens is they make more profit.

          I’d add, what would insurance companies picking places that would improve even look like? The arguments I’ve heard for “local net improvement” are things like “currently uninhabitable place becomes habitable”, “currently marginal place to farm becomes profitable”, or “place where heating the house costs a lot of money gets cheaper”. I’m not sure why any of those would impact disaster insurance rates in currently inhabited places.

        • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

          The other thing is that even a nominally neutral change might be bad in the short to medium term.

          Perhaps at the moment, Foobistan has tornadoes and Barania has flooding, and climate change over the next thirty years is going to switch that around. Taking a sufficiently long-term perspective, neither country is worse off overall. But in the here and now, Barania is going to have to build a lot of tornado shelters – which I imagine are tricky to retrofit in existing buildings – and Foobistan is going to have to build levees or whatever, relocate buildings to safer locations, and so on.

          • gbdub says:

            Building tornado shelters is expensive, no doubt. It’s also a tractable problem with a fairly easy to estimate price tag.

            How much does it cost Barania to modify global weather patterns to prevent tornadoes? How tractable is that problem if it requires solving a prisoners’ dilemma with Foobistan?

            It could be that every achievable path produces net negative value from the status quo. Both the magnitude and the application time of those costs may matter – maybe the costs of tornado prevention are high but can be spread over many years while the costs of shelter building are lower total but immediately due.

            That’s what makes it a tricky problem.

        • If you knew, to a high level of certainty, that nothing further will be done about climate change, where would you move, and feel that people who were already there will be better off than if a lot had been done about climate change?

          Canada. Iceland. Finland. Russia. Not necessarily places I would want to move to, although the first three aren’t bad, but places where I think the odds are pretty high that climate change produces net benefits.

          I think you overestimate the speed of change. Very roughly, we are talking, on the high emissions scenario, about Minnesota getting as warm as Iowa by 2100. And despite all the talk about unstable weather, the IPCC actually retracted its claim that climate change was causing increased drought and the frequency of hurricanes making land in the U.S. has been unusually low, not unusually high. A lot of what you are reacting to is speculation, not evidence.

          You have to be careful reading the IPCC reports, especially the Summary for Policy Makers. Figures on losses due to extreme weather are not restricted to extreme weather caused by climate change, for instance.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        “Economics” seems like a weird choice of a word, but the paragraph seems to specify that what Kelley does not want to discuss is the cost-benefit analysis of any particular intervention and, particularly, the game theory of achieving such a intervention. That seems to leave on the table the cost-benefit (or should I say pro-con) analysis of comparing different CO₂ levels that are set by fiat.

      • gbdub says:

        EDIT: This was supposed to be a reply to Kelley, so I’ve moved it.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      I believe I can give a good debate against some of the claims, or underlying of points climate change activists… but the problem is I agree with it in total…making me not want to argue against it in the first place. I think this is actually the quiet opinion of many well educated environmentalists.

      I can disagree on quite a few claims in there…particularly in relation to time-frames of danger. Many of these are true in the long run.

      But if you want an argument against specific claims in there, I can do so.

      There are reasons for discouraging the current level of consumption (pollution,Malthus–corresponding Malthusian related resource wars) that are quite large.

    • Kelley Meck says:

      I think I’m going to let everything said here percolate, and come back with more to say in the next open thread, or maybe a few open threads down the road. Thanks everyone for engaging with me. If anyone wants to pick a specific # from my 8-point starting list, and argue that there are *benefits* from climate change that outweigh the harms from that number, leave a comment suggesting your chosen number… or anyway, I’ll think for a bit about the best way to re-cap or move this forward productively. It sorta seems like nobody wants that argument… but this thread grew fast and I’m probably missing someone who did name a specific number. Again, thanks all.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Do you really want this 8 point list? Later you describe them as specific sources of harm. But that seems to me to only describe 2-5, maybe 6. Point 1 sounds like a general principle you wanted to remind people of. Points 7-8 sound like exactly the kind of “economics” you said you wanted to avoid. (Is “three” a typo for “these”? Or were there previously three causes of harm that got expanded to the four 2-5 and then the other kinds of items got added?)

      Incidentally, I think that 8 is a silly aggregation. Does the control of the state make a difference? Why couldn’t the elites use their hundreds of billions to sow discord without nuclear missiles? Also, I think that warming will be a net benefit to most Russians, even if it they lose Saint Petersbug.

      • Kelley Meck says:

        Yeah, you seem to be exactly correct about both the typo w/r/t/ three/these, and that it started out as three points, but then expanded. There’s lots of food for thought there, for me personally, in terms of getting to know why I sacrificed staking out a clear position in favor of making as many forceful arguments as possible. If I’d staked out a clear position, this thread might have been much smaller, but much more productive.

    • Glen Raphael says:

      @Kelley Meck wrote:

      5. Refugee flows from the worst-off countries are likely to be severe, and prolonged, such that even countries that are relatively well off, will be net harmed. E.g., if 1/3 the population of Bangladesh had to leave, and left at a rate of 50k/day (stadium traffic!) the flow of refugees would take about three years to go by.

      Can you elaborate a bit on this item #5 – where exactly are you expecting these refugee flows to come from and when do you expect this flow to begin?

      Keep in mind that some of the earliest predictions about “climate refugees” already look downright silly. For instance, in 2005 the UNEP thought we might see 50 million “climate refugees” by 2010 (and posted a helpful map to illustrate it)…but that didn’t happen; the countries that were supposed to be emptying out instead kept growing, both economically and in terms of population.

      You mentioned Bangladesh – recent surveys show that country is still on-net growing in land area, right?

      Early predictions claimed various “reef islands” would be vanishing by now, but the major reef islands tend to be either stable or growing, including many that had repeatedly been predicted to shrink.

      Instead of a predicted 50 million “climate refugees” by 2010, we actually saw by that date, to a rough first approximation: none (or at least, none worth noticing in the well-off countries). So in 2011 the earlier prediction got tossed in the memory hole and replaced with a new one – that we should now expect to see 50 million climate refugees by 2020. But wait…that’s only two years away! Care to place a wager on whether we’ll actually see 50 million “climate refugees” by 2020? No? How about 10 million? No? Okay, how about “enough for well-off countries to notice” – will that happen by 2020? Or if not then, when?

      The when part matters, because if we keep putting it off a couple more decades, all those “poor, underdeveloped” areas are likely to have the same sorts of economic options the richer ones do today – they can build structures to keep the water away, lift some buildings, move some buildings, or just move/build a teensy bit further inland over time. The longer we wait, the cheaper that sort of mitigation gets, ultimately to the point where everybody can deal with it wherever they are – mass migration only really makes sense in the face of persistent poverty combined with rapid ocean-level increase.

      So…what am I missing?

      • Kelley Meck says:

        I will need to take some time to reply. My ideas about refugee flows are several years old.

        I think I may have had impressions that are too-credibly based on that 2005 report you mock. I will look at your links.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          To dig in a bit more, the term “climate refugee” is…flexible. I suspect what most people have in mind – the central example if you will – is refugees fleeing an area because their old home is or soon will be permanently under water due to rising sea levels. It’s true that that hasn’t really happened yet but there are other ways to parse the term. A less-central definition might be that any time people leave an area for reasons that plausibly relate to climate, they are “climate refugees”. Then we do have a bunch of them, but we’ve always had a bunch of them. The Dust Bowl migrants in the 1930s were “climate refugees” by that definition. People who left New Orleans during Katrina. Heck, even I was a climate refugee for a few weeks after Sandy hit New York – it flooded the basement of my building, making me live somewhere else for a month while they fixed it!

          Big storms do create refugees, but since storms haven’t gotten worse or more frequent, the number of refugees due to storms isn’t increasing – it’s more or less a steady background noise, one we’ve managed to live with for centuries.

          Footnote: some people live on tiny islands that are barely there and barely above the water. At any given time, some of these islands are growing and some are shrinking and some are moving/reorienting, so it’s always possible to find a few that seem “threatened by climate change”. But it’s not the same few over time, and it’s not all of them that are affected.

          In 2007 there was one inhabited atoll region that seemed to have enough of a sinking-relative-to-the-ocean problem to justify resettlement, but (a) resettlement still hasn’t happened (they don’t want to move), (b) the total population there is under two thousand people so having to move them wouldn’t break the bank, (c) in such cases it’s unclear how much to blame sea rise versus other factors.

          • Jaskologist says:

            By that definition, Florida gets inundated with a lot of old climate refugees every winter.

          • Matt M says:

            To the extent that climate change makes the Northern parts of the US warmer and the elderly stop moving to Florida, are those “former climate refugees” reduced from the total of new ones?

    • SamChevre says:

      I’m arguing on #7–positive feedback. This argument is based on priors, not modeling expertise.

      I’m quite certain that North America is warmer than it was 40 years ago–I’ve watched the frost-free dates change. I consider it probable that CO2 increases are the reason.

      But I’m very suspicious of models that show significant positive feedback effects, just on general principles: very few biological/natural systems have strong positive feedback effects. So I expect that the direct effect of CO2 will be positive, but that the feedback cycles will tend to stabilize, not destabilize, climate. (Note that the way I would expect to be wrong, if I am wrong, is if the mundane climate has two reasonably-stable equilibria and CO2 forces it into the Eocene-type equilibrium).

      I’m also skeptical of most activists’ actual commitment to CO2 stabilization as a terminal goal; I would have to see as much and as strong advocacy for keeping nuclear plants open as for closing coal plants to convince me on that.

      • Kelley Meck says:

        W/r/t/ models, I have a generally have high respect for what’s possible, in terms of modelling climate. I know not everyone agrees with me there, but I am not prepared to try and wade into that one right now.

        To your point about being suspicious of strong positive feedback effects… I mean, I understand where you’re coming from. It makes sense, as a starting point, that you wouldn’t expect a lot of latent ‘tipping points’–otherwise why wouldn’t all of those positive feedbacks have happened already? But I’m not ultimately inclined to agree. The feedbacks all work by pretty intuitive mechanisms–things like albedo change at the poles and lake burps / permafrost melt releasing a lot of methane. And they match the geological record, which seems to look much more like punctuated equilibrium than like a single stable, slowly drifting equilibrium–which means there must be a complicated enough system that it can find a stable equilibrium, and then lose it, and end up stable in another state.

        The way strong positives exist in my head looks much more like, “there is one steady forcing for ‘get cooler’ which is that plants sometimes get near-permanently buried and thereby fix carbon. That happens all around the world, in two-steps-forward-one-step-back fashion, all the time. There are many sporadic forcings for ‘get warmer’, a lot of which are some version of “a whole lotta plants just got unburied.” Some of those trigger others (e.g. heat facilitated forest fires, clathrate guns, albedo). Some of these are inherently temporary (clathrate guns have an initial super-powered impact that is relatively short-lived, in geologic time, since methane is a short-lived atmospheric gas) but others are once-off events with lasting changes to equilibrium temperatures (the CO2 from a clathrate gun could stick around a lot longer, and if poles melted or other feedbacks happened, maybe you’ve got a new normal). When it’s especially warm, however, plants thrive somewhat more, so the cooling forcing gets somewhat stronger. And even if the cooling forcing doesn’t get stronger, it’s the only one that is slow-n-steady, so you see periods of near-steady-state climate, punctuated by abrupt warmings. Oh, plus you’ve got Milankovitch cycles and volcanic dust and comets/meteors, so there are ice ages or what not that don’t have much to do with endogenous feed-backs at all.”

        And really, strong positives shouldn’t be that surprising in even single organisms. Getting out of bed is a good example. An alarm and a little light in your room is a “wake-up and get alert” forcing, but when you actually get up, and walk around, it’s the getting up and the walking around that does most of the work of waking you up. If that seems wrong, try staying in bed and see if your alertness matches what it would if you got up.

        As for activists’ actual commitment to *any* terminal goal… yeah, I guess I agree, although that’s just me being skeptical of most activists’ actual commitment, full stop. How many activists who say “yes, I will definitely, definitely be at your rally Saturday” actually show up? I don’t think there’s anything nefarious about people learning enough to think they want to help stop climate change, but not learning enough to know that means they shouldn’t also act on their generally disapproving attitudes toward the fuel type that powered Hiroshima and killed the only woman scientist they can name. You could solve it if you just helpfully establish a widely-respected, near-universal consensus of the planet’s scientists saying people can’t have both their commitments to climate change and their aversion to nukulars… because ‘a widely-respected, near-universal consensus’ doesn’t sound like a hard problem… sigh.

  19. Lillian says:

    So a school got shot-up in Florida by a disgruntled former student. Seventeen people are dead, several are still critically injured, and the media acted like vultures. You know, the usual. However, it occurred to me that since our national pass time is to have A Very Serious Talk About Gun Control every time some psycho decides to go on a killing spree, this would be the most appropriate time to share my personal favourite take on gun control.

    • Brad says:

      We, or rather Scott, have a rule that requires a three day waiting period before politicizing a tragedy.

      • Lillian says:

        Goddammit, in my rush to get that joke in while the kid’s corpses were still warm, i went and forgot about the rule. Sorry, i’ll try to remember it next time.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          That whole post deserves to be deleted, and has no place here at any time, 3 days or not.

          • quanta413 says:

            Agreed.

          • Lillian says:

            Yeah you’re right. Funny as it is, posting stuff like that lowers the level of discourse and makes people like me less. Neither of those things are actually in my best interests, so it would have been wiser not to. The whole thread needs to go. Think i’ll take a vacation from the comments too, save Scott the trouble.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            As someone who was already familiar with the joke, and finds it funny, I agree.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “Funny as it is”

            Humor is always (yes, always) contextual. “Know your audience”, etc.

            So, not actually funny.

  20. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    A question for @Ilya Shpitser or anyone else who understands causal inference:

    What would the best resource for learning about causal inference be for a borderline-innumerate biochemist? I purchased the book Causal Inference in Statistics, which seemed like a good bet given that it was co-written by one of the leading researchers in the field and is explicitly aimed at scientists rather than mathematicians. But I’m not sure whether that’s the best introduction to the field and, if it is, whether there’s any background knowledge that I should be learning before it arrives.

    In terms of my starting point, I know literally nothing about graph theory other than that there’s something called graph theory and that it’s important for casual inference. I have an above average grasp of statistics for a scientist in my field but sadly that’s not saying much. I can perform computations up to the level of solving calculus problems reliably but I struggled in linear algebra and differential equations courses and I don’t really understand any of the theory of mathematics.

    • Vermillion says:

      I’ve been to a total of one lectures on graph theory and it seemed really interesting, so I’d be interested in a recommendation as well.

  21. Well... says:

    A while ago we were discussing Ethiopian food. I tried some, and enjoyed it. I ordered something that came on a huge plate lined with that spongy flatbread. In the middle was a bowl of beef stew and then little bits of other stuff around the perimeter of the plate (salad, red lentils, beets with potatoes, cooked spinach, a couple other things I can’t remember), and in between each thing a piece of that same flatbread, rolled up in a cylinder.

    The beef stew stole the show. Its flavor reminded me of an Indian-style curry. The lentils were good too, although not very interesting. I really liked the beet/potato mixture; those two ingredients worked well together and I’m surprised I haven’t seen that combination elsewhere.

    The salad was just iceberg with a nice dressing; the spinach was gross, tasted like it came from a freezer and they did nothing to it besides cook it into mush; there was something that was like yellow lentils but it was some other kind of legume, and I didn’t like the sort of bland almost bitter way it tasted.

    The spongy flatbread by itself almost tasted like sourdough. It absorbed sauces well but was very porous so I couldn’t use it to actually pick things up or hold them without getting my hands dirty. I was trying to use it like naan or pita, so I must have been doing it wrong. But if you can’t use a flatbread that way, then what good is a flatbread?

    Over all I enjoyed that culinary experience, and might go back and try other things once or twice. I think it was Nancy Lebovitz and a few others who said Ethiopian food is not like other African food and in my experience (having tried Somali and Zimbabwean food) that is correct.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I think I was saying that Ethiopian food isn’t like middle eastern food– I’ve only had a little exposure to other African food.

      The way to use the flat bread is to have a separate plate of flat bread which isn’t under the various dishes. Then you can tear off pieces that aren’t already soaked in sauce and use them to pick the meat and such.

      • Well... says:

        I had separate pieces of flatbread as well–as I said, rolled into cylinders. I would unroll a cylinder, tear off a piece, and try to use it to pick up the other stuff, and this worked OK so long as the other stuff was somewhat dry, but most of it wasn’t.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Damned if I know what the problem was.

          Maybe your main dishes were wetter than I’m used to. Maybe you’re pickier about liquid leaking through than I am.

  22. Peffern says:

    I semi-exclusively browse SSC on my phone, which often makes contributing to discussion difficult due to the high time cost of typing comments on my phone keyboard. Is there an obvious solution here that I’m missing?

    • Thegnskald says:

      Practice would be the obvious solution.

      The less obvious solution that still involves practice, is to specifically get better at brevity.

    • maintain says:

      Get an adapter that lets you plug a keyboard into your phone.

      • Fossegrimen says:

        or a foldable bluetooth keyboard, i keep seeing those on the train and they look fairly efficient.

    • kenziegirl says:

      Use speech-to-text? My mobile phone just has that as a utility and it’s pretty decent. The only annoying thing is that I have to remember to say punctuation or it’s just one long run-on sentence. “I had falafel today period”. But I like using that instead of typing on the little keypad a lot of times. On my phone it’s just a hidden option on the keypad, so very easy to get to.

    • Incurian says:

      Spend all day thinking about your responses then type them up later. Worst case scenario is someone says what you were thinking, best case is you read another comment that helps you reconsider your opinion.

  23. Mark says:

    People often say that opposition to open borders is motivated by racism, but I think that the most extreme modern racists have more or less given up on nationalism.
    They tend to be amongst the strongest opponents of strong central government. So, are racists actually opposed to open borders? I can imagine that if they could maintain a strong community, increased competition from other ethnic groups might appeal to darwinistic racialists.
    I suppose the danger is that those smaller communities wouldn’t be able to stand up to the power of the central government, so it becomes a battle of who wields that central power – though presumably if the constituent parts of the nation hate each other enough, that central power will itself collapse.

    Personally, I think the best argument for open borders was laid out pretty clearly in the 2004 predictive programming masterpiece The Day After Tomorrow. That is, establish the principle of open borders, make sure that we are in large part Southern-worlders, so that when environmental disaster strikes they’ll let us move in with them.

    • Matt M says:

      I can imagine that if they could maintain a strong community, increased competition from other ethnic groups might appeal to darwinistic racialists.

      This is… uh…. not my experience.

      The ones I’ve interacted with are strong supporters of pure ethnic enclaves – under the notion that over time this would “prove” the superiority of whites. Basically “they can take whatever geographic area they want and they’d run it in the ground, we’ll take whatever is left and build a paradise” sort of thing. They want competition among nations, but they don’t want other races in their own neighborhood, lest the other races end up taking credit for community success.

