THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 97.75

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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606 Responses to Open Thread 97.75

  1. bean says:

    Naval Gazing looks at the early battlecruisers this week.

    • bean says:

      Also, a reminder that I’m looking at doing a print version of the Jutland posts with good maps and pictures. However, this is only going to happen if I see enough people who seem willing to buy, and I haven’t seen that yet. An electronic version may be available (haven’t decided yet).

    • gbdub says:

      Have there been (m)any battles where the outcome was largely decided by differences in design between opposing ships of roughly similar theoretical class? What if we exclude differences in fire control?

      In general it seems like most of the major sea battles were decided less by the design choices of the opposing naval architects, and more by factors like “overwhelming numbers”, “blind luck”, or “superior gunnery/seamanship”.

      Please prove me wrong so I don’t feel like my interest in the intricacies of ship design is pointless.

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        Ship design does matter, to a certain degree.

        One example that comes to my mind is the difference between British carriers on the one hand and American/Japanese carriers on the other. The British intended to operate theirs in European waters, so close to land based aviation at all times. They armored their flight decks, accepting that it meant a much smaller total load of planes. The Japanese and Americans, on the other hand, built their carriers for greater range and greater striking power for the vast distances of the Pacific, and their carriers were consequentially more easily damaged and sunk.

        In the closing months of the war, when the British finally sent large naval units into the Pacific, their carriers took much lighter losses from kamikazes off Okinawa than the US did. As one USN officer put it, “When a kamikaze hits a US carrier, it’s six months repair at Pearl. In a Limey carrier, it’s ‘Sweepers, man your brooms’.”

        • bean says:

          Yes, but look at how many American and how many British carriers got hit. We were running something like 4x the carriers, and took the same number of hits in the last ~3 months of the war. This was primarily because of the greater number of fighters the American carriers could carry. Ultimately, the Americans got carrier operation right, and the British, for a whole host of reasons, got it wrong. But yes, US carriers, even the early ones, were significantly more effective per ton/per unit than either the British or the Japanese. There’s a reason our methods were adopted by the British for what would have been their postwar carriers.

      • yodelyak says:

        The only example I know of is also the only major point of nautical warfare I know of, which is that ship navigational speed is extremely important. In my head, the way this works is like this:

        If it’s 50ish of my best boats versus 50ish of your best boats, but my boats’ top speed is 60 knots and your boats’ top speed is 50 knots, then I can ensure that all 50 of my boats are moving at top speed in a way that makes them difficult to hit at the same time that they are all entering firing range of just a handful of your boats, which they overwhelm and sink thanks to far superior numbers and the fact your boats are easier to hit. My 50 boats can rinse and repeat this to steadily defeat even a potentially much larger fleet of yours.

        That’s how things work in my head, so you can bet it’s not even wrong. There are also things related to artillery shell speed–it’s easier to hit a target that can change direction quickly if your shell travels quickly. I don’t really think I understand why engine power is critical.

        But, identifying the ship-speed-is-critically-important is one of 10 different ways that Winston Churchhill is credited (in a very hagiographic book I read in one sitting and can’t remember the title of… but looked up and it’s Churchill by Paul Johnson) with single-handedly reversing the fate of Britain in WWII. Well before the war, Churchill was the minister in charge of naval readiness, or armed forces readiness, or something, and pressed very hard on learning about the actual strategic imperatives behind different ship designs, and then pressed very hard against having coal-fired ships (England has no shortage of coal; you can understand the counterargument) in favor of petroleum ones (England had *no* petrol supply at the time that wasn’t vulnerable to being cut off in wartime) because, even given the risk, there was such a strong advantage to being fast in the water, and petroleum has better energy density and easier fuel delivery and okay I don’t know if I understood that either, but apparently a petroleum engine is just going to have much more forgiving trade-offs in terms of size, fuel weight, and horse power. And apparently the difference was dispositive in the Atlantic, such that the Germans were reduced to submarines or nothing.

        So, overall I think the reason this may *seem* true–that architects or overwhelming numbers or blind luck are more important is that actually nobody even tries to win a naval battle if the opposing naval architects have already won it. E.g., the only attacks on U.S. big gun boats in my lifetime has been stuff like the U.S. Cole… because nobody has a boat, or a set of them, that they want to try against the U.S., because at the moment, that arms race is won.

        • bean says:

          That’s how things work in my head, so you can bet it’s not even wrong.

          This is the correct way to bet. There was quite a bit of dispute about the importance of speed during that era. Certain elements among the British, Churchill and Jackie Fisher prominent among them, were big on speed. The USN, on the other hand, thought that it was mostly irrelevant, although that was changing slightly by the end of WWI. Speed can be helpful, but there’s lots of other elements, and sacrificing everything else for speed may not work all that well. Depends on how you use the ships.

          But, identifying the ship-speed-is-critically-important is one of 10 different ways that Winston Churchhill is credited (in a very hagiographic book I read in one sitting and can’t remember the title of… but looked up and it’s Churchill by Paul Johnson) with single-handedly reversing the fate of Britain in WWII.

          Not really. You (or Johnson) seem to be mixing up WWI and WWII, and adding bad history, too. Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty before WWI, and was partially responsible for the Queen Elizabeth-class, which were faster than previous British dreadnoughts. They were also oil-burning, the advantages of which I’ve explained elsewhere. But that came at about the time the German dreadnought program was faltering, and the QEs were designed with coal in mind anyway. Crediting that decision with singlehandedly saving the British is more than a bit extreme. Their high speed was useful at Jutland, but they didn’t win the battle (draw the battle?) single-handed or anything like that. And the policy of naval superiority long predates Churchill.

          He was First Lord again at the beginning of WWII, but the question of fuel was long settled by then. There had been an attempt to reopen it between the wars, but it didn’t get very far. Primarily because it was stupid.

          • yodelyak says:

            Okay, well, I’m going to update in favor of “when I feel like advising people to bet against me, I’m probably right about the fact that I’m wrong.”

            I think I’m not wrong that Johnson put Churchill and speedy oil-based boats on his list of ten (shoot, was it only five? I can’t remember more than a few…) ways Churchill saved England.

          • bean says:

            I think I’m not wrong that Johnson put Churchill and speedy oil-based boats on his list of ten (shoot, was it only five? I can’t remember more than a few…) ways Churchill saved England.

            I’m not claiming that you’re wrong about what Johnson said, I’m claiming that Johnson is flat-out wrong about that Saving England, at least in the sense that someone else in Churchill’s place taking a different decision would have not Saved England. Churchill was important in the Queen Elizabeth story, and they were some of the finest battleships of their day, but I can’t see the British being likely to lose WWI if improved Iron Dukes had been built instead.

          • Lillian says:

            Certain elements among the British, Churchill and Jackie Fisher prominent among them, were big on speed. The USN, on the other hand, thought that it was mostly irrelevant, although that was changing slightly by the end of WWI. Speed can be helpful, but there’s lots of other elements, and sacrificing everything else for speed may not work all that well. Depends on how you use the ships.

            The US Navy realized something obvious: a battle line moves at the speed of its slowest ship. So they standardized all their dreadnought battleships at 21 knots starting with BB-28 Delaware and ending with BB-48 West Virginia (BB-47 was not built). By the end of the First World War the United States had 21 dreadnoughts, of which 19 all had the same top speed. This gave the Navy a nice consistent battle line with no wasted engine capacity on the newer ships.

          • bean says:

            The US Navy realized something obvious: a battle line moves at the speed of its slowest ship.

            That is indeed obvious. What’s not obvious is that 21 kts is the right speed, or that there’s not much value in a faster squadron for detached operations. One of the concepts behind the Queen Elizabeths was that they would be useful in turning the head of the enemy line. The BCs had been seen as a fast division for a while, and the QEs were sort of a hybrid between them and the battleships. It’s also worth noting that the USN bought 10 large armored cruisers right before the dreadnought era kicked off, and they were apparently seen as an effective fast wing until the Japanese acquired the Kongos, at which points plans for the Lexingtons began.

            So they standardized all their dreadnought battleships at 21 knots starting with BB-28 Delaware and ending with BB-48 West Virginia (BB-47 was not built).

            And every RN battleship from Dreadnought to Emperor of India also had a top speed of 21 kts. I’m not saying that the USN was wrong (if I had to bet, I’d bet they weren’t, because their record of getting this sort of stuff right in war was better than anyone else), but I don’t think you’ve proved they were right.

            By the end of the First World War the United States had 21 dreadnoughts, of which 19 all had the same top speed.

            Yes, and the last two were assigned with the pre-dreadnoughts because of their lower speed. I’m aware of all this.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I’m aware of all this.

            This seems unnecessarily snarky. At least some of us in the peanut gallery appreciate the back-and-forth introducing (and correcting) new trivia.

          • bean says:

            This seems unnecessarily snarky. At least some of us in the peanut gallery appreciate the back-and-forth introducing (and correcting) new trivia.

            You’re right. I have a tendency to interpret stuff as being directed at me, when this was probably meant more for everyone else.

          • Lillian says:

            Yeah i was directing my comments at the audience, adding some extra trivia. On the note of which, the last twelve of the 21 knotters were called the Standard Battleships sinc theu were designed to a similar template with only incremental improvements. Again because USN valued having a uniform battleline.

            All twelve fought in the Second World War and indeed eight of them formed Battleship’s Row at Pearl Harbour. Arizona and Oklahoma were complete losses of course, but dying in the war still counts as fighting in the war.

          • bean says:

            On the note of which, the last twelve of the 21 knotters were called the Standard Battleships sinc theu were designed to a similar template with only incremental improvements. Again because USN valued having a uniform battleline.

            You’re mistaking the results of politics for the results of policy. Josephus Daniels (or Congress, it’s been a while since I read that chapter) consistently refused to let the Navy buy anything more than a minor, incremental upgrade to the previous class. The USN was asking for different ships, they just didn’t get them. Don’t get me wrong, the Standards were the best battleships of the day except maybe the QEs, but it was mostly a happy accident.

            All twelve fought in the Second World War and indeed eight of them formed Battleship’s Row at Pearl Harbour. Arizona and Oklahoma were complete losses of course, but dying in the war still counts as fighting in the war.

            Actually, only seven of them were on Battleship Row, because Pennsylvania was in drydock.

      • cassander says:

        The battle of midway could be cited as one such. The Japanese built carriers that were severely lacking in terms of protection. Not much armor, not much protection for fuel and bomb lines, and not enough AA fire. When they got caught by american fighters, they went up in flames, quite literally. Had the american carriers been caught by the japanese fighters in the same position, they would not have suffered nearly as badly.

        The japanese also designed their carriers to arm and refuel aircraft in the hangars, not on the decks. this had a few consequences. One, it meant that they could carry fewer aircraft. The 3 US carriers at midway brought about as many planes as the 4 japanese carriers. Two, it slowed down their deck cycle operations. This probably didn’t make much of a difference. Three, it made firefighting a lot harder, because once the carriers got bombed, they had massive fires burning inside the ship in an enclosed space instead of outside.

        Intricacies of ship design definitely matter, but the intricacies that end up mattering most are often the ones that get the least attention paid. The US and japanese spent an immense amount of time debating and studying how big/fast/well armed their carriers should be, very little on how many fire hoses they should have, but that ended up mattering a lot more than if they went 32 or 34kts.

      • bean says:

        I can’t point to a specific battle where relatively evenly matched ships had this kind of fight and I can point to specific design details for reasons of victory. About the best I can come up with is River Plate, where the Graff Spee was ultimately killed by damage to her raw fuel processing system. Even there, it was much more a strategic/operational than a tactical matter.
        But when you look strategic/operational, it gets really big, really fast. Damage control is the classic example. The US routinely saved and returned to service carriers that would have sunk if they were Japanese. Better seakeeping, better fuel economy, these are the things that win wars. And not making stupid mistakes in your design (see Graff Spee or the Yamato’s TDS) is important.
        As cassander points out, it’s more important on the carrier side, but I’m still learning the details there.

        • John Schilling says:

          Limiting it to battleship-on-battleship action, I’d say 2nd Guadlcanal was pretty evenly matched (if we count four IJN cruisers as roughly equal to one USN battleship); that one was decided by radar plus the fact that SoDak could stand up to a couple dozen major-caliber hits and Kirishima couldn’t.

          Calabria was similarly even if we trade a few extra Italian cruisers against the third British battleship, that appears to have been decided by the RN’s superb long-range gunnery. But the Italians were faster and so able to disengage safely.

          Denmark Strait shouldn’t count as Prince of Wales’ deficiencies were due to being rushed into service, not fundamental design issues.

          Jutland was a draw insofar as the battleships were concerned, but if we split out the battlecruiser actions the Germans score a clear win on the basis of being nigh-indestructable by design and fast enough to pull away from battleships.

          Lemnos (1913) saw three Ottoman and three Greek pre-dreadnoughts face off; it’s not clear whether it was the design of the fire control systems or the training of the crews that let the Greeks shoot so much more accurately.

          Yalu River favored the Chinese in tonnage and firepower, but they couldn’t score hits with their heavy guns while the Japanese could with their smaller ones.

          General observations, not just from these incidents:

          Fire control, including radar, and also including well-trained crews, probably matters more than anything. You can’t miss fast enough, or with heavy enough shells, to win a fight, and scoring hits is much harder than you think it will be.

          Toughness is a close second to fire control, and well ahead of firepower. speed, etc. Toughness is not the same as impenetrability; the enemy will find ways to get shells, bombs, torpedoes, etc, inside your ship, and you need to be able to take a great many of them and keep on fighting.

          Not really a matter of ship design, but make sure your fuzes work. Yes, statistically significant live-fire testing under realistic conditions is expensive, but as noted above it’s really hard to actually hit the enemy in combat and you really need for the shells, torpedoes, etc to explode when you do get the rare hit.

          Speed makes almost no difference in a fair fight. In an unfair fight, the side with the faster ships decides whether there is going to be a fight at all and if so whether it will be to the death. And if you’re planning on fair fights you’re not really planning to win wars.

          • bean says:

            Limiting it to battleship-on-battleship action, I’d say 2nd Guadlcanal was pretty evenly matched (if we count four IJN cruisers as roughly equal to one USN battleship); that one was decided by radar plus the fact that SoDak could stand up to a couple dozen major-caliber hits and Kirishima couldn’t.

            Yes and no. I counted radar under “fire control”, particularly as it was an add-on to those ships, and Kirishima was much, much older than SoDak. She was as old relative to her adversaries as Royal Sovereign would have been at Jutland. (Not the one that was almost at Jutland, but the one that started the pre-dreadnought.)

            Calabria was similarly even if we trade a few extra Italian cruisers against the third British battleship, that appears to have been decided by the RN’s superb long-range gunnery. But the Italians were faster and so able to disengage safely.

            Again, fire control.

            I’m with you on Denmark Strait.

            Jutland was a draw insofar as the battleships were concerned, but if we split out the battlecruiser actions the Germans score a clear win on the basis of being nigh-indestructable by design and fast enough to pull away from battleships.

            I’d say that wasn’t a design issue, actually. If we split out Beatty’s gunnery problems (which are fire control, and thus excluded) and the fact that the British appeared determined to kill themselves with their magazine procedures, their ships held up pretty well. Lion took a lot of damage and was still combat-effective.

            I can’t speak very much to Lemnos or Yalu River, having not gotten around to examining those incidents in detail.

            General observations, not just from these incidents:

            I’m mostly in agreement with you on these, although I do think that you may underrate armor.

        • Protagoras says:

          Musashi was hit by 19 torpedoes, and Yamato by 11-13, according to the reports I can find. Are there battleships which wouldn’t have sunk under that kind of attack?

          • bean says:

            There weren’t, and it was slightly unfair to include it, but it was a serious deficiency.

          • Philistine says:

            WRT the TDS of Yamato & Musashi, the interesting incident isn’t April 1945 or October 1944 but rather December 1943: Yamato ate a sub-launched torp (from USS Skate) which defeated her TDS, resulting in serious damage and flooding.

    • bean says:

      For Friday, I have a discussion of why the USN needs so many ships, based on a conversation I had with Le Maistre Chat here.

  2. dndnrsn says:

    Roleplaying games people of SSC:

    I’m toying with the idea of running a classic, minimal-story, frequent-death, randomly-determined-dungeons game, at least on the side. Most of what I run is fairly story-based, and I want something in the complete opposite direction. So: what’s the best “new old school” rules system? I’m looking for the following features:

    -simple, light, minimal stuff like feats and special abilities and so on to slow things down.
    -it should have a unified action mechanism. d20s for attacks where rolling high is good for attacks, d20s for skills where rolling low is good, d6s to determine surprise and so forth, percentiles for thief abilities? No.
    -it should have a skill system and fold stuff like thief abilities into that: climbing a wall should be something everyone can do, and thieves are just better at it, rather than it being some secret only thieves know (the key is, you go up the wall).

    Overall, I’d like something in the vein of 3rd ed, but really stripped down. I don’t like the amount of rules there are in 3rd ed, but I’m not a huge fan of the “rulings, not rules” mindset – I like to minimize GM fiat, I like consistency, I don’t like stuff in the vein of “guy who’s good at talking is able to talk NPC into doing something despite having low CHA, due to there being no Persuade skill”, I like being able to quantify everything a character is good at that would be relevant. Plain D&D had a whole bunch of stuff missing, AD&D was so heterogeneous as to be unmanageable, 3rd ed and so unified everything but was far too complex. We won’t speak of 4th ed. I understand 5th ed to be 3rd but a bit simpler.

    I’ve looked at Swords & Wizardry, but it doesn’t seem to have a skill system. I’ve considered MicroLite but it both has a ton of versions and there seem to be some weird diversions (I saw one with only 4 stats?).

    • Jeremiah says:

      I just returned from GaryCon, which is a mecca of old school. And lots of people there were talking about the Dungeon Crawl Classics system, and the way they describe it sounds made it sound like exactly what you’re looking for. I picked up a copy of the rules while I was there, but I have yet to read them so I can’t speak to it personally. It is based on AD&D, but I assume that it’s been made less “heterogeneous”.

    • bean says:

      Weirdly, this seems like something where a minimal GURPS implementation might work well. A lot of the famous complexity is because it’s designed to cover so much territory. Give a stripped-down skill list, heavily restrict what advantages and disadvantages are allowed, and it will do what you want. In terms of actual in-play complexity, it doesn’t have to be that much worse than any other system.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I feel like I want more handholding for the players than GURPS provides. How easy is it to rig up GURPS to have “classes”, more or less?

        • Protagoras says:

          Well, there are templates, and talents. As someone who utterly despises classes and can’t imagine why anyone would want them, I have difficulty judging if those would give you what you want, though occupational templates do seem to be intended for the kind of player handholding you mention. Well, that and making it easier for the GM to make NPCs.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I ordinarily don’t like class-based systems, and I find they tend to make NPC creation harder – I was going to run something using the d20 system, but making NPCs quickly turned me off it. But for classic dungeon crawl murderhoboing where PCs die a lot, classes are useful.

          • bean says:

            As someone who utterly despises classes and can’t imagine why anyone would want them, I have difficulty judging if those would give you what you want, though occupational templates do seem to be intended for the kind of player handholding you mention.

            I’m a big fan of point-buy, but I can imagine what you want with classes. They’re really helpful for new players, or people who aren’t good at thinking up concepts in general. In this case, templates can fill the role quite well, and there is the option of free point-buy if someone wants a different type and is willing to put in the work. Also, I use them all the time for NPCs in GURPS.

            @dndnrsn

            and I find they tend to make NPC creation harder

            Care to expand on this? One of the bigger problems I’ve found with point-buy is that it takes more work to make a character. On the flip side, you get much better control. For generic NPCs, classes are usually much better. Obviously, major NPCs are more like PCs.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I mostly run either ORE, which has a really simple point-buy system – everything outside of powers is very quick to throw together – or something in the Cthulhu mold, where really, balance only matters in terms of keeping one PC from outshining the rest or one from being dead weight – so you can just assign whatever stats and skills you want.

            Making a major NPC in, say, the d20 system, takes a long time if you’re not using software, and even then it can be a hassle. Making a minor NPC is often not worth the trouble. I find that my time and attention for prep is better spent elsewhere.

          • Protagoras says:

            I’ve found making and maintaining characters with GURPS character sheet considerably easier than dealing with D20 characters, at least with any freeware utilities (I haven’t used any utilities I’d have to pay for). I’ve found it to be pretty user-friendly for including house rules, as well.

        • bean says:

          That’s what templates are for. There’s lots of them in various books. Take a dozen, tune them to do what you need, and give them to your players.

        • thirqual says:

          Look up GURPS Dungeon Fantasy (either the adaptation of the full GURPS 4e rules or the separate product, they are 99% compatible)

          1) rules not necesary for dungeoneering games have been removed, and there are examples in the rule books of stuff you can excise to get a faster game (or less system knowledge from your players)

          2) unified mechanism for doing things (roll 3d6, lower is better) except for amount of damage done (xd6, higher is better)

          3) GURPS has what you describe as the standard way of doing skills stuff

          Characters are created from templates including skills, advantages, etc that mimic a typical class system, while still offering a lot of the GURPSy flexibility

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      I’ve never played it, but a friend absolutely loves Torchbearer, and I think it’s aimed at a similar space (with some more narrativism.)

    • Randy M says:

      I don’t play 5th edition D&D (like Civilization releases, I lag 1 version behind) but I was going to recommend it for having pretty simple classes that still have a fair bit of customization and at least makes some nods towards balance… but I understand it does lean in the direction of ambiguous rules, apparently intentionally in order to empower the DM. Nonetheless, I think it has gained some fair traction with the old school aficionados.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        (like Civilization releases, I lag 1 version behind)

        Me too, usually. I recommend leapfrogging from IV to VI.

        • Randy M says:

          I’d still be with Civ 4 if I could have gotten it to work with my new operating system when I got a new computer. Couldn’t seem to get it running, though I don’t recall why. But I had a free copy of V so that’s what I’m playing these days. I recently saw VI was on sale, considered it, then went with the cheaper & proven option of getting the last expansion for V instead.

          How is Civ VI treating people these days? I think the initial reactions were “looks pretty good, has some neat ideas, missing a bit of polish.”

          • Gobbobobble says:

            “looks pretty good, has some neat ideas, missing a bit of polish.” is about right for my first impression. It’s gotten regular patches since release and it’s definitely in a better state. Still has room for improvement but IMHO it’s gotten past the “better than V” point. “Better than IV” I’m less certain of but it’s at least on an upward arc.

            I’ll bite. Why did you have a free copy of V?

          • Fahundo says:

            I’m pretty sure I got a free copy of V years ago, and just never redeemed it (I never played a Civ game before). Pretty sure mine was for voting in some online Game of the Year poll around 2013 or so.

          • Randy M says:

            I’ll bite. Why did you have a free copy of V?

            I was involved in making one of the scenarios in the Civ IV Beyond the Sword expansion (the one with the zombie pirate), so I was going to play test V too; sadly my computer at the time wasn’t up to playing it, so I wasn’t able to help much there.
            Went on Steam at some point and found I had the release version on my account anyway.

    • the anonymouse says:

      I’m a big fan of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, but a large part of that comes from the support materials.

    • Subject4056 says:

      For completeness, The GLOG

      It professes to be more rulings-oriented than maybe you’re looking for, but was complete enough the times I played around with it. It also has the advantage of being available to all for the low cost of free.

    • Zeno of Citium says:

      5th edition DnD is pretty much “3rd edition DnD, but simplified and a lot less confusing.” If you basically liked 3rd ed and want something less insane, 5th is a good choice. I just started a campaign and it is dramatically simpler than 3e, mostly through no longer trying to have a rule to simulate every possible thing but partially through making magic and similar abilities more consistent and less complicated.
      If you’re looking for a very good fantasy game and willing to move towards something a lot lighter, try *Dungeon World*. It’s about as different from DnD 3e as you can get, but once you grok how to play it, it’s great.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I think a couple of my players have a 5th ed game already. How is it for random, no-game-balance, CR-is-a-magazine-that-reviews-cars-and-blenders, whoops-you-ran-into-50-bugbears roll-on-a-table craziness?

        As for Dungeon World, it seems like it’s more oriented around player choice than GM choice when it comes to what’s going on. I want neither – I want a game where the PCs stumble into a dungeon stocked by table, and then they run into wandering monsters.

        • Iain says:

          I want a game where the PCs stumble into a dungeon stocked by table, and then they run into wandering monsters.

          The Perilous Wilds is a supplement for Dungeon World with detailed rules to help you improvise this on the fly.

          I would have suggested Dungeon World earlier — the resolution mechanic is delightfully straightforward — but it’s pretty heavy on GM judgment calls, which you said you want to avoid.

        • thirqual says:

          Nice people are developping this for GURPS DF (mentionned above), based on good old dungeon.bin.sh

          The blog

          The github repo

        • MrApophenia says:

          5E contains support for challenge levels and balanced encounters, but you can also just go for random encounters.

          There are limits on this, though – if a level 2 party tries to deal with a red dragon, they’ll die in a round. You really need a restricted random encounter table where they’ll meet the subset of monsters they can possibly deal with – or make sure the players are fine with instant TPKs.

      • Alethenous says:

        If you basically liked 3rd ed and want something less insane, 5th is a good choice.

        This is true, and I’m DMing a 5e campaign at the moment and it’s fine, but it does come at the cost of a lot of the genuine awesomeness 3.5e had.

        (I won’t go into a full old-man-yells-at-clouds rant, but the skill system in 5e is insane. At level 1 with INT=18, a Wizard has a +6 bonus to Arcana checks. Once they’re a level 20 Wizard – a once-in-a-generation genius archmage with the power to reshape the universe in a word – that bonus is… +11. If you give the greatest Wizard alive and an apprentice with their robes on backwards a 100-question quiz of “difficult” questions about magic, on average, the archmage will score 60% and the apprentice will score 30%. Hell, on 2 of those questions, the average person could wander in off the street and correct the archmage!)

    • Zorgon says:

      (Just got back from travelling, sorry for being late to the party)

      I’m currently running a campaign of Adventurer Conqueror King System (or ACKS). It’s essentially B/X with a skill system bolted on in the form of Proficiencies, and a quite complicated backing setup for balancing classes etc, and a specific emphasis on domain-level play at higher levels. It also uses ascending AC and (more or less) unified mechanics.

      There’s a few sketchy bits, since the book doesn’t really cover everything as so much of the word count is eaten up with proficiencies and domain rules, so the developers have spent untold amounts of internet-ink giving rulings on their site. To use your climbing example: the book doesn’t make it clear, but every character has a “climbing rate” – the Thief’s Climb Walls class ability specifically permit climbing on sheer surfaces without convenient ropes or easy handholds, ie the bit that lets everyone else be able to climb everything.

      It also has a rather excellent take on racial classes – wherein Dwarfs, Elves and Gnomes have their own versions of human classes based upon their own unique needs. So pretty much every Elven class is some degree of spellcaster, for example (Spellswords, Nightblades, and so on) while a lot of Dwarven classes include at least some “thief-type” skills like Open Lock or Hear Noise purely due to their immense utility underground.

  3. I am looking for beta readers for the draft of my third novel. The title is “Brothers” and it is a sequel to Salamander, starting two or three years after that book ends. Like that book, it is a fantasy in a world where magic is in the process of changing from a craft to a science.

    I am interested both in readers who have read the earlier book and those who haven’t—part of the challenge in writing a sequel is making it work for both groups.

    If you think you would like to read it, email me at ddfr@daviddfriedman.com.

  4. Well Armed Sheep says:

    So, howsabout this new Chetty paper?

    Nontechnical summary here.

    Interesting findings:

    – “The black-white income gap is entirely driven by differences in men’s, not women’s, outcomes. Among those who grow up in families with comparable incomes, black men grow up to earn substantially less than the white men. In contrast, black women earn slightly more than white women conditional on parent income. Moreover, there is little or no gap in wage rates or hours of work between black and white women.”

    – “Differences in family characteristics – parental marriage rates, education, wealth – and differences in ability explain very little of the black-white gap. Perhaps most controversially, some have proposed that racial disparities might be due to differences in innate ability. This hypothesis does not explain why there are black-white intergenerational gaps for men but not women. Moreover, black-white gaps in test scores – which have been the basis for most prior arguments for ability differences – are substantial for both men and women. The fact that black women have outcomes comparable to white women conditional on parental income despite having much lower test scores suggests that standardized tests do not provide accurate measures of differences in ability (insofar as it is relevant for earnings) by race, perhaps because of stereotype anxiety or racial biases in tests.”

    – “we find large gaps even between black and white men who grow up in families with comparable income in the same Census tract (small geographic areas that contain about 4,250 people on average). Indeed, the disparities persist even among children who grow up on the same block. These results reveal that
    differences in neighborhood-level resources, such as the quality of schools, cannot explain the intergenerational gaps between black and white boys by themselves.”

    A finding that is not highlighted in that summary, but that has gotten significant attention, is that black men raised in top 1% income households have the same odds of being incarcerated as white men raised in households making ~$36,000.

    Very interesting! And from the look of it, plenty for all sides to dislike — plenty of evidence of systemic gaps that seem hard to explain without racism playing a significant role, but plenty of stuff that standard left “racism all the way down” type arguments don’t really explain… like why the racism only operates against black *men* (at least at the level of income and wealth outcomes).

    • Iain says:

      Yeah, this is a really interesting pile of data.

      The poor outcomes of black men is a problem for the dumb pop-understanding of intersectionality (“count up your axes of oppression and claim your high score!”), although I think it still fits into the useful theoretical insight of intersectionality (“there are interactions between axes, so you have to analyze the actual outcomes of the intersected category — in this case, black men — instead of extrapolating from black outcomes and male outcomes”).

      Overall, though, this looks like mild evidence against Horrible-Banned-Discourse-style explanations. It is possible to devise a just-so story explaining why black men are somehow more genetically inferior than black women, but that starts to feel like adding epicycles when juxtaposed with stuff like this:

      Fewer than 5 percent of black children currently grow up in areas with a poverty rate below 10 percent and more than half of black fathers present. In contrast, 63 percent of white children grow up in areas with analogous conditions.

      • cassander says:

        > It is possible to devise a just-so story explaining why black men are somehow more genetically inferior than black women, but that starts to feel like adding epicycles when juxtaposed with stuff like this:

        No it doesn’t, the answer is one word, incarceration.

      • The Nybbler says:

        As cassander points out, there is a single-element explanation for the data. Whatever it is that causes higher incarceration in black men also causes the lower wages and higher unemployment. It affects black women’s incarceration as well but with the much lower base rate for women, fails to affect their wages and employment.

        What the factor is, isn’t in the data. Racism isn’t ruled out, but neither are non-racist explanations.

        • Randy M says:

          Is the difference large enough to be a downstream effect of the incarceration itself? It’s harder to find employment as a convict.

          • cassander says:

            it’s not just the effect of incarceration, it’s the differences in behavior patterns that lead up to a massively higher incarceration rate, and the character traits that behavior comes from.

          • John Schilling says:

            The incarceration rate for the top quintile of black men is ~3%, which seems rather low for the observed effect, but it’s not out of the question because that’s the instantaneous incarceration rate. If e.g. 30% of black men are incarcerated ever, with each of those actually in prison only 10% of the time but basically unemployable the rest of the time because of their past incarceration, that would start to get significant. But I don’t see that data.

            More likely, as cassander notes, effects correlated to but broader than incarceration are at work.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          The problem with that argument is that, AFAICT, the people arguing for racism (whether individual or ‘structural’) don’t accept the disparate rates of incarceration as a reason instead of “racism in society”. Rather, they see that as further direct evidence of racism in society.

          We had someone making that argument just a couple OTs ago. They seemed to me to be strongly implying that in a just/non-racist world the differences in offender rate would disappear because they were due entirely to selective and malicious over-policing, over-charging, and over-sentencing of blacks relative to other ethnicities in the US. Someone who believes this to be true isn’t going to be convinced by someone pointing to the differences in offender rates. You’ll have to convince them that those differences in offender rates are capturing real and meaningful that is not simply more evidence for their “racism all the way down” hypothesis.

          • The Nybbler says:

            As I said, racism isn’t ruled out — though it’s actually somewhat hard to make the argument, because you have to argue that racism that results in increased incarceration is the only factor, and that there is no other significant racism that works directly on wage rates or employability. Or you have to come up with reasons that other racism doesn’t affect women, which is adding factors.

          • cassander says:

            The problem with that argument is that, AFAICT, the people arguing for racism (whether individual or ‘structural’) don’t accept the disparate rates of incarceration as a reason instead of “racism in society”. Rather, they see that as further direct evidence of racism in society.

            Yes, but this argument isn’t very robust. It’s a fact that black men go to jail at substantially higher rates than white men. If racism is the direct cause, then you have to argue that either there are a whole lot of white men committing crimes going free or a whole lot of innocent black men in jail, neither of which is very plausible. Even if you take the most generous interpretation of studies of racial biases in sentencing, you get no where close to the disparity between white and black crime rates.

            In my experience, when pressed, most people who blame racism for black crime rates tend to do it through the lens of class, blacks have worse schools, are made poor by a racist society, etc., all of which leads to higher crime rates. Unfortunately, this argument doesn’t really stand either when the kids of rich blacks go to jail at many times the rates of rich whites.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Also, since mass incarceration has been going on for a while, more boys are growing up without fathers.

          • Matt M says:

            then you have to argue that either there are a whole lot of white men committing crimes going free or a whole lot of innocent black men in jail, neither of which is very plausible.

            Uh, I think all right-thinking people are supposed to believe both of those things!

          • cassander says:

            @Matt M

            We’re not talking about white collar or drug crime here. But there aren’t enough dead bodies around to make those numbers come out balanced .

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, but do you think most people are actually doing the math on that?

          • cassander says:

            @Matt M

            Oh, of course not, but I feel no obligation to take seriously arguments I can prove wrong to be wrong with fairly basic math.

          • then you have to argue that either there are a whole lot of white men committing crimes going free or a whole lot of innocent black men in jail, neither of which is very plausible.

            The simple evidence against is victimization rates. Murder is the best counted crime, the race of victim is usually unambiguous, and most murder is intraracial. So the ratio of black victims to white victims is a pretty good measure of the ratio of murders by blacks to murders by whites.

          • Iain says:

            Or you have to come up with reasons that other racism doesn’t affect women, which is adding factors.

            The inverse is also true: if you want to posit some sort of genetic explanation, you need to explain why it only affects men.

            The maximalist case for nature over environment is even weaker when you drill into the details. People are pooh-poohing the idea that racially biased policing can have a significant effect, but let’s think for a moment about what you’d expect to see if that were true. First, you’d expect that it would disproportionately affect men, who get arrested more often regardless of race. Second, you’d expect that the black-white gap would be smaller in jurisdictions with less racial bias. This is precisely what the study found:

            Among low-poverty neighborhoods (those with poverty rates below 10%), there are two factors that are strongly associated with better outcomes for black men and smaller black-white gaps: low levels of racial bias among whites and high rates of father presence among blacks. Within low- poverty areas, black men who grow up in tracts with greater racial bias among whites – measured using tests for implicit bias or indices of explicit racial animus based on Google searches – earn less and are more likely to be incarcerated. Greater racial bias is correlated with worse outcomes for black boys even conditional on state fixed effects. The fraction of fathers present in the neighborhood – defined as being claimed as a child dependent by a male on tax forms – among low-income black households is associated with better outcomes among black boys, but is uncorrelated with the outcomes of black girls and white boys. Black father presence at the neighborhood level strongly predicts black boys’ outcomes irrespective of whether their own father is present or not, suggesting that what matters is not parental marital status itself but rather community-level factors, echoing the findings of Sampson (1987).

            Moreover, note that it’s not whether a specific black boy’s father is present that counts — it’s whether he lives in a neighbourhood where black fathers in general are present. There are lots of mechanisms that could be involved here, but one of the most obvious reasons for absent black fathers is incarceration. (For example: “1 in 9 black children have a parent in prison, compared to only 1 in 57 white children. While 13 percent of America’s population is African American, 40 percent of all incarcerated parents are black.”) If the difference is genetic, it’s hard to explain why other people’s fathers being absent would have a negative effect on you. If the difference is environmental, it’s easy to see how racially biased policing against other other black kids’ fathers might be correlated with bad outcomes for you as a black kid.

            Does this singlehandedly disprove all Horrible Banned Discourse, now and forever? Of course not. But on the spectrum between nature and nurture, this study provides several reasons to update towards nurture, and none (as far as I can see) to update towards nature. The central question is: Have we successfully overcome racism? Are any remaining racial differences in outcome simply a result of differing ability or inclination? Horrible Banned Discourse says yes to these questions; this study says no.