    • Urstoff says:

      Open borders sure gets talked about (and attacked) a lot for a policy that won’t ever happen and is not remotely on the political landscape with any major party in any first-world country.

      • Matt M says:

        Open borders is the de facto position of the Democratic party in the US right now. They wouldn’t use that term but they oppose any and every incremental effort to restrict entry, to deny government services to those who entered illegally, AND to remove anyone who entered improperly.

        • Urstoff says:

          This doesn’t seem true at all. Amnesty is hardly the same as dismantling borders. When Democrats call for the abolition of the INS and ICE, all legal immigration quotas, visa programs, etc., then your statement would be closer to the truth.

          • Matt M says:

            Which is why I said incremental, not absolute.

            They don’t call for the abolition of ICE, but they do pass laws intended to make it impossible for ICE to be effective in jurisdictions they control. They don’t call for quotas to be immediately abolished, but they vehemently protest any attempt to modify the existing quotas in any way other than “more people allowed” (including switching from random allotment to merit-based, because that’s racist).

            It would be interesting to try and corner any prominent Democratic politician on the record with a question like “What SHOULD the quota be?” I suspect they would refuse to answer. Because the answer their base wants to hear is, in fact, “unlimited,” but this would be considered unacceptable to large swaths of swing voters.

          • Urstoff says:

            You said they oppose any incremental effort to restrict access (from the status quo, I presume), which is not logically equivalent to “wants no restrictions on access”.

            It would be nice if both sides were more honest in the immigration debate. Then we could really see how many politicians are for open borders, and how many are for trying to achieve a white ethnostate.

          • Matt M says:

            You said they oppose any incremental effort to restrict access (from the status quo, I presume), which is not logically equivalent to “wants no restrictions on access”.

            If you ask them, “Do you want more or fewer immigrants” the answer is always “more.” I suppose it’s possible that at some point they’d hit a limit and say “Okay, now we have enough immigrants, and it’s okay to start stringently enforcing this new quota level” but nobody has ever volunteered even a guess as to what that level might be.

            And that’s leaving aside rhetoric such as “no human being is illegal” which certainly sounds a lot more like “anyone should be able to come who wants to” rather than “I favor slightly more immigration than we have now, but not too much of course! We have to draw the line somewhere!”

          • JayT says:

            When Democrats call for the abolition of the INS and ICE, all legal immigration quotas, visa programs, etc., then your statement would be closer to the truth.

            Sanctuary cities/states are basically that, no?

          • Urstoff says:

            If you ask them, “Do you want more or fewer immigrants” the answer is always “more.” I suppose it’s possible that at some point they’d hit a limit and say “Okay, now we have enough immigrants, and it’s okay to start stringently enforcing this new quota level” but nobody has ever volunteered even a guess as to what that level might be.

            Okay, but I don’t see how that supports the statement “Open borders is the de facto position of the Democratic party”. I’m not disputing the much more plausible statement “more immigration is the de facto position of the Democratic party”.

          • Nornagest says:

            Sanctuary cities/states are basically that, no?

            Border control still operates e.g. between San Diego and Tijuana. California’s just not going to fall all over itself to track down illegal immigrants within its borders, especially in its largest cities.

          • JayT says:

            Border patrol is Federal though, so the Republicans still have a lot of say in what they do. If it were left up to states to control their borders, I’m honestly not sure what California would do. I suspect at first they would stick with the status quo, but as time went on, I’d suspect that the border patrol would become more and more toothless.

          • Brad says:

            When Democrats call for the abolition of the INS and ICE, all legal immigration quotas, visa programs, etc., then your statement would be closer to the truth.

            Sanctuary cities/states are basically that, no?

            No. Sanctuary cities/states are cities/states telling the federal government it is responsible for enforcing its own laws, and isn’t entitled to commander state personnel for its own ends. As they perfectly entitled to do. Check your copy of the constitution, it should have a 10th amendment in there.

            A state government no more supports open borders because it doesn’t want to do the federal government’s job for it when it comes to immigration than a state government is in favor of the planes falling out of the sky because it doesn’t want to pay for air traffic control.

            They wouldn’t use that term but they oppose any and every incremental effort to restrict entry, to deny government services to those who entered illegally, AND to remove anyone who entered improperly.

            Even if this was true, it wouldn’t mean they are in favor of open borders. Open borders means just that, completely free movement of people. Yet another disingenuous strawman.

          • JayT says:

            No. Sanctuary cities/states are cities/states telling the federal government it is responsible for enforcing its own laws, and isn’t entitled to commander state personnel for its own ends. As they perfectly entitled to do. Check your copy of the constitution, it should have a 10th amendment in there.

            And none of what you said refutes my point, which is that the idea of a sanctuary state is basically the same thing as a call for the abolition of “INS and ICE, all legal immigration quotas, visa programs” because all of those are Federal programs.

            For what it’s worth, I’m in favor of far more open borders than we currently have. I just agree that “open borders” is the de facto position of the Democratic Party. I suspect that it is mostly posturing, and that they would soften on the issue greatly if they controlled the White House and Congress, but as of right now, I think it is true.

          • Matt M says:

            I suspect that it is mostly posturing, and that they would soften on the issue greatly if they controlled the White House and Congress, but as of right now, I think it is true.

            Totally agree with this too.

            I think immigration is to the left what deficits and high spending is to the right. A real easy thing to howl about to energize your base when you’re out of power – that then goes almost completely ignored when you’re in power.

            Trump is evil because he wants a wall (but pay no attention to the high deportation numbers and lack of comprehensive reform under Obama). Obama is evil because he spends too much money (but pay no attention to the massive spending bills under GWB and Trump).

          • BBA says:

            It’s actually becoming increasingly common on the left to literally call for the abolition of ICE. What they mean varies from thinking it’s a rotten institution and needs a full top-to-bottom replacement to carry out its functions to thinking its functions are inherently xenophobic and should be abolished.

            Sometimes they throw in “abolish CBP” too, which would actually mean open borders.

            In any case, I do have one overarching argument against open borders that only the most committed ancap would disagree with, which is that we need to be able to deport Piers Morgan.

          • Matt M says:

            which is that we need to be able to deport Piers Morgan.

            We already did.

            And weirdly enough, once we did, he seems to have converted from blue tribe to red.

            Maybe he’s a literal, professional troll.

          • gbdub says:

            A state government no more supports open borders because it doesn’t want to do the federal government’s job for it when it comes to immigration than a state government is in favor of the planes falling out of the sky because it doesn’t want to pay for air traffic control.

            Oh c’mon man. “Sanctuary Cities” have basically nothing to do with those cities being overburdened by the fiscal costs of immigration enforcement, and everything to do with the members of those local governments being fundamentally opposed to the mission of ICE being carried out in their cities at all, regardless of who pays for it.

            The only reason they don’t do more than not directly participate is because their rights don’t extend to actively obstructing the Feds.

          • Brad says:

            @JayT

            And none of what you said refutes my point, which is that the idea of a sanctuary state is basically the same thing as a call for the abolition of “INS and ICE, all legal immigration quotas, visa programs” because all of those are Federal programs.

            No, it isn’t. It is perfectly consistent to think that a state government shouldn’t do anything to enforce the federal immigration law and to think that the federal government should do some things to enforce federal immigration law.

            Where did all these shrinking violets on the left come from all of a sudden? People have no problem telling pollsters about all sorts of fairly radical political positions, like supporting hate speech laws for example, but all of a sudden when it comes to open borders there’s a conspiracy of silence? Is that a very likely hypothesis or or is more likely that alt right types like to beat up strawmen?

            I suspect that it is mostly posturing, and that they would soften on the issue greatly if they controlled the White House and Congress, but as of right now, I think it is true.

            How would your position ever be falsified then? It isn’t based on what people say their position is and you don’t actually expect them to do anything along those lines if they ever have a chance to actually make policy. So it what sense is it at all meaningful to say it is their “de facto” position?

            For what it’s worth, I’m in favor of far more open borders than we currently have. I just agree that “open borders” is the de facto position of the Democratic Party.

            Sorry this is bullshit. Open borders means just that, the free movement of people. No border controls, no visas, no registration, nothing. And there’s virtually no one that supports that. Just because you want fewer restrictions than the status quo doesn’t give you anymore right to create a strawman than our resident MAGA enthusiast.

            @BBA

            It’s actually becoming increasingly common on the left to literally call for the abolition of ICE.

            Sometimes they throw in “abolish CBP” too, which would actually mean open borders.

            You have a poll or are you extrapolating from four tweets a facebook share?

          • Brad says:

            @gbdub

            The only reason they don’t do more than not directly participate is because their rights don’t extend to actively obstructing the Feds.

            If that’s the prevailing ideology in those cities, then how come the congressmen that represent the same people that elected those mayors and city councilmen aren’t out there writing bills to eliminate all restrictions on immigration, abolish ICE, abolish CPB and have real open borders?

            Sure maybe those bills wouldn’t pass because you have more moderate democrats in suburbs or in other states, but that doesn’t stop the far right restrictionists from writing bills that play to their base. Or for that matter even on blatant unconstitutionality doesn’t stop states when it comes to abortion restriction laws they know will be struck down.

          • gbdub says:

            If that’s the prevailing ideology in those cities, then how come the congressmen that represent the same people that elected those mayors and city councilmen aren’t out there writing bills to eliminate all restrictions on immigration, abolish ICE, abolish CPB and have real open borders?

            Good question! That’s why I think, as I stated below, that the actual position of Dems is not “open borders” but rather “make a lot of noise about how nasty Republicans are for trying to aggressively enforce existing immigration law, to energize our base, but don’t actually attempt major structural changes to immigration law, lest we upset swing voters”

            But if you think Ed Lee would have been totally down with everyone in San Fran illegally being deported, as long as he didn’t have to pay for it, you’re bonkers. “Sanctuary” implies a lot more than that, and it was a freely accepted label.

          • Brad says:

            Good question! That’s why I think, as I stated below, that the actual position of Dems is not “open borders” but rather “make a lot of noise about how nasty Republicans are for trying to aggressively enforce existing immigration law, to energize our base, but don’t actually attempt major structural changes to immigration law, lest we upset swing voters”

            That seems pretty reasonable to me. I wouldn’t have called that a disingenuous strawman.

            But if you think Ed Lee would have been totally down with everyone in San Fran illegally being deported, as long as he didn’t have to pay for it, you’re bonkers. “Sanctuary” implies a lot more than that, and it was a freely accepted label.

            I don’t think that’d he be totally down with that. But that doesn’t mean he supports open borders.

            Sanctuary cities aren’t even going to the maximum they are allowed under the constitution. SF, for example, will notify ICE when it is releasing a prisoner that has been convicted of a serious or violent felony in the prior seven years. We don’t know exactly what policies they’d put in place if they controlled the federal government, but there’s no good reason to think it would be “the abolition of the INS and ICE, all legal immigration quotas, visa programs, etc.,”

          • BBA says:

            @Brad: I admit it’s weak anecdata, but the extreme rhetoric of the likes of Erik Loomis (who calls ICE a fascist organization engaging in a campaign of ethnic cleansing) does appear to be catching on.

            The “abolish CBP” types are much fewer and I suspect most of them haven’t really thought it through.

            Just to be clear: My own view is that ICE is structured to encourage maximum cruelty among its agents and therefore ought to be heavily restructured if it has to remain separate from CBP at all. Frankly, I don’t know what if anything the Bush-era restructuring of Customs and INS accomplished, or what it was supposed to accomplish.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t know about ICE and CBP, but the separation of USCIS further away from ICE then when both functions were part of INS has lead to noticeable improvements in USCIS. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that there’d be a corresponding deterioration in ICE.

          • gbdub says:

            Poking the bear a bit: So we’ve gotten really tied around the axle on the term “open borders”, but, excising the term, was Matt’s original statement actually that far off the mark?

            [Democrats] oppose any and every incremental effort to restrict entry, to deny government services to those who entered illegally, AND to remove anyone who entered improperly.

            It’s a bit of an absolutist / uncharitable exaggeration to be sure, and it ignores that Dems were mostly okay with Obama’s deportations (then again, so do the Dems), but if all you did was listen to current Democratic rhetoric on immigration, I can certainly see how you’d get the impression that that is the party line.

          • Matt M says:

            To be clear, I don’t think most Democratic voters actually want open borders.

            But as I’ve said, I have yet to ever, in my life, hear a single Democratic politician outline exactly how much immigration they want. They want more legal immigration than exists today, to be sure. And they want fewer deportations than happen today. They certainly don’t want any more border security than exists today (and the amount that exists today is poor enough to have allowed estimates of several millions of illegals to make it in). And they want amnesty for those who already got here illegally.

            To be fair, the opposite charge could be made about Republicans in the other direction, and often is! It’s true that most Republicans are also unlikely to tell you exactly what number the quota should be. It’s true that they universally want less legal immigration, more deportations, more border security, etc.

            But I think the rhetoric is very different. Democrats use phrases like “no human being is illegal” which seems to imply that we have no right to refuse entry to anyone. Republicans, meanwhile, still support the general theme that “America is a nation of immigrants.” Trump himself (who people in these comments have suggested wants a white ethno-state) specifically invited and praised multiple legal immigrants during his state of the union address. GOP rhetoric makes it plainly clear that they want some legal immigration. Democratic rhetoric does not make it clear that they want any deportations at all.

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s a bad move for either side to give a number they’d be happy with for the same reason that it’s a bad idea to open salary negotiations with a number.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Actually a lot of people on the left including prominent Dreamers which the Dems are all about right now do support abolishing ICE. I’ve literally read dozens of tweets with “abolish ICE” in them. I’m leftist in some ways but I’m not Abby Martin leftist so I expect its even more extreme farther to the left.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s a bad move for either side to give a number they’d be happy with for the same reason that it’s a bad idea to open salary negotiations with a number.

            Because one side would accept essentially infinity and the other would accept essentially zero?

          • Urstoff says:

            Because one side would accept essentially infinity and the other would accept essentially zero?

            I think there’s a lot more diversity than people are giving credit to the issue. Off the top of my head, there are at least five different mainstream stances:

            Identity politics left – lots of immigration, legal or otherwise, but official position underarticulated except in reaction to status quo

            Cosmopolitan neoliberals – much more skilled immigration, rather blasé about illegal immigration

            Labor left – reduced immigration in the form of tight quotas to protect American workers

            “Law and Order” right – eliminate illegal immigration, generally silent on legal immigration

            Anti-diversity right – eliminate illegal immigration, severely restrict legal immigration

            This is a rough taxonomy and there is, of course, much overlap (I suspect many who claim to be in the “Law and Order” right are really part of the anti-diversity right), but it’s more than just open borders vs. white ethnonationalism. The current existing coalitions are also rather tenuous; the labor left and the identity politics left conflict, if not very often in the open, and cosmopolitan neoliberals seem to be split between D and R around 60/40. The “Law and Order” right, insofar as they aren’t anti-immigrant in general, don’t want to be viewed as racist, but they don’t help their case by not promoting a streamlined version of legal immigration and embracing legal immigrants.

          • Brad says:

            @gbdub

            It’s a bit of an absolutist / uncharitable exaggeration to be sure

            You say tomato, I say disingenuous strawman.

            The characterization assumes there is a light our hair on fire problem and reasons from that premise to anyone that doesn’t want to adopt his “solutions” must be in favor of no restrictions at all.

            Translate it to a different domain. Suppose you had a party that opposed increases in military spending and often talked about cutting this or that military program. Politicians of this party never put out a white paper stating exactly how large they think the military ought to be. At least not one detailed enough to satisfy some troll. Would it be at all fair to try to paint that party as a bunch of pacifists that want to abolish the military altogether? I think not.

            If we enacted open borders tomorrow there’d be at least hundreds of millions of migrants within a few years. Today we have very significant restrictions on migration both in regulatory terms and in terms of how much we spend. Hence no hundreds of millions strong influx. Not supporting incremental new restrictions or enforcement efforts is not in any way, shape, or form tantamount to wanting to throw the whole thing wide open. That’s a disingenuous strawman which unworthy of a defense.

            @axiomsofdominion

            I’ve literally read dozens of tweets with “abolish ICE” in them.

            Come on. The response writes itself.

            Tobias Funke

          • Nick says:

            How common is the Labor left? I can’t think of anyone with that position, but I’ll admit I didn’t think about it very hard. Would socialists like Nathan Robinson fall in there? I’m not sure I’ve seen anything on immigration from him.

          • Urstoff says:

            Bernie is the main figure of the labor left to my mind, as he called open borders a “Koch brothers conspiracy” to get cheap labor. I think the populist left is much more hostile to immigration than people want to acknowledge.

          • Randy M says:

            I think there’s a lot more diversity than people are giving credit to the issue

            In the immigration debate, sure. In a salary negotiation? Not so much.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Urstoff –

            Yep.

            I remember when being opposed to immigration was largely a leftist position, with pro-immigration policy being suspiciously regarded as a Republican ploy to drive down wages by importing workers.

            I credit South Park with making people think it is a right-wing belief with the exaggerated southern-accent “They terk er jerbs”. Don’t know if that is accurate or not, but it did seem to be the point when it started being colored as a right-wing position.

          • Nornagest says:

            Because one side would accept essentially infinity and the other would accept essentially zero?

            Because both sides have imperfect information about what the other side would actually accept, and giving out that information reduces their leverage.

          • Matt M says:

            Because both sides have imperfect information about what the other side would actually accept, and giving out that information reduces their leverage.

            Is this true though?

            Hasn’t Trump presented the exact immigration plan he wants? Is he withholding information on this?

            And for what it’s worth, while I’m not sure the Democrats have done that, by denouncing and rejecting his plan, they are implicitly stating that they favor the status quo.

            The status quo, nominally, does not include “open borders.” But it does include:

            1. Border security so porous that millions of the world’s poorest people with limited resources seem to be able to bypass it (and not just once – many come and go on a regular basis)

            2. Arrangements where in areas sufficiently under the control of blue tribe politicians, immigration law is almost entirely unenforced

            3. Just about everywhere, government services are available to illegal immigrants

            Calling this state of affairs “open borders” is maybe a bit of an exaggeration… but not much. Especially when the side that often flirts with open borders style rhetoric is the one who favors the status quo over the side that explicitly rejects it.

          • Mark says:

            I’m kind of pro-immgration-restriction left.

            It seems like the parties have been forced into a kind of weird position, marketing wise, at the moment.

            Corbyn, complete eurosceptic, being forced to pretend to like the EU, while the Conservatives are painted as the boo-boo racists.

            If there were an old labour style party that would come out as pro-sensible immigration restrictions, I think they’d mop up.
            (The fact that people asking for immigrants to be assessed on the basis of their qualifications, ability to contribute, was dismissed as absolutely racist, means that I can only assume that the criticisers are aiming for open borders.
            I like the pro-immigrant (open borders) people (personally), but I honestly can’t understand why they are saying what they are saying, with that amount of vehemence, unless it’s basically brainwashing by the corporate mind control elites. )

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Matt M

            Because both sides have imperfect information about what the other side would actually accept, and giving out that information reduces their leverage.