          • albatross11 says:

            David Friedman:

            I think you’re right, and further that the murder statistics make it really implausible that the black and white murder rate could be the same. (Among other things, this would require that a large fraction of all murder arrests were cases where a black person was murdered by a white person, but some innocent black person was arrested for it. That’s not impossible, but it’s hard to see how it would be happening in the world we observe.

            However, the crime statistics (as opposed to the crime victimization survey statistics) have a huge issue–most crimes don’t lead to an arrest. Even murder only leads to an arrest about 2/3 of the time, and every other crime is even less likely to lead to an arrest. This makes me want to take the statistics about murders usually being committed by someone you know, someone of the same race, etc., with a few grains of salt. What the statistics are actually telling us are about what cases the police thought they were able to solve with enough certainty to actually arrest someone. It seems pretty clear that a murder by someone with no obvious connection to the victim is a lot less likely to be solved than a murder by the victim’s estranged ex-husband or recently-fired employee. I’m not sure how this should affect our estimate of the real numbers–I guess looking at crime victimization survey data for aggravated assault or attempted murder would be a good first cut.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The inverse is also true: if you want to posit some sort of genetic explanation, you need to explain why it only affects men.

            Yes, but that’s easy. Not only is there a whole different chromosome to play with, but genetic expression varies quit a bit between men and women.

            I think the most parsimonious is what I posited in the first post — the factor does affect both men and women (and this shows up in increased incarceration for black women), but men’s base rate is in a spot such that income is more sensitive to it. That is, we might imagine a curve showing wage sensitivity to factor X as having a mostly-flat region at the top left, followed by a declining linear region in the middle, and then another mostly-flat region at the bottom left. White women and black women both have average Factor X somewhere in the top-left region. White men have it somewhere in or at least near the linear region.

            (EEs will recognize this as being analogous to the cut-off, linear, and saturation regions of a transistor)

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Iain

            I tend to agree with your position that environment is a bigger piece of the pie than genetics, but I am more skeptical of how much of that “environment” slice of the pie can be specifically attributed to racism rather than, say, toxic cultural/peer group effects. Contrary to your claims, nothing in this study points to “racism” unless you make the assumption (as you have) that “environmental factors” MUST obviously mean racism.

            I’d also note that you just equicovated between “jurisdictions with less racial bias” (implying you are talking about the police department and court system, which is where the skepticism is) and “tracts with greater racial bias among whites – measured using tests for implicit bias or indices of explicit racial animus based on Google searches” (which, assuming the measures are accurate, are measuring the general population).

            EDIT: For my part, I find it somewhat plausible that selective focus on black males in some jurisdictions leads to a higher proportion of black criminals being imprisoned than white criminals (that is, if you are a criminal, then you are more likely to be caught and imprisoned if you are black than if you are white). I am skeptical that the effect is strong enough to explain away the difference in offending rates. I am extremely skeptical of the claims that a significant fraction of the black males imprisoned in the US were innocent and were jailed because they were the nearest black male handy and due to racial animus on the part of the police/courts.

          • Iain says:

            I tend to agree with your position that environment is a bigger piece of the pie than genetics, but I am more skeptical of how much of that “environment” slice of the pie can be specifically attributed to racism rather than, say, toxic cultural/peer group effects

            I don’t disagree. My claim here is:
            a) This paper supports environmental explanations for differing racial outcomes over biological explanations.
            b) Racially biased policing is a reasonable explanation for a non-zero fraction of the gap, and fits well with the data in this paper. (See also.)
            c) By implication, we should be trying to find effective ways to deal with racially biased policing.

            It seems very likely to me that “toxic cultural/peer group effects” are another big part of the environmental explanation. For the same reason, we should be trying to find effective ways to deal with those.

            The position against which I am arguing is the one that says “these differences are natural, nothing we can do will make things better, and people who claim otherwise are denying science”.

            It doesn’t help when you equivocate between “jurisdictions with less racial bias” (implying you are talking about the police department and court system, which is where the skepticism is) and “tracts with greater racial bias among whites – measured using tests for implicit bias or indices of explicit racial animus based on Google searches” (which, assuming the measures are accurate, are measuring the civilian population).

            I expect there to be a pretty strong correlation between the two. Cops and judges are just people, after all, and are likely to have similar attitudes to the civilian population from which they are drawn.

          • My claim here is:
            a) This paper supports environmental explanations for differing racial outcomes over biological explanations.

            I don’t think I agree. If I correctly understand the results from what has been written here, the daughters of well off blacks do about as well as the daughters of well off whites, the sons don’t.

            The first half of that is not evidence against a biological explanation, because well off blacks are not a random sample of the black population, they are a sample biased towards the smarter, harder working, … members of that population. Suppose, to make up numbers, that well off whites are ten percent of the white population, well off blacks two percent of the black population. Even if blacks on average have lower IQ or some other heritable characteristic that makes them less successful, the top two percent of the black population might be just as able as the top ten percent of the white population.

            The second fact is puzzling, but there are a variety of ways in which it might be explained as discussed by others. It fits a little better with the environmental explanation, but it’s consistent with biological differences that exist for males but not for females or with differences that exist for both but are more relevant for males.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I have a notion that in a lot of neighborhoods, black people suffer from random or semi-random policing.

            Behaving well doesn’t keep you from being harassed, arrested, convicted, or killed. Behaving badly doesn’t carry reliable punishment.

            This makes behaving well seem less likely to be worth the trouble, and lowers the risk of behaving badly.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            b) Racially biased policing is a reasonable explanation for a non-zero fraction of the gap, and fits well with the data in this paper. (See also.)
            c) By implication, we should be trying to find effective ways to deal with racially biased policing.

            I agree in general terms. The problem comes when people are either unwilling or unable to disentangle “enhanced attention and scrutiny due to racism” and “enhanced attention and scrutiny due to higher rates of criminal behavior”.

            I don’t have a good answer to that one, and that’s why I tend to be in favor of what I see as general, across-the-board improvements in police rules and procedure (e.g. body and dash cams), but I also find myself fighting with people who are ready to label any disparity in police scrutiny or difference in arrest and conviction rates as prima facie evidence of racism that need to be “fixed”.

          • albatross11 says:

            Nancy:

            If your theory is true, what should we expect to see as a result? What predictions could we make based on it?

          • cassander says:

            @ian

            If the difference is genetic, it’s hard to explain why other people’s fathers being absent would have a negative effect on you.

            .

            Not at all. Criminality is correlated with lots of other behaviors that are negative but not criminal, and not people who break the law are punished. A population prone to criminality is prone to a lot of other behaviors.

            a) This paper supports environmental explanations for differing racial outcomes over biological explanations.

            Given the apparent non-existence of bias against black women, I think this is an incredibly difficult claim to make, verging on dishonest.

            b) Racially biased policing is a reasonable explanation for a non-zero fraction of the gap, and fits well with the data in this paper. (See also.)

            “non-zero” is doing a LOT of work in that sentence. It’s like saying “I bear a non-zero share of responsibility in my getting mugged, I did choose to walk down 11th street instead of 10th”

            c) By implication, we should be trying to find effective ways to deal with racially biased policing.

            “and because of that fact, the best way to reduce mugging is to find ways to make sure no one ever walks down 11th street again.”

            The position against which I am arguing is the one that says “these differences are natural, nothing we can do will make things better, and people who claim otherwise are denying science”.

            you’re conflating/overstating a couple claims here. “these differences (at least some of them) are natural” is almost inarguable, and I will say that people who deny that ARE denying science. It does not follow from those propositions that “nothing can be done”. Some people might say that, and you’re free to argue against them, but it’s a separate claim.

          • Iain says:

            @David Friedman:

            The second fact is puzzling, but there are a variety of ways in which it might be explained as discussed by others. It fits a little better with the environmental explanation, but it’s consistent with biological differences that exist for males but not for females or with differences that exist for both but are more relevant for males.

            This is precisely my point. This paper does not prove that differing outcomes are environmental, but it is Bayesian evidence in that direction. If you delve into the details, the case for an environmental explanation gets even stronger — there’s a whole section that we haven’t discussed (Finding #7) where the paper demonstrates a causal effect for environmental conditions by examining the impact of moving to a better neighbourhood at various ages.

            @Nancy Lebovitz:

            Yeah, I think that’s important. Decreased trust in police is another mechanism by which racially biased policing can indirectly increase the number of black men in prison. Polling shows consistent differences on a wide range of questions about the police. It seems to me that the most parsimonious explanation for this difference in perception is a difference in treatment.

            @Trofim Lysenko:
            I agree that body cams and so on are an important practical improvement.

            @cassander:

            Not at all. Criminality is correlated with lots of other behaviors that are negative but not criminal, and not people who break the law are punished. A population prone to criminality is prone to a lot of other behaviors.

            How is this at all a response to what I said?

            If black people are genetically predisposed to criminality, then there should be a strong correlation between your own father — who contributed 50% of your DNA — being absent and your own criminality. That will screen off any other genetic effects: a “population prone to criminality” only makes you more criminal insofar as it makes your parents more likely to carry Criminal Genes. Instead, however, we find that “black father presence at the neighborhood level strongly predicts black boys’ outcomes irrespective of whether their own father is present or not“. There’s no reason for community-level factors to outweigh parental factors if the difference is genetic.

            For “non-zero”, read “significant enough that we have a moral imperative to do something about it, and I don’t see the value in arguing about the precise magnitude beyond that.” If you disagree that racial bias in policing exists at a meaningful level in America, I will draw your attention to the link in my previous post.

          • cassander says:

            @ian

            There’s no reason for community-level factors to outweigh parental factors if the difference is genetic.

            I must me misunderstanding you, because this argument appears to be “there’s no reason to assume that a neighborhood full of people who aren’t criminals is having kids that are less likely to be criminal”

            For “non-zero”, read “significant enough that we have a moral imperative to do something about it, and I don’t see the value in arguing about the precise magnitude beyond that.” If you disagree that racial bias in policing exists at a meaningful level in America, I will draw your attention to the link in my previous post.

            Racial bias undoubtedly exists. it doesn’t come anywhere close to explaining the massive gap in criminality. You seem to be claiming it’s a moral imperative to be going after 1% of the problem, and ignoring the 99%.

          • onyomi says:

            An important point to keep in mind re. “genes” and “environment”: cultures and environments are heavily shaped by the genes of the people creating them.

            If you take a child from a poor, black neighborhood and raise him in an affluent white, Asian, or even black neighborhood, and he does better than expected you might say this is a result of “environment,” rather than “genes.”

            But if this “environmental” difference is a result of the fact that only 5% of black people are genetically predisposed to create a low-crime, high-fatherhood environment, while 20% of whites and 40% of Asians are predisposed to create such environments (perhaps due to differences in history of “forager” vs. “farmer” ancestry, which also probably relate to tendencies toward matriarchy vs. patriarchy), then, while we might say the difference in outcome for a few individuals is a result of “poor environment” (after all, you can move a few kids to a better neighborhood without significantly altering the culture of that neighborhood), you can’t extrapolate that to say “this shows the differences are not about genes” without also considering to what extent genes create the environment most members of a group live in.

          • Aapje says:

            @Iain

            If you delve into the details, the case for an environmental explanation gets even stronger

            Sure, but the case that mere racism is the cause gets weaker and the case for racist sexism or sexist racism becomes stronger. This really undermines the simplistic explanation where generic racism of the police is blamed for most of the problem.

            Furthermore, as others have said, the evidence doesn’t prove that racially sexist policing is a significant cause. It can instead/also be the case that black men have a specific issue. For example, if black people are both more criminal and also fairly patriarchal, it may be that black men commit crimes more often than white men, but that black women don’t commit crimes much more often than white women.

            So the ‘racist sexism’ may (also) be part of the culture of the citizens and doesn’t have to be part of the culture of the police.

            It seems to me that the most parsimonious explanation for this difference in perception [of the police] is a difference in treatment.

            One would expect actually criminal people and/or a criminal community to also dislike the police more than less criminal people/community.

            I would also expect a strong effect on perception of people’s priors, so if people assume that the police is their friend, I would expect them to assume good faith in police interactions, while people who assume that the police is their enemy, while perceive the exact same interactions far more negatively.

            By implication, we should be trying to find effective ways to deal with racially biased policing.

            You haven’t shown that racially biased policing has a significant effect. However, even if we take it as a given that it does have a strong effect, then the most effective way to reduce racially biased policing may be to make the subculture less criminal.

            I think that police officers have a tendency to dislike and/or focus their resources on groups that they perceive as more criminal, which seems to me to be the normal way that humans respond to such knowledge. So I doubt that you can just convince the police to change their minds, if their perception matches the facts. You can try to make the police act with less bias & I am supportive of trying to do this, but I would expect that this is never going to work great.

            The only true solution may be to then fix the subculture to no longer be significantly more criminal.

            If you discover that way more men than women jump in front of trains & that this form of suicide happens quite a bit, then it isn’t necessarily sensible to focus on making trains less deadly and it certainly doesn’t make sense to then blame trains for being sexist. Instead one may want to figure what makes men choose to commit suicide and what makes them choose trains.

          • Matt M says:

            Sure, but the case that mere racism is the cause gets weaker and the case for racist sexism or sexist racism becomes stronger. This really undermines the simplistic explanation where generic racism of the police is blamed for most of the problem.

            Isn’t there a plausible “intersectional” explanation here?

            Something like:

            1. The police are largely racially prejudiced and will disproportionately and unfairly crack down on blacks opposed to whites

            2. Rightly or wrongly, the police mainly interact with the male portion of the population – meaning that this bias manifests itself pretty strongly among black males. The fact that you don’t notice it among black females isn’t because they’re not racist against black females, but rather because they simply don’t interact with any females very often at all.

          • albatross11 says:

            [A previous post of mine got eaten, so I may be repeating stuff.]

            A simple model for crime difference by gender and race is like this: Imagine a distribution of (say) violent or offensive behavior. On the left end are people quietly sitting in a library reading books, on the right end are Mongols sacking a city full of screaming victims.

            As a society, we draw a somewhat-arbitrary line on how violent/offensive behavior has to be before we arrest you for it. Being an overly aggressive pain in the ass doesn’t generally qualify; beating people up for looking at you funny does. Pretty much every school and workplace that’s not horrible also draws a more restrictive line. There’s plenty of bad behavior that won’t get you arrested but will get you fired or expelled or asked to leave the bar or whatever. To a first approximation, as you move toward better jobs and schools, that line moves left–less and less aggressive/violent behavior is acceptable.

            Every person falls on a distribution somewhere on that spectrum. The mean of the female distribution is pretty far to the left of the mean of the male distribution of violent/offensive behavior. A much smaller fraction of women make it past the cutoff for either getting fired or getting sent to jail than fraction of men who do so. Further, the black distribution for both men and women is shifted to the right of the white distribution, so that a much higher fraction of blacks than whites end up past that line where they get fired or arrested.

            This is a model which I think is more-or-less consistent with what we can observe w.r.t crime statistics. And it gives a sort of intuitive explanation of why black men might be doing worse in school and income than black women. More black men than black women fall to the right of the cutoff for when they’re so violent/offensive they’re going to get arrested, and an even bigger fraction of black men fall to the right of the cutoff for where their behavior disqualifies them for various jobs or schools–either directly (they get fired or expelled) or indirectly (they don’t get promoted or given more opportunities because the boss figures they’ve got enough self-control to work on the factory floor, but letting them interact with the public would be a disaster).

            You can imagine upbringing/environment as shifting your distribution quite a bit. Indeed, that *must* be going on, because crime rates change a lot faster than genetic change can happen.

          • Iain says:

            I must be misunderstanding you, because this argument appears to be “there’s no reason to assume that a neighborhood full of people who aren’t criminals is having kids that are less likely to be criminal”

            No. What?

            As a less politically charged example: suppose that we’re talking about the eye colour of Ukrainians in various cities across the Canadian prairies. If the only information you have about somebody is his hometown, then you should expect a strong correlation between his hair colour and the hair colour of other Ukrainians in his community, because that’s your best source of information about his genes. If you know his father’s hair colour, on the other hand, then you have much better information about his genes. After controlling for that information, you would expect a much weaker correlation with the community. If there’s still a strong correlation with the community, that’s evidence that environment is more important: in this case, for example, you might start to suspect heavy use of hair dye.

            Again: I am not claiming that any of these pieces of evidence, taken on their own, conclusively disprove the idea that crime is genetic. I’m saying that there are several findings in this study that should cause a Bayesian update away from genetic explanations towards environmental ones, and few (no?) findings that justify an update towards a genetic explanation.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Everyone

            Next OT, maybe a productive way to approach the issue would be to take it to the object level. That is, to look at specific procedural, budgetary, and legal reforms that would be helpful and debate them on their own merits.

            For example, it seems to me that even most of the people who are not particularly sympathetic to claims of systematic racial prejudice are on board with body and dash cams as a useful tool.

            Plenty of people on the right end of the spectrum can get on board with finding ways to fund police departments and local government other than over-aggressive fines, traffic enforcement, and (especially) Civil Asset Forfeiture proceedings.

            And so on. There are places where you can improve procedures regardless of whether you think a police officer is, on average, more likely to be the honorable thin blue line doing their best to keep the good citizens safe and preserve public order, or more likely to be a racist, sexist petty bully who joined the force because they get off on the wielding of power and violence.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, it seems to me that there are benefits to body/dash cameras, ending every kind of running the police department as a revenue source, etc., regardless of the cause of the large black/white imbalance in arrests and prison time.

            One thing I’m a bit sad about, w.r.t. the way BLM and various protests against police brutality went, is that having police that behave properly and aren’t above the law and make the community better instead of worse should be the most bipartisan motherhood-and-apple-pie goal ever. And yet, we wound up with it becoming yet another culture war argument, where the outrage-amplifying media types either tell us that the Heroic Men In Blue are all saints or that the police are all literal Nazis looking for helpless black choirboys to murder for fun.

            I think this is probably a common situation. There are a lot of places[1] where we ought to be able to make common cause across culture-war lines or left/right lines or whatever. My sense is that a major obstacle to this is the large industry of people farming outrage to either sell ads or make a name for themselves.

            [1] Humane prisons where rape is rare, schools that function as well as possible, foreign policy that doesn’t get us into a lot of endless unnecessary wars, etc.

          • mdet says:

            Humane prisons where rape is rare, schools that function as well as possible, foreign policy that doesn’t get us into a lot of endless unnecessary wars, etc.

            While I think everyone agrees in principle that police should not abuse and harass innocent people, I don’t actually get the impression that everyone believes in “humane prisons” as a goal, even in principle. Plenty enough people seem to subscribe to a punitive rather than rehabilitative model of criminal justice, where being in prison SHOULD suck and be a horrible experience, because that’s what you deserve.

            And while I don’t want the US in endless unnecessary wars at all, I don’t think it’s possible to be an economic superpower and a foreign policy isolationist at the same time. (There is a lot of room between “not isolationist” and “not in endless wars” though)

          • Matt M says:

            Eh, I think there’s a pretty damn wide gulf between “Prison should be a generally unpleasant experience” and “Prison should be a place where you are likely to be assaulted and raped on a regular basis and nobody involved will even pretend to give a shit about it or help you stop it.”

          • I don’t think it’s possible to be an economic superpower and a foreign policy isolationist at the same time.

            Why?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It’s surprising to me that no ne is at least mentioning environmental lead levels (and the disparate impact those had on blacks).

            Kevin Drum has been harping on this for quite a while, and I haven’t seen any good rebuttals. And yes this explains differential outcomes for black men (and not women).

            It’s well documented that violent crime, the kind especially prone to be impacted by lead levels, is mostly committed by young men. Lead poisoning was especially impactful in poor communities, and also black communities. Add in a “tallest flower” effect, as well as more garden variety racism, and you get black men who much more likely to be incarcerated.

          • mdet says:

            (probably too late, replied in the wrong spot)

            Why don’t I think we can be an economic superpower and a foreign policy isolationist? I’m no expert, but one of the pop-foreign-policy explanations for wars in the Middle East was that the US wanted a steady supply of oil, and wanted to put people in charge over there who would give that to us. I have no idea whether this is literally true, but it makes sense — a large part of the US’s economic success and prosperity depends on other countries shipping us resources and buying our products. Which means we have an incentive to keep those countries stable enough and prosperous enough to continue doing so. This doesn’t necessarily mean we have to go around waging wars to impose stability, prosperity, and liberal democracy at gunpoint, but if someone says “Why should the US care about the civil war over in X or the authoritarian dictator in Y?”, my most cynical answer would be “Because they buy blue jeans & iPhones too, and we’d like that to continue”.

            Now that I type it out loud, maybe I’m making a more general point about a global economy making us all interdependent, while albatross meant a more specific complaint about exactly where and how we choose to involve ourselves. I don’t specifically know why we need to have troops in Afghanistan today, but I think it’s inevitable that we will have troops somewhere, trying (in vain?) to keep that region peaceful enough to keep making / buying Nikes.

          • Protagoras says:

            @mdet, Interventions may be able to prevent foreign shocks and manipulations, but they are far from reliable and very costly. It is far from clear that just enduring the shocks and manipulations is costlier, and thus far from clear that it is economically disadvantageous to take that course. And there are methods other than intervention to reduce the damage from shocks. If oil wanders from $10 a barrel to $150 a barrel because of wars and deliberate manipulations by foreign oil producers, a lot of oil consumers will have trouble adapting to the shocks caused by that enormous volatility. Impose a $150 a barrel tax on oil, and those who depend on oil will be hurt, but they will adapt (and you can spend the revenues on other things, perhaps reducing other taxes). And demand for oil will drop; using less oil means changes in the price will produce less of a shock. And, finally, the price to oil consumers will now be wandering from $160 a barrel to $300 a barrel, so the volatility will be a lot lower (the highest price being less than double the lowest price, instead of fifteen times). Again, strategies like this are certainly not without cost, but they may well be cheaper and more effective than interventionist strategies, so a country employing them may be more rather than less able to be an economic superpower.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          Not sure I follow. Why would incarceration-factor have a different regression-to-mean pattern than other income factors?

      • AnonYEmous says:

        It is possible to devise a just-so story explaining why black men are somehow more genetically inferior than black women, but that starts to feel like adding epicycles when juxtaposed with stuff like this:

        not to advance this argument myself, but the just-so story would be that women don’t get paid based on intelligence

        • Aapje says:

          I was thinking about the same possibility, because smart women presumably are more free and/or are pressured into being a homemaker or getting a low-paying job, while being provided for.

          That would reduce the correlation between intelligence and income, compared to men.

          • albatross11 says:

            ISTR someone claiming online (I read it on the internet so it must be true) that the effect with black women from rich families doing better than white women from rich families exists if you look at individual income, but not at family income. But I haven’t read the Chetty paper yet (I plan to), so I don’t really know much.

          • albatross11 says:

            Reading through the summary and slideshow, I don’t think this can explain the effect. They looked at womens’ employment and hourly wages, and black and white women were very close in terms of both (as a function of parents’ income %ile).

        • Iain says:

          If I’ve learned one thing from hanging around on SSC, it’s that there are lots of studies showing a correlation between IQ and success. If any of those studies showed that the effect only mattered for men, I have to assume that I would have heard about it by now.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            If I’ve learned one thing from hanging around on SSC, it’s that there are lots of studies showing a correlation between IQ and success.

            Yes indeed. That does make the results of this study somewhat puzzling. This paper deserves a lot more scrutiny to figure out exactly what it is saying, as well as further studies to help understand what exactly is happening here. I am very glad this study isn’t behind a paywall. Thank you WAS for putting this here. We aren’t going to solve these questions in this thread, but we all need to keep these results in mind for the future.

    • Atlas says:

      Perhaps most controversially, some have proposed that racial disparities might be due to differences in innate ability. This hypothesis does not explain why there are black-white intergenerational gaps for men but not women.

      I haven’t looked at all the original findings myself, but I did read the NYT article summarizing the paper, and Steve Sailer’s comments on it.

      Sailer made the point that there are in fact large gaps for women, just not ones over and above what you would predict from parental income. (E.g., imagine that parental IQ was the only determinant of income. Chetty et al. find that white and black women born to parents with 130 IQs do about the same as adults. But since that’s 3 SD above the black mean and 2 SD above the white mean, you’re comparing a much larger fraction of whites that’s relatively less accomplished to the white mean.)

      • The Nybbler says:

        So how do the test score gaps work out? Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see achievement test scores plotted against parental household income for men and women.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Wait… But… I thought the whole “regression to different means” argument positively predicted that there should be gaps after controlling for parental income. Isn’t that falsified now, unless there’s some other effect cancelling out the expected extra gap?

      • onyomi says:

        Yeah, I saw that NYT article and was like… “uh, regression to the mean?” immediately. Now, maybe that doesn’t explain everything, but it doesn’t even get brought up at all. This is why people on the right feel we can’t trust even top-tier outlets like the NYT to apply even a minimum standard of rigor in cases like these.

        Like, here we have all these fancy animated charts designed to give a strong aura of authoritative objectivity, but they fail to even mention any alternative interpretations but the one they know their audience wants to hear. More importantly, though all the data and charts give the impression of commitment to objectivity (since their audience “fucking loves science”), their interpretation of the data always comes from a deeply unscientific starting point, which is an assumption of basically 100% nurture over nature (am I strawmanning? I don’t think I’m strawmanning?).

        • The Nybbler says:

          Regression to the mean fails to explain the results, because black men have lower income than white men controlling for parental household income level across the board.

          • onyomi says:

            Why would having rich parents prevent you regressing to the mean income level of your racial group?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            That’s exactly what regression to the mean predicts, since blacks and whites are regressing to different means. (What is observed for women is not what it predicts.)

          • The Nybbler says:

            @onyomi

            The other way around; if you have average parents, there should be no regression. Unless regression upwards by the higher-mean group completely compensates for lack of regression downwards by the lower-mean group.

          • onyomi says:

            @Douglas Knight

            Exactly. What is remarkable, if anything, is how successful black women raised in affluent households are.

            Imagine how biased one would have to be to come up with the following headline based on the following data points:

            Black people, on average, are more likely to be professional athletes/olympians than white people.

            Children of athletes are more likely, on average, to become athletes than children of non-athletes.

            However, white female children of athletes regress to the mean for white women in general to a greater degree than white male children of athletes and black sons and daughters of athletes.

            The headline: “Data Reveals Punishing Bias against White Women in Athletics.”

            @the Nybbler

            I still don’t understand what you’re getting at. Can you rephrase? The part I’m referring to is where they indicate that black men raised in affluent households are more likely to drop out of the top income brackets than white men and women and black women raised in similar circumstances. This controls for parental income, yes, but one would still predict black men with affluent parents to regress to the mean for black men in general? As Douglas Knight says, the surprising fact is rather that black women do not.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @onyomi

            The Chetty study (figure V. A.) shows that black men have lower income than white men controlling for parental income at all parental income percentiles. The effect is greater at higher parental income percentiles, but it is significant at all. I do not believe regression to the mean can explain this, because there should be no regression to the mean _at_ the mean, which for blacks is 32.7 percentile rank.

            It’s possible that regression (upward) to the mean of whites explains the effect below the white mean. Such perfect cancellation (both black and white curves are very linear except at the extremes) strikes me as unlikely, but I haven’t done the math.

          • onyomi says:

            @Nybbler

            Okay, the chart you are pointing to does control for parental income levels and the result is far less sensational looking.

            I am referring to the animated things embedded in this NYT article, which, even if using the same exact data, feel highly misleading to me.

            For example, looking at the chart you cite, which effectively controls for regression to the mean, you see these two trend lines separated all along the income distribution, but with black men and women (but especially women) both doing a little better than the line predicts at the top end.

            But to take, for example, the first animation in the NYT article: it just picks the top income level and graphically depicts how many black men raised in affluent households fail to replicate their parents’ affluence, but without even mentioning the idea of regression to the mean, which must explain a lot of it, given that, at the top end, they don’t even regress to the trendline for their racial group.

            In other words, they take a fact everyone already knows–that average black income is lower than average white income–and sensationalize its intergenerational persistence by graphically depicting what is basically just regression to the mean, all while failing to even mention the idea of regression to the mean.

    • Matt M says:

      “The black-white income gap is entirely driven by differences in men’s, not women’s, outcomes. Among those who grow up in families with comparable incomes, black men grow up to earn substantially less than the white men. In contrast, black women earn slightly more than white women conditional on parent income. Moreover, there is little or no gap in wage rates or hours of work between black and white women.”

      I heard a theory on Twitter that the issue here had to do with not properly adjusting for household income. That privileged white women from upper class families are more likely to marry rich white men and leave the workforce entirely, in which case their personal income drops to zero, but this does not reflect them having a “worse” outcome in any meaningful way.

      • cassander says:

        that might be true, but “lifestyle choices” never seems to be an acceptable answer when it comes to explaining why supposedly disadvantages groups are doing worse, so it seems a bit cheeky to explain away evidence that they aren’t so disadvantaged after all.

      • dndnrsn says:

        This seems plausible, at a minimum. For something like this, if you’re using income as a proxy for how well treated someone in society is, it’s a problem that 0 income because unemployable due to society being shitty, and 0 income because someone is in a position to not have to work.

      • James Miller says:

        Expectations concerning marriage could also matter. A woman who has a high expectation of marrying a high earning man might pick a fun but impractical college major, while another woman who has equal academic ability and desire for income and fun picks a more practical major because she has lower expectations of someday marrying an economically successful man.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Some mothers warn their daughters against being economically dependent on a man.

          There’s a lot that can go wrong beside not marrying an economically successful man.

          • Aapje says:

            In practice those warnings mainly seem to result in women working more, but not so much in them choosing high-paying specializations*.

            * Women from more gender-egalitarian countries choose high-paying specializations less than women from less gender-egalitarian countries

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Say a women goes to a very-high-status school, gets a degree and husband (who has at least a nice as job as she does), works for a few years, then decides to sacrifice her career to become a SAHM once they have kids.

            In some ways she’s “economically dependent” on him but if she wants she can divorce him, and it’s not like he can work as an architect on the black market to avoid child support.

            All that said, I don’t even know what the base divorce rate is among this Census tract.

          • John Schilling says:

            * Women from more gender-egalitarian countries choose high-paying specializations less than women from less gender-egalitarian countries

            But “less gender-egalitarian” within a narrow range, because the whole point is moot if women can’t readily chose to be doctors or lawyers or engineers or whatnot.

            If you say to women, “you can be engineers if you want but you can not expect us to arrest your husband if he beats you or force him to pay child support if you wind up divorced”, that might cause a lot of women who would otherwise prefer one of the stereotypical Pre-Wed degrees to sign up for law or engineering instead.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          There was a discussion in a link thread a couple of years ago about the large number of women in Pakistan who get medical degrees then get married and stop practising medicine.

      • Iain says:

        I heard a theory on Twitter that the issue here had to do with not properly adjusting for household income.

        The paper examines and rejects this hypothesis.

        Conditional on parental income, black and white women have very similar wage rates, hours of work, and employment rates. These results suggest that the lack of an intergenerational gap in income for females is not due to an income effect.

        • Creutzer says:

          No, they are only conditioning on parental income, but the suggestion is that they should condition on household income as well because there are people at both ends of the SES spectrum who do not work, for entirely different reasons.

    • keranih says:

      Was this study pre-registered?

    • shakeddown says:

      So correct me if I’m wrong here:
      I read this as best interpreted by there being two factors causing inequality: parental ses/iq (those are very correlated, so hard to distangle), and incarceration (including fear of hiring maybe-ex-cons, which can cause filtration for all black men). This explains why adjusting for confounders makes women, but not men, end up looking okay.
      This backs my overall impression that society as a whole (and employers specifically) aren’t that racist, but the police/justice system often is.

    • a reader says:

      So, howsabout this new Chetty paper?

      Nontechnical summary here.

      Interesting findings:

      – “The black-white income gap is entirely driven by differences in men’s, not women’s, outcomes. Among those who grow up in families with comparable incomes, black men grow up to earn substantially less than the white men. In contrast, black women earn slightly more than white women conditional on parent income. Moreover, there is little or no gap in wage rates or hours of work between black and white women.”

      I see people here discussing what happens so special to black men (and I asked the same when I have read the article about this paper in New York Times), but looking at the two graphs at page 3 (from the summary link above): “Children’s Incomes vs. Parents’ Incomes, for Black and White Men and Women” it results that something special happens to white men, not to black men!

      If you put the graph for women over the graph for men in Photoshop, you’ll see that black men’s line almost coincides with those for women of both races, only the white men’s line is at distance over all the three others.

      I have no idea how this can be explained. Of course, racism can’t be the explanation because in a really racist world black women couldn’t earn more (even slightly more) than white women (with same SES), but it seems that the findings didn’t match the usual H BD theories either.

      • Aapje says:

        Black women work more hours, while getting a lower hourly wage. So these partially cancel each other out. Chetty’s summary/paper lacks this detail, which led you to the wrong conclusion.

        • rlms says:

          No it doesn’t. Black women work more hours than as a whole but not (according to the paper) when you condition on income, which is the relevant thing for the graphs mentioned by a reader.

    • albatross11 says:

      Two things I think are interesting right away.

      First, note that what we’re talking about here is income relative to everyone else–what percentile is your income in relative to everyone else’s. A long time ago, interfluidity pointed out an important point about this: upward mobility implies downward mobility. If I’m in the bottom 50% of income, and my son is in the top 50% of income, that means he bumped someone else from that top 50%–if we assume stable population growth across income levels, then some kid of a top-50%-er had to drop to the bottom half, to make room for my son.

      When we’re talking about individuals or racial groups, this is more-or-less a zero sum thing. For me to rise, someone must fall. So when we see that whites and Asians and hispanics are all upwardly mobile, that implies that some other groups will be downwardly mobile. (Again, assuming everyone has about the same number of kids across races and incomes–that’s not quite right, but it’s probably a reasonable first-cut.)

      I’m curious about what this data implies about the impact on upward/downward mobility for current citizens’s kids of immigration. (The data Chetty’s looking at is citizens and legal immigrants, so for hispanics, it’s omitting the large population of long-term illegal immigrants who are probably generally close to the bottom in the income distribution.)

      The second thing comes out in the slideshow (I’m partway through the slides) linked from the summary page: If whites and blacks had the same probability of moving up/down in the income rankings across generations, then the historical black/white income differences would have very quickly closed. Basically, we’re talking about regressing to the mean–if your parents were in the 25th %ile of income, you probably won’t be rich, but you’ll probably be better off than your parents. If your parents were in the 75th %ile, you probably won’t be poor, but you’ll probable not be as well-off as your parents. So if you had two groups with the same tendency to regress to the mean, but starting at different income levels, you’d expect that after a few generations, the groups would converge.

      If you think about it, this is what happened historically with immigrants to the US! The first generation Irish and Italians and Eastern European Jews and Poles and Chinese and Japanese and such generally started at the bottom, but they were upwardly mobile enough that after a few generations, they were doing about as well as everyone else. (Better, in the case of Chinese, Japanese, and Eastern European Jews.)

      If this had happened with blacks over the last couple generations since we got rid of explicit discrimination, then basically everything would be enormously better in the US right now. The puzzle they’re trying to solve is why didn’t that happen with blacks? IMO, this is the question that’s most important to ask wrt black/white gaps everywhere–income, wealth, education, IQ, lifespan, marriage, incarceration, everything. Why didn’t that gap close on its own over time, as people regressed toward the mean?

      • albatross11 says:

        [This is me repeating something that got eaten last night, probably because I used a forbidden word somewhere.]

        A couple things that struck me about the data from the slideshow were:

        a. The upward mobility statistics by race overall fit pretty well with the IQ distribution by groups, and there’s nothing that would be surprising there to any muggle-realist.

        b. The massive split between black men and women in terms of upward mobility is really surprising for a muggle-realist worldview. I don’t know what’s going on there, but it would be good to find out.

        c. I’d like to know how upward mobility relates to IQ scores directly, because the very similar upward mobility of white and black women seems quite surprising in light of the 10-15 point IQ gap between them.

        d. I’m pretty skeptical about the ending stuff where they were looking for interventions that decreased the black/white upward mobility gap among men. This is for a couple reasons:

        (i) This is where they broke out the increasingly sophisticated statistical tools–controlling for various things with a regression model, for example.

        (ii) They seemed to be going way, way down into the weeds to find comparison groups to use–census tracts with the right statistics for both low poverty and high fraction of black families with fathers. These were (as they pointed out themselves) extremely rare places, which makes me wonder if they were just capturing something else (Carribean or African black immigrant neighborhoods?).