            Is this true though?

            Hasn’t Trump presented the exact immigration plan he wants? Is he withholding information on this?

            You trust that that’s the plan he wants, and not an extreme for negotiation purposes?

            “MY STYLE of deal-making is quite simple and straightforward. I aim very high, and then I just keep pushing and pushing and pushing to get what I’m after.”
            ― Donald J. Trump, Trump: The Art of the Deal

            I think he’d be happy with getting everything or getting nothing, but not with an actual compromise. If a deal fails he can say both that the democrats failed the Dreamers, and signal to his nationalistic base that he’s open to a situation they want (eventual expulsion of the Dreamers). However he doesn’t say that he’s happy with this alternative, even though he would be.

          • Matt M says:

            Wait… if the plan he presented is exaggeratedly extreme (as a negotiation tactic), then that is evidence that he would actually accept a far less extreme plan.

            Which seems to play to my point here, that Trump (and other conservatives) are not, in any way, demanding an all-white ethnostate with zero immigration. Even his “extreme” plan still has plenty of allowed legal immigration, including for nonwhites!

            What is the “extreme plan” Democrats have proposed?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Matt M

            I’m making two separate propositions here: one hypothesis based on Trump’s prior claims on how to negotiate, one belief of mine based on my priors.

            Democrats never claimed to negotiate the way Trump claims to negotiate.

            An extreme plan of the kind you indicate (an “all white ethnostate”) would lose voters immediately, even if it was claimed as an extreme negotiating tactic.

          • unless it’s basically brainwashing by the corporate mind control elites

            Any brainwashing of Bryan Caplan is done by Bryan Caplan.

        • gbdub says:

          The de facto position of the Democrats is “use photogenic / sympathetic immigrants to bludgeon Republicans with charges of racism, while refusing to spend the political capital to actually address the systemic flaws in our immigration laws”. They want to be angry at Republicans for trying to enforce existing laws, without actually having to deal with the problem of coming up with a better set of laws.

          The Republicans have basically the same policy, but their bludgeon involves the opposite extreme of immigrant quality.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Yeah, the Democrats are not going to implement open borders anymore than the GOP is. You might get some more refugees and some token gestures to make it easier for chain migration, and that’s about it.

            The median Democrat voter is best described as “I am not in favor of open borders….but I’m not quite sure why.”

          • Iain says:

            Can you point to a specific systemic flaw that the Democrats refuse to address?

          • gbdub says:

            The “Dreamers” only exist because of previous failures to enforce immigration laws on the parents of “Dreamers”.

            I would say a system of laws that encourages people to violate it, because they know that their children (or themselves) will be sympathetically exempted from it, has some serious flaws.

            And Democrats clearly feel that the system is flawed, otherwise they wouldn’t be so upset when the laws are enforced, and wouldn’t praise cities that go out of their way to make enforcement of the laws more difficult.

            Yet, so far, their actual proposed policy positions are just retroactively applying exemptions to certain favored groups. This is not stable.

            Stake a claim to what level of immigration they are okay with, and what measures they are actually willing to be enacted for enforcement, and how many current violators of immigration law we’re going to officially legalize, and we can have a policy debate.

          • RobJ says:

            I think this is one of those issues where partisan rhetoric has created a big fight where people’s actual positions aren’t nearly so extreme. I mean, I’m sure there is plenty of space between your median democrat and republican on ideal immigration policy, but the rhetoric from both sides is “keep out the non-whites” vs “welcome terrorists” and it makes everyone involved seem really stupid.

          • Iain says:

            Illegal immigration is a hard problem.

            On the one hand: America is a nation of laws, and should have control over who enters the country. If you let illegal immigrants stay, you encourage more in the future.

            On the other hand: the level of deportation you would need to completely deter illegal immigration is untenable, both practically and morally.

            Practically: the budget for ICE and CBP combined was almost $20B in 2016, which was enough for roughly 250K removals. These were disproportionately the easiest, cheapest illegal immigrants to deport: either convicted criminals, or people caught shortly after crossing the border. 99.3% of the removals met at least one of the priority characteristics laid out in this memo. (Not to mention the legal costs of immigration hearings. Nation of laws, remember?) There are roughly 11 million illegal immigrants in the US.

            Morally: the reason that the Democrats keep using sympathetic immigrants as political props is because so many immigrants are so sympathetic. Polls show that 87% of Americans, and 79% of Republicans, want to let people brought to the US illegally as children stay in the country. If the cost of securing the border is deporting pillars of the community who’ve been in America for forty years and donate hundreds of turkeys every Thanksgiving, or people who’ve served two tours in Afghanistan, or this guy, or this guy — well, maybe that’s not a price worth paying.

            Republicans like to focus on the “nation of laws” part, and Democrats like to focus on the photogenic sob stories. The difference, it seems to me, is that one side is more willing to acknowledge the complexity of the situation. Take this Obama speech on immigration, for example. Contrary to the assertions of some people in this conversation, Obama is perfectly willing to talk about and endorse deportations. A few examples:

            Our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it. Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules. Business owners who offer their wages good wages benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America.

            Today we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half.

            First, we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings and speed the return of those who do cross over.

            Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable, especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why over the past six years deportations of criminals are up 80 percent, and that’s why we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security.

            Obama deported a ton of illegal immigrants. Whether he deported more than previous presidents depends on your definition of “deported”, but it’s clear that he didn’t shy away from aggressively defending the border.

            At the same time, Obama tried a variety of things to alleviate the second half of the problem. After the DREAM Act was repeatedly filibustered by the Senate GOP, Obama went with DACA and DAPA. There are a handful of Republicans who’ve been open to this sort of compromise, but the institutional GOP has been completely uninterested. Just yesterday, an attempt to trade off DACA for additional spending on border security was voted down in the Senate after Trump threatened to veto it unless it also cut legal immigration.

            People keep asking: why won’t the Democrats put a number on their amnesty? Or immigration levels? Or enforcement measures? But why is it only the Democrats who are expected to be specific? For years, Republicans have been claiming that “we must secure the border first“. What does that look like? What is the end point? More money is being spent on border security than at any other point in US history: 15 times more than was spent in 1986. The number of illegal immigrants in the US is going down, not up.

            More importantly: why should Democrats trust whatever answer the Republicans give now? The DREAM Act was first introduced in 2001. Spending on CBP and ICE was more than doubled since ICE’s creation in 2002, but no meaningful immigration legislation has been passed this millennium. Only an idiot would think that this time, if Democrats just vote to fund Trump’s wall, the Republicans will definitely be willing to compromise.

            Every recent attempt at a bipartisan immigration bill has been taken down from the right, not the left. The implications of this statement are left as an exercise for the reader.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Gay marriage went from politically impossible to politically required in the span of 20 years. Considering the evolving position of the left on immigration, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if open borders became the official Democratic platform in less time.

        You know how Republicans have always talked about their opposition to illegal immigration but recently have talked about reducing legal immigration as well? One day, you’re going to wake up to the same situation with the left. It’ll turn out their support for borders was one of political pragmatism and nothing more.

    • Well... says:

      I think that the most extreme modern racists have more or less given up on nationalism.
      They tend to be amongst the strongest opponents of strong central government.

      Curious where you got this impression, unless the types of people you think of as “the most extreme modern racists” and the ones I think of do not overlap much. If for convenience’s sake we’re limiting this to white racists, as I imagine we are, then a pretty decent honeypot for the most extreme modern racists is probably The Daily Stormer, where 30 seconds’ perusal shows nationalism alive and well.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      They tend to be amongst the strongest opponents of strong central government.

      You are simply confused because you think the opposition to “strong central government” is ideological and not instrumental.

      The connection between opposition to strong central government and the prototypical white-supremacist (in the US) begins, roughly, with Truman’s first civil rights initiatives. They state opposition to strong central government because the central government is opposing their actual ideological goals.

      They are perfectly happy to have a strong central government enforcing rules against migration (and would favor strong federal prohibition against miscegenation if they could imagine shifting the window that far).

      • quanta413 says:

        I think you’re off by about 100 years. I’d say a strong group overlap between opposition to strong central government and white supremacy exists by the time of John C. Calhoun. Or maybe Thomas Jefferson would be a better person to use as the prototype although I’d say probably not because back then they hoped the problem would go away somehow when the slave trade across the Atlantic ended.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      Genuine racists in the west today number somewhere around the lizardman constant, i.e. too few to actually explain anything. Any significant phenomenon in current western society can be explained better by something other than racism and with far fewer epicycles.

      • Unsaintly says:

        That seems very implausible to me. I am a liberal person living in a very liberal city, and I could name more than a dozen people offhand that I regularly interact with who openly and proudly blame everything on The Blacks, and want to ship them all off back to Africa where they belong and who get visibly and vocally pissed off whenever media depicts an interracial relationship. Granted, this is all anecdotal and could be the result of weird clumping but I would personally rate the probability of racists being around the lizardman constant as very low.

        • Nick says:

          Yeah, I have got to guess weird clumping or something there, because I am a conservative person with lots of more conservative friends and I’ve met approximately one person like that, and he wasn’t even “open and proud” about said view. But then, different worlds and all….

        • Incurian says:

          That sounds bizarre to me. This kind of stuff might make good survey question for next year.

        • Thegnskald says:

          I met far more openly racist (white) people when I lived in liberal areas than when I lived in conservative areas.

          And the interesting thing, to me, is I met the same -sort- of person in conservative areas, but they weren’t racist. They were, instead, offensive in a way that pissed conservatives off.

          I think there is a subset of the population that thrives on shitting on sacred values, and it doesn’t particularly matter what those values are.

          ETA:

          Huh. I wonder if part of the increasing polarization is coming from increasing self-segregation by political beliefs, creating a more unified set of local sacred values, where locals interpret the defectors from as being members of the opposition tribe, or interpret the opposition tribe’s silence on the matter as being tacit support.

          So liberals see racists among themselves, and assume conservatives, who don’t really observe them, are silently supporting their own racists. But the conservatives don’t really have the same kind of racism, because conservatives have different sacred values to offend, and racism is just seen as that quaint attitude that your grandparents never fully got over but did at least eventually mostly stop talking about.

          (Seriously. That is what racism is seen as in the rural south. It is hard to convey exactly how bizarre and out of touch the obsession with racism looks from that perspective; it’s like, that is my grandma, and we know it’s wrong but she’s going to die any day now, so just get on with your life and stop yelling at old people over shit that was normal to them. Young racists are probably satan-worshipping metalheads with shaved heads, they just need some time in the army to straighten them out.)

          • Protagoras says:

            Interesting observation. I have long noted that the SJWs I actually know don’t seem very much like the SJWs conservatives talk about; maybe in line with your theory conservatives are more likely to encounter troll/edgelord SJWs.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Protagoras –

            …ah.

            And the Internet amplifies edgelord trolls.

            So we see the shitty people in our local communities, and we see the shitty people online, and naturally conclude that, yep, the shittiness we see locally is a national problem.

          • Incurian says:

            Reminds me of this essay on Status 451. Some people want to be rebels, some want to embrace the system, but what it means to be a rebel or to embrace the system is different depending on where you grew up, so we get weird results that aren’t in line with the naive left=rebel right=system that we expect.

          • Incurian says:

            Interesting observation. I have long noted that the SJWs I actually know don’t seem very much like the SJWs conservatives talk about; maybe in line with your theory conservatives are more likely to encounter troll/edgelord SJWs.

            Same here. I’ve met several SJW-adjacent people in school, but nothing like the nazis evil SJWs I read about on Reason – and believe me, I’m looking for them. The really high profile evil SJWs stories seem to be mostly about people abusing their positions of power and SJW-influenced policies that sound good on paper but are Kafkaesque in reality. So perhaps it’s not SJWism on a personal level that is the issue, but institutional SJWism.

          • Matt M says:

            The really high profile evil SJWs stories seem to be mostly about people abusing their positions of power. So perhaps it’s not SJWism on a personal level that is the issue, but institutional SJWism.

            Uh… perhaps the difference is that Nazis have to hide and don’t have any power, and SJWs can be open and public and have plenty of power?

          • Incurian says:

            Matt M: Edited for some clarity. Using “nazi” was probably a poor choice there.

          • toastengineer says:

            I think there is a subset of the population that thrives on shitting on sacred values, and it doesn’t particularly matter what those values are.

            I didn’t know this wasn’t common knowledge. That’s one of the things “troll” means!

            I always funny how left-aligned media keep talking about “right-wing trolls” as if they were actually representative of right-wingers even though calling someone a troll in that context means you’re saying they’re only pretending to believe what they believe to get a rise out of you.

          • Nick says:

            I’ve certainly met folks who fit the SJW stereotype/weakman, although not perfectly. Most were college age and all worked (in a hobby way) in the local film scene.

          • Matt M says:

            I always funny how left-aligned media keep talking about “right-wing trolls” as if they were actually representative of right-wingers even though calling someone a troll in that context means you’re saying they’re only pretending to believe what they believe to get a rise out of you.

            I always thought the implication here was more sinister… something like “No sane person could actually believe right wing political theory!” such that dismissing all right wingers as trolls is logical. Because right-wing viewpoints are that obviously stupid, the only possible reason to advocate them is for the purposes of trolling.

          • CatCube says:

            One thing that really jumped out at me was from Barbra Demick’s book Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, was Mrs. Song and her daughter Oak-hee. The book is a non-fiction account drawn from defectors about the Arduous March era.

            Mrs. Song was a housewife, and a loyal supporter of the regime. She generally tried to do her best to obey the law, be a dutiful wife, and do well at her state-assigned job (IIRC, at a clothing factory). She took a long time to even start selling on the side to make money after the famine started, feeling that a good citizen of the regime would avoid such capitalist things. She seemed generally contented with the regime and her life, despite tragedy inflicted upon her by the death of her husband due to starvation (which she apparently didn’t blame the regime for at the time).

            Her daughter Oak-hee was always rebellious and unhappy. She was in an unhappy marriage (though IIRC, her husband was abusive), always tried to buck the system, was a headache to her mother because she needed to be bailed out of trouble periodically, was indiscreet in her criticism of the regime, and eventually defected to South Korea through China.

            After Oak-hee’s defection, she got a message to her mother that she needed help. So her mother, against her better judgement and loyalty to the regime, went to China to try to help her daughter. It turns out that her daughter actually was in South Korea, and tricked her mother into coming to China to get her to defect to South Korea–which she eventually did.

            In the epilogue, Mrs. Song is apparently happy, fitting in well, and has made good use of the money that South Korea gave to defectors. Oak-hee, on the other hand, has spent all of the money (though part of it was paying people to trick her mother into defecting), and is generally disaffected.

            What I took away from this–though I caution people that this is my own interpretation of the main body of the book and the epilogue, and I don’t know if the author intended it– is that some people just will blossom wherever they’re planted, and some people are going to be chafing at the system no matter where they are.

            (One other interesting thing from the book:
            Another person that Ms. Demick follows is Dr. Kim, a female medical doctor from North Korea. With the Olympics going on, you’ll see idiots talk about how North Korea provides free health care to it’s citizens, so at least they’re doing better than the US there!

            However, Dr. Kim states that people bringing patients to her hospital had two bring two empty beer bottles with them, so the doctors would have a container to mix IVs. They generally had no supplies for anything else, except for some medicines that they had from the periodic trips the doctors would make into the woods to pick herbs to make medicine.

            In one of the more memorable anecdotes from the book, Dr. Kim is defecting across the Yalu river, and when she makes it a little ways into China, finds a bowl of rice with meat sitting on the ground. She hasn’t eaten in several days by that point, so she goes into the yard to steal it, when she hears dogs barking, and realizes “dogs in China eat better than doctors in North Korea.”)

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            I think most people using the word “troll” in the modern internet simply don’t know what the original meaning of the word was. (They’re in the majority so they probably don’t care, either, and fair enough I guess.) They’re thinking troll as in Lord of the Rings, not trolling as in fishing.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Matt M

            Yes, that’s exactly what they mean by it sometimes. They often call offering sincere objections being a “devil’s advocate” for the same reason. But then, I worked at Google, a home of the SJWs _Reason_ warned you about.

            I’ve also worked with an old-fashioned racist, but only one (or at least only one who let it be known). And a few people anti-immigration from certain countries (some of whom were immigrants themselves).

          • Matt M says:

            There’s also the simple argument that if you’re on the left, the more you repeat “right wing trolls” such that those two terms become associated with each other, the better.

            Regardless of whether people star to think “all trolls are right wing” OR “all right wingers are trolls” – either way helps you.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @CatCube

            What I took away from this–though I caution people that this is my own interpretation of the main body of the book and the epilogue, and I don’t know if the author intended it– is that some people just will blossom wherever they’re planted, and some people are going to be chafing at the system no matter where they are.

            Psychologically, personality types will have tendencies to certain kinds of behaviors when positively adapted, when stressed, and etc…. If a situation is long term the coping mechanisms most well-adapted to that situation can become ingrained habits. Thus if a person is stressed for many years it can become very difficult for them to act their copacetic nature when circumstances change for the positive.

            It’s important to know that appearing well-adapted to a situation may not actually mean that one is well-adapted (and vice-versa). Some people become really numb to reality as an unhealthy coping mechanism, such that they will adapt to whatever it is that’s expected of them, even if this means seeing horrors through rose-tinted glasses, or committing horrors as “just my job”. I wouldn’t call this sort of reaction “blossoming”, as what it is is an abnegation of responsibility.

            (I’m having difficulty finding the words to explain what I mean here, I hope you understand)

        • quanta413 says:

          Wait… what? I have met literally zero people who oppose miscegenation or rant like that. I mean literally in the literal sense. Not figuratively. I grew up in moderately conservative area and have lived in a liberal area and a more centrist area since then.

          I wouldn’t put racist behavior at lizardmen constant levels though. I knew a few white people who didn’t like Mexicans and a few people who were part Mexican who didn’t like recent Mexican immigrants and so on. But it didn’t come up often. I have years of memories with people but can only think of a few mean comments. I had nonwhite friends in high school who once or twice said things like “I want to go fight in Iraq and shoot a sand n****r.” But even the people I knew who made offhand racist comments didn’t react to depictions of miscegenation or blame everything on X group. It wasn’t core to them, in some cases it didn’t reflect much about their actual feelings at all, and I wouldn’t be surprised as some of them got older if they changed their minds or just kind of forgot.

          • Iain says:

            In a 2011 poll, PPP found that 46% of Mississippi Republicans thought interracial marriage should be illegal.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Iain

            The question was comparing my experience to someone to someone claiming to live in a very liberal city. Obviously I did not personally survey people on their views of miscegenation, but neither did the post I was responding to. I also lived somewhere where the racial fault line was obviously different (you can tell because I talked mostly about racism directed at Mexicans). It’s not about Mississippi Republicans.

            A more relevant and reliable source would have been Gallup. The lowest approval rate (the South) is 83%. I’m from the West where the approval rate is 93%. I believe the lizardman constant is 4%. So even if I had surveyed the people I grew up with (which was biased towards the young who are far more likely to approve), it’s not unreasonable to say I’d be getting unanimous approval minus lizardman constant.

          • Deiseach says:

            46% of Mississippi Republicans thought interracial marriage should be illegal

            Where you pulling that figure from, Iain? From their survey itself, the result is given as below (and this is from the Republican survey only, I don’t see their promised ‘yeah we’ll put up the Democratic answers too’):

            Q24 Do you think that interracial marriage should be
            legal or illegal?
            Legal ……………..54%
            Illegal …………….29%
            Not sure…………. 17%

            Now, IF you add the “yes, illegal” 29% AND the “not sure” 17%, THEN you get 46% but I’m sure you don’t mean that PPP did that, Iain, because that would be dishonest and incorrect? Even though when Googling to try to find the Democrat version of the poll, all the media outlets were parroting the “46% of Mississippi GOP think interracial marriage should be illegal” line, which I am sure PPP never, ever, intended to be the case?

            Anyway, this is PPP and I trust them to be honest, impartial and unbiased as much as I trust fire not to burn me if I stick my hand in it, because I have vague memories of chasing up some other poll result by them that was quoted on here in another context and finding it was massaged, to say the least.

          • Montfort says:

            Deiseach, if you read Iain’s very short comment which you are responding to, you will note that he both provides a link to his (second-hand) source and notes the poll is from 2011, as is the post he links to. Your poll is from 2012, as the eagle-eyed reader will spot at the bottom of every single page after the summary (which has the date in the upper right-hand corner instead). You will also note the absence of questions about Huckabee, Pawlenty, and Bachmann, mentioned in the post Iain links. It is not entirely surprising to me that the numbers between different polls are not the same.

            I think the poll you posted is good evidence that Iain’s result is not necessarily representative of true facts on the ground, and/or that such facts can change relatively quickly. But I think you should spend less time accusing people of making things up or selectively misquoting/misrepresenting them when you are accidentally misrepresenting polls in the very same comment.

          • Deiseach says:

            Your poll is from 2012, as the eagle-eyed reader will spot at the bottom of every single page after the summary (which has the date in the upper right-hand corner instead).

            (1) Their link to the alleged 2011 poll results is broken

            EDIT: Found their 2011 poll, here are the figures they quote:

            Q14 Do you think interracial marriage should be
            legal or illegal?
            Legal ………40%
            Illegal ……..46%
            Not sure …….14%

            (2) Are you really saying racist attitudes either improved or worsened by that great a jump in the space of a year? That is, in 2011 46% of Mississippi Republicans said “Interracial marriage should be illegal” but in 2012 that number reduced to 29%? In which case, what happened those 46-29=17% of formerly racist Republicans – they flipped to being “don’t know”? And if I believe the original claim that “46% of Mississippi Republicans said it should be illegal to just 40% who think it should be legal”, how then did those bad awful people change their minds in the space of one single year to “54% said it should be legal” – a gain of 14%?

            If somebody can figure out how to convert racists to being non-racists at that rate of success in one year, please let us know how they did it!

            EDIT: Based on the above, I really do want an explanation for such a big jump. Going from 40% “it should be legal” to 54% “it should be legal”; 46% “it should be illegal” to 29% “it should be illegal” seems like a huge swing – only 3% of that is a gain by “don’t knows”, so the 14% jumped from “illegal” to “legal”? How? Why? Evil GOP party bigwigs went around and told all their redneck base to say “yes” to inter racial marriage? What happened?

            Most parsimonious explanation: PPP are partisan hacks who massage their ‘data’ to give shock!horror! media attention grabbing results.

          • Deiseach says:

            Addendum to above: it appears also to not be as simple as “old white people are racist”; in the 2011 poll a lot of the 18-29 demographic were against it. Also, it seems some black people were also of the opinion interracial marriage was wrong.

            So there is probably some lizardman constant at work, probably some confused people “wait, what? they want to make interracial marriage illegal? well I don’t know/I guess so”, some “I think it’s wrong but I don’t want to make it illegal” (you know, like the “personally opposed but” in the context of abortion).

            And some I don’t trust PPP methods, so discount that.

            But a 14% jump in approval for no alleged reason (no big court case about interracial marriage, no interracial couple in the news, if I’m wrong please correct me) amongst the same cohort of people using the same methodology in a follow-up a year later? That’s fascinating and I really want to see it explored, and nobody seems to have done so – the media ate up the “46% of Mississippi Republican voters are racists” and left it at that.

          • Montfort says:

            You can make all the points you want about how you don’t believe the survey, I don’t really care. I find the results somewhat unbelievable myself, though I don’t live in or have ties to that area.

            But linking to a different survey, which was obviously a different survey, and calling it not “a different edition of that survey” or “another PPP survey,” but “their survey itself” and casting aspersions as though your link somehow proved someone had lied about the results of the 2011 poll is bullshit.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          This reminds me of an exchange I recently had. It started with a claim of widespread racism in the US. I responded with an account of utter lack of that racism among thousands of my acquaintances in rural Texas. Another responded with similar accounts of racism in Hattiesburg, MS and Dothan, AL. I appreciated the specific locations; it gives me something to check. But I’m not headed to either city any time soon. Does anyone else have data, or similar accounts? Maybe it is a clumping problem. Best I could do was a sprinkling of acquaintances between LA and GA, and little to no apparent racism.

      • toastengineer says:

        Genuine racists in the west today

        Be careful with how you define racist though. I don’t think the stereotypical openly-hates-all-black-people-all-the-time racist was ever all that common. Usually when people talk about racism today they mean “if you apply to get an apartment in Boston you will be accepted 15% less if you have a stereotypically black name.” There’s still a detectable amount of that around.

        • I think that’s an example of the way words get inflated. “Racist” suggests images of lynching, cross burning, and the like, so calling someone a racist is a strong put down, so the definition is weakened to apply to lots of the people you want to put down.

          The 15% lower acceptance rate counts as clearly due to racial prejudice only if you include rational prejudice. I, for example, am prejudiced about height–I expect an adult man, ceteris paribus, to be taller than an adult woman. If I were in a situation hiring people were height was a significant advantage and I couldn’t measure it directly, that prejudice would result in my preferring to hire men–and should. Similarly, if getting rid of a black tenant who doesn’t pay his rent is, on average, harder than getting rid of a white tenant who doesn’t pay his rent, because you will be accused of racial prejudice, it is rational to prefer tenants with white sounding names. Prejudice in one sense, rational behavior in another. “Racism” in only a very watered down sense of the term.

    • Jiro says:

      Personally, I think the best argument for open borders was laid out pretty clearly in the 2004 predictive programming masterpiece The Day After Tomorrow. That is, establish the principle of open borders, make sure that we are in large part Southern-worlders, so that when environmental disaster strikes they’ll let us move in with them.

      That’s like saying that the best argument for allowing banks to be robbed is that if financial disaster strikes, you can always rob a bank.

  24. Stefan Klaus says:

    Hi I wrote this post about (bad) incentives and would like to link it here — https://medium.com/@stefanklaus/rat-problem-3b3564e23195

  25. Was the sexual revolution a good thing?

    In most societies we know of, most women were reluctant to have sexual intercourse outside of marriage, engagement, or the equivalent. One result was that, for most men, marriage was the most practical way of obtaining sex. Over the past seventy years or so that system has broken down, at least in part due to the availability of reliable contraception. On net, are the consequences good or bad?

    The obvious good consequence is a much greater availability of the pleasure of sex for unmarried men and women. A possible good consequence is better marital choices, since people are no longer pushed into marriage by their desire for sex.

    Possible bad consequences include less stable marriages, both because (conjecture) the function of intercourse as producing pair bonds is weaker when the individuals have had intercourse with many partners and because leaving a marriage no longer means being much less able to obtain sex. They may also include an increase in the birth of children to unmarried mothers (the opposite of the effect that legal abortion and better contraception were predicted to produce). One explanation (Akerlof and Yellin) is that women who want children are no longer in a position to insist on a long term commitment in exchange for sex, since they are in competition with other women who want sex but don’t want children–and good contraception lets them separate the two.

    I expect there are other consequences, good and bad, as well. The question I’m putting up for discussion is what they are and what is the sign of the net effect of the change.

    • gbdub says:

      To the extent that the sexual revolution reduced the shaming of adults for engaging in (or even thinking about engaging in) consensual, mutually enjoyable activities, I would say that’s a plus from a libertarian perspective, no?

      • John Schilling says:

        Right, but the sexual revolution also reduced the shaming of adults for engaging in breach of contract, whether explicit (“’till death do us part”) or implicit (“of course I’ll still respect you in the morning”). Since those contracts appear to play an important role in human social interaction and shame was the principle mechanism of enforcement, that’s a negative from the libertarian perspective.

        And yes, I know that ethical polyamorists etc often say that people should be ashamed of breaking such contracts, but when it comes to actually delivering the shame I think the social conservatives were far more effective than the libertines in general.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Does it count as a breach of contract if no one expects anyone else to take the words literally?

          • Anonymous says:

            “No one”.

          • John Schilling says:

            Yeah, we’ve had the discussion here before about how “no one” expects anyone to take marriage vows seriously. Survey says: wrong.

            Breaches of trust involving casual sex are also a real thing, albeit obscured by the insistence in some quarters that all sex is either Positive or Rape.

          • Wrong Species says:

            If people actually thought of marriage in this way, they would treat it a lot differently. The person asking for the divorce would automatically be considered at fault and any split in assets would be heavily against them. As far as I know, the laws don’t do that. “Til death is part” is in there for historical, sentimental reasons, not because we expect someone to be in a loveless marriage to satisfy a contract. If we took off that bit in the wedding vows, do you think people would suddenly change their attitude on divorce?

          • Barely matters says:

            I mean, there exists a sizable proportion of the population who are unpleased with the laws, if not an influential enough group to change them. I’d predict that once the second order effects start being felt, a lot of the rest will follow suit.

            At this point marriage still happens because people take ’til death to us part’ somewhat seriously. As people (Men in this case) realize that the words are actually meaningless, and the only part that is still binding are the legal support obligations, the whole proposition becomes less and less attractive.

            What we’re starting to see now is that women are in a weird situation wherein their reach exceeds their grasp, as they have lost the ability to make a commitment strong enough that they cannot trivially break it.

            I’m sure our resident economists can expound upon what happens in business environments wherein parties know that the other can break contracts with impunity.

            So, serious question: If we take “Til death do us part” out of the vows, which of the remaining parts make the concept worthwhile to you?

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            @Barely matters, I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I got married, I wasn’t thinking of it as some kind of deal that needed a contract.

          • Barely matters says:

            @Harry Maurice Johnston

            I wasn’t thinking of it as some kind of deal that needed a contract.

            Oh yes, likewise. Which is almost word for word what I tell my girlfriend when she starts pushing towards marriage in the first place.

            So I’m asking honestly and non rhetorically here. If marriage isn’t a contract, what is it? Specifically, what benefits does it have over just not doing it and telling all your friends and family that you’re an item?

            Without things like ‘commitment to the long term, even in bad times’ to promote stability in rough patches and provide a stable environment for co raising children, I don’t see a whole lot of value. Further, the hit of asset equalization might be tolerable as a consequence of an unexpected and (ideally) rare breakdown, but to whoever is earning more it’s pure negative. If that shifts from ‘apparent black swan’ to ‘expected eventuality’ it changes the risk matrix significantly. So what are we still gaining here as opposed to technical bachelorhood with long term nonmarriage relationships?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Barely matters

            So what are we still gaining here as opposed to technical bachelorhood with long term nonmarriage relationships?

            Well, yes, if everything is transactional then a contract which mandates ongoing transactions between parties is a negative.

            But we are also beings with feelings and ideals. Accentuating those feelings and living in accord with those ideals provides a payoff too.

          • Aapje says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            That payoff turns into into the reverse if the feelings end and people turn transactional. And they do.

            Of course, you can argue that people emotionally need some romantic illusion, but then why should that romantic illusion be a contract with legal consequences? If anything, such a thing detracts from the romance.

            Why not just have a ceremony where you do a personalized ritual with your family and friends? At least then the thing is truly special.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Why did people swear to the gods? Mingle their blood?

            A sense of security and external permanency can be comforting.

            People are not gooses and ganders. There’s room for all preferences.

          • Barely matters says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            Well yeah, but I can have feelings perfectly well outside of a marriage, and if the words are known to be historical nonsense (As some posters here are saying) then I don’t see what ideals are served by going through with the ceremony and resulting legal entanglement.

            I’m all for making it less transactional, but from this angle it looks like the historical artifacts of the hollowed out institution *are* the transactional parts. I’d be happiest of all if the default was entirely nontransactional: “All property belongs to whoever bought it, either party is free to walk at any time without penalty, thus we know that we are together because we want to be, and we intend to stay this way as long as we both are happy as a unit.” But at that point it doesn’t sound much like marriage as I understand it.

            I’m seriously looking for a solid argument for the merits here because I want to be convinced. This is a recurring stumbling block for me and I’d like to understand what people see in the process that I don’t. Coming around to seeing marriage as a good idea would make my relationships somewhat smoother and more in line with societal norms. Thus far, all I’ve really seen from asking (In this context and others) are extremely vague motions towards feelings, and attacks of status to ‘man up’. So I appreciate anyone who can try to put together a solid defense of marriage in the modern world.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            So I’m asking honestly and non rhetorically here. If marriage isn’t a contract, what is it? Specifically, what benefits does it have over just not doing it and telling all your friends and family that you’re an item?

            It’s traditional; people like ceremony; and it expresses a greater degree of commitment than just living together does. It may be largely symbolic, but symbols matter.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            “All property belongs to whoever bought it,

            This is impossible to account after a while. If it doesn’t become impossible to account, then either one party has no assertive backbone, or you have a relationship I really don’t understand.

            Marriage isn’t for everyone. If it’s not for you, just be honest about it and don’t sweat it.

          • Chalid says:

            If marriage isn’t a contract, what is it? Specifically, what benefits does it have over just not doing it and telling all your friends and family that you’re an item?

            If you aren’t married, and therefore economically linked, each partner has to worry about preserving their own individual “market value” as opposed to thinking about the good of the family unit.

            There are times when one partner or the other needs to sacrifice for the family. If there is no formal legal link between the two of you then this is a big risk for the person who is doing the sacrificing. Think of a woman taking a hit to her career to raise children, for example; it’s much easier for a woman to accept that loss if she knows that she has a right to her husband’s income.

          • Barely matters says:

            Hey, I appreciate you guys taking runs at answering this. Thanks.

            Marriage isn’t for everyone. If it’s not for you, just be honest about it and don’t sweat it.

            Yeah, that’s my default plan unless I come across a really convincing reason that makes it seem like a good idea.

          • Alphonse says:

            @Barely Matters:

            Some thoughts from someone who considered the rationales you listed in some detail, found them to be quite persuasive, but is nonetheless legally married:

            1. Social approval can be important. My spouse and I operate in social circles where unmarried partners living together is frowned upon. My spouse’s family in particular has strong feelings about this (e.g. we stayed in separate rooms, even when engaged, when visiting them).

            Even outside of family / community ties, it’s a helpful signal in general. When I tell a prospective employer that I want to work in “City X” because my spouse has a job lined up there, that carries more weight than if we were not married.

            2. Personal feelings also matter. I don’t particularly care about “marriage” as a legal status (and I occasionally felt sad that we’d be facing a marriage penalty on our federal income taxes, at least before the recent tax reform). My spouse cares quite a bit.

            3. To a degree, the legal ties are part of why the symbolic ties have power. If we could divorce and part ways as easily as if we were only dating, some of that signaling value would be lost. Costly signals express better information.

            4. The financial risks were also minimal for us — we have extremely similar (high) projected earning trajectories as well as similar spending habits. Commingling finances offers substantial risk mitigation without really changing either of our expected personal wealth.

            All that said, my spouse is amazing, and I am very happy to be married. Still, if my partner got hit by a truck in ten years and I met someone new after an appropriate mourning time, I seriously doubt that I would get legally married again, in large measure because of concerns about protecting financial assets.

            I think whether getting married makes sense depends a great deal on balancing the positive aspects in terms of community approval (and personal happiness) with the ensuing financial and personal risks, especially if you’re having kids. In the modern social and legal context, I certainly wouldn’t advocate as a general proposition for everyone (although most of the people I know who are highly accomplished, stable individuals, and dating someone are either married or appear to conceptualize their long-term relationships as moving toward marriage, which is informative to at least some degree).

            I do find the idea that no one really takes the “until death do us part” language seriously to be kind of odd. Obviously neither of us intends to stay in our marriage if circumstances change dramatically, such as the other person becoming abusive, but a significant reason that we got married was because we were expressing a firm commitment to stay together until one of us died. If everyone in our social circles understood that marriage was just “extra serious dating,” I’d have probably pushed the tax-optimization angle a little harder.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Barely Matters

            I didn’t say marriage was nonsense. I said the “tip death do us part” is. It’s a commitment that you can’t just up and leave the person on a whim, which is especially important if you have kids. But that’s a completely different expectation that someone staying married for the rest of their life because of five words.

          • Brad says:

            We need to distinguish between a relationship that does or likely will result in children and one that won’t.

            Here’s a legal philosophy puzzle:
            Suppose there’s an investment banker making $1.5MM a year and a doctor making $350k a year that have a child together out of wedlock. The investment banker has no interest in having anything to do with the child. Why does the court order child support? What and whose interests are being furthered?

            The standard answer is the interests of the child. But nail that down, from society’s point of view even with not one penny from the father, that child isn’t in any need. I would suggest instead that the answer comes from someplace a lot more Conservative. It’s about the state setting out a norm and regulating the behavior of the father. It’s akin to the justification behind the notion of unjust enrichment (which creates a quasi-contract) and is equally if not more about fairness as between the parents as it is about fairness between the father and the child.

            All of which is to say, that you can view the status quo as once there’s a child involved there essentially *is* a marriage and it’s the kind of old school marriage that you can’t get out of no matter what. Albeit only for about 25 years, not until death. Further, there’s no way to prenup or postnup around the terms of this implied marriage.

            So I guess part of the answer to your question is: if there’s going to be kids involved and you are get this quasi-marriage anyway, the zero point from which to analyze marriage vs non-marriage is different from one where you are just lovers living together.

          • John Schilling says:

            But that’s a completely different expectation that someone staying married for the rest of their life because of five words.

            And yet people in essentially every culture on Earth for most of recorded history have chosen to say those words instead of “until the children are grown”. They may not always live up to it, and they may have the foresight to leave an escape option. But there’s a vast demand for strong lifetime commitments, and of course a vast demand for brief, casual liasons. The demand for seven-ish year or “until the children are grown” partnerships is a much more recent and shallow thing.

          • Barely matters says:

            @Alphonse

            Hey, thanks for the detailed take. That helps clarify things a lot. None of those points really apply to me (No intention of having kids, no specific family objections to living in sin, and my partner earns a lot less than I do), but I can see that they could apply to some people. I’ll have to make a point of dating wealthier women in the future.