        (iii) My amateur understanding is that the IAT doesn’t seem to reliably correlate with observable behavior differences even in nice experimental settings. So it’s pretty hard to believe there’s some subtle effect causing black boys to grow up to make more money when the neighborhood has better (less anti-black biased) IAT results.

        All this made me wonder about garden-of-forking-paths type problems, where the analysts give themselves a huge number of choices without really understanding that they’re doing it. Chetty et al are surely better statisticians than I’ll ever be, and I’m sure they know their business, but this part of their results looks exactly like the footprint of people who tortured the data until it confessed to *something* along the lines that they wanted (some intervention that made that gap narrow).

    • S_J says:

      Below there is a lot of discussion of incarceration rates, and how those rates affect life success.

      Is it possible, using either the paper (or the underlying data) to tease out the different life outcomes between Blacks who were never incarcerated, and Blacks who were incarcerated?

    • Reasoner says:

      One story: Blacks have a higher rate of illegitimacy than whites. Fatherlessness teaches boys that the path to success is to be a tough gangbanger. It teaches girls that the path to success is to get a job to support yourself, because you aren’t going to find a husband to support you. The result is that fatherlessness decreases the income of men and increases the income of women. This story also explains why women are beginning to outperform men in the population at large (illegitimacy is on the rise among white people too).

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Reasoner, you’ve got a theory which can be checked. Does the presence or absence of a father affect the income of their daughters?

        I’ll note that there are other ways that a father might be not be a source of financial support beside the child being illegitimate.

        One is divorce or abandonment. Have an anecdote. One of my friends was left by her husband who was also the father of her son. No child support. This is contrary to the typical MRA narrative. Also contrary to an MRA narrative (possibly less typical narrative), my friend wanted her ex to be touch with his son, but he wouldn’t do it. And contrary to a lot of stereotypes, both the people involved are white.

        Of the women I’ve seen who were warned to be financially self-supporting, I don’t know how much was about possibly having a financially unreliable husband and how much was about having more freedom to get away from an abusive husband.

        “Financially unreliable” might not be the best way to phrase it, since it seems to invite blame– there’s also having difficulty finding work.

        My impression (based on vague memory) is that those warnings have a flavor of resentment, they’re not about shit (involuntary unemployment, illness, death) happening.

        I wonder whether that sort of warning is a generational thing, since these days it’s more likely for a household to need two incomes anyway.

  5. rlms says:

    The sequel to Dragon Army: Theory & Charter has been released on LesserWrong!

    • cactus head says:

      Seems to have gone okay but not great. I’m glad Duncan did the experiment.

    • Aapje says:

      @rlms

      It seems more sensible to link to the retrospective.

      • thirqual says:

        In the previous episodes:
        A: I’m going to do X!
        B: X could lead to problem α and β if you are not careful. We suggest doing γ to limit the risks
        A: B, you exagerate, but okay I’ll implement some form of γ

        In today’s episode
        A: here is our report on X! α did not happen, and β was almost completely absent! B was wrong, I should not have engaged with them
        —-

        Conclusion: either
        1) A does not understand probability (that’s the nice one) or
        2) A is dishonest and you should avoid giving him power over you

        • Protagoras says:

          I never had any enthusiasm for the Dragon Army project (or much interest, really), but to me this looks like a highly distorting oversimplification of the discussion before and after the experiment.

          • thirqual says:

            It is possible that I missed the worst of the arguments against the DA project. I curate who I follow on Rattumblr and did not take part directly in the discussion at the time. I do remember people expressing as risk, or as building up exploitable situations.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          The relevant question is, are alpha and beta sudden catastrophic failure modes? Or are they things that gradually intensify as you guard against them less? If it’s the latter, the retrospective isn’t so far off.

          (Though I’m a bit concerned about the jump from “B was wrong” to “I shouldn’t have engaged with B”)

      • Aapje says:

        The retrospective got removed.

        • Loquat says:

          Aw man, I skimmed that the other day and was going to go back and read it more closely.

          Does anyone here know what real-world activities he was talking about with that “stag hunting vs. rabbit hunting” metaphor? At first it seemed like it was simply a metaphor for doing stuff as a group rather than everyone just doing their own thing, but then there was the bit about how EVERYONE must choose to hunt stag rather than rabbit if the stag is to be caught, and he mentioned multiple occasions of individuals getting burned by wrongly thinking it was clearly time for everyone to “choose stag” and then finding out that no, most of the others didn’t agree. Surely in a real-world situation, as opposed to a logic game, group activities can still work with most-but-not-all of one’s housemates present, and housemates can discuss what they want to do beforehand rather than all being surprised by one another’s choices?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            He mentioned a number of examples, but it wasn’t clear which ones were supposed to have this structure. There is a difference between stag hunt and prisoners dilemma / tragedy of the commons and it seemed like by using the stag hunt terminology he was insisting on a distinction, but maybe he wasn’t being precise. Lots of people use PD all over the place without being precise and maybe he’s using stag hunt to mean the same broad cluster, just to be different.

            One example was group exercise. This seems to me like a good example of stag hunt, that doing it together helps people keep motivated, but it isn’t a prisoners dilemma. But as the number of participants declines, I’d expect it to degrade gracefully, not abruptly. I would define stag hunt more broadly to include this, but he insisted on his definition which would seem to exclude it. (Stag hunt has a standard definition for 2 players, but not, I think, for more.) Maybe there’s a threshold that the first person not to show up is costly by making everyone else angry or jealous, but I’d expect it to still be a win. Maybe he’s using the language of stag hunt because he wants to emphasize the psychic cost of seeing other people defect, which is a real cost even if the defectors aren’t stealing as in the PD. This seems like a poor strategy because people don’t have that association with stag hunt, but maybe he’s trying to create it. This interpretation comes mainly from his discussion of the “white knight,” where he elaborated on his imagery.

            The other example was cleaning the house, which seems to me like a bad example, in that it’s a lot more like a PD / tragedy of the commons. If you schedule a time for cleaning the house together, maybe it is a little more stag-hunt-y. But the problem was that they didn’t schedule a time. Again, maybe he wanted to emphasize not the direct defection that the shirkers were benefiting from the work of the cleaners, but the psychic cost to the workers.

            I suspect he really meant group activities like circling, but he didn’t talk about these as much. He talked about everyone coming together at certain times, but failing to do high-intensity activities at those times. It seems a lot more plausible that having a person present but not interested could derail the activity, unlike the other examples of people not showing up at all, where mere absence should have less of a derailing effect.

  6. Matt M says:

    Role playing games seem to be pretty popular here. This is somewhat surprising to me, because I would have thought that roleplaying games were very unpopular generally.

    I’m a pretty huge nerd. I’d estimate myself to be in the Top 95% of nerdity (meaning, if you gathered 100 people at random in a room, I’d be shocked if more than five were bigger nerds than me). I’ve played one session of D&D in my life, and that is the extent of my roleplaying experience. I have some pretty nerdy friends generally, but I don’t think I know anyone in real life who plays roleplaying games.

    Obviously SSC draws a nerdier crowd than average, but we do seem to be a little diverse in backgrounds, experiences, etc. Putting aside roleplaying, I’d put myself at about median nerdity in comparison to the average SSC commentor.

    So what’s going on here? Am I in some sort of bubble? Have I dramatically under-estimated the popularity of roleplaying games? RP enthusiasts – what would you estimate the rate of roleplayers is per 1,000 people?

    • Protagoras says:

      I think you’ve dramatically underestimated the popularity of roleplaying games. If you’re asking for people who have ever played a role-playing game, I’d guess north of 100 out of 1000. Those who have done it regularly for any length of time not less than a tenth of that. I don’t know why your nerdy environment is so short of role-players; pretty much every nerdy environment I’ve encountered is packed with them.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      I suspect this will also very with age, at least with respect to tabletop games. Geeks who were 12-25 in mid-80s to late 90s are much more likely to be tabletop RPG fans.

      • dndnrsn says:

        This is definitely true. D&D sold way more in the 80s than today. There’s more alternatives – computer games these days, mostly, but CCGs really bit into RPG gaming in the 90s. There were also fewer alternative games, but even today, D&D still sells the most.

        • aNeopuritan says:

          Do you think AD&D sales beat 3.x sales? If yes, do you have numbers on that?

          • dndnrsn says:

            According to Designers and Dragons: The 80s (Shannon Appelcline, 2014, Evil Hat Productions) p351:

            The scattered information we have on print runs holds up the idea of roleplaying hitting its zenith in the ’80s. After starting out with a paid circulation of 20,155 copies in October 1980, Dragon magazine’s paid circulation topped out in September 1984 at 118,021 copies, according to TSR’s yearly publisher’s statement. This would be about double its paid circulation in the ’90s and perhaps close to triple its circulation when the magazine’s run ended in September 2007. Meanwhile, reports suggest that D&D adventures were selling between 50,000 and 150,000 units — before dropping to 20,000 in the ’90s and rising up to just 60,000 in the d20 era.

            Now, that’s adventures, not core books. It gets more complicated when you consider that TSR sold multiple lines of D&D: by the late 70s, the original D&D was still in print, they were selling Basic D&D, and they were selling AD&D. I think in the 80s it ended up as a new edition of Basic (there were multiple editions but this was the biggest change) which ended up as BECMI (after the five different pieces, Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, Immortal) and there was the second edition of AD&D in the second half of the 80s. In the early 90s there was a D&D box set meant as an introductory thing, the Rules Cyclopedia which was basically a revision of BECM (no I), then in the mid 90s there was a reprint/revision of the 2nd ed rules (coincidentally, this was around when I started gaming). I have probably gotten some of this wrong, because D&D version history is really confusing before Wizards cleaned it up.

            From p46 of the book of the same series on the 70s, same author etc, p46 (it should be noted that it breaks it up so that everything TSR 70s-90s is in the 70s book, etc):

            Thanks to information in The Dragon #35 (March 1980) and Inc. Magazine (1982) we have a good picture of TSR’s early growth. In The Dragon, Gygax said that TSR’s gross sales were $50,000 in 1975, $300,000 in 1976, $600,000 in 1977, almost $1 million in 1978, and over $2 million in 1979. Inc. Magazine then reported $9.8 million in sales for the nine-month period ending in June 1981 and $27 million for the year ending in June 1982. Though the James Egbert affair and the publicity surrounding it are usually offered as the reason for the roleplaying industry’s terrific growth at the start of the ’80s, TSR was already doing quite well before that — doubling their sales every year. Going from $2 million in sales at the end of 1979 to (to take an average) $20 million by the end of 1981 was an improvement over that — but it “just” represented the company quintupling its sales during one of those years, rather than their usual doubling.

            20 mil in December 1981 is about 53 mil in February of this year. There’s an article linked by the D&D Wikipedia article from 1984 claiming 750k copies sold a year but it doesn’t specify what editions or what books.

            3rd ed and 3.5th did well, but a good part of their dominance was due to the license setups they had, which let a lot of companies use the d20 rules, and get into publishing both d20 related stuff, and straight-up D&D stuff. This claims ~150-200k PHBs per year “currently”, and seems to be from around the introduction of 3.5, but it also claims 1 million D&D boxed sets a year in 1989, and is based on an email supposedly from a Wizards insider. It also makes it sound that AD&D sales were kinda similar to 3rd and 3.5th? But each edition of D&D has been around for less time (eg, AD&D in 1st and 2nd edition ran from the late 70s to the late 90s; 3rd/3.5th lasted about 8 years; 4th lasted 6). With regard to 5th ed, Mearls claims it has sold more than 3rd, 3.5th, and 4th, individually, not together.

            There were booms and busts throughout the 80s (and 90s, and 00s) for D&D and then for d20 stuff later. TSR eventually died because of a combination of bad luck, incompetent business decisions, sleazy business decisions, and confusion due to having too many different kinds of D&D out.Wizards has done better, being generally more competent and less sleazy, but they really fumbled with 4th ed (I’m biased because I played one session and hated it; they dealt with the problem of wizards being OP by making everyone a wizard and turned the whole damn thing into a tabletop version of MMO combat and little esle) and the stuff surrounding how they were treating the license situation in the latter part of the 3rd/3.5th period, and especially regarding when 4th ed came out.

            So, it’s a hard comparison to make, because TSR were garbage at record keeping, especially early on, and Wizards are cagey about releasing numbers. And it’s not a fair comparison because AD&D was around for way longer than any of the Wizards editions were, plus at the same time they were selling 2 other versions of D&D. Also, online piracy is easier and cheaper than photocopier piracy. Further, it seems like Wizards focused a lot more on splatbooks than TSR did, and TSR only really started doing splatbooks in the 90s (really, White Wolf were the innovators of the splatbook). This suggests that Wizards sold more stuff to fewer people. Plus, it’s notable that Mearls and other Wizards guys boasting about 5th edition sales say it sold better than the previous Wizards editions, and don’t mention the TSR days – presumably, it’s not outselling any of the TSR editions, and if it’s not doing that but is outselling previous Wizards editions, logically none of those could have outsold any of the TSR editions, unless you chop it up very weirdly.

            So, in conclusion, I think that what evidence there is shows that AD&D probably outsold 3rd and 3.5th, and that TSR D&D in general has probably outsold Wizards D&D in general.

            However, D&D is more culturally present today. I’d guess this isn’t because it’s selling more these days, or that more people are playing it; it’s because a lot of people played it in the 80s and 90s, and now they’re of the age that they’re making cultural products like TV shows.

    • Fahundo says:

      Somehow I existed in a similar bubble until I was 26, then suddenly it seemed like everyone was playing RPGs. I don’t know what happened.

      • quaelegit says:

        For me it was more gradual but somewhat similar:

        High school — I’d heard of D&D but didn’t know much about it & was not aware of anyone who played tabletop games in my social circles

        College — started meeting people who actually play tabletop games. I tried to join/watch a group of friends starting up a campaign near the end of college but couldn’t work out the schedule (plus they had too many people already).

        Career [I graduated college and started working last summer] — the only coworkers I interact with socially are these two D&D nerds and their friends, in roughly bi-weekly gaming sessions. To be fair this is more due to me being an awkward recluse than D&D being particularly prevalent.

      • Nick says:

        To my knowledge no one I knew growing up was a role-playing fan. Plenty of folks at college, but no one that I know of at my present workplace. I’m still in my college campaigns via Discord and Roll20.

        Proximity to a game shop dedicated to encouraging this sort of thing is surely a factor. I grew up in a small town, and it looks like the closest one was about 30 minutes away. That’s not too bad, but not very practical either. The folks I knew from college into it had been for a long time and had been making regular trips to local shops for books or miniatures or campaigns.

    • Randy M says:

      Obviously the board doesn’t select randomly from the population of the world, or even the English speaking population, so the number of tabletop RPG enthusiasts per 1000 pop is not terribly relevant–I’d put that number at something less than 1.
      Critical role, a livestreamed D&D play, has 1.3 million views on a recent youtube upload. It’s a long show, so it probably doesn’t represent more than 500k unique viewers, but it gives an idea of the scale of the RPG-interested.

    • Civilis says:

      What hobbies do you have that you think make you a nerd? There’s both the advantages of overlap between similar hobbies, and the disadvantage that there’s only so much time and money you can devote to them. It could be that your nerd hobbies didn’t overlap well with tabletop RPGs, or they overlapped too well and crowded them out.

      It could also be that you just never got exposed. Look at is as a memetic disease. People generally don’t spontaneously start to take up a hobby, especially one that requires a group. True, you could decide to order the books from Amazon and recruit some friends, but most people that play were exposed to someone else that had played in a game and wanted to run a campaign. (The original RPG virus is a mutation of the tabletop wargame virus).

      I started playing RPGs in high school, so obviously someone had the books, but I don’t know where they picked them up. I know a lot of people that started in college, but that required being interested enough to make the gaming society (or whatever group is playing) their leisure activity; if you’re doing something else in your spare time in college, you’d miss the opportunity. The only place where I think you’d independently encounter the hobby post-college tends to be your local game store (which might also be your local comics store), which likely has copies of the books, flyers advertising open games, and possibly games run in the store, so if you spend enough time in store, either your interest may be aroused, or you might here ‘hey, I see you every week; we have a free table space, want to play?’.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Supposedly there’s been a renaissance of tabletop RPGs lately, especially among middle-aged people. At a minimum, they’re getting more attention. It seems to be a pretty good time to be into RPGs, because trends in the 90s and 00s mean there’s a lot more kinds of games right now. And the internet has made buying books cheaper, especially by pdf, especially old stuff.

      I’d guess about 15% of the population has played an RPG, and maybe 3% are “RPG gamers”, although that may not indicate that they play regularly.

    • gbdub says:

      I’m 30, and I know (as far as I am aware) precisely zero current tabletop RPG players in my peer group.

      But I know several people who are casual to serious fans of non-RPG tabletop games.

      My sum total of tabletop RPG experience is several sessions of Battletech in middle/early high school with one group of friends. But I lived with those guys for a couple years in college and we never went back to it. Another group of friends tried D&D a couple of times, I think basically because we figured it was some sort of nerd right of passage, but didn’t really get into it.

      I think videogames took away a large chunk of time that RPGs might otherwise fill, and more casual tabletop gaming took the rest. Honestly the casual tabletop gaming would probably also take a dive if there were more and better mainstream couch co-op / vs videogames.

      Seriously, why did multiplayer couch videogaming (outside of explicit “party” titles like Wii Sports / Mario Party) go away? We had it with crappy 24″ or smaller 480p TVs, and had a blast with Goldeneye / Medal of Honor / other earlyish FPS, MarioKart, Smash Bros… Now we all have huge high def flatscreens and yet network multiplayer is the only option on most titles.

      • Civilis says:

        Seriously, why did multiplayer couch videogaming (outside of explicit “party” titles like Wii Sports / Mario Party) go away? We had it with crappy 24″ or smaller 480p TVs, and had a blast with Goldeneye / Medal of Honor / other earlyish FPS, MarioKart, Smash Bros… Now we all have huge high def flatscreens and yet network multiplayer is the only option on most titles.

        The internet, the continued relevance of the PC market for FPS games, and possibly that multiplayer couch games require only one console and copy of the game.

        Regarding the internet, you aren’t going to sell too many games that people can’t play unless they have friends over, so to make a multiplayer game these days you want it to be internet-capable, and screen sharing isn’t nearly as fun as having a whole screen to yourself, so the screen sharing is always going to be second to internet multiplayer.

        The PC has never been as good at screen sharing as the consoles, and most FPS games are still ported to the PC, so development suggests that a game mode that won’t be viable on the PC isn’t going to fly. Goldeneye was a product of its time, and very clunky compared to the PC FPS games of the day; it worked because there were no real FPS options for the consoles.

        Couch multiplayer isn’t dead; Nintendo still does couch multiplayer: the Switch can handle two players right out of the box, and it has MarioKart and will have Smash Brothers (and a fair number of other titles built for couch multiplayer). Fighting games on all consoles are still highly driven by couch multiplayer.

        Honestly the casual tabletop gaming would probably also take a dive if there were more and better mainstream couch co-op / vs videogames.

        I don’t necessarily think this is going to happen, at least with regards to the current video game market. There’s now a higher barrier to entry for new players in a video game market dominated by PvP games balanced for the veteran e-Sports crowd than there is in the tabletop gaming market, and tabletop game manufacturers have been quick to embrace the idea of using smartphone / tablet apps to augment the tabletop gaming experience. Again, Nintendo is the exception, but they’re not at the level they once were.

        • gbdub says:

          “screen sharing isn’t nearly as fun as having a whole screen to yourself”

          I highly disagree. My roommate and I had a ton of fun playing the original Star Wars Battlefront split screen. Playing Madden live with your buddy in the room is a totally different then battling a disembodied voice online.

          FPS games don’t allow cross platform play anyway, so I don’t see why adding a split screen mode to console only would be too big a deal.

      • John Schilling says:

        I’m 30, and I know (as far as I am aware) precisely zero current tabletop RPG players in my peer group. But I know several people who are casual to serious fans of non-RPG tabletop games.

        As penance for my nerdosity, I have been sentenced elected to a term as vice-president of the Aerospace Corporation gaming club. Which gives me access to the membership list and event attendance records. About 3% of the company has signed up to be on our mailing list, about 2% are formally members, and about 1% are active in an average month. That’s about evenly divided between boardgaming (mostly Euro-style) and RPG (Pathfinder). The video gaming branch is defunct for lack of interest.

        This is almost entirely post-collegiate professional nerds, though we do get a noticeable influx of interns in the summer.

        Honestly the casual tabletop gaming would probably also take a dive if there were more and better mainstream couch co-op / vs videogames.

        One advantage of casual tabletop gaming is that it is socially and even professionally acceptable to do it during lunch hour at work, whereas setting up a gaming session on one of the wall displays in the “open” collaboration rooms would probably be frowned upon.

        And even during the weekend events hosted at members’ homes, I think there is a distinct social advantage to having the pacing of the game entirely human-driven. The dice will wait until you finish your digression before making you focus your attention on the game. A point Matt just alluded to cross-thread re American-style sportsball.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I think you’re right about that social advantage. In general, I think one of the advantages of these games is the social element: I hang out with my friends for 3-6 hours a week, and we play a game.

          It’s also a creative outlet.

        • CatCube says:

          One advantage of casual tabletop gaming is that it is socially and even professionally acceptable to do it during lunch hour at work, whereas setting up a gaming session on one of the wall displays in the “open” collaboration rooms would probably be frowned upon.

          This might be more of a local etiquette thing. In our office, us junior engineers used to do a Mario Kart session in one of the conference rooms once a month or so. I think the guy who owned the N64 didn’t bring it back to the office after we had to move out for a few months for a building renovation, and that caused it to die off. I don’t recall any heartache over it, though.

          We do have a lunchtime pinochle game that’s going strong, which we have W/L records for going back to 1986 (well, earlier, but it’s the stats aren’t broken out by year until 1986). That’s mostly where my lunch hour is spent.

    • Brad says:

      To add another data point on Matt M’s side: I grew up in the 80s and 90s. When I was in middle school and high school I read a couple of the guidebooks, but didn’t have anyone to play with. In college I played D&D (AD&D 2nd?) a handful of times. Since graduating there’s not a single person I’m friends or close acquaintances with that as far as I’m aware has ever played P&P RPGs, much less does so regularly.

      I don’t like the word ‘nerd’ and don’t so identify, but I work as a computer programmer, I have a ~10 hr/week WoW habit, and I post here.

      • Matt M says:

        I have a ~10 hr/week WoW habit, and I post here.

        Please tell me you’re Horde, because I’m now imagining that in addition to sparring here, we’ve met on the fields of Arathi Basin a few times…

    • dndnrsn says:

      I just posted a too-long comment with too much research, but I think my conclusion is useful for this topic.

      D&D sold a lot better back in the day, probably, but the people who played it then are now old enough that they’re in the position to be the ones making the cultural products like TV and movies. Someone who was in their mid-teens in the late 80s is now in their mid-40s, and I’m guessing most established TV scriptwriters or whatever are that old. In 10 years we might see a lot of references to White Wolf games, who knows.

    • Zeno of Citium says:

      So, someone on ENWorld (popular roleplaying forum) figured out that total sales for the 5th edition core book for Dungeons and Dragons on Amazon is about 500,000/year (as of 2016): http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?496562-D-amp-D-product-sales-numbers-on-Amazon-etc . DnD is a huge portion of the RPG market, maybe even a majority. Many roleplaying groups don’t have one copy of the PHB per player, but have more than one per group. Let’s work on some very basic numbers, assume DnD 5e is the whole market, assume Amazon is half of their sales, and assume every 5-person group has 2 copies of the PHB (which is typical for my experience, but maybe my groups are unusually cheap – or unusually profligate!). Assume every book is used in a group. This ought to get us within an order of magnitude.
      This gives up sales of 1 million per year, representing 2.5m people a year. That is worldwide (I think) but English speaking people only. Assuming this edition lasts 10 years, which is about right, that’s 25 million roleplayers. Wikipedia says there are between 500 million-1 billion English speakers, which is gives us between 5% and 2.5% of people as roleplayers. This seems pretty high, actually, but not too high to be plausible. A few percent seems about right.
      This gives us 25-50 people out of a thousand, which seems okay – this number is *way* higher in the places I am (nerdy, high-income, high education Boston), but this balances out with places where people may not even know what RPGs *are*.
      In conclusion, go on Meetup and find some group running a one-shot night or small campaign, if you like other nerd stuff you’ll probably enjoy it.

      • dndnrsn says:

        1. Assuming Amazon is 50% of the sales seems a pretty big leap. It could be higher, due to Amazon being convenient and usually cheaper than physical stores, or it could be lower, due to pdf sales and perhaps a bit more loyalty to brick and mortar “FLGS” places than is the norm for people buying books.

        2. What’s the average size per group? My group started off with 4 players, at one point it was seven players (but almost never in the room at the same time), then it was back down to 4, then 5, now 6 (but again, it’s hard to get 6 people together at the same time). 5 seems a bit high.

        3. What about people who buy books but don’t play? Through most of my teens I bought a lot of books, but played very rarely, then found people to game with in university. Some games I almost never played – Call of Cthulhu is probably my all-time favourite, but I didn’t really play it until I got into university, despite owning a ton of books.

        4. For D&D, 2 PHBs a group seems low, especially for a group of 5 people. I don’t know how complex 5th is, as I haven’t played it, but back when I was playing second through 3.5th, you wanted your own PHB. For other games, that are more rules light, you really need one book – my group only has one book of any given thing.

        5. Speaking of which, where do other games fit into it? I don’t actually play D&D, and have played any form of it maybe twice in the last 10 years.

        • Nick says:

          Re 1, we could be outliers, but my friends and I have a good deal of loyalty to brick and mortar game shops. I haven’t bought any RPG material online, although a few friends have once or twice. (I likewise buy from brick and mortar bookstores when I can, but about half my bookbuying still goes through Amazon.)

          Re 2, our college campaigns had anywhere from 3 (the smallest a DM was willing to run) to 9 (nearly unmanageable and not sustainable). And it was not uncommon for more than one person to have the book, 2 out of every 5 sounding about right to me. Point well taken about rules-light systems requiring less reliance on books, though; with Pathfinder we had a lot of corebooks floating around, with Savage Worlds just one.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Different groups also vary in their willingness to learn the rules. My group is… Well, a couple are seasoned tabletop gamers, and learn the rules of more complex systems, but for the stuff we play, they don’t much care. One is in many ways a non-gamer, and does not particularly care. A couple are seasoned, but do not care. I seem to care vastly more about rules, the “theory” of games, how games use (or don’t use) the rules to produce incentives that lead players to follow the “theme” of the game or whatever, all that stuff. Why, one might conceivably come to the conclusion that I take this stuff too seriously.

            D&D when I started playing – so, the revision of second ed – was weird and heterogeneous enough that it really helped to know what was going on; you couldn’t just learn how to do the basic stuff and then assume that everything else was an extrapolation of that, or a spot rule simple enough it could be dealt with when the time came. Then 3rd edition came along and while it had a unified mechanic, you still had to learn a lot. A game of AD&D, 3rd, or 3.5th where only one person actually knew the rules on a deep level would suck.

          • Fahundo says:

            A game of AD&D, 3rd, or 3.5th where only one person actually knew the rules on a deep level would suck.

            In 5th it’s not super important for a player to read much more than just how their race class, and spells work. I mean, you probably want to read more than that, but the DM summing up how, say, actions in combat work can usually be sufficient

      • Fahundo says:

        I’ve played in multiple groups, some larger than 5, where there were 0 copies of the book because someone “”””acquired”””” the pdf.

    • fion says:

      I also consider myself far nerdier than average and I’ve never played role playing games. When I think of my friends who play role playing games I’d say maybe 80% are nerdier than me, but some are substantially less nerdy.

    • Nornagest says:

      RP enthusiasts – what would you estimate the rate of roleplayers is per 1,000 people?

      Probably somewhere around twenty in a thousand are currently involved in a roleplaying game, but in young, nerdy circles I’d expect something closer to two hundred or even higher.

      (I Googled it, and the numbers I found showed nine million Americans had played a tabletop roleplaying game in the last year. That works out to 24/1000, but 2017 was an unusually good year for roleplaying.)

      • At only a slight tangent, to what degree are what are described as roleplaying games really role playing?

        I played WoW for years on what was nominally a RP server. Judging by my observation, only a small minority of players made any serious effort at role playing. I haven’t done pen and paper role playing for a very long time, or very much of it, but my casual impression was that a lot of players, perhaps most, were more aware of the dice in their hand than the mace in their hand.

        And I have been involved in the SCA for nearly fifty years, and found that most participants are interacting as modern people in costumes with medieval interests, not as medieval people.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Well, what are we defining “roleplaying” as?

          I like Justin Alexander’s definition.

          Let me break that down: Roleplaying games are self-evidently about playing a role. Playing a role is about making choices as if you were the character. Therefore, in order for a game to be a roleplaying game (and not just a game where you happen to play a role), the mechanics of the game have to be about making and resolving choices as if you were the character. If the mechanics of the game require you to make choices which aren’t associated to the choices made by the character, then the mechanics of the game aren’t about roleplaying and it’s not a roleplaying game.

          When I reward my players for “good roleplaying” I focus on their making meaningful choices in a way that fits the character, rather than their ability to talk in an accent or similar.

        • Randy M says:

          At only a slight tangent, to what degree are what are described as roleplaying games really role playing?

          There’s a lot of different types of engagement people get out of the game. And the game element is as critical to the hobby as the fiction element. A role-playing game is it’s own thing that isn’t wholly described by taking the words individually. Without the game, without the competition against the forces of fate as represented by the dice and the rules, it’s just a story session with usually quite cliche characters. But without the fiction, it’s just a lesson in probability.

          But in a well-run game (editorializing immanent) the decisions made by the players will have ramifications on the game fiction in way congruent with the earlier established setting and events, the game rules, and verisimilitude (or common sense based on reality as well as genre conventions). In a well designed game, the choices a player makes are aligned with the choices the characters make.

          So just because a player isn’t thinking “I’m going to break down this door because it’s the best chance we have of reaching the princess in time and I’m a man of action not content to wait for the authorities” but rather “I’m going to roll strength because my lock-picking sucks and we haven’t found any other doors and I want to roll something” it’s contributing to advancing the narrative in a pretty equivalent way.

          Now at the end of the day, the player won’t really have any idea of what it was like to be a man-at-arms in a feudal lord’s retinue or whatever you expect them to get out of “really role-playing” but their decisions inform the narrative events in a reasonable way consistent with the genre tropes the game evokes and the game master will likely try to make the world react in similar manner, or at least do funny voices for the goblins.

        • Nornagest says:

          I’m involved in the MUD scene — somewhat less seriously now than a few years ago, but I’ve still got an active hand in it — and the projects I’ve worked on have generally billed themselves (with varying levels of fidelity) as roleplaying-heavy, so I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about this.

          A well-known article by one of the scene’s founding fathers breaks players down into four groups (arbitrarily labeled with playing card suits) depending on their main motivation. “Achievers” (diamonds) treat the game as an optimization problem: they want to accomplish well-defined goals, accumulate levels, skill points, or gold, or otherwise collect feathers for their cap. “Explorers” (spades) treat it as a puzzle to solve or a mystery to unravel: depending on inclination they might be interested in setting, lore, or fiddly details of game mechanics. “Killers” (clubs) treat it as a venue for competition; Bartle casts this mostly in terms of griefing, but I’d say that’s a degenerate case, kinda like how degenerate achivement-oriented gameplay gives you munchkins. Consensual PvP and even some forms of cooperative gameplay seem more central. And “socializers” (hearts) treat it as an opportunity for self-expression.

          Depending on how you design and advertise your game you can tailor it to one or more types; but most successful games are achievement-
          or competition-oriented, and roleplaying as such is mainly the province of socializers. (Though not exclusively; explorers can also be interested in it as a way of expressing their knowledge of lore.) So it tends to be a sideline. A lot of people have tried bringing it to the fore, but since RP-centric concepts are usually done by people with very well-developed ideas about setting and characterization, they often come with rigid, authoritarian concepts of Good RP that don’t leave much latitude for players. Those projects usually aren’t successful. You can find pure socialization without much trouble, but it’s usually found outside the gaming framework, in freeform RP chats or whatever the modern equivalent is.

          Similar considerations apply to tabletop.

          • Incurian says:

            arbitrarily labeled with playing card suits

            Not arbitrarily, very cleverly!

          • Protagoras says:

            I do feel about pretty much any categorization I’ve seen that mixed types are overwhelmingly the most common, though invariably people who are slightly more concerned with X than with Y will complain loudly about how those who are slightly more concerned with Y than X only care about Y and don’t care about X at all.

          • Nornagest says:

            Sure. The taxonomy’s probably most directly useful for development priorities: in a vacuum most players will probably respond positively to well-written item descriptions or clever puzzles or a good PvP system, but at the end of the day you can’t do everything, so to allocate your development hours effectively you need to know your audience. And sometimes the types funge directly against each other — what’s good for PvE balance (for achievers) is rarely what’s good for PvP balance (for killers).

            So it doesn’t directly show how much roleplaying’s going on, but it does show us how players prioritize it. And that’s at least suggestive.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      So, I first encountered D&D in 6th grade. This was late in 2E’s life cycle. I played a Magic-User for a couple of sessions before the DM lost interest, then I basically treated the Monstrous Manual like any library book of imaginary beasts. 🙂
      3E was a thing in high school, but I didn’t know of any local group. I played a couple sessions of, of all things, Hackmaster with some internet friends. That was the extent of my experience until after college, when I got a regular group together.
      I am under the impression that this is statistically bass-awkwards.

      • Nornagest says:

        Ha. I played 2E all the way through middle school, off and on. (Mostly thieves and rangers, at the time — I started playing casters in college.) But however much time I spent playing it, I guarantee I spent more reading the Monstrous Manual. By seventh grade I nearly had it memorized.

        I miss the notes on ecology and behavior that edition gave for all its monsters. I can understand why they dropped it for 3E on — it ate pagecount at a time when the game was getting a lot more verbose, and that kind of lore makes more sense in a campaign setting than a base sourcebook — but it really helped to give the impression that these things were part of a breathing world rather than bundles of stats attached to a CR.

        Though I probably could have done with fewer dragons, fewer slimes, molds, and jellies, and fewer monsters disguised as mundane items. We’ve already got mimics, do we really need something that’s a mimic, but for a cloak? Or a stalagmite? Or the floor?

        • dndnrsn says:

          Was the 3rd ed MM that much smaller than the 2nd? Or are you referring to the 1st ed MM (wasn’t it actually a bunch of booklets?) instead of the 2nd? Or is this a 2nd ed vs 2nd ed revised issue? Because I spent a lot of time poring over the 2nd ed revised MM, and it wasn’t that much bigger than the 3rd ed one. One annoying thing: it contained psionic stuff, but the psionics rules weren’t in the core books.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m talking about the 2nd edition Monstrous Manual, the 1993 one with a white cover. 3E’s was only slightly shorter in pagecount, if that, but the 3rd edition MM devoted more of that space to stat blocks and special rules, and the 2nd edition MM devoted more of it to lore and tactical advice. Besides layout gingerbread, which all the 3E books have in spades, I imagine there’s several reasons for the difference: 3E gave a lot more monsters spell-like abilities and such, but the basic toolkit was already more verbose — 2E had nothing like feats, for example, and its (deeply weird) skill system wasn’t applied to monsters, whereas a 3E monster might have ranks in Climb or Ride or Athletics that’d show up in its stat block. 3E is also when templates came in, and they took up some pagecount too; 2E would have interpreted most of them as standalone monsters, but that still leaves 3E with a stat block for the template and another stat block for an example monster.

            The psionic thing was confusing, yeah. 2E psionics rules were an unmitigated disaster all around, though.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Yeah, you’re right – now that I’m remembering it, a decent chunk of what looked like statblock in 2nd ed was actually just ecology-related stuff (how many of those freaky hippos with guns did you just run into? An entire village? Damn, son) presented in chart or chartlike form.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          @Nornagest:

          But however much time I spent playing it, I guarantee I spent more reading the Monstrous Manual. By seventh grade I nearly had it memorized.

          😀

          I miss the notes on ecology and behavior that edition gave for all its monsters. I can understand why they dropped it for 3E on — it ate pagecount at a time when the game was getting a lot more verbose, and that kind of lore makes more sense in a campaign setting than a base sourcebook — but it really helped to give the impression that these things were part of a breathing world rather than bundles of stats attached to a CR.