            @ Wrong Species

            Sorry, I didn’t mean to put words in your mouth there! I was pointing to the ’til death do us part’ bit as my main contention here. I think that asset equalization can make some sense as a resolution to an unexpected and rare failure, but if it’s the anticipated end of the arrangement I think it’s absurd. I can see no reason whatsoever that society should design a body of law that says “People entering into temporary pairings should expect that at the end of each relationship, whichever spouse earns less is entitled to the difference between theirs and their partner’s assets.”. If one is worried that women will be disadvantaged by interrupting their careers to have kids, a norm that women negotiate childcare balance with their partners and choose their actions accordingly seems in all respects better.

            @Brad

            I think lot of the legal theory and philosophy is well above my pay grade, but it sounds like you’ve got a good point that the system doesn’t really behave as one would expect given the surface justification. I’m interested if you have any ideas as to where to look to build a stronger knowledge base here, even though I’m not in much of a position to act on the information or advocate for change either way. Thanks.

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            That may play a role, but I think that the logical consequence of a system where the child support is reduced when the non-caring partner earns little, is that the courts will increase it when that person earns a lot.

            Furthermore, rich people tend to spend a lot on their children, so if the child support is not that high, the children may have to leave their very expensive school and such. The children are generally considered blameless and there is thus a desire to not upset their lives too much.

            So I don’t think that it is necessary for there to have to be a desire to regulate/punish the father*, to explain the child support rules.

            * Although I would argue that it requires an indifference to the father’s needs.

          • Brad says:

            @Barely matters
            I’d love to help but while I could point to a bunch of books about legal philosophy generally, I’m not familiar with anything on the philosophy of family law specifically. This is sort of my own pet theory.

            @Aapje
            American family law is absolutely littered with complex multi-factor tests. An “has become accustomed to” standard could easily have been in there, but it isn’t. Nor are there any attempts on the parts of family law to insure that child support is actually spent in any particular way. Once paid it is the property of the custodial spouse.

            Stepping back, there’s no rule that says that rich parents that aren’t divorced have to spend any particular of money on their children so long as their treatment doesn’t amount to neglect.

            I don’t think it is possible to square American child support doctrines with a premise that it is all and only about the needs of the child(ren).

          • I’m sure our resident economists can expound upon what happens in business environments wherein parties know that the other can break contracts with impunity.

            The classic article applying that to marriage is “Marriage, Divorce, and Quasi Rents; Or, “I Gave Him the Best Years of My Life”” by Lloyd Cohen.

            I have a discussion of the reasons for long term contracts, with the application to marriage, mainly in the context of explaining why the contract has become less long term than it used to be, in Chapter 21 of Price Theory. The relevant discussion starts at the subhead “What and Why Is Marriage?”

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I find Cohen’s argument very interesting, because it seems to explain the changes rather well.

            If female desirability goes down relative to male desirability by age, then women are incentivized to relatively early lock down the man with the best prospects and/or qualities who will have her, by marrying him, as long as marriage is hard to exit. The longer she waits, the more of her most desirable years are lost, like tears in rain, making a long term contract with her a worse deal. Historically, women wedded fairly young.

            With no-fault divorce, this logic has been upended, because now a woman who commits early to an equally desirable husband, is going to have a far more desirable husband some decades hence. So the husband is then incentivized to divorce and ‘trade up’ to a younger woman. So this strategy is disincentivized in an age of easy divorce.

            The best outcome can then theoretically be achieved by judging the potential of men and finding a man that has good prospects, but not so good that he will want a divorce. However, this only works as a strategy when it is possible to judge male potential well, which is probably not the case.

            As I argued as a comment on the Luna post, female desirability as a more casual partner is generally higher than their desirability as someone to have a child with. This enables an alternative strategy where the woman chooses to date relatively casually until male desirability is peaking and only then finds a man to have a child with.

            Of course, this is bounded by the decline in female fertility, which forces women to change their focus to finding a suitable father if they want children, around age 30 or so.

            A consequence of this strategy is that it decreases the incentives for men who are far better prospects for fatherhood than for casual dating, as they lose out on casual relationships with women during their most desirable years.

            It makes sense that these men, who are disproportionately impacted by the societal changes, become upset, not just at the bargain that they are being offering (which consists of giving the best they can offer during their life in return for less than the best that their partner can offer during her life), but also in the mechanism that society has to compensate women when they are divorced after having already spent their desirable years with a man.

            When women only start a family after their most desirable years have passed, such compensation seems unjust if it gets demanded from a man who only entered the relationship when both partners were already bringing the same amount to the table (a balance that will shift in more in favor of the woman over time, so overall she will already be better off).

            PS. It’s rather amazing that no matter what interesting theories I learn about relationships/dating, it pretty much always makes me more sad.

          • Barely matters says:

            @Aapje

            Agreed on all counts, with additional caveats.

            One thing that jumps out at me in this piece and David Friedman’s is the assumption that the nature of the demand for a husband’s services remains constant over the course of a marriage, which clashes with what I’ve observed from peers. With age a woman’s market value declines, but once she has secured children and an obligate bankroll the nature of her demand seems to become focused on the children, frequently leaving the husband as an afterthought or even a nuisance. David Friedman even jokes about this in Price Theory in his phrasing of “the burden of putting up with a husband”.

            As it’s been pointed out,

            There is no reciprocity. Men love women. Women love children. Children love hamsters. Hamsters don’t love anyone; it is quite hopeless

            For the next month or so, I still live in an area where the odds heavily favour women’s power, and the optimal move for women locally seems to be to get married, have a couple kids, divorce after a few years to secure children, cash, and freedom, then then return to the short term liaison market and leverage the lack of need for commitment to pair with with higher status men than their previous husband.

            Secondly, while I agree with the argument that women’s best strategy is generally to lock down an ascendant man at the height of her power, and thus society and family law feel obligated to legally facilitate the process, I feel this argument is self defeating.

            If the woman’s value is expected to decline over time and a man’s is expected to rise, a man should avoid entering into an exclusive and long term contract entirely, unless this is literally his only option (Which seems to have been the point historically). If a man wishes to have children, then the optimal play seems to be to hold out and screen casual partners as young as is legally allowable and ethically conscionable until the moment he is ready (Which also seems to be the theme historically) in order to maximize those ‘best years’. We already know this, but would experience significant pushback if we admitted to pursuing this strategy.

            Women under 35 and most of society seem to be in utter denial about the existence of The Wall, to the point where I’d be an asshole if I even acknowledged it in polite society. I had been under the impression that the idea is to make marriage look more attractive by assuaging male concerns that the sex kitten he is hooking up with now will see her sexual interest dry up not long after the rings are exchanged and degenerate into a nagging harpy. No, it’s cool, that’s a myth. Just buy the ring.

            Arguing that a woman must be entitled to a share of her husband’s income because her ‘best years’ are rare and to be privileged clearly states the expectation of looming decline and makes it impossible to ignore. The whole process only seems to make sense if one does their best not to think about it.

            To Aapje’s PS:
            If my BATNA weren’t “continue dating women decades my junior until I eventually go out in a motorcycle, parachute, or light aircraft collision, ideally well into my 70’s” I’d be sadder for having thought about it too. I think Skimmer’s right and I’m just not marriage material.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            The best outcome can then theoretically be achieved by judging the potential of men and finding a man that has good prospects, but not so good that he will want a divorce.

            The best prospect is to find a man who isn’t judging transactionally. These men exist, so why not go for one of them?

            Women (and men) are better conversational partners as they age. Is that not important to the likes of people on SSC?

          • Barely matters says:

            The best prospect is to find a man who isn’t judging transactionally. These men exist, so why not go for one of them?

            They definitely do, and they’re the ones I’m talking about as the ones who jump in without thinking. I’m just not sold that trying to convince people to enter into binding legal contacts without thinking about them transactionally is respecting their wellbeing.

            This is the kind of bargaining I expect from used car salesmen and shady mortgage brokers who tell you “Don’t worry about it! It’s just 6% and it’ll be rolled right into your monthly payment so you won’t even notice! Don’t think about it, it’s all just legal boilerplate. Just sign here, here, and initial here.”.
            Sorry salesdude, I can do just enough basic math to multiply 6% by a large number and know this is arrangement isn’t in my best interest.

            So sure they exist, but how many of them are there and in which direction is that number moving over time? What do we predict will happen when/if it becomes common knowledge that marriage isn’t necessarily expected to be long term anymore, and likely will cost them dearly? We’re not there yet, but it’s starting.

            As for conversation… one can do that freely with whomever they like anyway, so I’m not sure why it makes sense to sacrifice salary and sexual access for one designated conversation partner.

            Bringing this back around to David Friedman’s original question, the heart of this seems to be that everything that used to be women’s sphere of the marriage duties is now on offer from other sources for free to cheap. I consider my own sexual autonomy and the proceeds from my exorbitant work hours to be more valuable than regular sex and companionship that I can find easily outside of marriage, and domestic services that I can secure from a weekly housekeeping visit. Laundry is a half hour affair, and I own a 30$ slow cooker that can batch inexpensive, healthy, and good tasting meals for a week inside of an hour on sunday.

            So breaking up the cartel of social norms that made sure I was unable to find, if not sex (through prostitutes), and if not companionship (through good friends), *sexual companionship* anywhere but marriage, has significantly undermined women’s bargaining position to anyone but impulse buyers.

            I wonder if the next step is for women to start having to earn like men in order to make themselves financially safe to marry.

          • quanta413 says:

            I wonder if the next step is for women to start having to earn like men in order to make themselves financially safe to marry.

            I disagree with almost everything you’ve said, but yes to this. Men should think carefully before marrying women with much lower earnings potential than themselves. And vice-versa. It’s not a hard rule, but money is a big deal and life is easier if both partners contribute vaguely equally in the long term. Divorce also hurts less if neither partner depends on the others income. How close together the numbers need to be depends on income and each partners desire for money; the person who wants money more will ideally earn more money. The husband spending all his time making money and wife spending all her time raising children (or the reverse) seems like a less stable set up than it would have been when divorce was hard.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Barely matters

            Yeah, okay. The type of person you describe seems like they would be bad husband material anyway. Only women who are looking for a fling (or prostitutes) would be desirous in having sex, or spending time, with such a person. This elides the vast majority of women, just as the man you described is other than the vast majority of men (I think). So yeah, that person shouldn’t get married, and should be honest about what they are.

            It is not just “women’s bargaining position” which is negligible to such a man, it is also that kind of man’s bargaining position which is negligible to most women. But there are enough people around, including deluded younger women and prostitutes, that such a man won’t find it impossible to have flings and friends. Just as there are enough younger men around (~1% of men last I read) who are attracted to much older women, that single senior citizen women won’t find it impossible to have a fling or friend.

            There have always, always been playboys, and the women who find them attractive. Those playboys and those women have almost always been tolerated by society, sometimes even fondly (their behavior is even tolerated by the Christian bible, as long as adultery doesn’t happen). Don’t sweat it. Marriage isn’t for you, at least at this point in your life.

            Many people are actively attracted to an indefinite long-term relationship. This is part of the benefit to them, not a cost.

          • Barely matters says:

            @quanta413

            I disagree with almost everything you’ve said, but yes to this. Men should think carefully before marrying women with much lower earnings potential than themselves.

            It’s cool, I endorse everything you’re saying here. A shift towards the norm being two economically contributing partners rather than an earner and a dependent suits me just fine as well.

            @anonymousskimmer

            I’m interested, but I’m not sure I understand quite who you mean when you say:

            that kind of man’s bargaining position which is negligible to most women

            Did you mean the kind of man who jumps into contracts without thinking of them transactionally, or the description of myself specifically as being of low marriage value? (To which I should preface that it’s absolutely cool if you mean me, I really don’t take it personally). I’m trying to understand which parts you think make a man of lower value to women, such that they would be uninterested in spending time or sleeping with him.

            In my experience, failing to place much value in domestic partnerships hasn’t proven to be much of a hindrance. And credit where it’s due, younger women aren’t bad company, deluded or otherwise.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I meant you. 🙂

            I’d written it up generically before recalling that you were talking about yourself and not a hypothetical person.

          • Barely matters says:

            Fair game!

            I’m inclined to agree that I’m not a very good marriage candidate. We both know I’m a total dirtbag, and I’m pretty open about it with my partners too, but for some reason they seem to want to stick around, move in, and build a life together. So I guess I wish I had as much faith in their ability to make sound choices as you do!

            I think the most likely outcome is that they stick around for 6 or 7 years thinking I’ll eventually cave, before getting frustrated and wandering off complaining that I took the best years of their life. I really wish there were a better way that didn’t involve ‘just give her half your portfolio’.

            Anyway, I appreciate you taking the time to talk candidly here.

          • Aapje says:

            @Barely matters

            I wonder if the next step is for women to start having to earn like men in order to make themselves financially safe to marry.

            I’m working on an effort post for the next CW OT, which will address this, but also how men can improve their prospects in the new situation. Both genders can do things to better fit within the new paradigm.

            @quanta413

            What seems to happen now (at least in America, less so in my country) is that a subset of women go full out for their career, until they decide to have children and then they fairly drastically u-turn into traditionalism/motherhood. This seems optimal for them from a transactional point of view in a low trust situation, if they want to end up with the best man, as women stay independent until it becomes advantageous to have the man provide, while the woman puts much of her effort into her children.

            It does seem extremely shitty for men who are not seen as good prospects in those independent years, because they get to play a role that is mostly as bad as the traditional provider status in how much sacrifices the man has to make and how his needs become subservient to his wife’s and children’s, except with less benefits.

            The downside to women is that this early career-oriented period is often quite shitty for them (as it often was/is quite shitty for men). I think that the u-turn to traditionalism/motherhood can be seen as a mid-life crisis of sorts, similar to how career-oriented men also regularly have a midlife-crisis when they realize that they’ve been doing things that they don’t enjoy.

            Although, the women in my country seem to generally choose a smarter path, where they just optimize to have a fun, casual youth (where they work part-time straight out of college) and then hope to find a provider husband. This means they give up on a harsh competition with other women over the best man, but collectively doing that might be the best solution for them.

            @anonymousskimmer

            The best prospect is to find a man who isn’t judging transactionally. These men exist, so why not go for one of them?

            That is the best solution from a selfish, abusive point of view, yes…if those men actually exist in sufficient numbers and they don’t misjudge guys like Barely matters.

            However, there are a limited number of men that are so foolish and who are good in other ways, especially at the top end and at more advanced age, so this will leave many of the most intelligent/achieving women proclaiming: where did the good men go?

            You also get delusional articles like this, where it’s claimed to all be the fault of men that they shun these almost perfect women and that they are unwilling to put a lot of effort in. No understanding at all that these men have probably seen and/or had to endure the transactional decisions that women made when the odds were in women’s favor and that they are not going to be suckers who don’t take advantage when the winds change. Selfish behavior that takes full advantage of the edge you have, simply doesn’t tend to result in altruistic behavior in others when the tables turn. If the selfish behavior is unintentional/not recognized by the people who are taking advantage, that doesn’t make the other side hurt less, it just makes the backlash a surprise.

            Money quotes from the article:

            “According to Jo Hemmings, a behavioural psychologist and dating coach, there are an estimated seven new women for every man on the dating scene in the 40-55 age group, so availability is clearly a big issue.”

            “‘You’ve got to make the choice to be that one woman in seven. It’s tough but possible.’”

            And the other 6?

            Women (and men) are better conversational partners as they age. Is that not important to the likes of people on SSC?

            My social needs are low and they seem to be lower for the average man than for the average woman.

            It’s actually these delusions about what men should favor (which then just happens to be the things that are actually better for women to provide than men’s actual needs), that result in the misconception that women are providing more to men than they actually are. This in turn legitimizes selfish behavior that prevents equitable deals from happening as much as they could happen.

          • Barely matters says:

            I’m working on an effort post for the next CW OT, which will address this

            Looking forward to it!

        • gbdub says:

          I can certainly see the social value of a good, stable marriage. It’s much harder to see the value of a crappy marriage, that is, an unbreachable contract that both parties would prefer to breach.

          Maybe lifetime unbreachable contracts made by horny teens and 20 somethings are a bad idea?

          • bean says:

            On the other hand, norms against divorce almost certainly contribute to having stable marriages. If both parties go in with the understanding that they have basically no choice but to make this work, they’re a lot more likely to push through the rough spots than people who think that divorce is normal.

          • John Schilling says:

            Maybe lifetime unbreachable contracts made by horny teens and 20 somethings are a bad idea?

            Societies that enforced lifetime unbreachable(*) contracts made by horny teens and 20 somethings, created all the great empires of history. Landed men on the moon. Enacted the civil rights act. And created the prototype of the internet we are having this discussion on. Societies that have decided to dispense with such contracts, brag about achievements that mostly seem to involve how much sex is going on and in what novel permutations. And elect multiply-divorced presidents.

            Maybe tearing down that fence was a bad idea.

            * Modulo adultery, abuse, and abandonment

          • quanta413 says:

            I’d say we’d got some accomplishments since 1970.R

            Those accomplishments almost entirely belong to countries with “old” marriage norms by western standards (mostly China and India, but other places too) and not to the rich high divorce societies (U.S., Europe) on other continents.

          • Brad says:

            Not entirely. Those poverty reductions are largely a result of trade. It would not have happened without no-fault divorce societies’ cooperation and wealth. The growth of which has been substantial since 1970.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Societies that enforced lifetime unbreachable(*) contracts made by horny teens and 20 somethings, created all the great empires of history.

            Didn’t both Rome and the early Islamic caliphate have easy divorce, at least for men?

          • johan_larson says:

            Societies that enforced lifetime unbreachable(*) contracts made by horny teens and 20 somethings, created all the great empires of history.

            That’s a overstatement. The Romans had divorce, and quite a bit of it, sometimes purely for personal advantage. The Islamic Empire at its height had divorce which was famously easy to initiate for men. So did the Han Chinese, although there you needed reasons, but one of them was not getting along with relatives, which is a hole you can sail a junk through.

          • quanta413 says:

            Obviously, this whole thing is silly.

            But the no-fault divorce countries had similar growth rates before and after no-fault divorce.

            Clearly, the correct argument for no-fault divorce civilizations is that no-fault divorce is how we beat the communists.

          • John Schilling says:

            Not entirely. Those poverty reductions are largely a result of trade. It would not have happened without no-fault divorce societies’ cooperation and wealth.

            If China’s contribution to China not being massively poor any more was to go and make about twenty trillion dollars worth of useful stuff, of sufficient quality that Western consumers are willing to buy it but at a fraction of the price, and the Western contribution was to buy all the stuff they were going to buy anyway but buy it cheaper from China, then I think we’re on reasonably solid ground on giving 90% of the credit to the people who don’t have an ethic of no-fault divorce.