          Yeah, the ecology and behavior stuff was great. It gave the impression that D&D was one big campaign setting. If you were on a planet, you’d run into the Tolkien races, giants, dragons, and odd fauna that could turn you to stone or eat your armor. Then there was outer space, with its telekinetic heads with too many eyes, serpent-headed giant spiders, and hippo people. Heck, there was even an afterlife that came off as a science fantasy thing because they’d renamed devils and demons “Baatzu” and “Tanar’ri”, giving the impression that they were SFnal races with genetically engineered castes.

          And yes, the proliferation of disguise monsters was silly. I think all of “Ooze/slime/jelly” was literally just a two-page spread, though.

          • Nornagest says:

            Well, at the very least you gotta include gelatinous cubes — the monster that’s so used to living in 10×10 dungeon corridors that it’s actually evolutionarily adapted to them. You’re probably right that most of the others were lumped.

            I think we should talk more about dragon creep, though. I can remember five different kinds of evil “standard” dragon, five neutral gem dragons, five good metallic ones, plus a whole mess of brown dragons, yellow dragons, mercury dragons, mist dragons, cloud dragons, pseudo-dragons, fairy dragons, steam-breathing dragon turtles, deep dragons, shadow dragons, sea dragons, wyverns, drakes, dragonnes, dragonets, dracohydras, dracolisks, dracoliches, and five-headed dragon gods. And that’s just from 2E. I know the game has “dragon” in the name, but this is ridiculous. Especially the one that spits an exploding throat lozenge at you.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Oh yeah, dragon creep was ridiculous in the Monstrous Manual. There were almost 20 “true dragons”, apparently distinguished from false d dragons by being sapient and therefore spell casters and way too cool for mere PCs to fight. Like you said: 5 colors of evil, 5 metal and good, 5 neutral gem dragons, dracolich, and a few oddballs. This was perhaps the lamest example of D&D’s habits of systemization and racial alignments.
            Looking back to OD&D (1974), apparently there were the 5 colors of evil, gold dragons based on Chinese long, then wyverns (distinguished from dragons because heraldry), dragon turtles and hydras. That seems about right, though even having both green and black dragons is dubious: poison cloud, fire, ice & lightning breathers would be plenty.
            Then the MM also had faerie dragons based on very girly late 20th century art, fire & cold drakes (small dragons heroes could actually kill), other species of “dragonet” (why?!), the dragonne (half metallic dragon, half lion) & the behir (wingless non-sapient blue dragon based on Scots folklore). Tiamat knows what extra dragons Dragonlance, Spelljammer, the afterlife, etc. had!

          • AlphaGamma says:

            Heck, there was even an afterlife that came off as a science fantasy thing because they’d renamed devils and demons “Baatzu” and “Tanar’ri”, giving the impression that they were SFnal races with genetically engineered castes.

            IIRC what happened is:
            OD&D had demons and that was it.

            AD&D 1e introduced devils and daemons, but they weren’t introduced into BECMI/RC D&D as far as I know. They also gave them their current alignments (devils are LE, daemons are NE, demons are CE)

            AD&D 2e removed all references to devils and d(a)emons because of the Satanic Panic. Devils became Baatezu, demons became Tanar’ri and daemons became Yugoloths. The Planescape campaign setting, published for AD&D 2e, made a lot of use of all of these monsters- I think this might be the afterlife you are referring to.

            3e brought back demons and devils, keeping tanar’ri and baatezu as subsets of them. Yugoloths stayed yugoloths to avoid the confusion of having demons and daemons be different things.

          • Jiro says:

            Oh yeah, dragon creep was ridiculous in the Monstrous Manual.

            Well, it is called Dungeons and Dragons.

            Actually, the “dungeons” part could also explain the gelatinous cube and mimic.

          • Nick says:

            In a recent monster encounter in Pathfinder, our party thought we were facing an Alaskan bullworm. Turns out, when we got a look at it, that it was an Alaskan bullwyrm. 😀

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Alphagamma:

            OD&D had demons and that was it.

            AD&D 1e introduced devils and daemons, but they weren’t introduced into BECMI/RC D&D as far as I know. They also gave them their current alignments (devils are LE, daemons are NE, demons are CE)

            AD&D 2e removed all references to devils and d(a)emons because of the Satanic Panic. Devils became Baatezu, demons became Tanar’ri and daemons became Yugoloths. The Planescape campaign setting, published for AD&D 2e, made a lot of use of all of these monsters- I think this might be the afterlife you are referring to.

            I think that’s right. The proliferation of d(a)emons goes something like:
            OD&D has Balrogs. Tolkien estate flips out, and they become “Type VI Demons” in a supplement, wherein the six-armed naginis (Marilith) and four lesser types are introduced. They are Chaotic (there being only 3 alignments).
            The Monster Manual is the first Advanced D&D book. Gary Gygax hasn’t decided if there will be the now-familiar 9 alignments or only 5. This is where Devils get added as the embodiment of Lawful Evil.
            1980s: Basic & Expert sets sell millions of copies. Demons, Devils, and bare breasts missing. Meanwhile, the AD&D Monster Manual 2 creates an “Outer Planar” species for each of the 9 alignments that doesn’t already have one. There is a D&D cartoon. The Satanic Panic happens.
            1989: AD&D Second Edition is released. CE Demons, NE Daemons & LE Devils get their names changed, becoming more like aliens from the Outer Planes. The afterlife/Outer Planes are further systematized into the Planescape setting in the early ’90s.

            @Jiro:

            Well, it is called Dungeons and Dragons.

            Of course, but at what point do you have the correct number of dragon types for that name? I think OD&D had it close to right, though the Faerie Dragon fills an obvious niche as the cutesy pet/familiar that won’t grow into a huge combat asset with time.

          • Nornagest says:

            There’s gotta be a rational explanation for this. Maybe some kind of evolutionary tendency, like carcinisation? Most of them are hexapods, which implies they’re a different taxonomic class…

            I really liked Planescape. D&D’s rigid alignment scheme and racial alignments for everything were a liability most of the time, but that setting turned it into an asset. I’m a big fan of weird fiction, though, and that’s about as close to it as D&D ever got, Jack Vance influence notwithstanding.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest:

            There’s gotta be a rational explanation for this. Maybe some kind of evolutionary tendency, like carcinisation? Most of them are hexapods, which implies they’re a different taxonomic class…

            Yeah, see, by that era D&D was definitely coming across as a setting where looking for rational, scientific explanations is appropriate (how many thousands of generations old would civilization have to be for Mimics to evolve?).
            One would think hexapodia would actually be a liability for a giant flyer (not the key insight). The ideal way to get huge is for the muscles necessary for take-off and flight to all be in the wings, like pterosaurs. I guess dragons are under selection pressure for muscular forelegs so they can be combat monsters, but you’d think the hind legs would either disappear or shrink to little “landing gear”…

            I really liked Planescape. D&D’s rigid alignment scheme and racial alignments for everything were a liability most of the time, but that setting turned it into an asset. I’m a big fan of weird fiction, though, and that’s about as close to it as D&D ever got, Jack Vance influence notwithstanding.

            It was certainly impressive to turn that into an asset. Obviously I didn’t get the whole Planescape thing when I first encountered “Outer Planes” as an ecology in the Monstrous Manual… it came across more like a fantasy version of outer space, overlapping with the outer space Beholder-kin, Neogi and hippo people came from… oh and then there were those Gith entries that said they lived on the Astral Plane. How does this all fit together?!
            Planescape gave a fine partial answer. Do you know what the “great wheel” cosmology was when first introduced? An illustration alongside this afterlife table.
            Yeah, apparently Buddhist monks work really really hard at being Lawful Neutral so they can go to Nirvana and coexist with Modrons. The Seven Heavens and Nine Hells are Dante’s Christian vision of the universe de-contextualized. But that vision included Elysium, Limbo, Hades and Tartarus… and why has the River Acheron been ripped out into its own plane? And I have to wonder why only Nirvana, the Norse afterlife and the Happy Hunting Grounds got added to an otherwise Greco-Christian scheme.

          • Nornagest says:

            how many thousands of generations old would civilization have to be for Mimics to evolve?

            https://killsixbilliondemons.com/comic/seeker-of-thrones-6-68/

          • John Schilling says:

            Yeah, see, by that era D&D was definitely coming across as a setting where looking for rational, scientific explanations is appropriate (how many thousands of generations old would civilization have to be for Mimics to evolve?).

            Given the setting, how is A Wizard Did It not the obviously and literally correct answer to almost all of these questions? I mean, sure, we want Dragons to be something wondrous and mythic and beyond human ken, but mimics and gelatinous cubes and whatnot are just the sort of thing a high-level wizard would create to make sure his labyrinthine stronghold stays clear of pesky adventurers and their detritus.

  7. littskad says:

    Here’s another quiz to add to the recent tide. It’s US-centric, but I’ll let someone else do another region if they want. I’ll post answers later.

    What properties distinguish the US states on each of these lists from those not listed?

    1. Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming

    2. California, Georgia, Missouri, New York, Utah

    3. Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma

    4. Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia

    5. California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia

    6. California, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas

    7. Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia

    8. Arizona, California, Maryland, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia

    9. Connectincut, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia

    10. Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virgina, Washington

    11. Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

    12. California, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Nevada

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Paging Bean to find an answer involving classes or technologies of battleships that was not intended.

      • bean says:

        Under a strict reading of your question, I have nothing.
        It’s usually a near-pattern, with a random ship of exactly the wrong type/era thrown in.
        8. Fuvcf gung jrer ng Crney Uneobe qhevat gur nggnpx.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      1. Gur fgngr pncvgny vf nyfb gur ynetrfg pvgl.

    • shakeddown says:

      My Answers:
      1) Pncvgny vf ynetrfg pvgl
      2) Unf ubfgrq gur bylzcvpf

      I’ll add a couple:
      1) Nevada, Montana, Colorado, North Dakota, Missouri, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Vermont, Maine, Alabama, Florida.

      2) Nevada, Utah, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Colorado, South Dakota, Iowa, Arkansas.

      3) Wyoming, Hawaii, South Dakota, Alaska.

      4) Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas.

    • yodelyak says:

      7. Guessing it must have to do with fbzrguvat ertvbany; nyy gurfr fgngrf gbhpu. Vf gurer n fcrpvsvp evire gung gbhpurf gurfr, ohg zvffrf Graarffrr?

      Feeling stumped by all of these, I tried thinking of categories that seemed likely, to see if they matched any of these lists of states… pbzvat ng guvf sebz gur bgure qverpgvba, naq gelvat gb anzr yvxryl pngrtbevrf gung zvtug or sha, yvxr fgngrf jvgu guerr flyynoyrf be fgngrf jvgu n fcnpr va gur anzr. Fgngrf jvgu erfreingvbaf? Fgngrf jvgu ahpyrne cbjre cynagf? Fgngrf jvgu gur zbfg yvtugavat fgevxrf? Fgngrf gung qb abg fryy ybggrel gvpxrgf? Fgngrf jvgu fxv erfbegf? Fgngrf jvgu tynpvref? Nope, nope, and a dozen times more nope. So either I think very differently than littskad, or that’s not the best way to approach this quiz.

    • littskad says:

      I guess these were harder than I intended; only 1, 2, and 8 were gotten. Here are the answers:

      1. Fgngrf jubfr pncvgnyf ner gurve zbfg cbchybhf pvgvrf
      2. Fgngrf juvpu unir ubfgrq gur Bylzcvpf
      3. Fgngrf ragveryl jvguva gur Zvffvffvccv Evire qenvantr onfva
      4. Fgngrf jvgu fpubbyf sebz gur Ovt 12 pbasrerapr
      5. Fgngrf jurer n Srqreny Erfreir Onax vf ybpngrq
      6. Fgngrf jurer gjb ASY grnzf cynl gurve ubzr tnzrf
      7. Fgngrf jubfr bssvpvny fgngr oveq vf gur abegurea pneqvany
      8. Fuvcf ng Crney Uneobe qhevat gur nggnpx
      9. Fgngrf gung gur Nccnynpuvna Genvy cnffrf guebhtu
      10. Fgngrf jubfr cbfgny nooerivngvba pbagnvaf na “N”
      11. Fgngrf jubfr fgngr syntf unir n crefba
      12. Fgngrf jubfr anzrf ner qrevirq sebz Fcnavfu

  8. Are there any good studies on the effects of having one or more sisters in men’s levels of things like romantic success or sexist attitudes? Or on the effect of having one or more brothers in women’s?

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Not a study, but one of my friends believes that men with older sisters are less sexist.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I’ve got only younger sisters, so anecdata point in favor I think.

        • Well... says:

          My twin brother and I share an older sister. I would be considered mildly sexist and my twin brother would be considered an “ally” and an enthusiastic one at that, by the standards of those most vocally keeping track of who is sexist and who’s an ally.

      • Matt M says:

        Really? I was going to suggest that “willingness to hit a woman” just about has to increase for boys who grew up with older sisters…

        • keranih says:

          My youngest brother claims to be completely befuddled as to why “fight like a girl” is a term of mockery instead of respect.

          (To be clear, I have no doubt about the difference between male & female strength & aggression.)

        • Fahundo says:

          “Willingness to hit a woman” isn’t sexist if it scales proportionally with “willingness to hit a man”

  9. a reader says:

    I played a little with the SSC Survey results for 2018 (using pivot tables in Excel) and this is what I found:

    1. Profession: by far, the most common profession among SSC readers is IT/Programming:
    31.09% of cis men, 16.16% of cis women, 42.27% of transwomen, 12% of transmen and 38.94% of nonbinary
    Any other profession is under 10%.

    2. Politics: Liberalism most popular among cis men, Scandinavian-style social-democracy among all others:
    28.76% of men, 39.15% of cis women, 52.04% of trans women, 64.00% of trans men and 47.15% of nonbinary are “Social democratic, for example Scandinavian countries: heavily-regulated market economy, cradle-to-grave social safety net, socially permissive multiculturalism”.
    (Here I counted only the options offered by Scott, not the various ones suggested by respondents.)

    3. Religion: Atheism predominates – 64,09% of respondents are atheists:
    58.59% of cis women, 64.16% of cis men, 78.22% of transwomen, 60.00% transmen, 78.29% of nonbinary

    4. Sexual orientation: ~30% of (cis) women are bisexual.
    And among transsexuals, bisexuality seems by far the most frecvent sexual orientation:
    29.75 of cis women, only 7.29 of cis men, but 53.92% of transwomen, 79.17% of transmen and 43.08% of nonbinary are bi

    5. Polyamory: cis people prefer monogamy, trans people prefer polyamory (or are uncertain):
    Only 7.75% cis men and 17.10% cis women, but 36.27% transwomen, 32.00% transmen and 43.75% nonbinary “prefer polyamorous”.

    6. Asexuality: rare among men, a little more frecvent among women, more frecvent among transsexuals:
    Only 8,08% of men and 15,80% of cis women, but 28,43% transwomen, 28,00% transmen and 20,00% nonbinary are “sorta” asexual. But even among trans people, at least 60% are not asexual.

    7. Depression, Anxiety, Autism: unusually frequent among readers or their families:
    Among 25 transmen, all think that they or their family members have at least one of them.
    Among ~100 transwomen, there are only 8 who think they and their family don’t have any of these conditions.
    Among 88 nonbinary, there are 18 who think they and their family don’t have any of these conditions.
    Among the ~650 cis women, there are 109 who think they and their family don’t have any of these conditions.
    Among ~6350 cis men, there are 1653 who think they and their family don’t have any of these conditions.

    8. Average Gender Conformity – strongest in cis men, weaker in cis women, weakest (~5/10) in trans:
    cis men 7.66
    cis women 6.22
    transmen 5.48
    transwomen 4.89
    nonbinary 4.80

    For all these, I didn’t count the unfilled fields.
    I supposed that people who indicated their Gender as Other are Nonbinary.

    • a reader says:

      As I said a while ago, I wanted to see if the transwomen are more like cis women or more like cis men in all these various things. In conclusion, at least among SSC readers:

      transwomen > cis men > cis women in predilection for IT/Programming and Atheism

      transwomen > cis women > cis men in predilection for Social-Democracy, Bisexuality, Polyamory and Asexuality

      transwomen < cis women < cis men in Gender Conformity

      Surprisingly, transwomen were never in the interval between cis men and women.

  10. johan_larson says:

    Quiz time again. This is the (((Challenge Round))). These questions are particularly difficult. Frankly, if you can answer even a single one, you deserve a special treat. Get yourself your favorite bottle of brown liquor or the large deep-dish from Chicago Sam’s on your way home.

    Name five:
    1. Governors of Wyoming.
    2. Olympic medalists in shot-put.
    3. Towns or cities in Xinjiang province, China.
    4. Compositions by Jean-Philippe Rameau.
    5. Named surface features on Venus.
    6. Companies acquired by Google.
    7. Australian aboriginal languages.
    8. World champions of checkers.
    9. Films produced — but not directed — by Steven Spielberg.
    10. Mexico City Metro stations.

    • The Nybbler says:

      6. Arfg. Xrlubyr. Naqebvq. Lbhghor. Gjvggre. Zbgbebyn Zbovyvgl (erfbyq). VGN (nvesner). Obfgba Qlanzvpf (erfbyq), Mntng (erfbyq), Sebzzref (anzr erfbyq), QbhoyrPyvpx, nobhg n tbbtby bguref.
      The rest of them… nope, nope, nope.

      • johan_larson says:

        Good work. Are you going to reward yourself with a special treat?

        • The Nybbler says:

          As an ex-Googler, I think I probably shouldn’t qualify. Besides, I’m already home and the nearest Chicago Sams is over a hundred miles away.

      • shakeddown says:

        Wait, Gjvggre? Pretty sure Google didn’t buy them.

        (My answer:
        6. LbhGhor, Obfgba Qlanzvpf, QrrcZvaq, QbhoyrPyvpx…
        Can’t think of a fifth one. Gah. And I work there.)

        • The Nybbler says:

          Pretty sure Google didn’t buy them.

          Which is why it’s enclosed in <fgevxr> tags. It’s a bit of a joke, it was one of the most-rumored acquisition targets on a few occasions.

    • Matt M says:

      This is the (((Challenge Round)))

      Hey man, I know the Jews have higher IQ and all, but us goyim can compete at trivia as well!

    • Machine Interface says:

      7. Argh, I should be able to name at least three, but I can only remember one (and maybe incorrectly): Jnycvev
      9. Actually easy if I’m not misremembering: Na Nzrevpna Gnvy, Gur Ynaq Orsber Gvzr, Fgne Jnef rcvfbqrf bar, gjb naq guerr, Whenffvp Cnex guerr

      • Machine Interface says:

        7 > the two I couldn’t remember (looked them up so it doesn’t count now): Qlveony, Neereagr (oh and I indeed mispelled Jnycvev, should have been Jneycvev).

      • johan_larson says:

        I don’t see anything in IMDB about Spielberg working as a producer on [Fgne Jnef cerdhryf].

        • Machine Interface says:

          Yeah I got that wrong, working on the false assumption that Spielberg and Yhpnf produced almost all of each other’s films.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      3: Hehzdv
      6: Lbhghor
      7: Cvgwnagwnwnen, Qlveony off the top of my head, though I kind of expected to be able to name more.
      10: Not sure, but I’m going to guess Gyngrybypb [turns out I was right]

    • S_J says:

      Definitely the Challenge Round.

      In most of your quizzes, I could give at least one answer for half the categories.

      Here, I’m stuck with a couple of possible answers to number 6 : Lbhghor, Jnlzb.

      (Update: my first answer is definitely true, but the other is apparently a subsidiary of Google that was created, and not acquired.)

      Counter Challenge, spurred by item 1.
      If I provide a list of five governors of a certain American State, can anyone guess the State without looking up the names?

      The governors are: Stevens T. Mason, Alex Groesbeck, Frank Fitzgerald, G. Mennen Williams, George Romney, and James Blanchard.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      6. Jnmr, Lbhghor, Naqebvq, Arfg, Zbgbebyn, Mntng, UGP (uneqjner tebhc), VGN, Qrrczvaq, TenaqPrageny (arr Ibvpr), Nqzbo, Qbhoyrpyvpx

      But like nybbler i’m cheating.

    • S_J says:

      @johan_larson

      I will say that you’ve inspired people to post quizzes, but most other quizzes are not as…interesting or entertaining as the ones you post.

      It’s challenging to generate a series of quizzes which will attract attention, challenge people, but rarely stump everyone.

      And I went looking, but I’m not sure that there are five named surface features on Venus…

  11. Well... says:

    Is there any photographic evidence of an actual “safe space” on a college campus? Not saying there aren’t any, just realized I’ve heard a lot about them but never seen a picture or video of one.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Here’s one.

      The more interesting kind with the puppies I haven’t seen vids of.

      • Well... says:

        If that’s real, it’s pretty fascinating. Do you know of any other examples?

      • johnjohn says:

        I imagine that’s one of the more radicalized ones out there.

        I don’t think I’d feel safe in there even if I was a woman. Would think they’d keep the aggressive language to a minimum

      • rlms says:

        Interesting video. The popup text saying “Time to get triggered” (at 3:12) doesn’t seem to fit with the picture of MRAs as sincere advocates for men’s rights I’ve seen painted (rather than just guys who don’t like feminists). But maybe things are different in Australia.

        • Baeraad says:

          I have seen no sign whatsoever that most MRAs aren’t just men who have had to listen to too many feminist complaints and incriminations, snapped and gone, “NUH-UH! WE’RE TOTES MORE OPPRESSED THAN YOU! SO THERE!”

          Now, I do have some sympathy for guys driven crazy by the eternal feminist pity-party, because god knows my own sanity has often been threatened by the same, but if more than one in twenty of them actually cares about e.g. “the life expectancy gap” in and of itself and not just as a club to beat feminists with, I will eat my hat.

          • John Schilling says:

            I suspect that e.g. fathers who care about the (disputed) child custody gap still make up >5% of the total, but you’re probably right that the fed-up-with-feminists variety now dominate the movement/identity.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The impression I’ve gotten is that old-school MRAs were a different breed from a lot of guys calling themselves MRAs today. The former were often embittered divorced dads; now they’re younger. Someone who calls themself an MRA now is a lot more likely to start saying “redpill” stuff – old school MRAs tended to be more social constructionist, redpill guys are biodeterminists. It seems like redpill stuff kind of took over MRA spaces and claimed the name – probably because redpill stuff (“hey bro here’s how you get swole and spin plates and take what you want”) is more appealing than MRA stuff (“here’s the circle of chairs where we cry about our child support payments and demand the government change things”).

          The old-school MRAs were basically guys who came to the belief that feminists said they wanted equality but didn’t want it and they themselveswere the ones who wanted real equality. Redpill guys don’t want equality, they want to figure out how to be the big dog on top of an unequal system, at least sexually speaking.

          • Aapje says:

            You also need to keep in mind that ‘MRA’ has become a vilified term, so any advocates for male rights that don’t want to be prejudged are likely to call themselves by another name, like ‘egalitarian.’

            So the remaining ones are automatically more extremist, because of that effect.

    • yodelyak says:

      I have much to say about safe spaces… trigger warning, I’m also going to talk about some extremely unsafe spaces, like frat basements and how assholes sometimes act in those spaces. Some mention of concern for sexual abuse and self-harm.

      I don’t know the exact history, but I feel confident all Ivy Leagues had safe spaces by some point in the early 90s; they were clearly marked and widespread when I was at an Ivy in the early 00s, and were not considered new. Plus alums older than me by 5 – 10 years still remember them (in many cases quite fondly, and with specific faculty/mentors that they still keep in touch with.)

      At my college there were two main “safe spaces”–one that was student controlled, in a building itself basically owned and operated by students–and open 24-hours–and the other in a much more conventional administrator building, where most students never tread. Keranih’s wikipedia link has the photo of a circle and inverted triangle–in the 00s at least, that was the central marker for a safe space of either type.

      As for how the space *felt*… If you’ve ever been in a middle school or high school guidance counselor office, that’s a lot what the admin-run safe space was like. Potted plants and a reception area, plus private offices that are cramped but friendly and warmly lit. Fundamentally gentle people trying very hard to balance projecting a hybrid attitude. On the one hand, they were projecting the kind of tough that young people need to adopt for themselves so they’re less likely to be targeted by bullies. But they needed to balance projecting that with toughness with being politic/supportive/affirming/fun/experts-in-this-stuff, some of them achieving it gracefully, others contorting themselves significantly to little or no benefit. The student-run safe space was mostly sans that strong, sanitizing, semi-contorted adult presence, with 1000x more motivational/identity-friendly/body-positive/ type messaging on the walls (some of which shaded into outright hostility to male aggression or etc), and often one or two friendly people of an uncommon gender/orientation hanging around being aggressively affirming and tough, in my experience quite gracefully. It was also generally pretty “cool” depending on who you talked to. A pretty good place to go for *anyone* feeling a bit unsure if they can trust themselves to be good to themselves, or stick up for themselves if others are nasty. I mostly had a habit of finding everything fascinating–so much so that I didn’t know how to name that fact about myself, that I was a curiosity-powered individual–so I just enjoyed taking in the very noticeable differences between these spaces and other spaces. I was and remain the kind of person who can’t walk through the hallway at a research lab university without stopping to read some of the 4′ x 9′ laminated posters of the latest experiments on the walls. But I do that with human spaces also.

      I think I’d have said this then too. If I wanted to design a place for people whose appearance or manners mark them for being a good target for bullying, and who are feeling down enough to be low-but-not-zero for suicidal risk–if I was to design a place where those people could go to let their guard down, it might be sorta like that. It was sort of the exact opposite of a frat basement… which at my school was a place where there was a good chance if you walked in during the off-hours, there might be the house drunk asshole drinking by himself or with one enabler, and said drunk might greet you by calling you fat and suggesting you kill yourself sooner rather than suffering first. (This really happened to a gal who tried to meet me at the place I was at, but went to the basement when I was on the ground floor. And there were dozens of other things like it.) If you entered closer to the mainstream party hours, you might encounter three or five guys who were teetering between that attitude and being more relaxed or fun or even quite welcoming, and if you preferred open hostility to ambiguity, the setting could feel quite toxic.

      I mean, men have no monopoly on being evil, but there are differences in spaces, and sometimes a person can be forgiven for wanting a space where you can be social, but be assured 100% that there isn’t going to be a big dude telling you that justice is the will of the stronger while making thrusting motions with his pelvis. So I support the concept of a safe space, particularly for young adults whose collective psyche sometimes feels like one big abusive marriage than like a few thousand individuals with their own plans. [hand waiving, mumbling, Irving Goffman] … One function of an institution, be it a male boarding school, a mental asylum, sailors on a long-term voyage, or a bunch of highly competitive students locked into a shared 4-year-plan, is the “suppression of household formation.” I think an effect of that can be to make everybody function like one family, which can often end up being a shitty dysfunctional family. As much as possible, let adults just be adults on their own terms, (facilitate, don’t suppress, the formation of households!) but if they end up feeling like bullied kids, they need somewhere to go.

      In the ‘teens, or whatever we’re calling 2010 – 2019, I’ve noticed a kind of space-making project where the main attraction is dogs/puppies. Here’s an actual email, with some redactions/removals so the school isn’t obvious:

      We’re going to the dogs!!” Actually, they’re coming to us! Take a study break for a warm, relaxing dose of puppy love!! Three Therapy Dog teams will be in [location] TODAY from 12:30 – 1:30p.

      Please plan to visit! Today we have [dog name / dog breed, x3]

      [Animal therapy center and partner organization doing career change for service dogs] is providing the Therapy Dogs teams to visit during finals. Brought to you by the [office of affirming.]

      It’s one thing for a space to be safe; it’s another thing for a space to be infantilizing. I think when the school is going out of its way to provide service animals to healthy adults, that may be a bit toward the infantilizing side of that spectrum, but other students seemed to really love it. Also I remember reading somewhere that trained visitor dogs really do improve outcomes for many patients in hospitals. So making some available in case anybody self-identifies as needing that… can be good. I tend to want to be low-needs, so I sometimes fail in the self-care department, so on the meta-level, I can also predict that I probably have attitudes that undervalue these spaces.

      I think if you gave me my preference, I’d say that a better therapy animal might be children. I like the line that “it’s true that adults are what we call people who can make children. But it’s also true that it is kids that make adults.” I think there is an Ogden Nash quip to this effect, but can’t find it now. Anyway, it’s my sense that nothing grows up a twenty-something to stop simpering like the presence of a child. Usually. But how you navigate the politics of employing children for the good effect they have on socially unsure adults… nope, no idea how to begin, except to encourage adults to volunteer with kids beginning at 18, for their own sake if nothing else.

      Actually I mostly-jokingly floated using kids, or grandmas, as the solution to the Malheur problem. It was men who wanted to have a fight to prove their honor. So give them the choice of hitting an old woman, or a child, or growing the frick up and letting the children/old women take their guns and lead them back to being adults. I felt it was pretty likely they’d grow up–enough so that the risk of violence to a vulnerable person (a child or elderly woman) was so much lower than the risk would be if gun-wielding men kicked down doors, that any plausible utilitarian calculus would not support sending in men. An obvious non-starter for other reasons, not least the ego of the men who define themselves as the best solution for dealing with violent men, I suppose.

      • Well... says:

        As much as possible, let adults just be adults on their own terms, (facilitate, don’t suppress, the formation of households!) but if they end up feeling like bullied kids, they need somewhere to go.

        How did the “safe space” thing happen if every student has a dorm room or apartment bedroom they could already make into their own safe space?

        Instead safe spaces are consistently public. Therefore it seems like they contain an implicit demand (by those requesting the safe spaces) of the wider institution that houses them. It’s the demand to be catered to, at least enough to establish and maintain the set-aside area. It serves as feedback, so the safe-space-seekers know the authority is to at least some extent ready to jump for them. The way you’ve used the word “spaces” in your description seems to support this.

        Is that unfair? If so, why are safe spaces not simply the private quarters of those requesting them?

        BTW, I know that not all people have fully private quarters. High schoolers might have to share a room with a sibling. College undergrads often share a dorm room with a roommate, at least for the first several years. But although in high school there is less expectation of privacy, most high schoolers still manage to find some even if it’s just the area around their beds. And in college the same principle applies, plus college students have the option of renting an apartment and it’s usually cheaper than on-campus housing.

        • bean says:

          Humans are social animals. Saying “your dorm room can be your safe space” just means that nobody is shouting at you there. To some extent, a safe space is pretty similar to a church, in that it’s a public sign that you can come here and get support, and interact with people who also want to rally around that sign.

          • Well... says:

            Except that people found their own churches, not demand that churches be carved for them out of existing facilities by authorities.

          • Brad says:

            Err … student religious groups do that exact thing.

          • Well... says:

            That’s true, though I was talking about churches more generally and at least in the case you mention, there is already a model for “church” in the wider society. It’s not like safe-spacers are trying to replicate the public safe spaces they had in their communities growing up, right?

          • Brad says:

            I’m not sure what point you are trying to make. Your grandparent post seemed all hot and bothered that students were “demanding” that they be “catered” to. Now you are saying when Seventh Day Adventists do the exact same thing it’s okay because they are just trying to replicate what they had in their home towns? How is that distinction relevant?

          • bean says:

            Err … student religious groups do that exact thing.

            Not quite. Yes, the campus Christian group meets in Multi-purpose room 1 on Wednesdays, which the LGBT group uses Mondays. But a “safe space” is rather different because it’s not just for when the club is meeting, and I doubt that a professor putting up a “Conservative Christian safe space” sign on their office would go over that well. There may be informal safe spaces for other groups, even on campus (ROTC trailers or maybe even frat houses) but a Christian is almost certainly going to have to go off-campus to find one, and there’s no formal protection or recognition of any that aren’t of the correct political alignment. I think the better solution would be to recognize that safe spaces can be broader than the LGBT/feminist ones, and protect all of them.

          • Brad says:

            At least when I went to college, and at least for the larger groups, there were full time spaces. There was a Newman center for Catholics, a Hillel for Jews, a beautiful church for Methodists, and smaller chapels for other Protestant denominations. Muslims didn’t get their own full time space, they were in multipurpose B on alternate Fridays, but that’s just because there weren’t very many of them.

          • Well... says:

            @Brad:

            I was making further distinctions between safe spaces and churches in response to Bean’s comment, one level up, that they were similar because they’re both public signs of places where you can get support. I wanted to make further distinctions because I think each respective sign means a different thing in its own context. Consider:

            A) a context where the thing you want support for is supported in the wider adult society (coincidentally, the society the university is preparing you to enter) but not so much in the university itself;

            vs.

            B) a context where the thing you want support for is not something you can expect in the wider adult society.

            Contra your claim about me getting all hot and bothered, this contextual difference might be a good argument for safe spaces although I’ve never seen it articulated.

            I did use language like “demand” and “cater” but I was trying to be descriptive, not judgmental. It does seem like that is the dynamic around how safe spaces get established. If you can show how that’s not actually the case, I’ll try to find different terms next time.

          • Nornagest says:

            At least when I went to college, and at least for the larger groups, there were full time spaces.

            When I went to college, there were no full-time college-administered spaces for religious groups. There were a bunch of churches and a Hillel just off campus, but they were owned by their respective denominations and shared with people from town. On-campus religious spaces consisted of a mess of time-shared multipurpose rooms and nothing else.

            On the other hand, I wasn’t aware of any dedicated ‘safe spaces’ either. There was a student union and a LGBT center, but that’s as close as it got.

        • keranih says:

          This is interesting – I think that it may be that society (esp that of the upper middle to rich family whose children are upper & ivie college students) changed faster than the institutions – or at least their housing did. I grew up two to a room – my brothers shared a slightly larger room with more siblings. For me (rural blue collar background) my college room was HUGE. For today’s college kids, they are coming from smaller families, with bigger houses, and having to share a dorm room with a stranger may be the first time they have to share intimate space. The smaller room (and the group bathroom down the hall) might really be jolting with the lack of privacy and control, so that the attempt to make the whole college a safe, home-like atmosphere is just a rebounding effect.

          (I also agree that having older kids be responsible for youngers is a huge maturing effect. Grouping young adults to raise each other without other things to care for is sub-ideal.)

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          1. Does every student have a private dorm room these days? Even freshmen? getoffmylawn.jpeg

          2. The person you want shelter from may be another person in your building who has every right to hang outside your door.

          We had a safe space at my college in the 90s. It was explicitly female and anti-male. And it probably served a very good purpose for women who were having problem with men. I feel for people suffering who didn’t fit in that group (because I was one of them) but that doesn’t mean that safe spot wasn’t doing useful things for some people.

          • quaelegit says:

            Private dorms — it depends on the college, but on average it is not common for freshmen. MIT (and possibly Caltech?) is the only college I know where a significant number of freshmen have single rooms. Doubles and (especially) triples are far more common. At UC Berkeley (and I think most other California public schools) dorm space is overbooked so that common rooms and lounges are being turned into quads (sometimes, not sure how common). Last year I heard rumors of freshmen living in “dorms” in cities half an hour away, but I’m not sure if this is true.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            On the subject of room-sharing, people in Europe find the idea of a college room-mate to be a strange American custom.

            AFAIK in Continental Europe students either attend the university closest to their parents and continue living with them, or rent an apartment which they share with fellow students. Dorms as such don’t really exist.

            In England (speaking from personal experience here), sharing rooms is extremely unusual, and was at least as long ago as my parents’ generation (studying in the 1960s and 1970s). The only exception really is London, where there are some shared rooms.

            Older Oxbridge colleges have the “shared set”, where 2 (usually) students share living space but have their own bedrooms. Sometimes these sets are converted from sets that were originally for only one student, in which case one student sleeps in the living room which the other student has to go through to reach their bedroom. This can cause various amusing and awkward situations…

        • yodelyak says:

          @Well…

          I think Bean’s comparing them to churches is spot on. And his point that socializing is something people need is not something to sniff at. I mean, *elephants* need it… (this is a ten page long-form article about elephants who were so fricked up in the head after being orphaned by poachers and being raised in all-male gangs that they were raping rhinos, and how it turned out said elephants were rehabilitate-able and part of the recipe for rehabilitation was to give them a space where they could be social, but wouldn’t feel threatened. It’s long) http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/08/magazine/08elephant.html

          If elephants need that, then so do people.

          W/r/t/ how churches and safe spaces get formed. I think there’s a tiny subset of any community of people who are deeply altruistic and also very willing to sacrifice for the group, so long as they get to exchange those things for status and/or belongingness and or the ability to lead the group away from harm, such that their altruistic sacrifice is meaningful. A campus without a safe space, where that absence is an unmet need, is a campus where a young, talented, outgoing and mentally tough young man or young woman can show his or her commitment to the wellbeing of everyone by asking for a safe space. These asks can be quite plausibly framed in the kind of moral language (e.g. “if you don’t do this, you may find you have blood on your hands”) that may feel like a demand, but unless you think the community is coaching its vulnerable toward suicide, but can pull them back from the brink, then it’s not a demand in a negotiation–it’s just a plea by a group leader for help. It really is very similar a petition/demand for some of the protections afforded by religion to be available to secular students on a secular campus. Again, I would prefer that more 20-somethings spend time in mentor/caregiver roles with 5- and 10-year-olds. That’s my prefered focus for improving college life.