            As for Rome and the Islamic Caliphate, the existence of dowry as a hefty security deposit made divorce rather less than “easy” for anyone who wasn’t filthy stinking rich. Of course, most of the stories that are fun/interesting to read are the ones about the filthy stinking rich people (who are divorcing their starter wives to marry an even richer bride), so there’s a bit of reporting bias there.

          • Brad says:

            http://newyork.china-consulate.org/eng/lsqz/laws/t42222.htm

            Divorce shall be granted if mediation fails because mutual affection no long exists.

            Divorce shall be granted if mediation fails under any of the following circumstances:

            (5)any other circumstances causing alienation of mutual affection.

            I guess all progress stopped in 2003, and since then the only thing China has to be proud of is the novel permutations of sexual partners that its people engage in.

          • quanta413 says:

            Obviously there’s a time lag. As the Chinese divorce rate increases and their divorce laws become less strict, they too will eventually be able to defeat the largest and most powerful communist nation as the U.S. once did…

            Am I doing this right?

            EDIT: My extremely crude estimate for 2014, would be that the U.S. divorce rate is something like 3/7 and the Chinese one is about 2/10 from this data. So China’s got to double their divorce rate to attain true greatness. But I could be off an order of magnitude here.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @John Schilling

            We’ve replaced the dowry with the divorce court, but the risk is still there.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @bean

            they’re a lot more likely to push through the rough spots than people who think that divorce is normal.

            And it’s important to recognize that the life-skills such adaptations provide are a positive, and often even a necessity, outside of the marriage itself.

        • BBA says:

          I remain skeptical of the view that no-fault divorce was a fundamental change to the nature of marriage. Before no-fault, it was increasingly common to divorce on fictitious grounds – i.e., a contrived “extramarital affair” with both spouses’ knowledge, arranged so one could catch the other in the act and file for divorce on grounds of adultery. The primary argument for no-fault was that if this was going to happen anyway, the legal system might as well recognize what was really going on and end these elaborate farces.

          To me the bigger change, from a legal perspective at least, was the abolition of coverture.

          • John Schilling says:

            The important change is cultural rather than legal, with divorce becoming a thing that people aren’t ashamed of or shamed for. But that’s not a thing that you can point to a date on a calendar and say “this is when it happened”. In a democracy, at least, you can point to the passage of legislation reflecting the cultural change and saying “this is probably sort of in the middle of when it was happening”.

            Two more relevant data points would be the TV sitcoms Maude (1972) and One Day at a Time (1975), both of which were considered somewhat controversial at the time for featuring divorced women as protagonists but which became reliable top-10 ratings winners. Prior to that, the reality series Divorce Court (1957-1969) was based largely on identifying and shaming the villainous spouse of the pair.

    • SamChevre says:

      I’d say the sexual revolution was definitely a bad thing; it accomplished very few of the stated goals while damaging a lot of useful institutions. I think the previous systems did a better job of getting more people to make choices that they were more satisfied long-term.

      I’m not sure, though, that it was as revolutionary as it is portrayed; the post-WW2 era was a remarkably non-promiscuous time, not typical of 1700-1950.

    • Well... says:

      Sounds like an interesting paper abstract.

    • Anonymous says:

      Overwhelmingly negative from what I can see. Satan almost certainly involved.

    • Aapje says:

      @DavidFriedman

      I think that you are making a mistake by always comparing marriage to non-marriage, rather than being single to being in a long term relationship (LTR). Changing norms means that many people now live in an LTR that is identical to marriage relationships in most ways, especially when it comes to sex.

      Post-sexual revolution ‘unmarried’ is a different group to pre-revolution ‘unmarried.’ Unfortunately, many studies compare married to unmarried, where it would make more sense to either compare single to those in an LTR or to separate out three groups: single, married LTR or unmarried LTR.

      The obvious good consequence is a much greater availability of the pleasure of sex for unmarried men and women.

      On average, yes. However, I suspect that some groups actually became worse off.

      This is the trade-off of meritocracy/free trade/etc in general: it enables those who have certain qualities to really leverage those to great effect, but it also means that those who lack those qualities are more prone to be out-competed. So you tend to get more extreme difference between what people get in life, unless this is countered. For the job market, you can do various kinds of wealth redistribution for those who have a problem competing. We can’t/shouldn’t redistribute actual coitus, but I do think that we are now doing a partial redistribution of the sex experience in the form of porn.

      Furthermore, along with the sexual revolution we also normalized the use of sex toys for women, which gave women part of the pleasure of sex without having to find a man to assist. In general, the sexual revolution benefited people who have trouble attracting a sex partner by removing the ban on and by improving the experience of masturbation.

      because leaving a marriage no longer means being much less able to obtain sex.

      I’m pretty sure that this not the case for many men who comment here. If you are bad at wooing and/or don’t have traits that make wooing easy (like superior looks or extroversion), then obtaining sex outside of an LTR is much harder.

      In general, studies find that truly single people (not those who are cohabitating) are the least satisfied with their sex life. I also expect a strong disparity among truly single people, with a relatively small percentage of ‘players’ and a relatively large percentage of people who have sex very infrequently or not at all. People in an LTR probably tend to have far less deviation from the average.

      I expect there are other consequences, good and bad, as well. The question I’m putting up for discussion is what they are and what is the sign of the net effect of the change.

      Is this a sensible question? The sexual revolution was pretty much inevitable when fairly reliable birth control was developed & birth control was a huge boon. Medical advances resulted in far more pregnancies ending with a living mother & child and more children living a long life, so birth control was crucial to prevent a Malthusian scenario.

      • SamChevre says:

        I think we may be thinking of different things when talking about the “sexual revolution.” Here’s my thinking:

        Contraception was widely available, and widely used, by 1950; all those families with four children, the youngest of whom was born when the wife was under 30, are good evidence for its widespread use and effectiveness. What didn’t exist was a form of contraception that (1) enabled delayed child-bearing (2) was highly reliable (3)did not require attention shortly before intercourse. (The three common forms as far as I can tell were condoms, diaphragms, and surgical sterilization.)

        What changed between 1960 and 1975 was mostly about marriage norms and single motherhood. What it led to was marriages that were happier on average, but many fewer of them–with the remainder being replaced by various weaker forms of commitment or not replaced. So there are many more (something like 10x as many) children growing up with only one parent, and the average adult is much less likely to have a stable relationship that they can plan around long-term. I don’t see the general upside. Yes, there were some terrible, unhappy, abusive marriages; there are still terrible, unhappy, abusive relationships–they just aren’t marriages. Marriage used to be sufficiently important that people put up with a lot; now they leave, and generally end up just about as unhappy as if they’d stayed.

        • Aapje says:

          Presumably, a bunch of people abusive/unpleasant people now only make themselves unhappy, rather than a spouse & child.

          I don’t know if the upsides outweigh the downsides. It’s an apples to oranges comparison.

          • SamChevre says:

            That’s an assumption I disagree with: I think now in most cases they make their girlfriend unhappy, rather than their wife.

          • Aapje says:

            This Gallup survey shows that the decline in marriage is not compensated by an increase in cohabitation for young people. It goes entirely into people who live alone.

            For somewhat older people, 30-39, their data shows that about 2/3rds of drop in marriage can be attributed to cohabitation increasing and 1/3rd to more people living alone. So there we also have more people living alone.

          • SamChevre says:

            And my guess–just a guess with no data–is that the 30-39 year olds living alone are no more likely to be unpleasant than the ones who are cohabiting. So whatever proportion of people were unpleasant partners then, 2/3 of them are still partnered, 1/3 aren’t. But, on the flip side, the pleasant ones aren’t making a partner happy.

          • Aapje says:

            I would be very surprised indeed if the single people did not have a higher rate of less desirable traits, because that would mean that there is no agreement at all by those who select a partner on what traits are desirable.

            That seems rather obviously false. Pretty people are more desirable on the whole. Higher earning men are more desirable. Women who don’t yet have children are more desirable. People who aren’t mean drunks are more desirable. Etc.

            Desirability would only fail to reflect the chance of being in a relationship if the more desirable would increase their demands for a partner at least as much as their own desirability, but, while we expect some increase, such a strong correlation seems unlikely.

      • onyomi says:

        I sort of agree but would say that living with a partner today, while sort of like an old-fashioned marriage in some ways, nevertheless implies a much lower level of commitment than marriage did then and does now.

        I’m also not sure that contraception makes social acceptance of premarital sex inevitable, but it sure makes it a lot harder to avoid in the absence of widely shared, strong, probably religious values. For example, I know a few conservative couples who supposedly waited until marriage and got married quite young by today’s standards, and it mostly seems to have worked out pretty well for them. It is not impossible to imagine a world in which their values are the norm rather than the exception, though it probably implies a lot of other big social changes to imagine it working.

        • Aapje says:

          I sort of agree but would say that living with a partner today, while sort of like an old-fashioned marriage in some ways, nevertheless implies a much lower level of commitment than marriage did then and does now.

          Sure, but that still means that cohabitation and marriage of today are far more similar to each other than to being single. Marriage is harder to exit, but primarily because people tend to marry when they want children and it’s the presence of children that really makes divorce difficult. Unmarried people who have children and split up also have that difficulty.

          For example, I know a few conservative couples who supposedly waited until marriage and got married quite young by today’s standards, and it mostly seems to have worked out pretty well for them. It is not impossible to imagine a world in which their values are the norm rather than the exception, though it probably implies a lot of other big social changes to imagine it working.

          I just wrote a bit elsewhere on the problem with unrealistic expectations.

          I do agree that it is plausible that far more people would decide to marry young with a more realistic world view. On the other hand, young people are not known for being very realistic/wise & in much of history, society had to be quite forceful to get the vast majority of young people to conform.

          You will always have a group of youths who are so desirable that they are the winners in a very sexually permissive society & these are automatically going to have the strongest influence on youth culture (because the same traits that make people want to have sex with them, also makes people want to be friends with them).

          Arguably, we should be telling many people: with your face & other traits, you better have low expectations and marry ASAP to another person with low desirability. Holding out for Christiano Ronaldo/Miranda Kerr is just going to mean that you will end up with a choice from a smaller and smaller pool, who are not going to be better than what you can pick now.

        • SamChevre says:

          living with a partner today…implies a much lower level of commitment than marriage did then

          I’d add that even marriage today implies a lower commitment to stability than marriage did then; it probably implies a higher commitment to faithfulness, though. (Anecdata; talking to people who were married in the 1950s, it seems that a fair number of spouses of both genders were more likely to tolerate an affair by their spouse than is the case now.)

          • Aapje says:

            Sure, but that higher commitment was often not based on making an attempt at an objective decision, but a consequence of a societal taboo on separation. So this could mean that people would often stick with relationships that overall were negative sum, which is not good.

            In the modern environment, people do try to make that decision based a mix of the overall impact (which is why many stay together when the children are young, despite wanting to separate) and the impact to themselves, which in itself seems the most reasonable way to operate.

            The issue is more that there is a lack of good information, as well as the harmful influence of (temporary) emotion & infatuations, causing bad decisions to be made. However, bad decisions are made in both directions, so it’s not a given that going back to the earlier model would reduce the error rates.

      • dndnrsn says:

        @Aapje

        I’m pretty sure that this not the case for many men who comment here. If you are bad at wooing and/or don’t have traits that make wooing easy (like superior looks or extroversion), then obtaining sex outside of an LTR is much harder.

        Much harder than what?

        I’d also point out that what an LTR is has changed. Once upon a time, the expectation might be marriage, or at least, engagement. Now you go out on three or four dates, text in between, and bam, people file that under “LTR” in their heads.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        In general, the sexual revolution benefited people who have trouble attracting a sex partner by removing the ban on and by improving the experience of masturbation.

        Dunno about that. The impression I get is that lots of young men have difficulty attracting a partner because all the women are sleeping with a small amount of very promiscuous, very attractive men. Presumably in a society where sex was only accepted inside marriage, we’d expect a much larger proportion to get regular sex, because each person would only be having sex with one partner* and so we wouldn’t get the phenomenon of a small number of people enjoying almost all the sexual partners.

        * Leaving aside affairs, prostitution, etc., for simplicity’s sake.

        • dndnrsn says:

          How do you get this impression? There’s a decent number of middle-attractiveness guys who do well with women, or well enough. They might not be constantly picking up women in bars, or whatever. The high-percentile-attractiveness-etc guys are not taking all the women; there’s still plenty of women for guys who are in the middle range, for LTRs or casual sex or whatever. There is no phenomenon of a small number of guys getting almost all the women – that’s a gross exaggeration.

          The guys at the top get more sexual partners than the guys below them, usually, but this isn’t a new thing. In traditional patriarchal societies of the sort where there’s polygyny, rich old men do take a huge share of the women, leaving guys at the bottom with nothing. This isn’t a creation of the sexual revolution; it’s better today for Joe Schmoe than it has been in a lot of societies.

          I think the issue is more a combination of, overall, messaging that one’s worth is heavily tied to one’s ability to attract partners (esp. for men), and on the one hand, messaging to women leading them to believe they have all the time in the world (it’s become moderately taboo to recognize that women’s fertility declines earlier and more than men’s) and on the other hand, various different forms of messaging to young men that leave them rather clueless as to what women are actually attracted to.

          Anecdata: Back when I was doing online dating, I didn’t have a hard time getting dates or relationships; I could have been having more sex if I’d wanted to, probably. Either I’m very attractive (flattering, but probably incorrect) or your impression is incorrect.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            My impression is based on statistics showing that on dating websites the top 5% or so of men get something like 80% of messages. Granted, that might not reflect the situation in face-to-face interactions, but I still suspect that most men would get more sex if they paired off with a wife than under the current situation.

            I don’t think polygamous societies are really relevant here; if we’re asking “Was the sexual revolution a good thing, on balance?” the relevant comparison would surely be the western world just before the sexual revolution (i.e., the 1950s), not ancient Egypt or wherever.

          • dndnrsn says:

            But is getting messages the measurement? Getting one’s messages returned, setting up dates, getting future dates/having casual sex/whatever seems to be the measurement.

            There’s a difference between “I can’t get any dates because those blasted chads are taking all the women” and “I am not so hot that women throw themselves at me.”

            Was getting a girlfriend or wife easier for unattractive, uncharming, etc guys in the 50s than it is now? Because the Redpill/adjacent narrative in which the sexual revolution let the most attractive guys have sex with all the women, who then no longer want relationships or whatever with average guys – I don’t think that’s accurate. Life has never been a picnic for below-average people, but a guy who’s average is not frozen out of the ability to find a woman roughly in his league by the hottest guys.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I think what’s going on isn’t that the most attractive men are getting all the women, or even all the fairly attractive women. This might be happening in some social circles.

            What might be going on is that the least attractive 10% or 20% of men (guessing at the numbers) have no chance at attracting any woman, or see themselves in that situation.

          • Aapje says:

            Not even just the least attractive, but also those with bad social skills.

            Ultimately, men usually have to woo, which is more difficult than to be wooed.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I was including skill at wooing as part of being attractive.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Something I’ve been thinking about, is that the sexual revolution “stalled” – we’re in a weird twilight zone between what the utopians in the 60s wanted, and what existed before that.

      What the most utopian utopians appear to have wanted was true sexual freedom – informed consent for everyone, no jealousy, free love, etc. The lesser version of this focused on informed consent and not being hung up about sex – people should be able to talk about it, it should be initiated through mutual consent instead of one party (in a male-female pairing, almost always the man) escalating things under the assumption that the absence of no is a yes.

      The situation now is one where people are more willing to have sex than they were prior to the middle 20th century. More willing to have sex within a relationship, and outside of a relationship. However, communicating clearly about it has not increased to the same level. The script is still that the guy initiates. Many people – male and female – think that seeking affirmative consent, etc, is weird. A lot of people don’t seem happy with the current way things are.

      Whether what the utopians wanted is possible is an open question. It might be impossible, for reasons biological, it might be so hard to change due to social reasons to be effectively impossible, or some combination.

      Caveat: the degree to which the sexual revolution made premarital sex more common is sometimes overstated – but it was less common in the past than it is today. Antibiotics reduced the effects of disease, the increasing availability of the pill reduced the risk of pregnancy, and society changed along with that. Anyone who tells you that people were having sex in the same patterns then as they were today is full of crap. Not the case. However, anybody who says that people were chaste before the pill showed up are full of crap too.

      • Thegnskald says:

        My impression of the early sexual revolution is that many/most of the people involved didn’t think anybody would say no – that is, they thought the only reason people weren’t having sex with anybody who wanted to have sex with them was weird cultural hang-ups about sex.

        The structure of modern consent looks like an ad-hoc fix on top of that system, rather than something that was built into it from the beginning

        ETA:

        Thinking about it, this attitude has been half-universalized. There are a lot of people out there who think not wanting to have sex with someone is an aggressive attitude, a denial of their humanity (like at least a subset of the earlier free love people, it is like refusing to shake someone’s hand). But it has become distorted and contextualized, so that it is only aggressive under specific circumstances.

        • Matt M says:

          Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, we have school dances where people are not allowed to decline requests to dance, because of inclusivity and hurt feelings.

          I keep wondering how strong individualist feminism can coincide with the general collectivist-minded left-wing narrative. How far away are we from “everyone belongs to everyone else” ala Brave New World?

          • Thegnskald says:

            The identitarian left is slowly shattering as these kinds of issues become more and more prominent.

            Like the idea that it is wrong and bigoted not to have sex with trans people.

            At a certain point, I just want to sit back and watch. It is fascinating.

        • dndnrsn says:

          @Thegnskald

          That was a thing; you are correct. One of the complaints in second-wave feminism past a certain point was about a sort of what I guess today we’d call “woke misogyny” in the peace-and-free-love circles. I might be reading more recent sex-positive attitudes back in time.

          • Thegnskald says:

            It is an interesting perspective; what if they are right? What if social attitudes towards sex are the only reason people say “No”?

            It is kind of a moot point, I guess, as even if it is the case, I don’t see it changing anytime soon. Certainly I have little interest in adopting those kinds of sexual mores; social interaction is oppressive enough without adding that much expected work on top of it.

          • dndnrsn says:

            If sex was as consequence-free as shaking hands usually is, it could become like shaking hands. You’re not going to shake someone’s hand if you really don’t like them, or if they’re covered in sewage, or whatever. For various reasons, I think this is unlikely.

          • One way of looking at the question is to start by asking why intercourse is superior to masturbation, given that the latter option is conveniently available without all the search costs and potential problems of the former.

            I think one part of the answer is that someone’s willingness to sleep with you signals something good about you. Another part is that sexual intercourse has emotional concomitants–“make love” is both a euphemism and an exaggerated description of a real phenomenon. Both of those are reasons why having intercourse with anyone who wants it doesn’t work.

        • dndnrsn says:

          @Thegnskald

          This got me thinking more, and I think you have something here. “Free love” in all its permutations generally seems to benefit men, or at least some men, more than women. The men who are complaining in today’s system are, by and large, the men who aren’t getting laid. The guys who are getting laid seem pretty happy; there’s maybe a tinge of fear for some of them that wasn’t there before, but that’s a recent development. In comparison, women unhappy with the current system vary widely in their specifics and complaints.