          Also, still talking to @well…, now on @brad’s point that you are by and large not coming across as being “descriptive” to me either, with words like “demand” and “cater to”. Not that I mind an argumentative question; I’m happy to cater to your demand that someone give an account of safe spaces.

          I take your point that safe spaces really don’t need to be queer-focused; shouldn’t it be okay for them to be safe for other people also? In my experience both the student-run safe space and the admin-run safe space aimed, at least in theory, to be safe for everyone. If memory serves, one of the biggest needs the admin-run safe space end up serving was as a career guidance place for people with something more like spiritual questions about meaning in life as a gender queer person, and a space for very significantly overweight women to just hang out. (You can’t just hang out in the campus-provided medical/psychological spaces–you need an appointment and they schedule 2 weeks out for most non-emergency stuff.) Runner up for the admin place was as a place for women to go if they don’t yet know if they want to go to police or doctors about male violence, but wanted to be somewhere they could cry or not cry or whatever, but do so in a pseudo-public space. However for raw reasons of political reality around what “coolness” means, a completely safe space for *everyone* isn’t easy to achieve. No sooner than you try to treat everyone as cool and welcome–the suicidal, the sickly, the ugly, the weird, the weak-minded dummies, the Jon Arbuckle’s with no skills or money, the gal whose embarrassingly awful awful awful love poem to her girlfriend just got posted on the campus listserv, and whose girlfriend dumped her immediately which also got posted–then you’ve defined your space to be something that most people who aspire to being cool in narrower terms won’t want to put too close to their own identity. As a result, compared to the larger campus, admin safe space is just permanently not cool, even if it is really healthsome in a kinda bland way. (Sorta like Christians all like Jesus and the beatitudes, but few to zero of them really want to be the poor-in-spirit, the downtrodden, the dopes, the outcasts, the sissies, or etc.) Likewise, the student safe space tends to make itself cool to a hip crowd by being edgier or defined more clearly in opposition to a less cool crowd–which often means more aggressively pro-[some kind of gender politics], sufficiently so to make most normal people feel they’re being a bit weird.

          Maybe some schools only have one or the other. I don’t think I thought that much about the benefits of having two different kinds, but particularly because I can recall some times when young gay men were impressively nasty bullies, I think it makes sense to insist on having one run by admins.

          My school also had full free-standing spaces adjoining campus that were religious in nature–Chabad, Hillel, Episcopalians, Jesuits, Lutherans, Christian Navigators (the organization formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ), Catholics–all had their own free-standing structure, often with a full-time staffer with a title like “minister” or etc. I am unsure whether Muslim students had dedicated space, but I strongly suspect it was “Meeting Room A” with the modification that it was “Meeting Room A for the next full school year, with strong likelihood of extension, and here’s $1000 to decorate the way you want.”

          Overall, the variety of options was a perk of being a well-to-do school, I suppose. Certainly there were no shortage of fascinating places for me to explore.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Nitpick – you’re confusing two different Christian campus groups. “The organization formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ” is now Cru; Navigators is a separate group that started in the US Navy but later expanded to colleges.

          • yodelyak says:

            I stand corrected re: Campus Crusade and Navigators. Checking now, both were present, and both still are. Both operate under local group names that made keeping track of which was connected to what national org tricky, which is how I became confused and misreported that.

      • Brad says:

        @yodelyak
        I wanted to express appreciation for an interesting comment on a subject I didn’t think I was at all interested in.

        And the part of about kids really rings true. I’ve known several people that have grown up significantly after their siblings had kids. (Not to mention the parents themselves, but that goes without saying.)

        • yodelyak says:

          I’m glad you liked it.

          What first clued me into the kids-making-adults thing was noticing the change in college friends. I noticed some of my peers did much better than me at being adults in the last couple years of college, and they had strong relationships with their parents (late 40s or 50s, probably) and their “big brother big sister” mentees (10ish, I think). I had strong relationships with other 21-year-olds.

      • Iain says:

        This is a good and thoughtful post.

      • gbdub says:

        Thanks, that was an interesting post.

        I think a “safe space” in the sense of a calm and welcoming place for weird kids to go to be supported judgement free, either “official guidance counselor” or just “friendly peer” style or both, is a good and valuable thing. I think if that’s all safe spaces ever were that they would not be getting a lot of the pushback that they are.

        The controversy around safe spaces seems to come from 1, the rise of the seemingly infantilizing activities as you noted and 2, safe spaces being advertised not as refuges for the odd and bullied, but rather for “normal” students to escape during events hosting potentially controversial speech.

        • Aapje says:

          and 3. the implicit or explicit claim that other spaces are unsafe because of the presence of people with a born-with trait and/or the claim that those people don’t need safe spaces

          and 4. the implicit or explicit demand that all spaces should be safe spaces.

      • rlms says:

        In my experience, most students who take advantage of “therapy dogs” don’t view it as therapy. It’s just another relaxing activity.

    • Incurian says:

      We didn’t call it a safe space, and it didn’t have any explicit safe space type rules, but the ROTC trailer functioned like one for cadets at my school. We had some couches and a tv that usually played either 300 or Soldier (the one with Kurt Russell) on a loop and we could do our homework in there. I think it was less about getting away from people and more about being with people who shared your interests. Also maybe it had to do with my school/major or coincidence, but the cadets seemed way smarter on average than the other students, so it was nice to be able to have a real conversation.

      • keranih says:

        I think it was less about getting away from people and more about being with people who shared your interests.

        Did you ever come across Carol Barkalow’s In the Men’s House? She was one of the first women graduates from West Point, and (I think) a sociology major. The title – and a good bit of the book – referenced the status of the military as a place in American society which was almost exclusively male, with its own cultures and language.

        Without going too deep down the CW rabbit hole, I think that “being around people who make you comfortable because they are like you” is…not as well recognized as it could be, within our poly-life culture.

        • Matt M says:

          referenced the status of the military as a place in American society which was almost exclusively male, with its own cultures and language.

          I think it still basically is.

          I mean yeah, they allow women in, but it’s still a pretty masculine culture. The successful women in the military typically act and are regarded as “one of the guys.” They are generally expected to drink and cuss and make crude jokes and maybe even fight if necessary just as much as the men would be.

        • Incurian says:

          Hadn’t heard of it, but it sounds interesting. I’d be interested to learn how her experience compares to current female officers.

          A tangent for those who are interested in outdated military trivia, and a question for old people: one of the reviews of her books says, “I think it is 5 stars for tomboy women, 0 stars for men, averaging out to 21/2 stars, which rounds off (like the Army does) to 2 stars.” We called this “artillery expression,” you round to the nearest even number so it’s easier to find on the slide rule/graphical firing table. Was this a common practice back in the days of slide rules, or just an artillery thing?

          • Sfoil says:

            I was taught to round to the nearest even number if the last non-significant digit was 5 because it was an arbitrary way of randomly selecting between two equally-likely results…but I was taught to do so in the Army (more or less recently). Huh.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s called Banker’s Rounding, so probably not just the Army.

          • A1987dM says:

            “This variant of the round-to-nearest method is also called convergent rounding, statistician’s rounding, Dutch rounding, Gaussian rounding, odd–even rounding,[5] or bankers’ rounding. This is the default rounding mode used in IEEE 754 computing functions and operators (see also Nearest integer function).” — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rounding#Round_half_to_even

            I was familiar with it but had never heard of it as an army thing.

        • albatross11 says:

          I think this is an important point. It’s important to have some places where you’re allowed to be you, especially if you feel like you’re an outlier/minority in your bigger environment. And in a truly multicultural place, almost everyone is going to feel like an outlier/minority.

          Maybe the best way to think about how to live in that kind of environment is to look at subcultures that have lived as minorities/outliers for a long time, and see how they’ve adapted. The obvious examples are religious/ethnic minorities (Jews, Gypsies, Mormons, Overseas Chinese, Immigrant communities everywhere). What other models could we use?

          I suspect the ability to get some kind of safe space and internal support for being yourself even though you’re an outlier is a big factor in being comfortable with multiculturalism.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s important to have some places where you’re allowed to be you

            So, fraternities are the safe spaces for white guys?

            No wonder they’re under such assault from the establishment!

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            You jest, but I hope that fraternities, especially in the American style (fewer schools have them in Canada, and they’re less of a big deal at schools that have them, and they have a much better record of not killing pledges) aren’t actually representative of white guys. If they are, shit, I’ma dye my hair purple and go from there.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think obnoxious boys need a place to be obnoxious boys without being hassled for it, in much the same way that everyone else does. Letting people hang out with others who share their values and outlook is a win all around. The value of diversity is that we don’t all get hammered into the same damned mold.

          • dndnrsn says:

            However, at the point where they cause harm to people, that goes past being obnoxious. My understanding is also that they’re very important socially on some campuses – which gives the obnoxious (to say the least) an advantage.

          • Matt M says:

            99.9% of fraternity activities are harmless fun between like-minded friends. It’s unfair to judge them on the 0.1% of times when stuff gets out of hand.

          • dndnrsn says:

            If, however, there’s clear systemic problems leading to bad shit happening, surely you can blame that on the group, to some extent? You can also lay some of the blame elsewhere (eg, I think that having the age for alcohol consumption be 21 is bonkers, and laws that release people from possible consequences if they call the hospital for “we were having an illegal drinking party and a guy fell down the stairs” makes it more likely they’ll call the hospital).

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            If, however, there’s clear systemic problems leading to bad shit happening, surely you can blame that on the group, to some extent?

            Is there decent quantitative evidence that there is some significant systemic problem with fraternities that doesn’t apply to men outside of fraternities? Not just hearsay and anecdata?

            Without more evidence, the answer is no, because I don’t decide clumped moral responsibility based upon at best correlations and at worst anecdote. You’ve got to have something more than that to convince me that (A) the clumping is morally sensible and (B) the clumping relates to something causal. Without both of those, I consider doing so to range from a bad idea to immoral.

            …You have me defending fratbros. I do not like this.

          • Matt M says:

            In all seriousness, is there a permanent standing location on the average college campus where an openly socially-conservative white male can “be themselves” without risk of judgement, attack, or ridicule?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            Quantitatively, I don’t have any numbers off the top of my head. I suspect that if you looked at bad “party” related stuff having to do with frats – deaths, injuries – divided by # of frat guys, it would be a worse situation than bad stuff having to do with college divided by # of college guys. (You can’t use “men outside of fraternities” as a measure, because there’s far more SES disparity than between frat guys and non-frat guys in college) There’s a few reasons I would guess this to be the case.

            Mostly the problem is the “initiations” aspect. That’s where most of the deaths happen. When you have a bunch of non-experts doing whatever stupid hazing crap they can think of, things can go bad. When that stupid hazing crap includes forced drinking, and the drinking age is 21 (which is really dumb, and not frats’ fault), anything that goes wrong because of drinking leads to problems like “shit we forced these guys to chug Everclear and now they have alcohol poisoning, but if we call 911 we will get in trouble”. This is not limited to frats – illegal drinking always has that problem – but the “forced drinking” aspect makes the problem far worse: dumbass 18 year old might drink too much, but it’s more likely he’ll drink too much if some guy is screaming at him to chug hard liquor. Cases involving someone dying at a frat house are almost always something like “drunk pledge chokes on own vomit/falls down stairs” or “guys who have had too much to drink accidentally beat a pledge to death” or something like that.

            It’s not that fratboys are evil. It’s that amateur-hour alcohol-soaked FMJ-basic-sequence-LARPing run by drunk guys a year or two older is a really bad idea. Applying constructive stress to groups of young men without endangering them is difficult; drunk sophomores are not going to be able to do it effectively.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’m astonished that there are so few deaths from fraternity initiations.

            As you say, the initiations run by non-experts. What’s more, they feel free to improvise– they aren’t operating out of a tradition. And I’m willing to bet a lot of them are drunk.

            I think more attention should be given to the miracle of people getting things right– I assume there’s tacit knowledge involved.

          • Matt M says:

            What % of fraternities have initiation procedures that have potentially fatal outcomes?

            I honestly have no idea – but given that such deaths are still relatively rare, I’d guess the number is low.

          • John Schilling says:

            What % of fraternities have initiation procedures that have potentially fatal outcomes?

            A fair number of them seem to involve drinking large quantities of alcohol, so there’s that. But human civilization has several thousand years of experience in how to get plastered in a group social setting without actually dying of alcohol poisoning, so I’m not surprised fraternities usually manage to pull that off.

            The rest is usually humiliation more than assault, and fairly low risk.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Matt M, it technically doesn’t count as “on campus,” but I’m pretty sure most colleges have at least one socially-conservative church nearby.

            The one I went to (just off-campus) didn’t have a permanent student lounge, unfortunately, but there were some pastors there during business hours whom I’m pretty sure I could’ve talked to if I’d needed. And, there were evening events for students.

          • Matt M says:

            @Matt M, it technically doesn’t count as “on campus,” but I’m pretty sure most colleges have at least one socially-conservative church nearby.

            1. The fact that it has to be off-campus is revealing. Universities refusing to provide such a space is quite telling, in and of itself.

            2. What about non-religious social conservatives? I suppose there aren’t many, but I am one such person. While I’d definitely feel more comfortable in a conservative church than in a left-wing SJW safe space, I still wouldn’t feel comfortable. I wouldn’t feel like I could be myself with no judgment.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Matt M, agreed on both points. There should be such a space on-campus; fortunately, religious social conservatives have alternatives in the present.

          • albatross11 says:

            My impression (supported by a quick look at Wikipedia) is that we’re talking about a very small number of deaths per year from fraternity initiations (like 1-5). Fraternity initiations involving getting people dangerously drunk are a bad idea, obviously, but they don’t end up actually killing very many people. I suspect the death rate for fraternity pledges is about the same as comparable non-fraternity-pledge 18 year olds, and mostly involves dumbass stunts involving alcohol and motor vehicles.

      • Matt M says:

        I think it was less about getting away from people and more about being with people who shared your interests.

        I’ve always sort of thought of “safe spaces” this way, except with the specific interests being a general sense of left-wing/SJW culture. A “safe space” is a place where you can go to be with people who believe that gender is fluid and the patriarchy oppresses women and etc. Which I’d be totally cool with, so long as right-wingers were allowed to have their own such spaces as well.

  12. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGwZ9vPufv4

    How to visualize, with a claim that people who say they can’t visualize are using a wrong method of staring at the back of their eyelids when the right method is encouraging your imagination to generate images and noticing them.

    The piece starts with an annoying claim that everyone can learn to visualize, but is does seem from the comments that at least some people can learn to visualize using this method.

    Also, the question is raised of how people who say they can’t visualize are able to navigate a route from memory. This does seem like it would require visualization– maybe there are some people who can’t bring visualization into consciousness.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Also, the question is raised of how people who say they can’t visualize are able to navigate a route from memory. This does seem like it would require visualization– maybe there are some people who can’t bring visualization into consciousness.

      When I navigate by memory, I think I’m mostly recognizing waypoints; I don’t need to see them in my mind’s eye to recognize them.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I think there might be subconscious visualization going on to make it possible to recognize waypoints. How can you recognize something except by matching it against an imagined version?

        • yodelyak says:

          I can experience the feeling of recognition (and relax, for example) without noticing that I am.

        • Protagoras says:

          I suppose it depends on what you mean by “imagined.” Recognition trivially must involve some traces in the brain enabling one to test if what is being observed matches up with the traces; whether those traces automatically count as an image is probably terminological. But for me at least it would have to be a subconscious image. I definitely don’t form a conscious mental picture and compare it to what I’m actually seeing (the mental pictures I form consciously are actually weirdly lacking in detail and wouldn’t even be useful for this).

        • Iain says:

          Trying to put a non-verbal experience into words: I don’t recognize visual images so much as I recognize the sensation of being in a particular place. That might include some sort of low-detail image, but also a spatial sense of how the things around me are organized and where this place is located in relation to other nearby places.

        • Joeleee says:

          Blind people can take a route by memory. It’s more like, I took this action, then I took that action memory rather than seeing a route and taking it. To be honest, the idea that you need visualisation for a route strikes me as strange. But maybe that’s because I have no capability to visualise things myself.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            That’s a good point about blind people, so I’m willing to say that doing a route by memory doesn’t necessarily involve visualization.

          • I once spent a summer in Canberra. A week or two into it, I realized that my mental map of the area I was in was inside out.

            I was doing point to point navigation.

            I might be able to draw a map of the campus where I have spent the past twenty-two years, but it would take some thinking.

  13. EchoChaos says:

    Reddit, YouTube, etc. are coming out strongly against firearms.

    YouTube is blocking firearm sale and demo videos, and Reddit has banned all firearms transaction subreddits, although they both strictly comply with Federal (and state) laws.

    Very culture war, but I think this only increases the “gap” between left and right. It’s interesting that the left culturally is going so hard on anti-gun.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think it’s an attempt to set cultural standards (“guns are bad, mmkay”) from the top down by tech company executives. It seems unlikely to work, and it’ll further sour the free-speech liberals on those companies. It might also create enough outcasts to make some of the witch-only places (e.g. voat) more palatable to normies.

      • dick says:

        You don’t need to ascribe a hidden motive to an uncoordinated group of people when there’s a simple and parsimonious explanation: they banned gun sales on their platforms because they fear a high-profile shooting being carried out with a gun purchased on their platform.

    • Brad says:

      It’s interesting that the left culturally is going so hard on anti-gun.

      Seems pretty straightforward. Gun ownership is one of the best predictors of partisan identification we have. There’s very little collateral damage. It’s like the right continuing to double down on anti-Muslim rhetoric, should they be worried they are going to lose that one Muslim guy that’s inexplicably still a Republican?

      • EchoChaos says:

        That’s relatively new. Gun ownership used to be evenly distributed between the two parties.

        The Democrats just got a big win in PA from a very pro-gun Democrat.

        It seems very foolish and short-sighted to shoot those allies in the back right after they’ve gotten you a big win.

        • Brad says:

          That’s relatively new. Gun ownership used to be evenly distributed between the two parties.

          Depends on what you mean by relatively. There’s a lot of factors involved. Some have to do with gun owners themselves — there’s fewer “I like to hunt during deer season” and more “I carry a gun with me at all times so I can stand my ground” then there were 30 years ago, despite falling crime and increasing deer. Part has to do with the decline of the private sector union, which was a powerful connection between gun owning white working class voters and the Democratic Party. Part has to do simply with the increasingly rationalization of the parties, there were still unreconstructed Southern Democrats into the 90s. Today they are extinct.

          It seems very foolish and short-sighted to shoot those allies in the back right after they’ve gotten you a big win.

          The base is very angry right now. Politicians can’t make a case for magnanimity and forbearance to an angry audience. That’s likely to just get them run over even if it is the smart move from tactical perspective.

        • shakeddown says:

          It seems very foolish and short-sighted to shoot those allies in the back right after they’ve gotten you a big win.

          I’ll point out that left-leaning tech companies and the Democratic party are two different organizations. The democratic party wants to appeal to as many people as possible (And a nontrivial component of it is red tribe). Culture warriors, OTOH, sometimes have signalling incentives to appeal to fewer people.

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah, I grew up in Oregon and this doesn’t seem right. For a long time it was a mostly blue state with mostly favorable gun-laws. I personally knew plenty of pro-gun lifelong democrats. Maybe that’s changed lately, I’ve been gone for 10 years or so.

    • Well... says:

      YouTube is blocking firearm sale and demo videos, and Reddit has banned all firearms transaction subreddits, although they both strictly comply with Federal (and state) laws.

      I’d want to know of specific cases where they have enforced these bans, whether they’ve seriously gone after users who find loopholes, etc. Otherwise this could be pure virtue signaling: to be profitable they need gun owners’ eyeball-on-ad dollars just as much as anyone else’s.

      [ETA; realized I was leaving off an explanation:] The tech companies might be making noise about the gun thing to virtue signal to the powerful people they most feel they need to appease, but are simultaneously making sure the “ban” on gun videos for example is as easy to get around as possible so that pro-gun people don’t leave en masse to whatever other clever enough video hosting website comes along to swallow up the newly available market share.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        In the case of Youtube it’s not entirely clear exactly how the enforcement is working. It seems to be a combination of user-submitted reports, staff reports, and some sort of automated tool or tools.

        It’s also worth noting that this is pretty much a straight-line escalation of a steady series of rule and ToS changes aimed at firearms-related content on social media and video services.

        As a result, you’ll have some people you’d think would get hit hard who have only a few videos affected, and others whose whole accounts have been suspended. Additionally, some videos will be de-monetized or suspended, only to later be reinstated because “Whoops, no, it’s fine, sorry”, only to be de-monetized/suspended AGAIN.

        The end result is a general air of FUD, a chilling effect, and to make life much more difficult and stressful for anyone attempting to maintain a revenue stream via firearm videos on services like youtube. More cynical people believe that this is at least a bonus for these companies and their parent organizations, and maybe the primary goal.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      I think that the Left has been very much anti-gun for quite a while. My impression is that there was a lull in anti-gun activity starting in the early 90s when the Democratic Party lost control of the House of Representatives due to angry gun owners.

      Anyway, for purposes of virtue-signalling and coalition-building, pushing for gun control is a very seductive issue.

  14. Mark V Anderson says:

    My third review of my favorite books is “A Conflict of Visions,” by Thomas Sowell.

    This is one of those books that divides people into two categories. As such, it greatly over-simplifies ideological differences, as Sowell himself admits. The question is whether this bifurcation is useful in explaining a lot of different ideologies. I think it is very useful, and does often explain why people talk past each other.

    Sowell uses the terms “constrained” and “unconstrained.” The unconstrained are utopians (my word, not Sowell’s) that believe that we should fix problems by the straight-forward method of simply changing things so they are better. The way to improve the world is for everyone to act in a more ethical fashion, and for people to act to make things better. Laws, traditions, and systems of doing things often simply get in the way of solving problems. The unconstrained are always looking for solutions to problems, and may deny that their preferred solutions include any trade-offs. The unconstrained believe that those in power, such as judges, business leaders, and politicians, should always take the action that brings more justice, regardless of that leader’s position in the laws and traditions of their society.

    Those who are constrained believe strongly in the use of laws, traditions, and systems to get to the best society. Process is important. It is not that the constrained are less ethical; it is that they don’t believe the methods of the unconstrained will succeed at improving society. Thus if one moves straightforwardly in the direction of simply improving problems, while ignoring laws, traditions, and systems, the result will be to worsen the situation, not improve it. The constrained feel that allowing leaders to act outside their assigned roles will inevitably lead to corruption, favoritism, and prejudice. Sowell emphasizes that the constrained believe in finding the best results based on the trade-offs involved, because they know that perfection cannot be achieved.

    Sowell also talks about how the constrained are a lot more pessimistic about human nature than the unconstrained. The unconstrained try to explain why war occurs, and look for ways to enhance human’s natural distaste for war. The constrained treat war as the natural state, and so look for incentives for people not to fight. Similarly with crime. For the unconstrained, the way to peace and prosperity is for people to act morally. The unconstrained consider that naïve.

    Sowell is careful not to take sides as to which side of the debate he is on. However I believe he is more in the constrained camp, based on other writings of his, and occasional clearly negative portrayals of the unconstrained in this book.

    I think the strongest argument against the book would be contesting that the unconstrained camp truly exists as a major belief system. It certainly flies in the face of many US beliefs such as the importance of constitutional constraints and being a nation ruled by laws and not by men. For example, there are few who take the unconstrained view that US Presidents should just ignore Supreme Court decisions they disagree with, a la Andrew Jackson. And I think it is likely that even if a President did this, the agency head would not accept the order from the Pres to take an action in contradiction to the Supreme Court. Probably Jackson succeeded in this almost 200 years ago because the Supremes were not seen as quite so sacred in those times.

    I do agree that full blown unconstrained beliefs are not popular in the US, because that would imply no constraints at all on the executive by the legislative and judicial branches. But that might be just because such beliefs are so far out of the Overton Window, and so those with otherwise unconstrained beliefs simply don’t follow their ideas to the logical endpoint. I do often come across ideological groups that seem to deny that there are any trade-offs at all to many policy questions. Sometimes this is merely a tactical thing, as they don’t want to admit to the other side that they know that their side is not 100% bulletproof. But I think often members of these groups truly believe there are no trade-offs. Whereas I cannot think of a single important issue where trade-offs do not exist. This is an important area to understand, because if opposing sides in an ideological struggle are also opposed between constrained and unconstrained beliefs, they will constantly talk past each other and have much difficulty even understanding the point of view of the other side.

    There were a couple of aspects attributed to the unconstrained by Sowell that I think is completely incorrect.
    1) He said that the unconstrained are more likely to care about equality than the constrained.
    2) He said that the unconstrained are in favor of elitist control of government.
    The second is clearly untrue because of a major counter-example. I think that anarchists tend to be in the unconstrained camp, since they certainly don’t believe in using laws and traditions to restrain one’s behavior. But they also don’t believe that an elitist group should run things. Anarchists usually strongly believe in people’s natural goodness, and so they don’t think leadership is necessary for good to occur. They may be wrong on a practical basis, and an elite might control society if “anarchism” triumphed, but that doesn’t match their beliefs.

    I also don’t think that a belief in equality as most important is inherently a trait of the unconstrained. It probably does correlate with unconstrained in our current society, but there is nothing about being unconstrained that leads to a prime belief in equality.

    • yodelyak says:

      This maps nicely, in my head, onto the quip (which I’ve been making since I was 20 or so) that anyone who isn’t liberal at age 20 has no heart, and anyone who isn’t conservative at age 30 has no brain.

      Ditto the quip that liberals are those who want to go on “solving” problems with all the things that have been proven not to work, whereas the constrained are conservatives who want to stop the problems being solved.

      I think I will like this book.

    • Incurian says:

      Sounds pretty similar to http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/03/04/a-thrivesurvive-theory-of-the-political-spectrum/ .

      The second is clearly untrue because of a major counter-example. I think that anarchists tend to be in the unconstrained camp, since they certainly don’t believe in using laws and traditions to restrain one’s behavior. But they also don’t believe that an elitist group should run things. Anarchists usually strongly believe in people’s natural goodness, and so they don’t think leadership is necessary for good to occur. They may be wrong on a practical basis, and an elite might control society if “anarchism” triumphed, but that doesn’t match their beliefs.

      Maybe it depends on the type of anarchist, but this doesn’t seem correct to me. Ancaps at least are anti-government, not necessarily anti-law/tradition or anti-cultural institution or even anti-behavioral constraint. Nor do they believe in the natural goodness of men, but have observed that governments are made of men, etc. I don’t know what the prevailing ancap thoughts on “elites” are, but I suspect the thing they would really have a problem with is having their “elites” be chosen through a political process rather than some sort of voluntary, meritocratic market process.

      ETA: Also, from my perspective as a constrained type (“conservative?” at least in some sense of the word), it does seem like the unconstrained types (here I would guess “progressive” is a better label than “liberal”) seem to value equality a huge amount. Though as you say, I’m not sure that’s causally related at all.

      ETAA: On the other hand, if you think of the unconstrained as thrivers, who believe that there’s more than enough wealth to go around and don’t see any problems (practical or ethical) with redistribution, it may appeal to their aesthetic/moral sense to just go out and do it. Like “ok, society is basically at its zenith so we might as well uplift the poor people since there’s nothing else to do and no reason not to.”

      • People seem to be interpreting “constrained” as something like “constrained by social interactions.” I interpret the meaning as more nearly “constrained by reality.” From that standpoint, the answer to the question “why are we not achieving obviously good objective X” is always “because we are doing the wrong things.” From the constrained standpoint, the answer might be “because X is not achievable, or at least not without giving up obviously good objectives Y and Z.”

        I read the beginning of Sowell’s Vision of the Anointed, which is along similar lines, stopped because his picture of the left was persuasive and depressing.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Maybe it depends on the type of anarchist, but this doesn’t seem correct to me. Ancaps at least are anti-government, not necessarily anti-law/tradition or anti-cultural institution or even anti-behavioral constraint.

        My first draft of this comment said “left anarchists.” I decided to drop the left part, thinking that an-caps were pretty much the same in this regard. It sounds like you would have bought this more if the “left” was still there. In any case, my point is that there are anarchists that fit the definition of unconstrained and many of those same people also disbelieve in elitist leadership, whether or not it happens in practice. I still think Sowell is wrong on this correlation.

        • Incurian says:

          I would have agreed if it were left-anarchists, though weakly because I honestly don’t know much about them.

    • albatross11 says:

      I read “The Vision of the Annointed” several years back, which is building on the same theme. In that book, it was 100% clear which side Sowell was on.

      The subtitle of that book was “Self-congratulation as a basis for social policy.” The premise as I remember it was that the people with the unconstrained vision tended to be almost immune to actual feedback from reality (when their plans/proposals didn’t work), because the kind of rhetoric that worked for their policies was better at convincing people to go along than at actually leading to good outcomes.

      • Gossage Vardebedian says:

        “The Vision of the Anointed” was much more a “red meat for conservatives” book. It covered a lot of the same bases as “A Conflict of Visions” but basically made the case for leftism as a status object for the elites.

        • albatross11 says:

          One irony about that, though, was watching the neocons during the Bush (W) administration following exactly the same patterns of self-congratulation and moral outrage in place of thought that Sowell had described for leftists.

  15. BBA says:

    As a follow-up to last time’s sportsball thread, I found this ranking of the most popular sports worldwide. Unsurprisingly, soccer is #1, followed by basketball, tennis, cricket, and baseball. The biggest sport that doesn’t exceed “fringe” status in any English-speaking country is badminton (#12), followed by volleyball (#13). These are both fairly popular recreational sports in the US, but the only time I’ve seen them televised is the Olympics.

    Surprising to me is that snooker is big enough in China to reach #15, while even in its home of Britain it’s a “minor” sport, and in America it’s one of those “is this even a sport?” deals. And I remain convinced that team handball, at #25, is the most popular sport that a typical American has never even heard of.

    I find the categorization a bit debatable. Either Canadian football is treated as a subset of American football (makes sense to me) or it doesn’t crack the top ten sports in Canada (which I find doubtful). But rugby league is separate from rugby union, and to my untrained eye the differences between those two look comparable to the differences between NFL and CFL rules. Also, all forms of motorsport are listed separately, but “athletics” is a single sport, even though it includes everything from sprinting to hammer throwing.

    • Matt M says:

      Tennis being #3 surprises me a lot.

      • BBA says:

        I think the algorithm used here favors breadth over depth. Tennis is not the most popular sport anywhere, but it’s popular pretty much everywhere. As opposed to, say, baseball and cricket, which are both huge in a few countries and not played at all in the rest of the world.

    • Well... says:

      Random thought dump as I went through the list:

      – Are there golf courses in Brazilian tourist resorts?

      – How much does our (USA) higher ed system have to do with our weird sports preferences?

      – It seems like boxing used to be way bigger here than it is now, having fallen from what was maybe “major sport” status in the first half of the 20th century. Anyone know the history of boxing well enough to say?

      – I would have expected to see Germany along with the Scandinavian and Eastern European countries list ice hockey as a major if not dominant sport. Guess I don’t know those countries as well as I thought.

      – Volleyball seems more “minor” than “fringe” here. Many girls play it in organized leagues from age 13 or 14 onward, and sometimes beach volleyball is televised.

      – I thought snooker was bigger in the UK than “minor.”

      – Swimming’s consistently middling popularity is kinda interesting. What accounts for that?

      – I’m surprised rugby doesn’t even get “fringe” status here. Almost every American university has at least a rugby club, doesn’t it? Harvey Mudd has one for women, and it only has something like 800 undergraduates!

      – Why do the women’s field hockey sticks seem like they’re too short in that picture?

      – Was table tennis bigger in the US at one point? I hope I’m not just thinking of the scenes from Forrest Gump, but if table tennis isn’t even a fringe sport here, why do so many people have table tennis tables in their basements? Why is there one in so many corporate rec spaces?

      – It’s interesting handball isn’t more popular here. What about that sport where you whack a small ball against a wall with your hands? Is that also called handball? Outdoor courts (or whatever you call them) set up for that seem like they’re all over Los Angeles and NYC, especially outside of schools.

      – Didn’t the US have a famous speedskater at one point in the 90s? I might be misremembering.

      – Would’ve expected sailing to rank “fringe” sport here too.

      – What percentage of ski jumpers have a military background?

      – The 51-100 list is also interesting and includes a decent number of sports I’ve never heard of.

      – If figure skating and gymnastics are sports, why not ballroom dancing? Breakdancing? Rap battles? Chess?

      • BBA says:

        This is a ranking of spectator sports, as opposed to recreational sports. It claims to be based on data-mining coverage in online media, so it’s possible there are some mistakes. At least in America, table tennis is probably the sport with the highest ratio of people who play to people who care about it at a competitive level – other than the Olympics, do competitions get any media coverage at all?

        Yes, boxing was much bigger back in the day. Among the causes of its decline: the obvious physical and mental toll it takes on the fighters has made many sports fans see it as inhumane. There haven’t been any recent superstars on the level of Muhammad Ali, or even Mike Tyson. It has a highly fragmented structure, with half a dozen boxing federations handing out championship belts seemingly at random, and allegations of corruption at just about all of them. And one non-obvious cause I saw cited in an article is major bouts being pay-per-view, so it’s relatively inaccessible compared to sports that are regularly on ESPN or network TV.

        Regarding handball, the name refers to a completely different sport here than in Europe. American handball is like racquetball without the rackets. European handball is a cross between soccer and basketball.

        As for your latter questions, the World Dance Sport Federation and FIDE are both associate members of the IOC, meaning they’re officially recognized as “sports” even though they aren’t part of Olympic competition. (FIDE had to start giving chess players drug tests, which strikes me as kinda silly.) If someone can codify rules for rap battles, I don’t see why not that too.

        • Matt M says:

          My somewhat out there theory is that boxing was displaced largely by action movies. I feel like the blockbuster action film as we know it today didn’t really exist until the 70s. Which meant that anyone who wanted to indulge a violent male fantasy had boxing as essentially their sole option.

          But then when Hollywood invented the “fight scene” and made it a staple, all of a sudden you had more, and better, options. Fights were choreographed to provide a lot of drama and brutality while still looking reasonably real, but the fact that they aren’t actually real means no guilt associated with cheering for a guy to get brain damage. Basically an improvement on all fronts.

          IIRC this is also when professional football started to get pretty big in America, so people who wanted a mixture of violence and athletic competition had another outlet as well. The 80s also saw an expansion of the popularity of professional wrestling, which probably stands somewhere between boxing and action films on the realism:entertainment spectrum.

          • Well... says:

            That’s an interesting take.

          • Nornagest says:

            Boxing is getting its lunch eaten by UFC now, but I think there was a gap of about five years there where boxing was in a clear decline but UFC wasn’t yet big enough to matter. So the timeline doesn’t line up well enough for this to be the whole story.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Agreed with Nornagest. The glory days of boxing in the US were at least a couple decades before the UFC and Pride were polished enough to be a credible competitor.

          • Matt M says:

            And current day MMA is not nearly as popular as boxing was at its height, and likely never will be.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Yeah. Boxing used to be far more mainstream than it is now, and that MMA is now. And it never will be, if only because culture has “fragmented” so much probably nothing that isn’t already established like football or baseball will ever be that popular – for what I mean by fragmented, compare the numbers the top TV shows did when there were a handful of channels to the numbers they do now.

          • Matt M says:

            That said, to go back to my original theory.

            The Marvel Cinematic Universe may be as popular now as Boxing was in its heyday!

          • Rob K says:

            There was a period where “heavyweight champion of the world” was a concept pretty close to “overall champion of sports” in people’s minds. Boxing was seen as sort of an ultimate test of character and manhood – sort of like it’s still portrayed in boxing movies. Think about the cultural footprint Muhammad Ali has today, 50 years after his prime. Hell, even when Tyson was champion everyone knew who he was. MMA is miles away from that kind of prominence.

            Lots of things must have contributed to the change, but given how important the individual stars to the marketing are I’d have to guess Ali’s controversial politics and Tyson’s gross-person-ness must have mattered. The sport also made some bad decisions about balancing short term revenue vs long term interest when pay-per-view came along.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I read a book about this years ago, but can’t recall much of it. Part of the reason is probably that the US produces fewer top heavyweights than it used to. Bad business decisions were probably part of it – boxing promoters still make a lot of money, but it’s really lost cultural significance. The sheer number of weight classes, different belts, etc matters too. Compare the question “so what’s the next UFC PPV” to the question “when’s the next big boxing match, and who’s on the card?”