          What if affirmative consent, all that, is just an attempt to make more female-friendly a system that disadvantages women, at least sexually? The old way of doing things was extremely stifling for women in multiple ways, not just sexually. If the push for affirmative consent, the thinkpieces where women complain that their hookups were disrespectful and unkind, all that, is trying to put brakes on a sexual system that advantages men, or some men, over women…

          Let’s put it another way: what if instead of stopping to slut-shame women, society had started slut-shaming men?

          • Matt M says:

            In comparison, women unhappy with the current system vary widely in their specifics and complaints.

            Do they? I thought they all map pretty reasonably to “Men want more sex and less commitment than I would prefer”

          • Thegnskald says:

            I have a little trouble with this, because an environment in which men aren’t slut-shamed is kind of alien to me.

            This may get back to the “I grew up in a rural, conservative area”, but the few men who slept around were not well thought-of.

            And this still seems to be the case; society still seems to frown pretty heavily on men sleeping around. We don’t call them sluts, exactly, but the negative affect is still there.

            The weird thing is that everybody seems to think that everybody else likes men for sleeping around. Maybe this is still a bubble thing? But the closest thing I actually see to approving of men sleeping around is virgin-shaming, which is more like “There is a societal ideal for the amount of sex a man has and the number of partners he has had that is greater than X and less than Y”, where the equivalent Y for women is lower. Which I guess could look like society being more restrictive of women’s sexuality, if the only direction of restrictiveness you care about is viewing the upper limit of acceptability.

            But going back to the bubble thing – in which the conservative culture I grew up in frowned on male promiscuity – I have a vague “Aha” building in my head about one of the culture clashes: Maybe cosmopolitan culture is, in fact, accepting of male promiscuity.

            Maybe this is like the “racism” thing above. Maybe cosmopolitan culture is sexist in this way.

            In which case, the even more restrictive mores in rural culture would look worse – if you are only looking at the sexism your own culture engages in. Because they are more restrictive of women’s sexuality – but, and this is, I think the critical thing that is missed, they are also restrictive of men’s sexuality.

          • Matt M says:

            We don’t call them sluts, exactly, but the negative affect is still there.

            “fuckboi” is not exactly a term of endearment

            The weird thing is that everybody seems to think that everybody else likes men for sleeping around.

            I think men gain status by demonstrating that they are capable of sleeping with high-status women as often as they’d like (and of course, the surest way to demonstrate capability of something is to actually do it). Guys who get a lot of sex by approaching low status women, getting them drunk, and never calling back are not thought of very well – no. But, as you point out, these guys still enjoy significantly more status than virgins…

          • Randy M says:

            I do think young men who sleep around get respect for it from their non-religious peers, at least, in ways young women do not. I think older men (say, >30) have some disdain for their peers who continue to act juvenile. In no case, of course, is unintentional virtue respected in this sphere.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Leaving aside complaints concerning harassment and assault, which concern behaviour that is either criminal or at a minimum extremely sketchy (the guy who looks for drunk girls who wouldn’t say yes if they were sober may or may not be breaking the law depending on the jurisdiction, but he is 100% a shitty person) there tend to be a few different streams.

            There’s the one you mention. That one is tied up with what DavidFriedman mentioned above: a woman holding out for commitment of some sort is in a considerably worse bargaining position, so to speak, than she used to be. It’s a bad situation, and I feel sympathy, in the same way I feel sympathy for people who lost manufacturing jobs due to labour being cheaper elsewhere.

            There’s “the guys I have casual sex with are jerks” – not a claim of assault, but a claim that the guys are disrespectful, not hugely concerned with consent, don’t particularly care about the woman’s pleasure, etc. There’s something here – a lot of men are like that (I think it’s an inevitable result of “# of women bedded” being the main measurement of masculinity for many men today – say that five times fast) but it’s a complaint I don’t have a great deal of sympathy for – because the obvious solution is to only have sex with people after you’ve gotten a gauge on their character. Which, of course, generally means not having casual sex, or at least not having sex with people you don’t know. It’s also a complaint that’s rather clueless about the fact that the major way to stop these guys being shitty is to stop having sex with shitty guys. They’re not gonna change out of the goodness of their hearts. Boycotts work.

            There’s “I’m out of my 20s; where did all the guys go?!?” too but that one’s not really about sex.

          • dndnrsn says:

            With regard to social judgment of men who sleep around: there’s always been some judgment of cads, but it’s never been to the same degree as judgment of promiscuous women, and it’s of a different kind.

            People might disapprove of a guy who sleeps with a lot of women, but they’re judging him for something he does. In contrast, the judgment of a promiscuous woman is that she is letting something be done to her too easily. It casts her in the position of a morally disreputable victim, somewhat pathetic.

          • Nornagest says:

            “fuckboi” is not exactly a term of endearment

            I thought that meant “guy you’re sleeping with but whom you don’t respect”, not “guy who sleeps around a lot”? Sort of the equivalent of calling your girlfriend “my bitch”, but without the class connotations.

          • Matt M says:

            I thought that meant “guy you’re sleeping with but whom you don’t respect”, not “guy who sleeps around a lot”? Sort of the equivalent of calling your girlfriend “my bitch”, but without the class connotations.

            I always thought it was a bit of a combination. It’s a guy you’re sleeping with but don’t expect to be in a relationship with – often because he sleeps around and you don’t think he has any intention of wanting a relationship with you.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            In re slut-shaming men:

            https://www.reddit.com/r/Fantasy/comments/7vhldu/she_wrote_it_but_revisiting_joanna_russ_how_to/?limit=500

            Among other things, this is about romance not getting respect as a genre, presumably because it’s something women like. I’m not arguing with the claim, but it may be relevant that porn gets even less respect.

            I recommend the initial essay, though what I read of the comments didn’t seem to add a tremendous amount.

            Looking into the history of what art gets respect and what doesn’t, and how it shifts, is probably worth some time.

            My tentative theory is that anything people really like, especially if it’s relatively new, will be despised.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            That seems like one of these standard victim narratives based on cherry picked evidence to support a preconceived narrative.

            Right now, fiction is mainly read by women and seems the most respected genre, while non-fiction, which is more often read by men, is not seen as ‘high culture.’ SF is even more male-dominated and probably gets the least respect. It seems practically impossible for a SF novel to win a ‘normal’ literature reward. The more female fantasy & YA genre seems to get more respect (Harry Potter & Game of Thrones, for example, get broad recognition).

            Also, parts of that narrative are just maddening in their lack of empathy with men:

            Perhaps the most common interaction I have had with female authors (and gay male authors) of a certain age is how to get their male partners to “let” them write.

            Let me guess, the partner is actually earning real money, while the writer is not (the statistics suggest that most authors earn very little). In that case, is the partner wrong to regard the writing as a hobby that does not excuse the writer from making a contribution to the household that is somewhat on par with the money that the partner brings in?

            Not only does the writer not answer this question, she doesn’t even ask it, which I consider strong evidence of anti-male bias. There is no attempt to see the situation from the other perspective. It’s just: men have obligations, women have rights. That is not equality, that is a demand for benevolent sexism.

            PS. Also, the sexism is offensive: “Yet, we’re all human and we live in this culture where it’s still okay to insult female-for-female gaze.” Apparently, women may write things that men may not. Bye, bye, equality of opportunity.

            PS2. On second thought, this is probably not why you posted that link, but it pissed me off 🙂

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Aapje, there are at least a couple of possible scenarios for the having time/permission to write issue.

            One is the writer wanting to not do much for the household.

            Another is the non-writer demanding the writer’s attention whenever the writer seems to be settling down to write.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            What if affirmative consent, all that, is just an attempt to make more female-friendly a system that disadvantages women, at least sexually? The old way of doing things was extremely stifling for women in multiple ways, not just sexually. If the push for affirmative consent, the thinkpieces where women complain that their hookups were disrespectful and unkind, all that, is trying to put brakes on a sexual system that advantages men, or some men, over women…

            I think it completes the Victorian Reversal, as I like to call it. Women are now allowed to be as slutty as they want, but guys still have to be perfect gentlemen. So yeah, it’s trying to advantage women.

          • quaelegit says:

            @Aapje

            Sorry this got really long. Summary — you’re claims about which genres are respected do not match my experience/impressions (which I elaborate below). Can you explain/elaborate your thought?

            >Right now, fiction is mainly read by women and seems the most respected genre, while non-fiction, which is more often read by men, is not seen as ‘high culture.’ SF is even more male-dominated and probably gets the least respect.

            How are you measuring/judging respect? I’m not sure what a good way is that lets us compare, but my impression is that non-fiction and sci-fi get MORE respect than other types of fiction (romance? mystery? YA? not sure what clear other genres people point to). Obviously these are broad and heterogeneous categories but when I try to think of “central” examples [sorry these are probably all UK/American]:

            “Serious Literature” that wins the Pullitzer or Nobel or whatever prize — I think Donna Tart is in this category but I don’t read Serous Literatute so can’t name any other living authors (some older ones would be the ones my English Major friends write papers on — James Joyce, Henry James, Daphne Du Maurier off the top of my head). These ones obviously get a lot of respect, they’re the focus of the academy. I think you also age into this category — Dickens was probably not in this category when he was published (if Serious Literature was even a thing in the sense I’m thinking of back then) but I think he is now?

            — Non fiction — I’m thinking John McPhee and Eric Larson b/c they’ve been recommended to me, but its obviously a large and heterogeneous category. I can’t think of any examples that wouldn’t get respect though, at least from the general public (historians/anthropologists/most other academics might look down on you for reading Jared Diamond but the average reader will think you’r smart).

            — Sci Fi and Fantasy — at the “high respect” end you get really prestigious authors, like I think George RR Martin and John Scalzi get a lot of respect and the average person would judge you well for reading their books. At the low end there’s “pulp”, but I’m only familiar with that as a historical term and don’t know who modern “pulp” authors are. Authors that I’ve been mildly embarrassed to read include Eric Flint — mostly because the writing style feels unpolished to me and my friends and family are tired of me talking about the Thirty Years War 😛

            — Mystery and thrillers? Well Dan Brown gets no respect, but I think some others do — definitely Stephen King does (and Amazon puts his stuff in “Mystery and Suspense”.) I don’t think people would judge you negatively for reading James Patterson or Sue Grafton on the train? Also DEFINITELY a category were authors can age into respect — Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie are definitely respected these days.

            Romance — I read so little romance that I’m not sure what a good non-central example is. I don’t think anyone judged me for reading Outlander, but that much more SciFi/Historical Fiction/Adventure than maybe the typical romance? plus a guy might catch more flak for it (too bad, its a fun book).

            YA — definitely you’d get the least respect reading these as an adult. (Which is an attitude I’d like to push back on but I’m trying to describe what I observe not what I want.) I think YA romance most of all, although hard to disentangle that from the Internet Phenomenon of Twilight.

            ==========

            Also, to the extent that respect is influenced by popularity, sci fi and fantasy are The Most Popular going by box office and movie adaption attention. Even if I’m not sure how marvel fits in, Star Wars, Star Trek, Game of Thrones, etc. are some of the most talked about media right now. And in books — hard for me to measure because I read a lot of SF&F and talk to people about what I read — but internet discussions are definitely dominated by SF&F — again GoT, Brandon Sanderson, John Scalzi, …)

            ======================

            I’m sure what I’ve described is heavily American-skewed, so if opinions are drastically different in Europe let me know 😛 (Also heavily book and nerd-skewed, b/c I get these impressions from talking to book-reading friends and the Books subreddit, but I’m not sure how to disentangle that — why should readers care what non-readers think about books? How can they even have coherent or useful opinions separate from copying readers’ opinions?)

          • dndnrsn says:

            @AnonYEMous

            And yet, that isn’t what’s happening. While there certainly is a school of thought that would like for women to be able to do whatever they want without risk of hurt feelings, let alone actual risk… It isn’t the case. Nowhere near. The message the actual men of the variety who do the feelings-hurting, and of the variety that do the actual assaulting, are getting, seems to be more “don’t get caught” than “this is how to behave.”

            Is there even a norm right now?

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            Yet the writer doesn’t distinguish between reasons or notes that there can be any legitimate reasons at all. There is merely a demand that the man should be “in charge of the dishwasher, dogs, and kids” aka the entire household.

            I fundamentally believe that only a demand for quid-pro-quo can be reasonable and there is zero indication that this is desired.

            I also have trouble believing that in modern times so many men would be so demanding. Given the rest of her piece, my assumption is that the unreasonableness is at her end.

            @quaelegit

            I was using the standard of looking at the top end of the categories. Obviously any category is going to have a lot of disrespected books.

            The top end of fiction get respect as Art. The top end of fiction gets respect as a technical job well done, with perhaps an exception here and there that is considered Art. But most of the top tier non-fiction seems to garner less respect and less enduring fame.

            Anyway, this is just my impression. My point was mainly that I just don’t see some patriarchal system where all the works written by women or more often read by women get far less respect, while the works written by men or read more by men are all more respected.

            I see a persecution complex, not reason.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “However, Russ uses an example that rings modern. Marie Curie’s biographer, her daughter Eve, wrote how Marie and Pierre did their scientific work, but Marie also did the cleaning, shopping, cooking, and child care. Perhaps the most common interaction I have had with female authors (and gay male authors) of a certain age is how to get their male partners to “let” them write. How exactly, Krista, do you convince your husband to let you have uninterrupted writing time, whereby he is in charge of the dishwasher, dogs, and kids?

            It is such a fundamentally frustrating question because it has come from all kinds of writers. From twitter fandom theory writers to multi-published Big 5 authors, and boils down to, “How do you get your husband to respect your writing time?” It’s a question I have always been unable to properly answer, as I don’t know how to get one’s husband to respect you, your passions, and your pursuits.”

            Aapje, here’s a chunk of the text.

            Note that the author says things have gotten better on this front. Also note that the issue seems to have existed no matter whether the writing was bringing in money.

            I somewhat misremembered it– I thought the issue was more like wife starts to write, husband says “Come watch television with me”, but that wasn’t it.

            Do you believe that the partner who brings in less money shouldn’t be allowed to have any immersive hobbies?

            If the woman does bring in more money (this isn’t the default, but it isn’t rare either) should her husband be willing to guard her writing time?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            ““in charge of the dishwasher, dogs, and kids” aka the entire household.”

            I think the idea was that the husband should be the go-to person while the wife has her writing time, but not all the time.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            What is frustrating to me is that a key part of ‘patriarchy’ is the idea that men have a primary duty to earn the household income, which effectively means that men are pressured into sacrificing more pleasant career choices or more pleasant number of hours spent at their job.

            Her complaint that there are expectations on women to run the household is the other side of the gender norms coin: the way in which women are or were pressured to do what the gender norm considers to be the duty of their gender.

            Ultimately, it doesn’t work when no one earns an income and when no one does the work to run the household, so some sacrifice is needed. In just about every relationship there is going to be an adversarial component, where each person wants the other to sacrifice more and they themselves want to sacrifice less.

            This can result in conflict. There is no obvious reason why we should assume that the balance that is favored by the man is closer to reasonable than what is favored by the woman, or vice versa. It’s especially unreasonable to assume that there is no validity to what the man favors at all.

            Of course, in feminism, it is often taken as axiomatic that what the man favors is less reasonable and that the societally favored balance disfavors women on the whole. However, I reject treating these as axioms.

  26. onyomi says:

    Relevant to the “crypto postmortem,” Gavin Andresen (one of the early bitcoin developers) on why many early adopters of bitcoin aren’t as wealthy as you’d expect.

    I’m interested in thinking about the question in a more general way–a “why it’s always harder than it seems to strike it rich” curve. I describe it as a “curve” in part because of my own experience making a decent amount of money in crypto, yet also not becoming fabulously wealthy, despite having been interested in bitcoin earlyish-on (though I did not yet know about LessWrong back then)–and this experience felt to me sort of like chasing a curve that accelerated roughly in time with my willingness and ability to do so (maybe this is totally obvious and 101-level for people who study e.g. entrepreneurship, but it threw it into sharper relief for me).

    The curve you had to stay ahead of to accumulate large sums of bitcoin at a low price seems to have been something like this:
    2009: just use your cpu or know somebody into bitcoin
    2010-2011: buy a fancy graphics card or buy some bitcoin off someone who mined them or knew a guy
    2012-present: need a specialized miner (ASIC), can also start buying on line with fiat, but not super easy and increasingly expensive…and so on.

    In other words, there’s a curve of knowledge and willingness/ability to invest time/energy/money you have to stay ahead of to really strike it rich; what defines the curve is the fact that when the opportunity is really cheap, you have to do a lot of work to understand and take advantage of it, and, to some extent, be lucky just to even know it exists (and of course choose correctly among the many possible next-big-things that exist at any given time). The less work needed to get in on the idea, the more favorably-positioned, economically, you need to be, to take advantage of it in a big way (as e.g. Peter Thiel is trying to do recently, to the tune of hundreds of millions).

    I would guess there is a similar curve with most stories of crazy success, like:
    ground floor of Facebook: be Mark Zuckerberg or be classmates at Harvard with Mark Zuckerberg
    2nd floor of Facebook: have the money and foresight to be an early investor in Facebook
    3rd floor of Facebook: be lucky or insightful enough to start working at Facebook in early days
    4th floor of Facebook: be the person who happened to serve coffee at Facebook in the early days…

    At each stage there are a few people who are just really lucky, but also many who are probably kicking themselves (“Mark asked me if I wanted to help him with his new social website thing and I thought it was silly!”). In fact, even cases that make you want to kick yourself in retrospect for passing up “easy money” really demanded you be well ahead of the curve in knowledge and/or resources to exploit it… and then, as Gavin mentions, it’s always hard to get fabulous returns while simultaneously taking a low-risk approach: the prudent approach to seeing your magic internet money skyrocket in value is to turn a chunk of it into something less volatile each time it does that… yet doing so may prevent you riding that particular rocket to the moon.

    As for my own personal, future calibration take-away: it’s always harder than it seems to strike it rich, and going all-in on very speculative ideas is still probably a bad idea; however, the big opportunities almost by definition come at a time when you see something others don’t see yet, but which you think they can’t miss, given enough time. When you do see such a thing, it’s worth overcoming the trivial inconvenience to make a significant (but not more than you can afford to lose) investment. Of course, this kind of thinking also caused me to buy a bunch of gold and silver as inflation hedges years ago and that one hasn’t worked out so well, but in the alternate universe where gold and silver took off and bitcoin went to 0 I’d be kicking myself for wasting time and money on bitcoin, so I can’t say I’m that annoyed at past-me.

    Any other thoughts on better calibrating ability to see and take advantage of next-big-things in a responsible way?