        • bean says:

          FIDE had to start giving chess players drug tests, which strikes me as kinda silly.

          Depends on what they’re testing for. If it’s steroids and it’s not FIDE-supervised chessboxing, then it’s really stupid. If it’s nootropics, then it makes sense.

      • gbdub says:

        I wonder if part of the decline of boxing was related to the decline in horse racing – seems like the big betting sports largely collapsed. Not that nobody bets on football etc, just that the wagers are seemingly a less essential part of the culture for those sports.

        • keranih says:

          Well, the betting part became illegal, so that helped draw down the revenue (from betting shop fees) to support racing venues and advertising. Horse racing was also made less profitable by changes in tax shelter laws which meant that horse-ranch businesses had to show a profit on occasion.

          But the crackdown on the mob changed a lot of things.

        • S_J says:

          Interesting side-light: one of the early scandals in baseball in America was the “Black Sox” scandal, in which a team purportedly took a payoff from some wealthy gamblers to intentionally lose a championship.

          Since that time, the presence of gambling in the baseball world has been much smaller than it was in the horse-racing and boxing world. The professional baseball leagues did their best (after the above scandal) to eradicate the connection between gambling and baseball.

      • johan_larson says:

        I remember reading something about the top three sports in the United States a hundred years ago being baseball, boxing, and horse racing.

        Baseball is still hanging in there, but boxing and horse racing have faded badly. Basketball is the newcomer among top sports. Football is on top, but could start fading if parents start directing their kids elsewhere due to worries about brain damage. It has a long way to fall, though.

      • dodrian says:

        Here’s my weird sports popularity theories:

        Britain’s specialty is inventing games and exporting them, only to be beaten by other countries (usually former colonies trying to get their own back).

        America’s specialty is inventing games that no one else wants to play so that they can retain world champion status.

        More seriously though, American sports are all about setting up ‘awesome moments’ – the great plays. [American] Football is literally a sequence of plays where the game completely stops in between each one, with each having an opportunity to be awesome and memorable. Baseball is similar, though doesn’t go to the ridiculous levels that football does which sometimes has the entire team substituted in between plays. Basketball is a lot more fluid than those two, but the ridiculous scoring leads you to expect about two baskets a minute.

        I’m not sure if it’s coincidence or design that these games are perfectly formatted for monetization – it’s easy to sneak in an ad between plays, etc.

        • gbdub says:

          Baseball doesn’t strike me as any more “big play” designed than cricket.

          • dodrian says:

            I’ve not watched enough cricket (nor do I understand enough of the scoring) to properly comment, but it seems to me that baseball is more ‘addictive’, in that each pitch has a reward (either a strike—a mini-reward to the fielding team, a ball—mini-reward for the batting team, or a play of some kind). Is watching cricket similar?

          • gbdub says:

            Pretty much, yeah. From the couple times I’ve watched it, it seems to have fewer “strikes” and more “foul balls” though, since the batsman needs to always defend the wicket but need not attempt a run on every hit.

            But every bowl is potentially a big play. The biggest difference is that in cricket, runs are much more common than outs (so getting an out is a big play) while the opposite is true in baseball (getting a run is almost always a big play).

        • Matt M says:

          Without giving too much credence to the “lazy American” stereotype, I feel like American sports are optimally designed to be easily multi-taskable by the viewer. Football and baseball especially are optimal for enjoying say, in a bar with friends. The action starts and stops such that you can carry on a conversation, and watching the game is additive. Neither the game nor the conversation require your full attention, you can do both.

          Basketball would seem to avoid this by being free-flowing, but as you say, there are so many scoring plays that any individual play becomes statistically irrelevant to the larger outcome. You’re free to stop paying attention for a few minutes, safe that you probably won’t miss anything significant.

          Soccer and ice hockey are far more demanding, in that the action is free-flowing and game-altering plays are few and far between. These sports essentially require your full attention. If you look away for a second, there’s a decent chance you’ll miss a play that decides the outcome.

      • Aapje says:

        Why do the women’s field hockey sticks seem like they’re too short in that picture?

        The angle at which they are holding them (away from the camera) and possibly a little lens distortion.

        PS. I once played Indoor field hockey for a bit. Surely that’s a proper unknown sport.

      • gph says:

        >I would have expected to see Germany along with the Scandinavian and Eastern European countries list ice hockey as a major if not dominant sport. Guess I don’t know those countries as well as I thought.

        I was confused why Sweden/Finland got left out for hockey as well, but looking over all the other sports it looks like they are only listing countries from some predefined list, Sweden/Finland/most South American and African countries are never listed though they would clearly be dominant/major for a number of the sports.

        • BBA says:

          Here are the countries polled. I think this is all of them, and the Nordics aren’t included.

          Certainly if you were listing countries where a sport is hugely popular, I’d question omitting the Dominican Republic from the baseball list. But on the other hand, if you were listing countries to poll for the most popular sport, I doubt the Dominican Republic shows up on any list.

    • scherzando says:

      I think you’re right that most Americans know almost nothing about team handball – I think I’d heard of it maybe once before seeing some on TV while in Europe a few years ago.

      I’ve been following it a bit since then, though, and it seems to me like a pretty engaging spectator sport. I think it’s true that (as you mentioned in the last sports thread) it’s not popular in any (primarily) English-speaking country, and I wonder if this is partially responsible for it not catching on somewhat in the way that e.g. rugby union has.

      Anyways, now I’m curious – any handball fans in the SSC comments?

    • Iain says:

      I find the categorization a bit debatable. Either Canadian football is treated as a subset of American football (makes sense to me) or it doesn’t crack the top ten sports in Canada (which I find doubtful). But rugby league is separate from rugby union, and to my untrained eye the differences between those two look comparable to the differences between NFL and CFL rules.

      The CFL is definitely a top-ten sport in Canada. It’s smaller than hockey everywhere, and arguably loses out to basketball/baseball/soccer in cities that have NBA/MLB/MLS teams, but it’s bigger than anything else.

      I don’t know much about rugby, but this description of how positions differ between the two sports makes me think that they are more different than the CFL and the NFL. Unlike rugby, there are no major differences between equivalent positions in North American football. There are differences in the rules, but they aren’t that much bigger than the differences between the NFL and college football. It is common for players to start out with American football in college, switch to Canadian football after failing to find a spot on an NFL team, and then move back to the NFL after proving themselves up north. Indeed, there’s often an influx of new players halfway through the CFL season, as the players who went south looking for a larger paycheck get cut from NFL training camps and slink back to Canada. (The CFL season starts and ends earlier than the NFL. You do not want to play outdoor football in Canada in January.)

      • Tarpitz says:

        League and Union differ more than NFL and CFL, yeah. Most crucially, Union has a lot more mass contact around the ball, in the form of scrums, rucks and mauls, and League has what amounts to an American football-style downs system.

    • Joeleee says:

      Rugby Union is VERY different to Rugby League. I’m not sure about the differences between CFL and NFL, but to give you an example, the very best players from either rugby code would take at least 12-18 months of focusing solely on the other sport to become in the top tier of players in the other. And that transition is only possible for ~20-30% of the positions (tops). Not sure if the same is applicable for CFL/NFL.

      • BBA says:

        See, this is what I was wondering. Not following rugby closely, I wasn’t sure if the differences were fiddly marginal stuff that doesn’t affect the skills needed to play much, or a fundamentally different game.

        Most of the differences between NFL and CFL are fiddly and marginal. The big one that isn’t (number of downs) doesn’t make any change to the players’ skills. It feels like it’d have more of an effect on pacing and strategy, but I haven’t actually sat down to watch a CFL game to see how different it is. Maybe a Canadian can help me with this. (There’s also the weird rule about being able to punt back a punted ball, which I’ve seen clips of. That doesn’t happen very often, does it?)

        • Iain says:

          The CFL has fewer downs, but wider fields. As a result, the CFL passes more, with more yards per completion. There are a couple more punts per game, but also more field goal attempts, because the goalposts are at the front of the end zone instead of the back. Overall, CFL games end up being just a touch higher-scoring than NFL games. (Stats from here.)

          The fun weird rules about punting back a punted ball might come into play once per season. The more relevant differences are the single point for kicking it through the end zone, and the five-yard cushion that the kicking team has to give to the player receiving a punt, which means no fair catches and more meaningful punt returns.

          Most of the other differences are more subtle. The end zones are deeper. You only need one foot inbounds for a reception. CFL receivers can get a running start so long as they don’t cross the line of scrimmage before the snap. There’s an extra player on the field, which usually works out to an extra receiver and an extra player in the defensive backfield. The clock stops after every play in the last three minutes (and only restarts with the play clock after a tackle inbounds). This makes it a lot harder to run down the clock at the end of the game, so late comebacks are more frequent.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            The clock stops after every play in the last three minutes (and only restarts with the play clock after a tackle inbounds). This makes it a lot harder to run down the clock at the end of the game, so late comebacks are more frequent.

            I wish we’d import this down south. Running the clock out is the least-engaging, least-entertaining, least-sportsmanlike strategy that goddammit WORKS.

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      Baseball not being the most popular sport in the world is simply objective evidence that the rest of the world (and large portions of America) are simply incorrect. Baseball is perfection.

      Only 6 days ’til Opening Day! I’ve been marking time all winter. ._.

      • Brad says:

        It’s so long between pitches these days. How about enforcing the existing delay of game[1] rule instead of adding idiocy like allowing a manager to signal an intentional walk or putting a player on second base in extra innings.

        [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delay_of_game#Baseball

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Love me some discrete intermediate objectives. Can never get into soccer or hockey because it’s so much more difficult to tell whether progress is actually being made.

  16. fr8train_ssc says:

    The 35th Anniversary of Reagan’s announcement of the Strategic Defense Initiative comes up this Friday. Interestingly this coincides with an article recently discussing efforts by the Army to integrate THAAD with the Patriot Missile Systems.

    I brought up a discussion in the last Open Thread on UFOs and some government personnel finally getting involved in it. I figured I’d bump the topic in this Open Thread, but expand it for any interesting recent observations in Defense/Intelligence/Aerospace

    • bean says:

      Missed this earlier.
      Wait, they weren’t tied together before? I’m astonished. Everyone should know just how valuable that sort of systems integration is, and I would have thought this was done years ago. It’ll be a valuable addition to their capability, as the US Army enters the 20th century.

      • fr8train_ssc says:

        As you hinted, “Interoperability” is the latest buzzword in DoD contracts/speak, so I would not be surprised if it took this long because the DoD wanted some of the subsystems to become JAUS compliant or updated to some other horrendous standard that the original developers were pushing back against.

        Also lol at “the US Army enters the 20th century” that sentence gave me as much of a spit take as when I manage to find sentences with 2 ‘the’s’ in them as I read them.

        • bean says:

          The concept in question was invented by Jackie Fisher when he was running the Mediterranean Fleet, and heavily refined at sea before 2000, so I’ll stand by my choice of words. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a stupid burecratic reason it hadn’t happened yet, but every military network system I’ve ever seen has lots and lots of support for ABM, so I was genuinely surprised to know they hadn’t done some critical bit of integration yet. Both systems have been around a while.

      • cassander says:

        Air defense has gotten more attention than usual lately, but air defense is never going to be the community at the the army’s pecking order.

        • John Schilling says:

          For the Army to have meaningful air defenses, we’d have to admit that the Air Force might possibly be less than perfect in securing total air supremacy. That’s politically infeasible in the current DOD. Missile defense is another matter; the USAF doesn’t claim to be able to shoot down ballistic missiles (yet), and that issue has come to the front of the table in a big way. So if the Army is smart enough to use the ‘M’ word rather than the ‘A’ word, they can now get funding to integrate Patriot and THAAD.

  17. sandoratthezoo says:

    So re: the Uber autonomous vehicle crash. The Tempe police released a dash cam video of the event.

    https://twitter.com/tempepolice/status/976585098542833664?s=21

    In the video, it’s very fast between when you can first see the pedestrian and the impact. But that’s not what you should be focused on.

    The big things that this video tells us are:

    1. The Uber was in the right lane, and the pedestrian crossed an entire lane of traffic before getting in front of the Uber.

    2. There were no other vehicles that obstructed the Uber’s line of sight.

    The darkness in the video is deceptive, both because the camera’s limited contrast probably exaggerates how limited the visibility actually was, and because if we assume for the sake of argument that the car was genuinely unable to “see” more than 20 feet ahead of it, it needed to slow down preemptively, and most importantly because the car has LIDAR and probably infrared as well and it definitely should not have been affected by the darkness, in the absence of other obstructions to line of sight.

    Initial reports are that the car not only didn’t avoid the pedestrian, it didn’t even engage its brakes.

    This seems to me to be relatively strong evidence that Uber’s cars are simply not safe right now.

    • gbdub says:

      On the other hand, the pedestrian was moving slowly, outside of a crosswalk, with no lights. The car wasn’t coming around a corner and had its lights on, so the pedestrian should have seen it coming

      Yeah the video probably exaggerates the darkness, but that would have been hard for a human driver to see.

      • maintain says:

        This seems to me to be relatively strong evidence that pedestrians are simply not safe right now.

        I suggest all pedestrians be pulled from the streets until further notice.

    • Evan Þ says:

      I agree. This aligns with my prior opinion (as I posted last open thread) this’s due to self-driving cars’ known problem with detecting bicycles. The victim wasn’t riding their bicycle, but walking it in an orientation similar to riding it – and that wasn’t enough to save them from the known problem.

    • johnjohn says:

      I think this video is pretty damning for Uber and I hope they get their “AI drivers license” revoked.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      Before seeing the video, I assumed that this was a dart-out situation but having seen it, I agree.

      I have been driving for 30 years, and the only time I have seen that kind of contrast between illumination and shadow was entering a tunnel on a sunny day. And in those cases, I have always slowed way down due to this exact problem — you don’t know what is or isn’t in the shadow.

      • johnjohn says:

        The released video really misrepresents the lighting conditions of that area

        Someone made a more realistic video
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XOVxSCG8u0

        Comparison shots: https://imgur.com/a/PM7uu

        • gbdub says:

          I’ve driven that road and many like it. Neither video is particularly representative – reality is somewhere in between.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I’ve driven hundreds of thousands of miles and I’ve never seen a road where a shadow resulted in a blind spot. The only exception being entering a tunnel (or passing under and underpass) on a sunny day.

          • gbdub says:

            Well there’s a difference between “truly a blind spot” and “insufficient contrast to notice something you’re not explicitly looking out for”.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I’m not sure I understand your point, but when I’m driving, I need to be satisfied that the road ahead of me is clear to to the limit of my stopping distance plus a little extra. If visibility drops for any reason, then I slow down.

            So for purposes of this discussion, if there is insufficient contrast to notice an obstruction in the roadway, one could call it a blind spot.

          • gbdub says:

            You stated you’ve never seen a shadow cause a blind spot. Which only made sense to me if you were saying “literally impossible to see”. If the standard for blind spot is “makes it substantially harder to notice something you’d definitely see in perfect lighting”, then shadows or similar lighting effects can certainly case that.

        • John Schilling says:

          What the lighting conditions look like to us, should be irrelevant. Maybe the conditions were such that a human driver would have had difficulty avoiding this accident. But if so, that makes this almost exactly the sort of accident where an AI driver should greatly outperform a human, because robots aren’t limited to the spectral and dynamic range of the human eye. Nor the distracted attention that pretty clearly affected the human “safety” driver.

          Any robot that can be trusted to drive on public roads, should have had no problem avoiding this accident. Uber’s got a big engineering problem. Fortunately for them, they don’t seem to have a confounding PR problem, so they’ve got a chance. One more accident could change that.

          • gph says:

            >Fortunately for them, they don’t seem to have a confounding PR problem

            And honestly I think the Tempe police department made it that way with the initial statement they released. They really made it sound like a pedestrian had darted out into traffic and the uber had no realistic chance of avoiding the crash. If this video had been released without Tempe police establishing the narrative there would likely have been a much bigger shitstorm. It’s pretty clear the AI made no effort to brake at any point. Even if the crash was unavoidable that person might still be alive if the car slowed down to 25mph before impact.

          • johnjohn says:

            I agree with everything you said.
            I just pointed out the lighting thing because the misleading video seems to be used as a PR tool.

            This accident looks like the absolute bare minimum of what you’d expect a driverless car to handle.

            I really do hope that Uber will face some form of repercussion for this, but I doubt it.

      • Matt M says:

        I think we can draw a distinction between “dart-out” and “zero regard.” Not to paint with a broad brush here, but if the victim was in fact homeless, I’ve personally experienced a whole lot of “zero regard” situations regarding homeless pedestrians on city streets. It’s not that they rush into the lane at the last minute as if they were actively trying to be hit. It’s that they simply cross whenever and wherever they feel like crossing with zero regard to their surroundings. They expect that drivers will stop/avoid them, because most usually do.

        I have little sympathy for anyone who is hit by a car in such a situation. It’s her responsibility to look around before walking into oncoming traffic – even if technology can theoretically be designed to detect/prevent/avoid her.

        • Incurian says:

          That notwithstanding, it may indicated a problem with the technology that would affect good pedestrians and cyclists.

          As for the lighting conditions: how do we know which one has messed up contrast? Also, were they taken under the same weather conditions and phase of the moon?

        • fortaleza84 says:

          I agree that this is most likely a “zero regard” situation, but it seems to me we want automated cars to adhere to human standards of care; a human driver who ran into this woman would be considered negligent and partly liable for the woman’s injuries.

          By the way, a dart-out situation is not that different from a zero-regard situation. It’s just that the person who darts out into traffic is moving so quickly that it’s not reasonable to expect people to react in time.

          ETA: By the way, I think that this problem will eventually be fixed and then we’ll have the opposite problem, people taking advantage of the fact that cars are programmed to avoid hitting people at all costs. I think it’s likely that eventually we will see “youths” intentionally darting into traffic, hoping to cause cars to swerve and run into each other.

          • Matt M says:

            I agree that this is most likely a “zero regard” situation, but it seems to me we want automated cars to adhere to human standards of care; a human driver who ran into this woman would be considered negligent and partly liable for the woman’s injuries.

            Would they? I wouldn’t find the driver of this vehicle at fault if I was on a jury…

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            In many ways she deliberately made a road obstruction.

            But 1. you aren’t allowed to kill other people who make road obstructions and 2. a car that can’t notice such a large object isn’t very safe to be around or riding in.

            In a way I’d feel safer about riding in the car if it did notice the woman but made the decision to enter self-defense mode, complete with red glowing eyes. It’s almost the kind of thing I can see Uber doing and proudly admitting.

          • Brad says:

            I feel confident saying that there’s no way in heck a human driver would get convicted of vehicle manslaughter in that accident unless he were drunk. Maybe not even then. Without intoxication prosecutors want to see something like drag racing before they’ll even bring a case.

            A civil jury is a different question. Arizona is a pure comparative negligence state. That means that even if a driver is only 1% responsible for an accident a plaintiff can recover damages, albeit only 1% of the total damages. Accident cases are very jury dependent, but I think personal injury lawyers would take this case even if there had been a human driver.

            One thing to keep in mind though is that in ordinary vehicle cases almost every case settles within the policy limits of the insurance. Going after the personal assets of the driver is extremely rare. Oddly enough that’s true even where there is a deep pocketed corporate defendant. My WAG is that this is because the more usual cases set the range of damage awards even where the insurance limits aren’t a factor. However in the case of a self driving car you may get different players and different litigation strategies.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Would they? I wouldn’t find the driver of this vehicle at fault if I was on a jury…

            Is that based on your knowledge of negligence/products liability law, or just your internal sense of justice?

            Because based on my knowledge of negligence, I would say that both the pedestrian was negligent and the (hypothetical) driver of the car was negligent. Or to put it another way, the car is a defective product.

            Of course I hate pedestrians who just walk into the street willy-nilly (perhaps because most of them are micro-aggressing), but I am reluctant to go back to the days when contributory negligence was a bar to recovery in tort.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Even more than “zero regard” is “I may be homeless but I can still make you stop your car by making a point of not noticing you.”

          The backup driver looks like he was watching something in his lap (playing on his phone?). The comparison video looks like what I see when I drive at night and I’d have absolutely seen her. If I could only see as well as the original video depicted I’d have to drive at 25mph.

          And this wasn’t a small object. Even if she was jaywalking or being a deliberate hazard, if Uber’s system can’t see it they have no business doing this.

          ast summer, after a man died in a Tesla that was using the car’s Autopilot system, which allows for autonomous driving on highways, Levandowski told several Uber engineers that they were not pushing aggressively enough. “I’m pissed we didn’t have the first death,” Levandowski said, according to a person familiar with the conversation. (Levandowski denies saying this.)

          http://nymag.com/selectall/2017/05/inside-uber-lawsuits-travis-kalanick.html

          I guess they were determined to get their first murder one way or another.

          • Matt M says:

            Even more than “zero regard” is “I may be homeless but I can still make you stop your car by making a point of not noticing you.”

            And we should reward/encourage this sort of behavior why exactly?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Well, she ded, so I’m not sure it’s being encouraged that much. She played stupid games and won stupid prizes.

            FTR, I wouldn’t necessarily mind a move to a system where it’s assumed that cars get to run over jaywalkers, but it would have to be a conscious move where we debate the pros and cons, not something we move to because Uber tried to force us there.

          • Brad says:

            That appears to be a divided road. I don’t know if I’d go as far as free to kill jaywalkers on those, but car dominant rules do make sense there. City streets are an entirely different matter.

            https://blog.hotelscombined.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/New-York-Times-Square.jpg?x72234

            Those cars with two people in 100 square feet should not be allowed to dominate a space that hundreds of people taking up 2 square feet each want to use.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The comparison video looks like what I see when I drive at night and I’d have absolutely seen her.

            I am not sure what my impression should be here. The cyclist DEFINITELY should have seen the car, and maybe crossed with zero regard, but probably assumed based on prior experience that the car would have seen her (him?) and stopped in time. That weights my prior towards assuming a car with a human driving would have seen her.

            On the other hand, there WAS a human at the wheel, glancing up every second or so. Wouldn’t the human have seen the cyclist and tried to take over?

            If this were a dark rural road, I’d say there’s no chance you would have seen the cyclist. On most of the arterial roads around here, definitely would have seen the cyclist, no problem.

            Cyclist being a moron doesn’t excuse the car’s technological limitations, if they exist, IMO.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            On the other hand, there WAS a human at the wheel, glancing up every second or so. Wouldn’t the human have seen the cyclist and tried to take over?

            In the last interval he wasn’t looking at the road for over 5 seconds and then screams. If it was the crash that caught his attention it may have been even longer. At 40 mph that’s ~300 feet. The length of a football field if you want to make a point.

          • Matt M says:

            but probably assumed based on prior experience that the car would have seen her (him?) and stopped in time.

            I dunno about that. It’s dark, it’s nighttime, this is a divided highway, and traffic is moving fast. I highly doubt a lot of people have attempted something like that and succeeded enough times to have a prior that it definitely works…

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I dunno about that. It’s dark, it’s nighttime, this is a divided highway, and traffic is moving fast. I highly doubt a lot of people have attempted something like that and succeeded enough times to have a prior that it definitely works…

            This isn’t a limited-access expressway. It looks like this is N Mill Ave by Curry Road. It’s basically an arterial road where cars are driving 40 MPH. That’s, like, the road right next to my house, they are a dime a dozen.

            Actually, when I was younger, I would cross a similar road all the time to get to my high school. My high school was along a 35 MPH road, as was our sister high school, as are practically all high schools in our area.

          • albatross11 says:

            We should require human and robot drivers not to kill homeless people heedlessly walking across the street because everyone is sometimes inattentive or careless, and we want the entities piloting a ton of metal at 40 MPH to adapt to that in ways that don’t end up leaving the careless/inattentive people dead.

          • Matt M says:

            Actually, when I was younger, I would cross a similar road all the time to get to my high school.

            And I’m gonna guess you looked both ways and proceeded carefully each time. You didn’t just roam across with no regard and expect that any oncoming traffic would responsibly avoid you.

          • The Nybbler says:

            we want the entities piloting a ton of metal at 40 MPH to adapt to that in ways that don’t end up leaving the careless/inattentive people dead.

            Just going to “car = big and fast = driver always wrong” doesn’t work well. If we want highways, then given the laws of physics we have to demand a certain standard of care from those who cross them, or drivers are going to hit pedestrians despite doing things right. Having seen the film, it looks like there was just under a second of warning between the time the pedestrian became visible and the collision. An ideally alert driver might have avoided the collision; such a driver would already know there was space to his left, would recognize in the time available that the obstacle was a pedestrian moving right, and would correctly move left. A less than ideally alert driver (and no one is always ideally alert) still would have hit the pedestrian most of the time, as would an ideally alert driver who made a mistake.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @The Nybbler, if the video was a faithful representation of what the car knows, I’d agree with you. However, the car has a lot more sensors that really should’ve detected her.

          • rlms says:

            The question is what standard self-driving cars should be held to. I don’t think it makes sense to choose it based on what sensors the car has available; AFAIK we don’t treat humans with 20/20 vision more harshly if they run someone over on the grounds that they should’ve done better. Instead, the starting point should be human behaviour.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Evan Þ

            The LIDAR should have detected her; I assume Uber will be attempting to find the fault. An HDR camera, I’m not so sure. A camera with enough sensitivity to detect her in the darkness between the streetlight beams might have been blown out by the lights in the background.

            I am also doubtful about the human being able to see her. The human eye’s dynamic range is impressive, but we don’t get it all at once. Seeing things in the center of our vision that are in shadow while bright light is also present is worst-case for the human eye. I think a human would not be able to see the pedestrian at all until her shoes appeared, and would not be able to realize there was more than a road marking until slightly later.

            But my point wasn’t about what should technically be possible. It’s what is reasonable to demand morally from human drivers, and in particular to argue against the claim that all the responsibility should be on the driver because they’re driving something big and fast.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I know that they have back up drivers for legal reasons but it’s pretty unrealistic to expect them to be paying 100% attention while doing nothing for hours on end. Very few people can concentrate to that extent.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            If this were a dark rural road, I’d say there’s no chance you would have seen the cyclist.

            I would have to disagree with this. I have been in equivalent situations in rural areas where deer wander onto the road and I have always stopped in plenty of time to avoid hitting the deer.

            Although I do it intuitively, the mathematics of the situation are pretty simple. Assuming you need 20 feet to comfortably stop for every 10 miles per hour and your headlights illuminate the road for 100 feet, it’s safe to drive at 50 miles per hour.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            A less than ideally alert driver (and no one is always ideally alert) still would have hit the pedestrian most of the time, as would an ideally alert driver who made a mistake.

            If there’s an area of the road you can’t see, you generally KNOW that you can’t see it and you should adjust your speed accordingly on the assumption that there might be an obstruction in the road.

            I agree that we should not bend over backwards to protect people who dart out. But I do think that it’s negligent to run into people who amble onto the road like this woman.

          • John Schilling says:

            Very few people can concentrate to that extent.

            Not sure how that’s relevant. If concentrating to that extent is necessary to avoid running down pedestrians (even idiot jaywalking homeless pedestrians) at a rate of >>1E-8/vehicle-mile, then you do whatever is necessary to hire the minority of people who can concentrate to that extent, or you limit your safety drivers to ten-minute shifts or whatever is it takes. Maybe you spend a year or two not letting the toasters touch any of the controls, just record data on when they would have braked or swerved if they’d been in charge and determine what still needs work.

            If it’s not possible to do a thing within the generally accepted limits of risk to innocent bystanders, the answer is to not do that thing, not to say “we’re going to do it anyway, it’s too hard to do it safely”.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @John

            I’m not saying there’s nothing that can be done. I just think level 3 autonomous driving, where the car takes over the driving and the driver is supposed to be paying close attention every second just in case, is unrealistic. You can blame Uber software, but I don’t think the driver is to blame at all.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Uber either hired someone who couldn’t pay attention, or didn’t work to make the task worthy of keeping attention, or whatever, it was Uber’s employee (for once!), so the lack of safety following is on Uber.

            I suspect there are a lot of things you could do to keep safety drivers engaged, like having them dictate a log periodically or using audio cues to describe what the computer is seeing on the road.

            I also suspect Uber said “fuck it, you pay attention or we fire you, when we get around to it.”

          • John Schilling says:

            You can blame Uber software, but I don’t think the driver is to blame at all.

            Arguably Uber management is at fault for assigning the driver to a safety-critical task they weren’t qualified for, but it’s one of the two. If [X] can’t be done with adequate safety by any human beings, or only by exceptional human beings, doing [X] anyway and saying “this is the best we can do!” is at least tortious and maybe criminal.

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve always felt (and I guess this maybe confirms) that the whole “Don’t worry, we’ll have a human in the car to make sure everything is safe!” was never anything more than entirely pointless appeasement to techno-phobes who are automatically suspicious of tech and vastly over-estimate the general abilities of humans.

            They’ve always known having a person in the car wouldn’t make things any safer, but they do it anyway because society has enough idiots who think it will.

          • albatross11 says:

            Matt M:

            +1. Giving people a job where they’re supposed to sit around with nothing to do for hundreds of hours between events where they’re supposed to notice some impending problem within a couple seconds and respond appropriately is basically just giving them a job they’re guaranteed to fail.

            If the software is error-prone enough to need human intervention of that kind, then they need to take it off the streets till they improve it to not need that kind of human intervention. And if it’s not that error-prone, then they shouldn’t have the human there. (Though the human is probably there for some legal reason having nothing to do with actual safety.)

          • rlms says:

            I agree with John Schilling, but I don’t think the ability to perform the task in question correctly is limited to exceptional employees. Driving instructors seem to manage it fine.

          • hls2003 says:

            @albatross11

            You refer to human intervention to correct errors “of that kind” – but this is a little like complaining that seat belts on airplanes won’t save you if the plane falls out of the sky. There are different kinds of errors; for some a human occupant is helpful (e.g. the whole computer system crashes, the car gets stuck, or some longer-term problem) and for some it is not (split-second decisions probably wouldn’t be amenable to timely human intervention). So it may still be worthwhile to have the driver present even if doesn’t solve this particular type of problem.

            That said, legally speaking, unless there is some jurisdiction-specific legislation, Uber’s self-driving cars would likely be held to the same standard of care as a human driver anyway. A human driver should have been watching the road; even a late braking action might have changed death to injury. They won’t be able to use the autonomous system as a reason for the human driver not to pay attention, however implausible such attention may seem.

            The interesting question, to me, is whether autonomous vehicles may have unexpectedly high levels of fatal accidents. In both fatal incidents I’m aware of (this and the Tesla AutoPilot incident) the car didn’t slow down at all. If, when they break at all, they are prone to fail in ways that result in full-speed collisions without even last-second braking, then AI drivers might well be feared even if their overall collision rate was as good or better than humans. I’m sure the engineers are considering it, but I wonder if the issue might be a failure to program in the equivalent of fear and uncertainty. The autonomous system has to be programmed to follow its inputs, or it is dangerous. But where a human might be uncertain of his data (e.g. there’s bad light, or tough visibility) and slow down, the AI will either recognize data or it won’t. I could see it being easy to have the AI pull over / slow down if a sensor stops working, but if the sensor is working, how do you tell a computer to ignore the fact that the sensor is working and consider instead the possibility that it might be not-working in a non-obvious way? (After all, ignoring the sensor is just what you don’t want it to do almost always). That strikes me as a very hard problem, and one that might make AI-driven collisions more likely to be full-speed and deadly on a per-incident basis.

          • Matt M says:

            Driving instructors seem to manage it fine.

            Driving instructors manage to correct poor driving, which this wasn’t.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            but I don’t think the ability to perform the task in question correctly is limited to exceptional employees. Driving instructors seem to manage it fine.

            I suspect someone with driving instructor experience would be considered exceptional at Uber…

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The question is what standard self-driving cars should be held to. I don’t think it makes sense to choose it based on what sensors the car has available; AFAIK we don’t treat humans with 20/20 vision more harshly if they run someone over on the grounds that they should’ve done better. Instead, the starting point should be human behaviour.

            I think I agree that the rational thing is to demand that, on net, computer drivers just be as good as human drivers, all things included.

            I expect the computer will avoid many crashes humans get into, but get into some small number of crashes humans don’t, and on net we will be better off.

            But Uber has left me with no confidence that they are operating correctly. At legal fault or no, part of the reason we expect a lot of computer-driven cars is that they will never be drunk or unobservant or distracted. “Thing in the road” is supposed to be a case they catch.

            driving instructor

            This is an exhausting task. When my teenage son is driving, I sit in the passenger seat and it’s even more work than driving, because I need to 1) observe everything and build a mental map of the road, and 2) have a theory-of-mind for my son’s mental of the road, to figure out what mistakes he might make.

            that the whole “Don’t worry, we’ll have a human in the car to make sure everything is safe!” was never anything more than entirely pointless appeasement

            It wasn’t for Waymo’s development. Their human drivers would often have to take over. One of their primary measurements was how many times that had to happen, and obviously it kept going down, but it was always there.

            Waymo has way more miles on the road by a multiple yet never ran anyone over. Somehow their human drivers never got so bored they didn’t notice a person.

            “Move fast and break things.”

          • Wrong Species says:

            I don’t know about you but my driving test was maybe 10 minutes long. Teenagers are also terrifying to drive with so it’s not difficult to have your eyes glued to the road. That’s a big difference from paying attention for hours with a system that drives like your grandma.

            But there is definitely some use in having a human around. If it starts raining, then the system can pull over and let the human take control. Basically any time conditions change where the system doesn’t feel “comfortable”, then a back up driver is useful.

          • albatross11 says:

            What’s the fatality rate per 100,000,000 miles of newby drivers with instructors sitting next to them. I don’t know the answer, but I’ll bet it’s a lot higher than experienced drivers!

          • I’m wondering if one could somehow make the backup driver’s experience into a game that held his attention.

            Suppose, for instance, that he has a steering wheel and a set of pedals, but they ordinarily don’t control the car. His job is to make the same decisions the AI makes simultaneously. He gets some point measure of how nearly he does it, and perhaps a cash reward for a high score.

            He has a button that switches control from the AI to him in an emergency.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            I’m wondering if one could somehow make the backup driver’s experience into a game that held his attention.

            Suppose, for instance, that he has a steering wheel and a set of pedals, but they ordinarily don’t control the car. His job is to make the same decisions the AI makes simultaneously. He gets some point measure of how nearly he does it, and perhaps a cash reward for a high score.

            He has a button that switches control from the AI to him in an emergency.

            I think I’d have a really hard time driving a car in which my actions don’t correspond to what the car does. Maintaining speed is a constant-feedback process: if I’m trying to maintain my current speed, and I notice the car is slowing down, I’ll press slightly more on the acceleration pedal. Similarly, I’m judging how much to turn the wheel based on how much the car is currently turning in response to where the wheel is.

            If the car wasn’t responding the way I expect it to, I’d likely end up changing my inputs to compensate, and since the car still wouldn’t respond correctly, I could end up very far off from what normal inputs would look like. This would likely be dangerous if I ever had to take control (since my understanding of how the car drives is wildly skewed), as well as giving the car bad data about what a human driver would have done.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Do driving instructors manage this task? I doubt it. Sometimes, but not that often, they have an extra brake. Do they actually manage to use it in time? I think what they mainly do is notice signs of bad driving, not imminent collisions.

            Edward Scizorhands,
            I’m pretty sure you’re misreading the reports about Google/Waymo. Most of their miles were driven in cars without (normal) human controls. They report a “fault” every 5 miles(?), but that’s a computer noticing a problem, not a human intervening. It’s true that their early miles were driven with emergency humans, but I don’t think we know how often they intervened and how often it mattered.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I sometimes see kids darting out into streets with zero regard.

          • Randy M says:

            I think there’s a difference between zero regard because not able to understand consequences, and zero regard because screw you.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Maybe, but I don’t want the attitude “we don’t care about people who cross streets without looking” to become prevalent among either motorists or engineers, because that includes both categories.

          • bean says:

            I don’t think it’s entirely impossible to separate the two categories. When I see pedestrians walking in the street, it’s always someone of adult size, never a kid. But I rarely drive anywhere kids are likely to be out unattended. So you set it up so that if the speed limit is 25 or below, the car gives the pedestrians more deference than it does if someone decides it’s a good idea to stroll across the middle of a major road.

          • Matt M says:

            Maybe, but I don’t want the attitude “we don’t care about people who cross streets without looking” to become prevalent among either motorists or engineers, because that includes both categories.

            My point isn’t so much “I don’t care about these peoples lives” as it is “I have no greater obligation to care about these peoples lives than they do.”

            Crossing a divided highway at night without a crosswalk is incredibly reckless behavior. Far more reckless than anything the driver (human or AI) was doing. Is it nice that usually, that sort of reckless behavior still doesn’t result in death? Yes, I suppose so.

          • Randy M says:

            @Guy: True; I was talking culpability-wise, but since it’s impossible to know while driving with certainty, I agree with you.

            I also don’t want jaywalking to be a capital offense in any case, of course. But using other people’s concern for your life to inconvenience them saps sympathy quickly.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            So you set it up so that if the speed limit is 25 or below, the car gives the pedestrians more deference than it does if someone decides it’s a good idea to stroll across the middle of a major road.

            This particular case may not be the best example because the road runs between an industrial park and a golf course, but the speed limit was 35 MPH. I’m not a traffic engineer, but we have a bunch of what I think are collector roads that have a similar speed limit. Like I mentioned above, literally every single high school in my school district borders a road with a similar speed limit. Sometimes those kids are stupid and cross when they shouldn’t. If Uber shrugs its shoulders and think that’s a situation that technology shouldn’t address, then the reaction from parents is going to make Ramsay Bolton look like Gandhi.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Matt M, suppose we change the situation a bit: instead of walking her bike across a median, she’s riding it coming out of a driveway. Now we have a perfectly legal situation which I engage in regularly. AFAIK there’s no difference here that would be evident to Uber’s self-driving technology: it doesn’t have a map of the location of every driveway, so if it misses this person walking her bike, it’d also miss me riding my bike out of a driveway.

            (Unless Uber notices each gap in the median and cut in the curb, and pays extra attention to see if anyone’s coming out of them? But that seems like it’d require a lot of extra software for less benefit than just paying attention everywhere.)

            This is too dangerous to be on the road.

          • Matt M says:

            I strongly recommend checking carefully for oncoming traffic, both by sight and sound, before riding your bike out into a divided highway with a speed limit above 20mph.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Matt M, absolutely, but I also want cars to have a responsibility to look out for me.

          • Incurian says:

            Even cars pulling out of driveways still need to look both ways for other cars.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            There’s no question that the pedestrian here was negligent, but it also seems pretty clear that the car was defective.

            Actually, it seems to be a universal rule of car accidents, industrial disasters, and failures in the modern world that multiple things went wrong, each of which standing alone would not have resulted in the mishap.

            Which is why the interesting and important issue here is whether the car is defective.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Check out what the median looked like where the pedestrian was crossing.

      • Matt M says:

        Jesus. Yeah, that’s kind of misleading. Making me reconsider some of my criticism of the victim here.

      • quanta413 says:

        Seriously, what the fuck? It may not be true for everything, but when building roads, form needs to follow function.

        • CatCube says:

          Probably an instantation of the general rule that in civil engineering there’s no rapid prototyping or iterating on a design–you get one bite at the apple. The original engineer made a mistake, and there was no money to fix it beyond throwing up some signs. If you build something and realize it won’t work, you don’t get to rip it out and try again.

    • gbdub says:

      Regardless, “not smashing into stationary or slow moving objects at high speed” seems like job one for an autonomous vehicle.

      With both this and the recent Tesla crash where autopilot took them right into a stopped vehicle, I’ve heard a lot of explanations for why this is a tough technical problem to solve. Which, fine, I get it, this stuff is hard. But really, this seems like exactly the sort of situation that autonomous vehicles absolutely must be able to navigate to be worthy of the name, let alone be safer than alert human drivers.

  18. jknapka says:

    The SSC meetups list seems pretty old. I’ve relocated to Houston for several months to receive leukemia treatment, and I suspect the density of SSC readers there is much higher than in my home town (El Paso). Even so, the last meetup in Houston appears to have been nearly a year ago. Anyone down for a get-together?

    • Matt M says:

      There was a Houston meetup scheduled sometime last summer. Not sure how it went – I wasn’t able to attend due to a work conflict but may be interested in attending a future one.

    • Odovacer says:

      I too am new to Houston and am willing to meet up

  19. a reader says:

    France trivia quiz:

    Name 3:
    1. French kings who weren’t named Louis
    2. French revoulution leaders
    3. Battles of Napoleon
    4. Novels by French writers
    5. French poets
    6. French painters or sculptors
    7. French actresses
    8. Songs by Edith Piaf
    9. Cities in France, other than Paris
    10. Cathedrals/churches in France

    (3 is enough, because for many of these I can’t name 5 myself.)

    • Machine Interface says:

      Born in France so not much of a challenge, but here goes:

      1. Uhtu Pncrg, Cuvyvccr VV, Senapvf V, Uraev VI, Puneyrf K (naq obahf cbvagf sbe anzvat bayl Pncrgvnaf, fvapr pnyyvat rneyvre qlanfgvrf “Serapu” xvatf vf vapernfvatyl nanpuebavfgvp gur shegure onpx va gvzr lbh tb)
      2. Eborfcvreer, Qnagba, Zneng, Ynsnlrggr…
      3. Gensnytne, Nhfgreyvgm, Jngreybb…
      4. This one’s easy: Trezvany, Yrf Zvféenoyrf, Iblntr nh obhg qr yn ahvg, N yn erpurepur qh grzcf creqh, Fbhf yr fbyrvy qr Fngna, Vyyhfvbaf Creqhrf, Znqnzr Obinel… (V pbhyq tb ba naq ba)
      5. Another easy one: Onhqrynver, Ceéireg, Ncbyyvanver, Ireynvar, Ebafneq, Ivyyba, Ehgrobrhs…
      6. Wrna-Cnhy Ynheram, Tnhthva, Prmnaar…
      7. Znevba Pbgvyyneq, … naq V pna’g erzrzore gur anzrf bs gur bgure gjb V xabj V xabj.
      8. Yn ivr ra ebfr, Yn sbhyr, Zvybeq
      9. Very easy: Obeqrnhk, Znefrvyyr, Avpr, Yvyyr, Oerfg, Nzvraf, Pnra, Fgenfobhet… (pbhyq tb ba naq ba)
      10. Abger Qnzr qr Cnevf, yn Znqryrvar, y’rtyvfr qh Fnper Pbrhe, Pngurqenyr qr Ebhra, Abger Qnzr qr Pnra…

    • thirqual says:

      1) rnfl zbqr: qverpg yvar Pncrgvraf bayl. Uhthrf, Eboreg VV, Uraev V, Cuvyvccr V, naq gura lbh arrq gb tb gb Puneyrf VI gb trg n arj svefg anzr.

      2) Eborfcvreer, Qnagba, Zneng, Qrfzbhyvaf, taaa V’yy tb jvgu Gnlyyrenaq

      3) Zneratb, Clenzvqrf, Nobhxve, Vran, Yrvcmvt (ongnvyyr qrf angvbaf)

      4) Tnetnaghn, Yn Zbqvsvpngvba, Yr Iblntr nh Obhg qr yn Ahvg, Y’Nffbzbve, Zvpebzétnf (gubfr ner nyy terng)

      5) Cerireg, Yn Sbagnvar, Evzonhq, Ireynvar, Onhqrynver (abg irel bevtvany urer)

      6) Gbhybhfr-Ynhgerp, Zbarg, Znarg, Ebqva, Pynhqry

      7) fgehttyvat gb trg nalguvat vagrerfgvat fb V’yy yrnir vg

      8) qenjvat n pbzcyrgr oynax ba guvf

      9) tbbq cynprf gb ivfvg: Fgenfobhet, Avzrf, Pnepnffbaar, Teraboyr, Yn Ebpuryyr

      10) Pgu qr Fgenfobhet, qr Ervzf, qr Punegerf, Abger Qnzr, naq gur zbfg ornhgvshy puhepu bs Cnevf, yn Fnvagr-Puncryyr.

      • Protagoras says:

        On 3, you managed to come up with a list with no overlap with the list I came up with (though if I’d tried to come up with 5 instead of 3, I probably would have added Wran). Where are Nhfgreyvgm, Obebqvab, and Jngreybb? Too easy?

    • The Nybbler says:

      1. Puneyrf V, Puneyrf VV, Jvyyvnz (2/3)

      2. Qnagba, Eborfcvreer, Fg Whfg. (V bayl xarj gur guveq bar orpnhfr Ubabe Uneevatgba)

      3. Jngreybb, Cnevf, Pbefvpn. (1/3)

      4. Erzrzoenapr bs Guvatf Cnfg, Pnaqvqr, Yr Zbeg Q’Neguhe. (gur Serapu gvgyr sbbyrq zr!) (2/3)

      6. Ebqva, Zngvffr, Zbarg (gurer ner bs pbhefr ZNAL bs gurfr).

      7. Oevtrggr Oneqbg, Nhqerl Gnhgbh, Znevba Pbgvyyneq. (Nyzbfg cvpxrq Nhqerl Urcohea, juvpu jbhyq unir orra jebat)

      8. Pbzr abj, gurer vf bayl Yn Ivr ra Ebfr. (1/3)

      9. Qvwba, Znefrvyyr, Qhaxvex.

      10. Abger Qnzr, Pngurqeny bs Fbzr Fnvag, Pngurqeny bs Fbzr Bgure Fnvag. (1/3)

    • quaelegit says:

      1. Urael VI, Senapvf V, Cuvyvc [bxnl qvqa’g tvir n ahzore ohg V jnf pbeerpg gung gurer jnf ng yrnfg bar] 3/3

      2. Eborfcvreer, Zneng, 2/3

      3. Wraan, Nhfgreyvgm, Jngreybb 3/3

      4. Gur Guerr Zhfxrgrref, Yrf Zvfrenoyrf, Fhvgr senaçnvfr [bxnl gung’f xvaq bs gur frevrf anzr, Gur Pbhag bs Zbagrpevfgb vf zl onpxhc] 3/3

      5. Ibygnver [ur jebgr fbzr cbrgel!]… 1/3

      6. Zbarg, Ebqva, Qrtnf 3/3

      7. Fnenu Orneauneqg?[lrf!] Purevmr Gureba? [irel zhpu ab, nyfb zvfcryyrq]. Qbrf Wbfrcuvar Onxre pbhag? Cebonoyl abg. 1/3

      8. Yn Ivr Ra Ebfr (cebonoyl qvqa’g trg gung dhvgr evtug) 1/3

      9. Gbhybhfr, Znefrvyyrf, Avpr, Ylba, Yvyyr

      10. Abger Qnzr qr Cnevf… lhc. 1/3

      I know more French things than I thought! Although mostly its a side affect of my interest in history and geography. (The only French Actress I got was from the 19th century…)

    • christhenottopher says:

      I’m chalking 5-7 up to brainfarts, I know at least one or two in each of those but I’m banking on them right now.

      1. Puneyrf K, Urael VI, Pybivf, Puneyrzntar, Ancbyrba
      2. Eborfcvreer, Qnagba, Zneng, Znedhvf qr Ynsnlrggr, Fnvag-Whfg
      3. Wran, Nhfgreyvgm, Yrvcmvt, Obebqvab, Jngreybb
      4. Pbhag qr ZbagrPevfgb, Gur Uhapuonpx bs Abgerqnzr, Gur Cynthr, Yrf Zvfrenoyrf, Pnaqvqr
      5.
      6.
      7.
      8.
      9. Yvyyr, Obeqrnhk, Znefrvyyrf, Ylba, Qvwba
      10. Abgerqnzr

      • Machine Interface says:

        Ancbyrba’f bssvpvny gvgyr jnf “Rzcrebe bs gur Serapu” engure guna “Xvat bs Senapr”, naq ur vfa’g trarenyyl gerngrq nf cneg bs gur xvatf bs Senapr ol uvfgbevnaf.

    • Montfort says:

      1. Cuvyvc V, Uhtu Pncrg, Puneyrf V (do pre-hundred-years-war monarchs count?)
      2. Qnagba, Eborfcvreer, Pneabg
      3. Wran, Nhfgreyvgm, Jngreybb
      4. Yn crfgr, Zzr Obinel, Yr Ebhtr rg yr Abver
      5. Onhqrynver, Ivyyba, Ibygnver (?) he wrote a few poems, anyway
      6. Ebqva, Znarg, Tnhtva
      7. no contest
      8. Yn ivr ra ebfr, Aba wr ar erterggr evra (2/3)
      9. Eraarf, Yvyyr, Avpr
      10. Abger Qnzr qr Cnevf, Beyrnaf, Anagrf (I guess the last two probably have long form names I didn’t know)

      Finally, all those years of French class pay off. If only I had remembered the credits from the films…

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      1. Uhtu Pncrg, Urael, Cuvyvc VV Nhthfghf
      2. Eborfcvreer, Pneabg, Noor Fvrlrf
      3. Yrg’f fgvpx gb uvf svefg Vgnyvna pnzcnvta: Ybqv, Nepbyn, Evibyv.
      4. Guerr Zhfxrgrref, Pbhag qr Zbagr Pevfgb, Yrf Zvfrenoyrf
      5. Ru
      6. Zbarg, Zbarg, Fvfyrl
      7. Uzz…
      8. Cnqna cnqna cnqna, wr erterggr avra, hu, gur Ratyvfu anzr vf “qernz n yvggyr qernz bs zr.”
      9. Obeqrnhk, Gbhyba, Ylba.
      10. Pngurqeny va Eurvzf, Pnra Pngurqeny, gur pngurqeny va Qvwba?

  20. dodrian says:

    One of the sites I browse recently asked for monetary support, listing Flattr among the usual options (Paypal, Patreon, et al).

    It appears that Flattr uses a browser extension to track user engagement across sites, and charges users a flat monthly subscription. At the end of the month the money from the subscription (the user chooses how much they want to be charged per month) is divied up proportional to the user’s engagement on various sites. Flattr claims that all the tracking is done client-side (and the extension is open source, so that could be corroborated), with the only data they store being the number of flattrs (base unit of engagement apparently) per site, used to calculate the ratio of how much money from your subscription goes to each site. Content creators don’t need to do anything on their site other than add a meta html tag (and flattr claims to also track on sites like youtube). The fees seem comparable to Patreon.

    It seems to me like a good idea for funding things on the internet (I’ve avoided Patreon mainly because of incidents in their history, but also it feels like I would support a few things, then not support any more as my monthly charge went up – this seems the better option of letting me decide how I want to pay in support and dividing that between the creators I follow).

    Any thoughts on the idea? Has anyone signed up with flattr (as a user or a creator?)?

    • Matt M says:

      Have they yet taken a position on refusing to include creators/sites that offer “controversial” viewpoints?

      • albatross11 says:

        I’d like to know what promises they make w.r.t. user data. Tracking everywhere you go would be pretty valuable for someone who also did advertising. (And all the existing advertising networks track the hell out of you all the time.)

    • professorgerm says:

      Would you mind elaborating on what issues you have with Patreon? Other than the fee change plan they ended up scrapping, I haven’t heard much bad about them.

      • Matt M says:

        They tend to ban just about anybody to the right of John McCain. I object to that.

        • Protagoras says:

          They just generally ban too many people. I have no interest in any far right causes, of course, but I wish Patreon would be less restrictive in all cases.

      • dodrian says:

        They had a big data breach a few years back, and more recently made some changes to how they charge, which meant content makers started getting a lot less. They’ve rolled them back since, but still, I’m not a huge fan of the organization.

        • Nornagest says:

          You’d think they would have known better, in the line of work they’re in. One of the main reasons the microtransaction model didn’t work out for Web funding is “credit cards charge fees, you idiot”.

  21. lvlln says:

    Does anyone know if the court transcript for this recent rape case is available anywhere? Or if there’s a relatively easy & cheap way to acquire it? I’ve tried Googling around a bit, but without any luck, and I was thinking maybe there was someone more experienced in law who could point me in the right direction.

    I ask, because I’m curious about comparing and contrasting the case as reported by NY Times in the above link and as reported by The College Fix. With The College Fix being a somewhat right-wing news source in my experience, and this particular article being written by the co-president of an activist organization that had some skin in this trial, I’d normally just presume that the NY Times was painting the more honest picture and move on with my day, but I was struck by the 3rd paragraph of the NY Times article that made me want to dig in a little deeper:

    Mr. Khan’s lawyers worked relentlessly to discredit the account of the woman, who was not identified by name in the arrest warrant application. They asked repeatedly how much she had to drink, and how she could claim not to remember certain details, such as how she arrived back at her dorm room, but remembered others, such as the alleged assault itself. They parsed her text messages with Mr. Khan, asking if she had not been flirting with him in the days before the incident. They showed off her Halloween costume, a black cat outfit, and asked her why she had not chosen a more modest one, such as “Cinderella in a long flowing gown.”

    This reads like a laundry list of standard cliches of what rape apologists use to allow rapists to get off the hook and re-traumatize victims. And this looks like it was written specifically to invoke that image of the defense re-traumatizing her, with phrases like “worked relentlessly to discredit the account of the woman” and “asked repeatedly how much she had to drink” without putting them in context of what exactly was the account of the accuser and what part they were trying to discredit, or how “how much she had to drink” played into the defense’s counter to the prosecution’s case and evidence, or why they had to ask those things “repeatedly.”

    Which normally wouldn’t make me raise my eyebrows, but when I read the The College Fix article, that article actually presented each of those things in contexts that made sense for the defense trying to establish their case of what went down that night and which didn’t show them to be rape apologists trying to appeal to an ignorant regressive jury to just see her as a slut who had it coming anyway. Except for the bit about the cat costume – that’s not mentioned in that article, and unfortunately the NY Times article doesn’t allow me to get a sense of what that was about, either.

    It’d be easy to conclude here that NY Times had an axe to grind and did their best to present the case to fit a certain narrative while never going as far as stating outright falsehoods (exacerbated by the fact that the NY Times article spends most of the 1st half discussing various things tangentially related to the case and only presents the actual prosecutions’ and defenses’ arguments and evidence in the 2nd half and does so poorly), and the The College Fix article is accurate. But, again, the mere fact that the The College Fix article was written by an activist means there’s no good reason to believe that their article is any more honest. And the article is peppered with little editorial flourishes that make the author’s biases clear. As well as, again, the general slant of The College Fix I’ve perceived in the past.

    So even though I’m not a lawyer, I’m thinking it might be a useful exercise to check out the original source, to see who’s presenting the case more honestly, if either of them is. I’ve also tried looking into other articles on the case, but none of them seem to go into as much detail as I’d like, or they seem to have an obvious axe to grind as well, like this Reason article.

    • Brad says:

      http://jud.ct.gov/webforms/forms/ES262.pdf

      Case Name: State of Connecticut v. Saifullah Khan
      Docket# CR15-0162194
      Judge: Superior Court Judge Brian T. Fischer
      Dates: 2/26/2018-3/2/2018 and 3/5/2018-3/6/2018

      It’s quite expensive though.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      The NYT is hilariously biased, but it sounds like the College Fix literally can’t be a disinterested party here, so I’d be more likely to give NYT the nod in this case.
      Ultimately, I think a jury will do a better job than any spectator relying on the media for data can.

      • hls2003 says:

        As someone familiar with legal examinations / argument, they’re both almost useless. Without the full context of which factual issues are being contested, and on what basis, it’s nearly impossible to determine the relevance of lines of questioning like “Halloween costume” (NYT) or “defendant’s college major” (College Fix). Purely for example (I haven’t read the transcript), the costume might be relevant to a dispute about the defendant or victim’s account of how much time passed during disrobing or something. The NYT reports the costume question, but doesn’t say why, giving the impression it is pure victim-blaming. Meanwhile the College Fix does the reverse with lines of questioning countering defendant’s narrative. Without the whole story, neither is helpful to get a sense of which questions are appropriate and which out of bounds. Note that in any case, such information would need to be relevant, which suggests they all have some probative value (which you wouldn’t know from either piece).

        This is par for the course in my opinion. I’m sure I notice it more because of the Gell-Mann effect, but legal affairs seems to be one of the worst-reported areas in the media generally.

        • Matt M says:

          Can we not assume that questions about the costume (and other such things) must have had some logical and legal purpose – because if they didn’t, the judge wouldn’t allow them?

          Presumably, if the defense tries to mount an irrelevant line of questioning, the prosecution would object, and the judge would then have to decide whether it was actually relevant or not, yes?

          • hls2003 says:

            Yes, that is generally my point. If questions were allowed, then either they had sufficient relevance to overcome objections, or else one or both counsel (or the judge) is incompetent. The latter is a possibility, but seems less likely with two Yale students in New Haven.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            There’s a difference between asking the question in a deposition and asking it in the courtroom.

            Asking in a deposition is largely fishing because you are trying to get facts from a non-cooperative party, and it takes a long time and lots of things that never matter get asked.

            By the time we get to the courtroom, the lawyers know the answer to every question they are asking (because they were answered in the deposition).

          • Alphonse says:

            @Edward,

            As a minor correction, although you’re correct that lawyers (generally) don’t ask questions in court when they don’t already know the answer, that won’t be because of depositions in this case. This was a criminal trial, and although depositions are extremely common prior to a civil trial, that same type of pre-trial discovery does not occur before a criminal trial.

            Criminal procedure and the attendant forms of discovery are a quite complex subject, but depositions don’t play the same role as in the civil context. As just a simple example, since the defendant can decline to take the stand (plead the Fifth in popular parlance), the prosecution can’t depose the defendant prior to trial.

      • lvlln says:

        Ultimately, I think a jury will do a better job than any spectator relying on the media for data can.

        Yeah, this is the default I generally go to when looking at legal cases. For however much I might have learned about any given case, the jury clearly must have learned much much more. And though I can certainly question their judgment, it’s not always obvious that my judgment is better than their judgment. So if I find myself disagreeing with some verdict, my first presumption is that I’m mistaken rather than that the people who made that verdict are, though this is obviously subject to change upon further analysis.

        It’s just that the NY Times article seems to be implying and feeding into a narrative that the judgments of the jury – as well as the rest of the legal system – is faulty in some predictable way that unfairly and unjustly disadvantages the accuser in rape cases. This narrative is actually pretty much accepted dogma in the circles I frequent, which is why I normally wouldn’t have found the NY Times article all that noteworthy. But weighing that against the aforementioned default I have of believing the jury got it right, along with that The College Fix article which seemed to be painting a fairly coherent picture of a sensible trial, I thought it might be useful to try to scratch below the surface a little bit to see how much it held up to scrutiny.

        @hls2003

        Note that in any case, such information would need to be relevant, which suggests they all have some probative value (which you wouldn’t know from either piece).

        This is par for the course in my opinion. I’m sure I notice it more because of the Gell-Mann effect, but legal affairs seems to be one of the worst-reported areas in the media generally.

        Thanks for your input! Perhaps the main lesson I should take away from this is just to be more distrusting of media reports of legal cases. Which unfortunately still leaves the problem of not knowing what’s going on and how much confidence I have in the legal system carrying out justice, but at least I won’t be led down a path that’s predictably wrong.

        • Brad says:

          There’s a weird paradox where in theory the criminal justice system is way biased towards letting off guilty people (10 guilty men and all that) but in practice in low profile cases against poor people it’s if anything a little too ready to convict (or more usually force a plea). Among defense attorneys there’s a fairly well known phenomena of right guy, wrong charge. It’s not that their clients haven’t committed any crimes, but not this one. Or the cops didn’t do things right (“I smelled MJ” is the cops favorite thing in the world to say) and it should be tossed out. These cases that should, in theory, result in acquittals often don’t. What you think about that exactly depends on where on the pragmatic-procedural fairness line you stand.

          Anyway, when it comes to high profile cases, cases against cops, or against rich people, whether or not it is “fair” to the victim often comes down to whether you are comparing it to the theory or comparing to what usually happens.

          • albatross11 says:

            Do you have any intuition for what fraction of actually innocent people are getting sent to prison?

            I mean, if an armed robber/drug dealer/car thief goes to prison in a situation where the cops screwed up the evidence and the case should probably have been dismissed, that’s not ideal, but at least it’s someone going to jail who actually was committing the crimes they were convicted of. It seems enormously worse if some innocent person goes to prison for some crime. And it seems like having some idea of the likely fraction of people in prison who are innocent (not just “he’s a drug dealer, but he probably didn’t sell those drugs to that undercover cop on this particular day”) seems really important.

          • Incurian says:

            These cases that should, in theory, result in acquittals often don’t. Won’t you think about that exactly depends on where on the pragmatic-procedural fairness line you stand.

            I’d be interested to hear you expand on this and talk about your personal opinions. Also from other lawyer-type people.

          • Brad says:

            @albatross11
            Keep in mind that I don’t have data here, this is my personal guess based on discussions I’ve had. And those discussions have overwhelmingly been with people based in NYC. For all I know the situation is completely different in Newark, much less rural Louisiana.

            That caveat out there, my impression is: there aren’t very many reasonably law abiding *and* factually innocent of the crime they were convicted for, people in prison. I’d guess less than one in a hundred.

            Note pre-conviction confinement is not included in “prison”. Also, I’m holding the laws as they exist as a constant, whether or not they are just is a different post. Finally, that says nothing about all the people that aren’t in prison.

            @Incurian
            I’m personally pretty far towards the procedural fairness. If we can’t stomach beyond a reasonable doubt and the fruit of the poisoned tree doctrine (etc.) we should get rid of them. Not allow the criminal justice to ignore them in some, but not all, cases under the guise of pragmatism. Pragmatism means unguided discretion and unguided discretion means bias.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            My impression from having family and friends in law enforcement is that there is actually a fair amount of “right guy, wrong charge” going on, and that this is especially true in cases with groups of criminal friends or actual organized gangs.

          • Randy M says:

            I think we’ve had this debate here before, but in regards to improper procedures letting clearly guilty individuals walk, the concern is usually that it creates incentives that lead to innocent people being punished, or people punished harsher than intended.
            But when you let somebody walk because evidence was obtained without a warrant, say, the people being punished for the breach of procedure are the offender’s next victims, “the people”, not the police who violated the liberties. Now maybe there’s reasons why that’s still the best option, but my inclination is to have (potentially quite harsh) penalties for the individuals violating the procedure, but admit the evidence (not in, say, cases of confessions being tortured, but in, say, undisputed phone records being obtained without a warrant).

          • Protagoras says:

            As I understand it, cases which happened before DNA analysis was available and where enough evidence survived that it was possible to do DNA testing later, and where this was done, have produced about a 10-15% rate of “this couldn’t be the guy who actually did it.” Those are not a random sample, but subsequent analysis has turned up some plausible theories of what went wrong in those cases (e.g. eyewitnesses are terrible), and it does seem that those problems might affect a large number of cases.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Protagoras, here. The correct number is 15%. If you don’t count that as a random sample, then you must reject the label RCT from virtually every medical study.

          • The Nybbler says:

            but my inclination is to have (potentially quite harsh) penalties for the individuals violating the procedure, but admit the evidence (not in, say, cases of confessions being tortured, but in, say, undisputed phone records being obtained without a warrant).

            The biggest difference between this and applying the exclusionary rule is this will never happen. If we have rules which punish police for getting evidence unlawfully, but allow the evidence to be used against the defendant anyway, there will always be some reason to let the cops off with nothing or a slap on the wrist. It’s damn near impossible to punish cops for murder on the job, never mind lesser violations.

          • Randy M says:

            The biggest difference between this and applying the exclusionary rule is this will never happen.

            Not to mention that a zealous enforcement might make good prospective cops too reticent to apply for fear of ending up fined, fired, or in prison for mistakes.

            But it’s frustrating, nonetheless.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Douglas Knight, Thank you. I didn’t remember the exact details; I was trying to suggest that the study’s figure is probably the most reasonable estimate available. But I wanted to concede the point that there are likely to be differences in the rate of false conviction for different kinds of crime, and there may be other patterns of difference between cases for which decisive DNA testing is possible and cases where it is not.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Protagoras, I believe the reason we have throwing the case out when the evidence was gathered improperly rather than punishing the police who gathered the evidence is that it’s exceedingly difficult to punish police.

          • The correct number is 15%.

            That is not correct. What they are reporting are cases where the DNA testing weakens the case against the defendant, not where it shows that he could not have done it. And the 15% figure is for sexual assault only.

            The convicted offender was eliminated as the source of questioned evidence in 33 out of 227 convictions (15 percent) where a determination could be made from the DNA analysis, and that elimination was supportive of exoneration

            There have been a number of different attempts to estimate the rate of false positives in the criminal justice system, giving a range of results. I don’t think any give a number as large as 15%.

          • Protagoras says:

            Protagoras, I believe the reason we have throwing the case out when the evidence was gathered improperly rather than punishing the police who gathered the evidence is that it’s exceedingly difficult to punish police.

            Having some trouble figuring out in what way this is a response to anything I’ve posted in this thread.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Protagoras, I’m sorry. I meant to reply to Randy M.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Yes, 15% is for sexual assault only, because that’s the category where (1) lots of biological samples and (2) where DNA is strong evidence.

            What they are reporting are cases where the DNA testing weakens the case against the defendant, not where it shows that he could not have done it.

            Except that DNA is overwhelming evidence.

            I don’t think any give a number as large as 15%.

            Quality beats quantity. This study trumps all the other studies you mention put together.

          • I wrote:

            What they are reporting are cases where the DNA testing weakens the case against the defendant, not where it shows that he could not have done it.

            You responded:

            Except that DNA is overwhelming evidence.

            DNA can be overwhelming positive evidence. But the fact that the bloodstain was not from the defendant does not prove he did not commit the crime. The victim could have gotten the stain earlier in the day from someone else. There could have been an accessory who got scratched. A sexual assault might not have included vaginal intercourse, in which case the semen in the victim might have been from consensual intercourse with someone else.

            The article is quite clear in its glossary:

            Exculpatory and supportive of exoneration – The results of the DNA testing that exclude the convicted offender as the source of DNA developed from old evidence. This result would support a claim of wrongful conviction. However, this alone may not be sufficient to prove wrongful conviction.

            Quality beats quantity. This study trumps all the other studies you mention put together.

            I didn’t specify any other studies. Which ones were you thinking of?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Clear? Bullshit.

            Protagoras,
            do you quote this many disclaimers when you talk about medical studies?

        • hls2003 says:

          There are two common failure modes I’ve noticed which seem to be very prevalent in media reports on legal matters.

          The first is, more or less, pure ignorance. Inexperienced or uninformed reporters misunderstand relatively common rules or process, and report them as if they are more newsworthy than they are. For example, you sometimes see reports on a court’s ruling on a motion to dismiss as “agreeing with the plaintiff” when, as a matter of procedure, they are merely taking the complaint allegations temporarily at face value for that motion. Or you get outrage at certain questions or statements that are commonplace and serve a function that the reporter doesn’t understand. Also, once you have seen a lot of litigation, many cases start to fall into patterns and you can usually do better at filling in gaps on any individual case – not that it eliminates context, but there’s just a sense you get of how cases usually go. Inexperienced reporters usually lack this sense. As will most people, when confronted with something they only partially understand, inexperienced reporters will often interpret it in accordance with their pre-existing biases; but the usual calling card is that the biases will show up as outrage or excessive interest in things that do not really justify it.

          The second failure mode is usually from experienced legal reporters, or even lawyer-commentators themselves, and that is to fall into brief-writing mode. This type of bias can be harder to spot for a layman. Even as a lawyer it is often hard to tell what’s being selectively quoted or omitted or emphasized to push a particular viewpoint. However, one rule of thumb is whether the experienced reporter articulates each side’s argument – at least initially – in a way that, even if you don’t agree, you can at least understand as plausible. Most cases that go to trial or, even moreso, go to appeal or (very much so) head up for high court review are not so clear-cut that one can simply discard one side’s argument as frivolous. (Sometimes they really are that frivolous, but you have to go to the briefs to determine if they really argued it that way).

          Also, one quick point about jurors – oftentimes it’s not that jurors necessarily have more information than you to make a decision; they may well have less information, because they only get to see admissible evidence. The news can report facts or details that the average person considers pertinent but which are not provided to the jurors (e.g. hearsay or character evidence). So sometimes your opinion of the “correct” result may differ because they heard more detailed evidence than was in the news; other times it may differ because the jury didn’t see the news. And that would still be a proper decision by the jury, because the rules of evidence are generally in place to serve a function independent of any single case’s outcome.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            So sometimes your opinion of the “correct” result may differ because they heard more detailed evidence than was in the news; other times it may differ because the jury didn’t see the news. And that would still be a proper decision by the jury, because the rules of evidence are generally in place to serve a function independent of any single case’s outcome.

            Yeah, I don’t agree with that. I’ve always thought that judges should not be disallowing certain evidence or telling jurors not to read the news. The whole point of the jury is the theory that a committee of 12 peers will make a better decision on the facts than any one individual (such as the judge). If you believe a jury makes sense, then I don’t see why the judge should have the right to determine what facts on which the jury should make its decision. We should use a jury system or not — our hybrid system makes no sense to me.

          • Montfort says:

            I’ve always thought that judges should not be disallowing certain evidence or telling jurors not to read the news. The whole point of the jury is the theory that a committee of 12 peers will make a better decision on the facts than any one individual (such as the judge).

            Applying the rules for which facts ought to be considered is not the same skill as analyzing evidence to come to a decision on a narrow question of fact. It seems quite plausible to me that the former requires a fair bit of training, and so it might be profitable to divide the labor and allow a judge to do that part rather than put all the jurors through law school.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Applying the rules for which facts ought to be considered is not the same skill as analyzing evidence to come to a decision on a narrow question of fact. It seems quite plausible to me that the former requires a fair bit of training, and so it might be profitable to divide the labor and allow a judge to do that part rather than put all the jurors through law school.

            It does not seem at all plausible to me. Jurors are supposed to be determining areas of fact, judges the law. I don’t think law school teaches how to determine what is fact. It seems to me that the sorts of things that judges disallow are histories of the defendent, opinions in the media (don’t read the papers about this case!), or basically anything they don’t hear in the court. I think this results in worse verdicts.

          • Montfort says:

            But there is law and precedent about which facts the jury is allowed to consider (for example, this), and this is what the judges apply when they disallow evidence or sequester a jury. The judges are not deciding fact, at least not the fact that the jury is asked to consider. They don’t, e.g., disallow an expert witness because the judge thinks that particular expert is wrong this time, they do it because of the law on which witnesses can testify.

            Maybe you think evidence law is wrong in some or all respects, but that’s a different criticism from the allegation that judges are deciding the facts of the case.

  22. Acedia says:

    The vast majority of my political views align with the left, but because I can’t stand performative indignation and sanctimony, I constantly find myself hanging out in right wing (sometimes hard right wing) spaces online because they’re so much easier to be friends and relax with.

    Basically I agree with the left politically but hate them aesthetically and socially. I wonder how common that is.

    • Protagoras says:

      I expect that it is quite uncommon to only notice performative indignation and sanctimony when it is practiced by your own side; most people only notice it when the other side does it.

      • albatross11 says:

        It seems like performative indignation on the right was more of an 80s/90s thing, with the Moral Majority and similar folks. These days, the performances on the right seem like their goal is to evoke the performative indignation on the left.

        • Brad says:

          Huh? What do you think is going on 24×7 on Fox News? You think that’s all real indignation?

          • albatross11 says:

            Fair enough. I watch as little TV news/infotainment as I can manage–basically I only see Fox or CNN when I’m at the gym or in a hotel where they’ve got it turned on in the lobby, so I’m probably missing a lot of the performative outrage on the right.

          • Well... says:

            Yup. That was a big part of why I stopped listening to talk radio. Basically talk radio and Fox News are nonstop performative outrage. Same goes for a certain segment of the internet, plus you can easily find the audiences of those stuff doing the same thing on Twitter, Youtube, comment sections, etc.

            Maybe one could model it as: performative outrage is the norm wherever either the platform is powerful (e.g. mainstream media) or the platform is super-accessible (e.g. Twitter). SSC is not super-accessible because there’s a kind of built-in IQ barrier, among other barriers.

          • Nornagest says:

            It might be less that there’s less performative indignity among politically engaged right-wingers now than there was in the Eighties/Nineties, and more that less of it is diffusing into the broader culture. It was impossible to get away from Moral Majority messaging in the Nineties; it’s entirely possible to avoid Fox News now.

        • Baeraad says:

          I agree that that seems to be about the size of it. I just don’t see how malicious trolling is any less offputting than self-righteous crusading. In either case, the whole point is to cause someone pain. I dislike people who make a point out of causing others pain.

          ETA: My people, insofar as I have a people, are the hand-wringing liberal weinies who’d really like everyone to just get along and stop shouting, pretty please. You know, this guy.