  27. Odovacer says:

    Amy Chua of World on Fire and Tiger Mom fame has a new book coming out soon. Political Tribes: Group Instict and the Fate of Nations. It sounds like something up SSC’s alley:

    Humans are tribal. We need to belong to groups. In many parts of the world, the group identities that matter most – the ones that people will kill and die for – are ethnic, religious, sectarian, or clan-based. But because America tends to see the world in terms of nation-states engaged in great ideological battles – Capitalism vs. Communism, Democracy vs. Authoritarianism, the “Free World” vs. the “Axis of Evil” – we are often spectacularly blind to the power of tribal politics. Time and again this blindness has undermined American foreign policy.

    In the Vietnam War, viewing the conflict through Cold War blinders, we never saw that most of Vietnam’s “capitalists” were members of the hated Chinese minority. Every pro-free-market move we made helped turn the Vietnamese people against us. In Iraq, we were stunningly dismissive of the hatred between that country’s Sunnis and Shias. If we want to get our foreign policy right – so as to not be perpetually caught off guard and fighting unwinnable wars – the United States has to come to grips with political tribalism abroad.

    Just as Washington’s foreign policy establishment has been blind to the power of tribal politics outside the country, so too have American political elites been oblivious to the group identities that matter most to ordinary Americans – and that are tearing the United States apart. As the stunning rise of Donald Trump laid bare, identity politics have seized both the American left and right in an especially dangerous, racially inflected way. In America today, every group feels threatened: whites and blacks, Latinos and Asians, men and women, liberals and conservatives, and so on. There is a pervasive sense of collective persecution and discrimination. On the left, this has given rise to increasingly radical and exclusionary rhetoric of privilege and cultural appropriation. On the right, it has fueled a disturbing rise in xenophobia and white nationalism.

    The only review I can find requires registration. Hopefully there will be more in the near future.

    • Aapje says:

      so too have American political elites been oblivious to the group identities that matter most to ordinary Americans

      I would argue that many have a tendency to ignore how their political desires are heavily shaped by what helps them personally, rather than society as a whole. The result is that they see opposition to their political beliefs not merely as a clash of interests, but as a clash between altruism and selfishness or even as a clash between good and evil.

      The result is that compromise becomes unconscionable, because a positive sum compromise is deemed impossible. So any concession is seen as leading to a worse overall outcome with no redeeming qualities.

      This becomes especially potent with identity politics based on an oppressor/oppressed dichotomy, because it rules out the possibility of a win-win scenario. The theory is that the oppressors have been fully in charge, so they already have got everything they could get through political means, while the oppressed had practically no power, so they have nothing beyond what the oppressors didn’t care about or couldn’t avoid granting them. Such a belief rules out making a deal where both groups come out ahead, since the oppressed have nothing to offer to the oppressors. So the oppressors must give up part of what they have with nothing in return.

      Of course, most people in the group(s) that are called oppressors tend to not agree with this and see it as a straight up attack on their well-being. This is especially true for the ‘oppressors’ who have are not especially well off. These people tend to get especially angry when they see people from the oppressed groups with far better prospects than them get aid based on their skin color or gender. To them, it is racism/sexism to judge a person to be in need of help merely for their skin color or gender, rather than need.

      Identity politics based on race, gender and such also makes for fairly immutable groups, which harms empathy and sympathy. If I grow up poor and with poor people around me, I or people I know who are poor may become better off and thereby gain an understanding of middle class life. If I grow up black and with black people around me, neither I or them are going to stop being black. So it is easier for poor people to have empathy and sympathy with the middle class or vice versa, than for black people to have empathy and sympathy with white people or vice versa.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Humans are tribal. We need to belong to groups.

      God damnit, can’t people just make the legitimate claim that many people crave group belonging, and leave it at that. Why must it always be an absolute?!

      Are there any studies that actually look at the strength and prevalence of the group-belonging instincts in people?

      • Alphonse says:

        Because “Humans are typically tribal. Most of us feel a need to belong to groups” isn’t nearly as good writing? Quality of writing tends to be an important consideration when publishing a book.

        I think the normal way to read that sentence is not as an absolutist statement (“every human that has ever lived has felt a strong compulsion to belong to a group”) but as a firm statement about the vast majority of humans.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          But is it true of the vast majority of humans, or only of those who are most noticeable?

          • Alphonse says:

            Not the criticism you made previously, which is what I was responding to.

            That said, I think there’s pretty good evidence that the vast majority of people prefer to have social ties to other humans. The idea of “friends” is usually viewed positively. I expect the book would cover the topic though, and I don’t personally care enough about the issue to desire debating it any detail.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Second paragraph of my original response.

            But do “social ties” equate to “group belonging” in a tribal sense (which is the sense Amy Chua is using it – “ethnic, religious, sectarian, or clan-based.”) for most people? Or is this only the loud ones?

            How many of the so-called tribe merely feel intimidated into going along (or don’t even realize that they’re part of the tribe), and would welcome a less ‘tribal’ connection to their neighbors?

            Fair enough that you don’t want to debate this, it is my hill to die on, not yours.

  28. James says:

    As one of the most vociferous ‘I would never go to yoga just to meet women’ voices in that thread a few weeks ago, I’d just like to let you all know that I’m making plans to go to a yoga class next week, and, erm, not solely because of my abiding interest in yoga. What changed? I got invited by an attractive woman. I’m not sure whether she’s into me; if she is, the upside is clear, but even if she isn’t, being there with her helps me over that ‘who is this weirdo outsider trying to infiltrate our ranks?’ hump.

    What, did you think I had principles or something?

    • Aapje says:

      That seems fundamentally different, since you are not treating yoga as a way to meet girls, but rather, you accepted an invitation to hang out with a woman you like, where that invitation just happens to be to a female-dominated activity.

      If you are more or just as likely to go to a male-dominated activity that you are just as interested in as yoga, after being invited to it by a an attractive woman, then you are not in any way unprincipled.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      There are no principles in a fox hole!

    • Matt M says:

      I got invited by an attractive woman. I’m not sure whether she’s into me

      Either she’s really into you or you’re already ridiculously friendzoned and have no chance. I suggest making a move quickly. After Yoga, ask her out on a real date and make sure to use the phrase “go out” to eliminate any ambiguity.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Honestly, I suspect any girl who invites me to Yoga does not have me in the Friendzone, but in the Gay BFF zone.

        • Matt M says:

          How is that not the same zone?

          Friendzone = she does not see you as a sexual being and never will

          • Vermillion says:

            Gayzone = she knows you’re a sexual being and really wants to watch you makeout with your boyfriend.

          • Aapje says:

            Supposedly, women who watch porn relatively often watch gay porn (anecdotal evidence, though). This is interesting because men are regularly chastised for fetishizing lesbians.

            Alternatively, one could imagine it to be a benefit to heterosexual women to have a man to study without the danger/tension/necessary boundaries/etc caused by having the man be heterosexual.

      • James says:

        It’s a funny situation.

        I overstated it slightly by saying ‘invited’. It’s more that I expressed interest in coming along and she was enthusiastic about it. Also, she’s up for coming back to my place (very nearby) afterwards ‘for tea’. (Maybe this is the British equivalent of going back to one’s apartment ‘for coffee’.)

        We made the yoga plans when we were out having a couple of drinks last night, which wasn’t officially demarcated as a ‘date’ but in the event did feel quite date-y.

        She knows I like her, because I kissed her when we were hanging out a year ago. Although there were some indicators of interest before this, in retrospect I think it was a bit clumsy and premature, and it didn’t lead to anything then. But she seems more open and flirty again now. So I can’t quite tell.

        Using ‘go out’ is a good idea.

        We shall see.

        • Matt M says:

          It’s more that I expressed interest in coming along and she was enthusiastic about it. Also, she’s up for coming back to my place (very nearby) afterwards ‘for tea’.

          Congrats on the imminent sexy times you’re about to have.

        • gbdub says:

          Yes this does not sound “funny” at all. She is into you (especially given your past mutual history). At the very least, I would say she’s putting out enough signals that you should have no qualms about making a (respectful) move on her.

          • James says:

            Only funny insofar as I’d previously written it off since my previous advance was declined. But I guess things change–maybe her situation has changed, or it just took her a while to come around and realise what a hunk I am, or whatever. But yes, I agree that the signs are good.

          • Incurian says:

            Hope for the best, prepare for the worst (which is that you have a nice friend to do yoga with and maybe she introduces you to other nice friends in the future).

      • Orpheus says:

        Not necessarily. When I started going to yoga, I invited basically everyone I knew to go with me at one time or another, regardless of whether I was romantically interested or not. Although I am a guy, so the situation may not be exactly analogous.

  29. Vincent Soderberg says:

    Question to yall: I’m high functioning autistic. I’ve heard a bit about Sulforaphane potentially being useful as a way to lessen Autism symptoms. I’ve tried to read the original study, but i just kinda get. bleh, when reading studies.

    I think this is the original study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4217462/

    Apparently this one is a follow up study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5672987/

    I’m really bad at reading studies. What I’m wondering is: are these studies good? If it does indeed work as an autism treatment, does it work for both low-functioning and high functioning autistism? Or just the former? If they do work, is the cost-benefits worth it? And lastly, is there some way to actually use the findings?

    • Aapje says:

      The second study is not independent of the former, but is merely a follow-up for the same experiment. As such, we only really have a single experiment, which automatically should make us wary of trusting the outcome too much, even though the average improvement seems substantial. 2/3 of the participants continued who got the actual treatment decided to continue using it, which shows that the majority thinks that the cost/benefit is worth it.

      There were relatively few participants, mostly adolescents, with moderate to severe autism. So these are presumably not high functioning or in any case, we cannot say that the treatment will work for high functioning autism.

      The second paper notes that 5 more studies are being done, inspired by this one. One of these should already have been finished and presumably the wait is for the paper. The others will take more time, where the results probably don’t become available before 2019. None of these seem to look at the effect on people with high functioning autism.

      There are no known adverse effects of taking sulforaphane supplements and they are low toxicity. They also seem to be pretty commonly used already, with no reports of serious issues. So I would judge the risks to be fairly low.

      Supplements with sulforaphane are commercially available (as ‘broccoli sprouts extract’), so you should have access to these supplements. However, the paper notes that they tested commercial supplements and found that some supplements have the precursor to sulforaphane instead, the biologically inactive glucoraphanin. They advised the participants of the study about which commercial supplements they could use, that did have sufficient sulforaphane.

      If you want to try the supplements, you could try contacting the people who did the study and ask them which supplements they recommend and at what dose. If so, I would explicitly state that you are going to take the supplements anyway, even if they don’t help you, which should put them in the position where helping you is the most ethical choice.

      Finally, sulforaphane is heat-sensitive and reactive, so store the supplements somewhere cool and keep the lid on the bottle.

      • Vincent Soderberg says:

        Thanks. I’ll work on my depression as thats the best thing i can do for now. I’ll probably look into the other studies in june.

        (ps i’ve read the comments for a while and your comments/thoughts strike me as reasonable, considerate, and overall high quality. 1+)

  30. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’ve heard that when sane people (reporters, people doing experiments) go into mental institutions as inmates, the fellow inmates recognize them as sane, and the psychiatrists never do. Is this at all true?

  31. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’m not making the source public, I’m just sharing this because I want it seen by people who I expect to be as horrified as I am.

    “I read the article and I get the point. However, as a healthcare researcher I think there are valid reasons for using this definition because it is simple and easy to apply. If you are making a comparison then what’s critical is using the same definition for all of your groupings and if we are arguing whether this case or that case counts then it is difficult to get that consistency.”

    • Thegnskald says:

      I think I need a little more context to know what I am supposed to be horrified by.

    • SamChevre says:

      Sounds normal to me. In many cases, we have the choice between (1) a “good” definition that we would find hard to get data to make, or that would be ambiguous some of the time and (2) an “OK” definition that we can easily get all the time, and is unambiguous, but wrong some part of the time.

      Almost every time, we use the consistent, easy to get definition because it’s consistent. (Birth certificate sex prior to concerns about falsified birth certificates rather than measured testosterone levels, self-identified race when dealing with race rather than DNA-based.)

      • gbdub says:

        Consistent definitions are fine, and critical to research. The problem comes when the label you apply to a definition, stripped of the specific context of the research, is misleading to the public.

        And we shouldn’t fool ourselves that this is always unintentional.

        Let’s say I’m doing research on criminal behavior by amputees. I have a category for “theft of property by persons missing one or both upper limbs”. I probably should not call this “unarmed robbery” in my press release.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        In this case, it’s about very few events and there’s public information about them. It’s not so hard to clean things up.

    • The Nybbler says:

      However, as a healthcare researcher I think there are valid reasons for using this definition because it is simple and easy to apply.

      Like the drunk looking for his car keys under the lamp-post (though he did not drop them there) because that’s where he can see?

  32. Thegnskald says:

    Random thought:

    The Doors song “People Are Strange” has the line “Women seem wicked / When you’re unwanted”.

    I was unaware this was not a strictly modern phenomenon. Color me amused.

  33. Paul Brinkley says:

    Something LadyJane just said in the “Even More Search Terms” thread gave me an excuse to start a new subthread here:

    The constant use of rationalist jargon can make discussions inaccessible to non-rationalists. Often unnecessarily so, since a lot of rationalist terminology is basically just reinventing the wheel anyway.

    A while back (a year or so, I think?), I asked if there was interest in an SSC jargon file. Glossary. Dictionary. Something like that. The point is to give newcomers a shortcut to learning terms like “Moloch” or “red tribe” or even terms from other fields used a lot here, like “utility monster”. ISTR I got a little interest.

    I haven’t done a whole lot with that project, but I’ve done some – every so often, I comb an SSC thread for terms that look likely, and add them to a list. It’s of decent size now: roughly 40 terms, despite my being rather picky. Maybe it’s time to push that string a little more.

    One blocker is deciding where best to host it. I could put it in an OT and link back to it every so often; I could finally get around to making a Reddit account and post it there; I could put it on wikia, and deal with ad spam; twist my arm (would probably take a lot), and I register a new site. None of these sounds ideal. I don’t know of a good answer.

    Then there’s the matter of content. I’d prefer public write access to fill it faster, but I’d also prefer quality in the first seed of terms. Meanwhile, I probably need more terms. Which sounds like the perfect time for LadyJane and anyone else to propose terms to add.

    Thoughts?

    • Matt M says:

      Part of the fun of posting here was learning the jargon, slowly, through contextual cues.

      Simply reading a glossary would be, like, cheating!!!

    • toastengineer says:

      The “motte & bailey” is one that comes up a lot that people get confused about. A surprisingly large number of people don’t know what a “strawman” is, let alone a “steelman.” “Ideological turing test,” “priors,” “attractor,” “statistical predictor,” “affective death spiral,” “halo effect,” “cognitive bias” (remember most people define “bias” as the set racism/sexism/etc… are in,) maybe explain set theory a little bit…

      • quaelegit says:

        As someone who has read SSC a fair bit and LW not at all, some of these don’t show up on SSC much — specifically “attractor” and “affective death spiral” (I actually don’t know what the latter means… will look it up). So if we’re being picky and/or SSC-specific those might not warrant including.

        The rest are great suggestions though!

        • toastengineer says:

          I definitely remember people mentioning attractors vs. categories. I wish people talked about affective death spirals etc… more, the “how societies fail” stuff was the best part of the Sequences.

    • Thegnskald says:

      HEY SCOTT… oh wait, yelling doesn’t work that way on the Internet.

      Engre musta Loca
      Tabularon veris contora
      Belial grovinshe Moloch
      Scott Alexander, I summon thee!

      Could we get a glossary page hosted here and linked somewhere at the top of the page, assuming somebody else compiles it for you?

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Yes that would be good. Not just phrases as toast engineer lists, but also acronyms. I have been reading SSC for several years, but it seems pretty frequent that I see an exchange with many people using acronyms or abbreviations that I just don’t get. I remember this happened with “incel.” I don’t remember how I finally figured out it meant involuntary celibate, but everyone commenting seemed to get it. So yes a glossary would be great, and a method of adding new ones too.

    • Incurian says:

      The LW Jargon File might be a good start.

  34. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/02/what-color-tennis-ball-green-yellow/523521/

    The question of whether a tennis ball is yellow or green can be surprisingly fraught, but there may be a correlation with what color a person thinks The Dress is. Survey fodder?

    Discussion: https://www.metafilter.com/172437/And-dont-even-get-me-started-on-alligators#7321583

    • Thegnskald says:

      Freaking heretics. It is obviously yellow, albeit with the slightest tinge of green.

      • quaelegit says:

        The color of a tennis ball is so obviously green to me…

        However, stepping back a bit and comparing to, say, yellow highlighters, I’m going to guess this is an artifact of how I learned color groupings.

        (Also I like Nornagest’s answer.)

    • Nornagest says:

      I’m gonna go with “chartreuse”.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Neon yellow. Or generationally, dayglo yellow.

      Or possibly tennis-ball colored, considering nothing else (with the exception of small areas of black light posters) is the same color.

    • S_J says:

      According to one web-site, a tennis ball has the color 0xC6ED2C. But that notation only makes sense to people who use RGB values in that format…

      I don’t know quite what to call it, though my initial reaction is yellow. Against some backgrounds, it looks green.

      It’s close to a color that I’ve seen used on safety-vests. It is less common than blaze-orange for such uses. I’ve noticed that approximately-tennis-ball-color vests are more visible under low-light conditions than blaze-orange. Thus, that color is favored by bicyclists and joggers for twilight/night-time conditions.

  35. rahien.din says:

    Question folks: drunkposting SSC via iPhone? I know not if this is kosher and require consultation. At current time: half past Pilsner whoch**** my phone tried to correct to Plantagenet*** two hands required to hold a biscuit (American biscuit, Deiseach, it’s a savory baked perfection the likes of are only constructed in the American South*, baby). Please advise. I shall abide by your recommendations, which I await with bated breath and scant presumed decorum, ah, iambic’lly.

    Cheers!

    * This is the true-est definition of “biscuit” I’ll fight you
    *** Iswearit’strue**
    ** Out of order I acknowledge this is have a daiquiri
    **** Left the “whoch” in, ‘tis greater accuracy for your Bayesian updates notthatyouneeded’em*****
    ***** Still out of order, said the cactus person. Eternal love, saith the cactus person******
    ****** There are only cactus persons

    • Well... says:

      *looks at own drink and spits out contents of mouth*

      • toastengineer says:

        I’d do the “gazes at bottle for a moment and then pours it out” thing except it’d mess up my floor.

    • Incurian says:

      Maybe IRC or discord would be a more prudent option.

    • Protagoras says:

      This is mildly amusing, but I’m guessing that another Plantagenet or two and it will cease to be so. As a result, I’d recommend no more.

      • rahien.din says:

        If’n I wring a “mildly amusing” out of Protagoras (despite having substituted “saith” for the vastly more prosodic “spake”) I consider this an evening well-spent and whiskey well-drunk. As the saying goes, un Plantagenet dans la main vaut deux dans le brousse.

    • beleester says:

      Question folks: drunkposting SSC via iPhone?

      That’s not actually a question, or even a sentence, but I’d say the answer is “no.”