          I think we’re nearly extinct, though. We don’t fare too well in the current climate.

          • Orpheus says:

            ETA: My people, insofar as I have a people, are the hand-wringing liberal weinies who’d really like everyone to just get along and stop shouting, pretty please. You know, this guy.

            I think we’re nearly extinct, though. We don’t fare too well in the current climate.

            I don’t think these kinds of people are going extinct, they probably just keep to themselves or are off social media.

          • The Nybbler says:

            “Can’t we just all get along” either favors preservation of existing injustice, or imposes the views of a non-impartial mediator. If there’s an real conflict, it’s not a good position.

          • albatross11 says:

            Nybbler:

            There’s a spectrum of how people who disagree on politics or society or religion or whatever may interact. At one end, it’s a collegial intellectual disagreement that leaves plenty of room to be friends; at the other end, it’s a civil war.

            I suspect where you want to be on this spectrum depends somewhat on the extent to which you’re a mistake theorist vs a conflict theorist.

            If you think the disagreements are ultimately about factual questions and your main goal is that we all end up knowing more about the world, then collegial disagreements are your goal. Dr Collins’ theories about autoimmune disease or quantum computing or human language acquisition may be wrongheaded, but he’s still a perfectly decent fellow and the right way to respond is to make convincing arguments in a calm tone, present evidence, etc. Academic conferences, meta-analyses, seminars wherein everyone gets to present their views, pre-registered studies–those are the kinds of tools you want here.

            If you think the disagreements are mainly about who gets the power/who wins, and you think your side is strong enough to win, then you may prefer to move the slider bar toward civil war. This is where you want blacklists and no-platforming and angry mobs shutting down your enemies.

            The confounding variable here is that each person’s individual incentives may push them toward one or another side of that spectrum. Even if you’re ultimately involved in a factual dispute, you may find an immediate advantage in no-platforming your opponents. And there’s often an incentive to disguise your motives in a dispute–perhaps you’re a paid shill whose position on some issue is that you want to win for your client, but you’re still required to follow the forms of rational debate seeking the truth; maybe you’re convinced you’re right in some factual dispute but believe that the most effective way to win the day is to use conflict-theory methods like evoking moral outrage.

          • albatross11 says:

            +1

            Both traditional media and social media are a massively distorting filter. The stuff you see on CNN and the stuff you see on Twitter are neither one very representative of what the world actually looks like.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @albatross11

            Once we reach the point that people are crying out “can’t we just all get along”, the slider has already moved to the conflict side. It’s too late for that. Both sides will see “can’t we all just get along” directed at them to be a demand for surrender. Tell the one side “can’t we all just get along” and they might say

            So you’ll stop trying to take our guns? Stop having us fired from our jobs? Stop barring us from entire professions? Allow our research to be published whether you like it or not? Allow our academics to speak? Allow us to mount defenses to rape charges without that being proof of guilt?

            The other side will say

            So you’ll stop killing us and our children? Stop spewing your hateful violent words at us? Stop publishing apologia for genocide and racism? Stop raping us, and stop traumatizing rape victims in court? Stop trying to force us into the wrong bathroom?

            And of course the answer to all demands will be either “no” or “you’re deluded, we’re not doing that”.

          • Matt M says:

            “Can’t we just all get along” either favors preservation of existing injustice, or imposes the views of a non-impartial mediator. If there’s an real conflict, it’s not a good position.

            Yeah, these are the type of people who are likely to end up being hated by both sides. Likely to face the guillotine no matter which faction wins the struggle.

      • Wrong Species says:

        It’s a lot easier to notice when they reserve all their vitriol for people like you. I get where Acedia is coming from. If you took all of my political views, and gave a point to the right or left for each one, I might come out with more left points than right ones. But I’m sure as hell not throwing in my lot with people who despise me.

    • keranih says:

      I thought I was all for the ideals of the left until I figured out that the practical application of left-leaning bias meant disavowing my parents and all of my relations, not just the ones who annoyed me.

      Then I tried to reason through the ideals of the left that I thought were actually worth disavowing parents for – and realized my parents actually believed in those ideals, just not in the left-favored methods for reaching them.

      Then I remembered that steak, fried chicken, and watermelon were wonderful to eat. And gave up on leftism.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        @keranih:

        Then I remembered that steak, fried chicken, and watermelon were wonderful to eat. And gave up on leftism.

        I don’t get it. Is that a dig at veganism, or anti-racism? And why would the latter be relevant if you’re eating fried chicken and watermelon while white?

        But yeah, being progressive requiring the WEIRD custom of ancestor hatred rather than the more normal human tendency of ancestor worship is really nasty, especially since we have ancestors who are still alive.

        • keranih says:

          It’s not a dig at anyone. I think anyone who wants to eat those things is a-okay.

          Hence the split from the left.

          And why would the latter be relevant if you’re eating fried chicken and watermelon while white?

          THAT’S WHAT I SAID. Only it appears that if you eat those things with gusto around the right wrong sort of non-Caucasian person, you’re a racist bitch.

          When I’m a righty, I get to love my folks and eat food better than Adam and Eve had.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      You might find this relationship entirely reversed IRL. In online spaces, I agree that left spaces (which seem to be the majority of spaces) are just filled with righteous indignation, and it’s EVERYWHERE. And God Help You if you disagree with the Received Wisdom.

      But IRL, conservatives map a lot closer to the Racist Uncle Caricature. Especially since they tend to be older, so their Conservative Beliefs tend to overlap with “Get Off My Lawn” rants. Fox News and Talk Radio have NOT helped this trend.

      This might also change as you get older, but I’m not sure. There was a lot of liberal indignation when I was younger, but I grew up during the Bush years when Dubya was OBVIOUSLY the dumbest idiot who has ever idioted in the history of idiot, and you are a fool for even mentioning his name. And then Obama came around in the tail-end of my college career, and GOD HELP YOU if you doubted the wisdom of his holiness. My impression is that older people were somewhat less likely to embrace either caricature as fully.

      Certainly now, in our 30s, my social group has gotten pretty sick of all the raw hatred out there, and tends to be a bit more skeptical of the “all GOPers are crap” and “this new Dem person is going to save us all!”

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I hadn’t realized this and I think you’re onto something.

        I also find it easier to discuss things online in right-wing places, despite my left-wing leanings. Well, anything except for global warming. I’ll never, ever, ever be able to get any traction on that besides “it’s a hoax you leftie fool.” But I can still avoid that issue even when addressing environmental concerns, like “coal sure puts a lot of pollution in the air.” In left-wing places there are much larger lists of things that won’t be questioned.

        But in real-life, I’ve engaged with left-wing people about, say, left-wing health care myths, and they totally sit there and listen and engage.

        I don’t know to many right-wing people IRL, which is unfortunate, but. Yeah. Racist uncle. I don’t know why you thought I’d enjoy that joke about black babies, so, Hey, how about that weather?

        • Nick says:

          But in real-life, I’ve engaged with left-wing people about, say, left-wing health care myths, and they totally sit there and listen and engage.

          My amusing personal example of this is Arthur Chu. In writing, of course, he’s the canonical Sith Lord. But I met him by chance a few years ago, and in person, even talking about feminism and politics, he’s this perfectly nice and engaging person. Of course, this goes for lots of folks left or right.

          • Matt M says:

            Of course, this goes for lots of folks left or right.

            Absolutely true.

            Out-there theory: Perhaps the fact that social media cracks down hard against right-wing extremist speech, but largely gives a pass to left-wing extremist speech, helps create this perception?

            If you ban everyone who makes a “make me a sandwich” joke, but give blue check marks to the “I BATHE IN MALE TEARS” crowd, it would definitely give the impression to the average user that left-wing outrage is more common than right-wing outrage, even if the numbers of people who want to make extreme comments was roughly the same.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            If you ban everyone who makes a “make me a sandwich” joke, but give blue check marks to the “I BATHE IN MALE TEARS” crowd, it would definitely give the impression to the average user that left-wing outrage is more common than right-wing outrage, even if the numbers of people who want to make extreme comments was roughly the same

            And IRL, there are plenty of sammich jokes, but I’ve never met anyone said they like to bathe in male tears!

      • Brad says:

        My friend group, also in our 30s, discusses politics or near-politics less and less every year. Even on facebook there’s not much of it. That works for me.

    • lvlln says:

      Hard to say how common that is without actual data, but I’d guess it’s not that rare. I too align almost completely with the left when it comes to politics, but I’ve generally found right-wing spaces to be less hostile. And the presence of semi-famous figures from the left who have found themselves hanging out with right wingers for similar reasons – e.g. Bret Weinstein, Christina Hoff Sommers, Sam Harris, Lindsay Shepherd – may be an indication that it’s not super-rare.

      I think that recent study about liberal college-educated young people tending to be pro-free-speech is also an indication that more left-leaning people are likely to be getting pushed out by the “performative indignation and sanctimony” of a certain subset of the left. That’s heartening to think, though it still remains that that subset of the left can still wield a disproportionate amount of social and institutional power that affects vast swaths of society.

  23. johan_larson says:

    The quiz in the next OT will be about novels usually taught in high schools. Let’s use this thread instead to talk about books that are NOT taught in high schools, but should be.

    I think it would be interesting to teach “Starship Troopers” and “The Forever War” as paired novels, one very pro-military, the other very anti-.

    • bean says:

      My SF lit class in college actually did both, I think back-to-back. They weren’t explicitly paired, but I think there was some discussion of them in the same frame.

    • cassander says:

      I think it would be interesting to teach “Starship Troopers” and “The Forever War” as paired novels, one very pro-military, the other very anti-.

      I’ve actually made that same recommendation myself, especially since forever war was written as a direct response to SST (20 years later, but a direct response), and Heinlein loved it.

    • Incurian says:

      Starship Troopers and Forever War are great paired. Also if you’re into audiobooks, you can find versions that are by the same reader! The first scene in Forever War (I suspect) is a direct reaction to a scene in Starship Troopers, and really shows off the differences between the books. In Forever War, a recruit asks about the reason for having to do some sort of training, and the instructor replies “because it’s in the fucking manual,” whereas in a similar situation in Starship Troopers, the instructor gives him a long lecture on military science and international relations. Another interesting thing of note, is that according to wikipedia, Heinlein really liked Forever War. I don’t think it’s a simple as saying one is pro and one anti-military. They both wrote about the future, but Heinlein imagined that the horrible 20th century led to a collapse from which a more moral society emerged, whereas Halderman thought the trend would just get worse more or less indefinitely. If you look at [SPOILERS] the end of Time Enough for Love, where Lazarus goes back to the 1920s, he’s hugely against the war and doesn’t have much positive to say about the army. I think it’s more correct to say that Starship Troopers is Heinlein’s vision of an idealized society and military, not that he likes militaries generally.

      I am currently [intending to] writing a longish essay for school on Starship Troopers vs Catch-22, where I’m going to make lots of similar comparisons. Those two books are at the top of my reread list, and I think I’ve read Catch-22 about 6 times and Starship Troopers around 20. Catch-22 was my go to book when everything around me was insane and I needed to remember that insanity was normal. I read Starship Troopers usually right after, and also whenever I needed reminding about how I really ought to act. It took me years to realize that Catch-22 was not a comedy, that the military is really like that, and that the end doesn’t just get all morose for no reason – it’s trying to drive home the point that it isn’t funny.

      • Protagoras says:

        I think Heinlein’s critics are often unfair to him. There seems to be a general pattern where he tells stories in a way highly sympathetic to the viewpoint character, whoever that is, but he tells stories that way with a reasonably diverse set of viewpoint characters (at least in his earlier work; like many people I’m not so much a fan of his late work). People who criticize Starship Troopers mostly seem to ignore that the same author wrote The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Stranger in a Strange Land, and the books weren’t even written all that far apart.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          But what is the purpose of literature? Is it to show off? Do we care about the quality of the book or the author? If people complain that SST is simplistic and this is bad because it shows that Heinlein is simplistic, they are wrong on the facts. But complaining that the book is simplistic stands by itself. Writing a diverse set of propaganda is impressive, but it isn’t good.
          (I haven’t read any of the three books, so I don’t know if the criticism of simplicity is correct. Heinleins’s flexibility may suggest searching SST for hidden depths, but what ultimately matters to me is whether it actually has them.)

          • The Nybbler says:

            Complaints that Starship Troopers is simplistic that don’t consider the genre are rather unfair. Starship Troopers is a young adult novel, the last of Heinlein’s juveniles.

          • Matt M says:

            If I’m unfamiliar with the work, should I force myself to read the book? Or is watching the movie sufficient?

          • I have not seen the movie, but I am told that it very badly distorts the contents of the book. The book is worth reading.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I’m not sure it’s clear-cut what it means to be a juvenile. Heinlein’s submission letter (quoted in Grumbles from the Grave) said

            It is not a juvenile; it is an adult novel about an eighteen-year-old boy. I have so written it, omitting all cleavage and bed games, such that Miss Dalgliesh can offer it in the same list in which she has my other books, but nevertheless it is not a juvenile adventure story. Instead I have followed my own theory that intelligent youngsters are in fact more interested in weighty matters than their parents usually are.

            and it was rejected, not just by Miss Dalgliesh, who had a lot of complaints about the earlier juveniles, but unanimously by a larger board, presumably for not being juvenile enough.

            The letter does say that it is aimed at youngsters, which may be all that is relevant to your point. Children’s interest in weighty matters is not necessarily the same as interest in subtly, but I think that some of the juveniles had more ambiguous politics.

          • cassander says:

            @matt m

            The movie is a satire of fascism that has almost nothing in common with the book. Paul Verhoeven was working on a script for a space marines vs. bugs movie, was told by a friend that he should read SST, started, didn’t like it, stopped, but rebranded his script to rip names from it and sold it as an SST adaptation.

            I love the movie and the book, but for very different reasons.

          • albatross11 says:

            The book is a lot better (and has a lot more going on) than the movie.

            The other two books I think of as responses (or at least playing around with the same ideas) to Starship Troopers are the Chtorr books and Ender’s Game.

          • CatCube says:

            @Matt M

            The movie is a mockery of the book. Now, the book is utopian, in that it describes a society that can’t exist–it presupposes that military discipline makes a better class of people, which isn’t true.

            However, in the book, the Mobile Infantry is intensively trained, and no expense is spared in equipping them. They have a strong code of honor to never leave a man behind, even to the extent of making heroic effort to recover the fallen. In the movie, they just shoot each other dead when they get trapped by the enemy.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Actually, Heinlein doesn’t argue that service (risky, but not necessarily military) makes a better class of people. He argues (or at least a character says) that the result is a revolution-proof society because all the people who would be capable of succeeding at revolution have been co-opted by the government. (This began to seem stupid when I was typing it, though it might be the kind of thing people in that society would believe.)

            I think it’s fair to say that the book strongly implies that military service makes people better.

            Reminder: Farah Mendelsohn is coming out with a book about Heinlein and politics as variously shown in his writings.

          • it presupposes that military discipline makes a better class of people, which isn’t true.

            I don’t think that is what it presupposed. The political argument, as I understand it, is that you want to select voters who care enough about other people and the society to be willing to risk their own lives. It’s made explicit that volunteering doesn’t necessarily put you in the military—I don’t remember the details, but there are other risky and useful things you might be doing.

            The plot is to some extent expanded from a Kipling poem.

          • Incurian says:

            The movie is a bad representation of the book, but fun to watch anyway. I wish it had a different title.

            David Friedman is correct. The book explicitly rejects the idea that the military makes people better citizens, it selects for those who are willing to put skin in the game.

            I don’t think that it’s a young adult novel, but it can be comprehended by teenagers easily enough, since there is zero nuance in it. All his characters say exactly what they’re thinking in long lectures about moral philosophy. But it is not the kind of novel that could only be enjoyed by teenagers.

            Is the book simple? As literature it is, but the ideas are not necessarily simple. When people say, “if you think SST is about X, you don’t know Heinlein,” they’re making a claim that Heinlein has a fairly consistent political and moral philosophy that show through in all his books, and it would be silly to interpret this one as being an exception when it can so readily be interpreted the standard way.

            I like the idea in general of pairing books on similar topics that contradict each other. I would have gotten a lot more out of that in highschool than just memorizing whatever the teacher told me the book was supposed to be about. I like comparing and contrasting the ideas in books rather than the literary whatevers.

            Douglas Knight: all three books are well worth reading!

          • cassander says:

            @various

            DavidFriedman is correct, the book does not argue that military service makes you a better person. In fact, it explicitly rejects that notion in a discussion about universal conscription. It also doesn’t argue that all the people willing to fight have been co-opted.

            The argument presented is that limiting the franchise to people who have demonstrated a willingness to risk their lives serving others others results in a better class of voters and overall better politics. Service doesn’t make you better, better people are those willing to serve at risk to themselves. And the point very much is about service, NOT being in the military. Non-military service isn’t just an option, it’s indicated that it’s more common (and easier) than military service. Explicitly mentioned alternatives include volunteering for medical experiments and dangerous mining projects.

          • ProfessorQuirrell says:

            @CatCube

            To echo what was said above, the explanation that their society works because servicemen are better trained and smarter is raised by a soldier and his instructor calls it a preposterous notion.

            The actual argument is that, by gating voting to military service, every voter at least has shown that they are willing to put the good of the society above their own, even at the cost of their own life.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        As I recall, Gordon Dickson’s Naked to the Stars would also fit in this discussion.

        I think of Starship Troopers as a sort of military pornography, though perhaps it would probably be more fair to call it a romance– it’s about a military where everyone is basically competent and decent. No doubt I’ve missed some works, but I don’t know of anything else which portrays the military as such a good place.

        • albatross11 says:

          Examples I can think of off the top of my head:

          a. The Honor Harrington books portray the RMN and Grayson space navies as being overwhelmingly competent and well-run organizations.

          b. The Vorkosigan books portray the Barryarran military in Miles’ time as probably being the best-run part of the society–among other things, competence seems to have more of a chance to trump having a vor- in front of your name in the military than in most other places. (Note that Barrayar is a backward planet in general, so this probably mirrors the real-world situation in many countries where the military is a hotbed of competence and resources in a country full of poverty and ignorance.)

          c. The Mote in God’s Eye/The Gripping Hand portray the space navy as being competent and well-run.

          d. Star Trek in all its forms presents Starfleet as pretty positive, if not always excessively competent. (How many times did Earth narrowly escape destruction because of the last-minute improvisation of the captain of the Enterprise, again?)

          And so on. Military SF is a pretty widespread bit of SF, and a lot of it is highly competent. (For a contrast, think of what the mercenaries in _Consider Plebas_ look like. Or the competence of the Peacer military in The Peace War.)

          • Nornagest says:

            For a contrast, think of what the mercenaries in _Consider Plebas_ look like.

            The pirates are, well, pirates. The Idrians might be a better example, or anyone involved in the virtual war in Surface Detail.

            On the other hand, the Chelgrians are treated pretty sympathetically in Matter despite their (ROT13; spoilers) trabpvqr cyna, and anyone we see from Special Circumstances or Contact’s offensive wing (most notably Cheradenine Zakalwe) tends to be hypercompetent, badass, and endearingly psycho. The latter’s mildly military at best, though.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            albatross, thanks.

            Any thoughts are which of these might make a person want to join a real world military?

          • bean says:

            I do think there’s a difference between Starship Troopers and the books you list. The RMN comes across as a generally competent and well-run organization, but not unbelievably so. Honor gets in political trouble several times, there are some weird and stupid decisions made, etc. Much the same with the Vorkosigan books. It doesn’t dominate like it does in Forever War, but it is there.
            Starship Troopers is not like that. Rico never is treated unfairly, never has a close friend die, and never screws up badly. It’s a great book that treads within an inch of being flat-out propaganda.

          • Incurian says:

            Spoilers.

            Johnnie hated the treatment at boot camp so much he was about to quit, but only circumstance and a letter from his mentor changed his mind. Flores died on the way up, Carl (his best friend) was killed in the attack on Pluto, and Birdie (his math tutor) didn’t make it back from his 3LT tour. And Johnnie messed up a maneuver so badly they gave him the maximum number of lashes.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            re: the Honor Harrington books, I think you might be letting the way Honor tends to be incredibly competent, verging on Mary Sue-ish at times, slop over onto the RMN and GSN. Off the top of my head:

            -Political infighting amongst senior Flag officers and politicians (not -just- politicians) leads multiple times to bad strategic, tactical, and administrative decisions.

            -The first half of what we see of Hemphill and her Jeune Ecole follower’s reign at the Weapon Design Board and BuShips.

            -The decisions that lead to the huge series of Manticoran defeats in the opening phase of the second half of the Manticoran-Havenite War were political, but they’re compounded by complacency, arrogance, and sloppiness on the part of plenty of serving Manticoran officers.

            -The Parochialism and close-mindedness of senior officers to new ideas in both Grayson (Females) and Manticoran (Adm. Alexander’s resistance to pod-layers and CLACs)

            And so on.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think you might be letting the way Honor tends to be incredibly competent, verging on Mary Sue-ish at times, slop over onto the RMN and GSN.

            Honor’s an interesting case. She ticks most of the boxes for Mary Sue — hypercompetent, beautiful, special in ways she doesn’t need to be, magic pet, unjustly persecuted (mostly in the first couple of books). And the name, of course. But it doesn’t get in the way of the story, most of the time. I think one saving grace is that the books are fundamentally a story about Napoleonic-era naval warfare in space, not about Honor personally, and another is that the characters who aren’t carrying the villain ball generally react realistically to her — she’s a talented officer and people definitely know it, but there’s not much Westley Crusher-esque fawning going on. My suspension of disbelief got tested a couple of times in the Grayson storyline, but that’s not bad for such a long-running series.

            I still can’t stand reading about the damn treecats, though.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Nornagest

            I think David Weber’s usual defense is that he started out writing Hornblower-In-Space, and in the vein of that sort of adventure fiction a larger-than-life, hypercompetent character is appropriate. Which I’m somewhat sympathetic to. And he’s tried, albeit with mixed success, to give her -some- character flaws and mistakes over the course of the series.

            @everyone

            Actually I think a much more interesting view of the RMN is contained in the ongoing prequel series Manticore Ascendant co-written with Timothy Zahn and Thomas Pope (given David Weber’s apparent laser-focus on the Safehold books, I have to wonder to what degree the books are Zahn and Pope fleshing out his plot outlines, but the style seems mostly there).

            It looks at a much younger Manticoran Navy, nearly a century prior to the almost foundational career of Edward Saganami, and grappling with ethical issues and questions military culture, institutional values, and so on are pretty core to the books.

          • John Schilling says:

            I think David Weber’s usual defense is that he started out writing Hornblower-In-Space,

            And what’s his excuse for that, when Aubrey-Maturin was twenty years and fourteen novels old by that time?

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @John Schilling

            I don’t know, I’ve never seen him respond to that particular question. I’m with Nornagest, personally, finding her a bit much sometimes but enjoying the series as a whole anyway, though I do feel he should’ve gone with the original planned ending to the Battle of Manticore and the Manticore-Haven wars and went with a generation skip. As it is, the mainline series seems to have bogged down rather badly in terms of progressing its main plots, while introducing mroe and more threads that are left to dangle.

            On the whole, it makes it hard to recommend people continuing after At All Costs, which is a shame, because I was really enjoying the beginning of the new story arc (Shadow of Saganami, Mission of Honor, etc)

          • The Nybbler says:

            Early Honor screwed up by the numbers in Grayson in _Honor of the Queen_, as I recall. But that was the last time, and inexplicably no one really called her on it.

          • bean says:

            And what’s his excuse for that, when Aubrey-Maturin was twenty years and fourteen novels old by that time?

            Jim Baen assigned one of his Davids to do Hornblower and the other one to do Aubrey-Maturin?
            (I’m well aware that this is not the timeline. But I’m not sure that Weber could capture the spirit of the Aubrey-Maturin books as well as Drake does. Of course, I’m an Honorverse fan who absolutely loathed Hornblower when I tried to read it.)

      • Incurian says:

        (I suck at knowing when WWI happened)

    • johan_larson says:

      Ooh, and a sub-thread: books from the 21st century that belong on high school reading lists. Most books on such lists are significantly older.

    • cassander says:

      I would like to say that I think there’s an interesting question about what to have kids read. I sympathize with the argument that we want them to read great books, and hte only time we can force them to is when they’re in highschool, but I question how much teenagers can really get out of these books.

      In my experience most teenagers who read catcher in the rye either think it’s boring or think Holden Caulfield is great because he runs around calling out all the world’s phonies. They don’t get that he’s deliberately being written as an obnoxious know it all teenager, because they haven’t had the experience of looking back on their teenage years and seeing that sort of person, and I’m not sure it’s possible to really get that book without having that experience. And it’s not the only one, can you really appreciate Moby Dick when you haven’t had the experience of having pursued something too far and suffered irreparable consequences? Tolkien without having lost something you loved and can never get back?

      Bear in mind, I’m not saying kids can’t get any value out of these books, I just think that asking what experiences you need to have to really appreciate certain books is interesting, and that it should influence what you have kids read.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I think too much of high school literature is based on the idea of making the students read books they don’t want to read. In principle, I think the assigned reading should be somewhat challenging and books that the student wouldn’t be likely to come across. It’s important to build enthusiasm for reading.

      I don’t know which books it would be.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        One book I read in high school that I am glad I did was “Lord of the Flies.” My wife never read that and so never gets the references to that book as being about kids (well boys anyway) becoming barbarians as soon as adult influence is gone. I liked reading the book and it also contained an intellectual concept I could use the rest of my life. Offhand I can’t think of any other books I read in high school that had a similar influence. Those are the kind of books that kids should read in high school.

        • Matt M says:

          Really? Of all the books I read in high school that one was probably my least favorite.

          Way too cliche, and heavy-handed, and informed a lot of terrible opinions from know-it-alls who treat it as if it is a non-fictional account.

          • Jiro says:

            If you’re going to assign Starship Troopers and Forever War together, you may want to consider assigning Lord of the Flies and Tunnel in the Sky together.

          • johan_larson says:

            The best pairing for “Lord of the Flies” is probably a book that considers children naturally good, and expects them in the absence of adult cultural influence to find a benign way of living. I seem to recall such ideas floating around in the early twentieth century.

            Someone organized a school that followed these principles and then wrote a book about it that gained some modest fame, but I don’t remember the title. “Summerside”? “Sunnyvale”? Something like that.

          • Matt M says:

            considers children naturally good, and expects them in the absence of adult cultural influence to find a benign way of living. I seem to recall such ideas floating around in the early twentieth century.

            Also, you know, today…

          • Incurian says:

            Yeah, no adult influence there…

          • BBA says:

            By sheer coincidence, Kevin Drum has a post on this exact topic. Kids and teens really are better behaved today than in the recent past. No points for guessing what his explanation is.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Less lead is plausible, but I think there’s also been an ideological shift– it’s less acceptable for parents to dump whatever emotions they happen to be feeling on their children– I don’t have a cite, this is just an impression.

            It’s conceivable that less impulsive parents is also a result of less lead.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @BBA

            Going by violent crime rates, everyone’s better behaved than in the recent past. I find this a somewhat depressing trend.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Someone organized a school that followed these principles and then wrote a book about it that gained some modest fame, but I don’t remember the title. “Summerside”? “Sunnyvale”? Something like that.

            Summerhill. Interesting enough, I read this book when I was 13, so about the same time as “Lord of the Flies.” “Summerhill” transformed my life, because up to that point I had never had exposure to anything that attacked the values of standard society. Growing up in the suburbs in the ’60’s I guess. I think I disagree with a lot of what “Summerhill” advocated now, but just being an outlier was extremely valuable to me.

            “Lord of the Flies” certainly did not transform my life, and I don’t think I considered it a great book when I read it, but it is the only assigned book in school that I have referred back to since then. I haven’t read it since then, but I certainly didn’t think it was cliched when I read it. It is more likely it is cliched now, but I don’t think it was when I read it.

    • Brad says:

      It’s been a long time since I read either of those books. Are they strong works plot and ideas aside (i.e. prose, dialog, characterization, etc.)? If not, it’s going to be a tough sell in English class. The alternative would be history class, but it’s hard to see with what unit they’d be taught (Cold War?).

  24. proyas says:

    If intelligent aliens have been stealthily monitoring our planet for millions of years, it raises the possibility they could have samples of now-extinct life forms from Earth, like dinosaurs.

    ‘If there are alien superintelligences out there, they know. “Oh, my billion-year-old universe-spanning superintelligence wants to destroy fledgling civilizations, but we just can’t find them! If only they would send very powerful radio broadcasts into space so we could figure out where they are!” No. Just no. If there are alien superintelligences out there, they tagged Earth as potential troublemakers sometime in the Cambrian Era and have been watching us very closely ever since. They know what you had for breakfast this morning and they know what Jesus had for breakfast the morning of the Crucifixion.’

    https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/05/28/dont-fear-the-filter/

  25. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’d like to check a claim in Charles Williams’ Witchcraft. From memory: He said that one of the selling points of early (first three hundred years) Christianity was that it gave immunity from malevolent magic. I haven’t seen anything about this in other sources. Anyone know about it?

  26. Rob K says:

    Is anyone else following the FIDE candidates’ tournament?

    I found this video explaining Kramnik’s brilliancy over Aronian to be a great and unusually comprehensible explanation of an excellent GM game. It helps that it was an early novelty and an extremely tactical game.

    This is an aesthetically gorgeous game, but it’s also a fascinating commentary on metagame at the top levels of chess. In the 7 moves leading up to the OTB novelty, 1. e4 is played to surprise the opponent, 2. e5 is an invitation into theoretical waters Kramnik thinks he’s tread more deeply, 4. d3 would have been bizarre a few decades ago but is on the rise due to the power of the Berlin Defense at the GM level, which Kramnik himself demonstrated against Kasparov as an early adopter. Just wild to think how much history is behind each of the early moves, and the novelty and the following middlegame are both incredible. Highly recommend.

    • johan_larson says:

      The idea that 1. e4 is a surprise of any sort sounds bizarre. I mean, there are only four common opening moves in chess, and that’s one of them.

      • Bruce Beegle says:

        It is an unusual first move for Aronian.

      • Rob K says:

        IM and higher level players tend to review their opponents’ tendencies and prepare specific lines for their most common variations. Aronian is known for particularly avoiding 1. e4, playing the three other opening moves almost exclusively, so he might have expected that he’d be playing into his opponent’s generic knowledge rather than any special prep. Kramnik would likely have spent his hours before this game reviewing lines in the Nimzo or Queen’s Gambit, prep that this move would render worthless.

        As it happens, he stumbled into a line that Kramnik had probably prepared as a good surprise for a king’s pawn game against any player, not specifically for this game. Prepared novelties are dangerous weapons; the player who didn’t play the novelty is out of book against an opponent who has almost certainly researched the line they’re entering.

        Often (since chess is probably a draw, and we know most of the best lines) he can hope that there’s a subtle flaw in what his opponent has done, but he still needs to find it. Rarely, as in this case, the novelty is actually a sound and dangerous move, which is a real challenge.

        Relevant video: Jose Raul Capablanca encountering the Marshall Attack (one of the Ruy Lopez lines that influenced how Aronian played here) over the board for the first time in 1918, after Frank Marshall had spent 8 years preparing it, and still winning the game. The Marshall Attack is so theoretically sound that white often plays specifically to avoid it at the top level. Capablanca was the man.

  27. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/erv.2568

    “In crude models, disordered eating behaviours at age 24 were associated cross‐sectionally and prospectively with poor self‐rated health, higher BMI, larger waist circumference and psychological distress in both sexes. In models adjusted for baseline BMI and potential confounders, disordered eating behaviours predicted increased psychological distress in both sexes and poor self‐rated health in men.”

    Study I’d like to believe, so I’m linking it here to see if there’s anything obviously wrong with it.

    Want To Lose Weight? Don’t Diet, Say Researchers

    Remarkably awful headline.

    • [Thing] says:

      I can’t help you with evaluating the study, but the part about dieting to lose weight backfiring in the long run accords with other things I’ve read, and “disordered eating is correlated with psychological problems” seems like a Dog Bites Man kind of result. I’m curious why you say you’d like to believe it, though.

      Also, what’s wrong with the headline? Seems like fair advice based on what the research found, unless you’re only looking for short-term weight loss (say, to make weight in a sport with weight classes; but that increases risk of obesity later in life, according to one of the studies cited in the Times article).

      • fortaleza84 says:

        Also, what’s wrong with the headline?

        I think the problem with the headline is the ambiguous word “dieting”

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        It’s something I’d like to believe because I think the very high value placed on not being fat/being lean is excessive and causes a lot of damage.

        What’s wrong with the headline (you made the same mistake and so do a lot of people, which is part of my point) is that the study was about disordered eating, and not about dieting in general.

        • [Thing] says:

          I agree that the tendency to assign low status to obese people causes a lot of damage. I suppose if findings like these were widely known & believed people might be less judgy about it.

          I was also confused about the relationship between “disordered eating” and “dieting,” but the quotes from one of the researchers seem to back up the choice of headline:

          “Generally speaking, weight management guidance often boils down to eating less and exercising more. In practice, people are encouraged to lose weight, whereas the results of our extensive population study indicate that losing weight is not an effective weight management method in the long run”

          “Often, people try to prevent and manage excess weight and obesity by dieting and skipping meals. In the long term, such approaches seem to actually accelerate getting fatter, rather than prevent it”

          “Even though dieting may seem a logical solution to weight management problems, it can actually increase weight gain and eating problems in the long run”

          I guess one could say that “being on a diet” can include dietary restrictions that aren’t part of an attempt to lose weight, but that’s what we usually mean by “dieting,” and in the context of “Want To Lose Weight? Don’t Diet, Say Researchers” it could hardly be interpreted otherwise. Maybe there’s some form of dietary regulation that reliably leads to significant weight loss and doesn’t reliably backfire in the long run, but AFAIK no such diet has been identified and empirically validated yet, so one could on that basis argue that any type of dieting which is intended to cause weight loss is a form of disordered eating.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      It seems that “dieting” means “disordered eating,” which means . . . well it’s not clear but it seems to include bulimia.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Meta-study about food insecurity possibly correlating with obesity.

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3334290/

  28. holmesisback says:

    Hey completely random question – first time ever commenting (so thou is commanded to be nice)
    What are the chances that there is life in dark matter, that is life that we would never know about and could not interact with and is perhaps all around us now?
    It is conceivable right?

    • John Schilling says:

      It would require that dark matter interact selectively with other dark matter, and there doesn’t seem to be any basis for that in known physics. Of the known forces, only gravity has any significant effect on dark matter (or vice versa), and a simple 1/R^2 attraction isn’t the sort of thing you can build a biology on.

      Quantum gravity might possibly get you somewhere; there are relativistic distortions of quantum mechanics that are analogous to electromagnetism, so maybe we can quantize those in ways that give us thinks like dark-matter atoms and molecules. But, A, that’s pretty much wild conjecture and B, it would only be significant in places with strong relativistic effects, whereas most of the universe’s dark mater seems to be in diffuse galactic halos.

      So, pretty far out there, but I’ll leave it to the physicists exactly how far out.

      • holmesisback says:

        I mean I see no reason to assume dark matter does not potentially interact in manners that we don’t know at all, that it doesn’t have forces that aren’t known at all, ones beyond what is observed in our matter.
        I don’t see that as particularly unlikely, considering it is so unknown.
        But I guess the whole thing is so speculative, there’s almost no point in debating this.

    • smocc says:

      I believe we can tell that dark matter is weakly interacting, even with itself, though I will have to ask my officemate if this is true after the weekend. My hunch is that the dark matter we see is pretty loosely and homogeneously distributed, indicating that it just kind of floats around under the influence of gravity, not forming dark planets or dark stars.

      If this is right then if there is life in dark matter it would have to look very different from any life we know. It could not arise from chemical interactions like we do, but somehow have to be part of a homogeneous mass. I am skeptical that any such system could be complex enough to give rise to anything interesting enough to call life.

      I am really not sure about the homogeneous distribution thing though; our knowledge about dark matter distributions comes from gravitational lensing measurements and I’m not sure how much resolution that gives us.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      If you want a fictional treatment of this, try the Xeelee Sequence. (My favorite introduction was this collection of shorts.) I liked reading a few of them, but got bored pretty quickly: the theme of nearly every story outside the main *plot* sequence is “Hey kids, see this bizarre setting with things that sort of seem human but are doing odd things? Well, they are human derived but they’re living in (roll dice to pick a bizarre astronomical or odd-physics anomaly) and have been engineered to have human consciousness and bodyplans to the best of our ability! Isn’t that cool? Isn’t it philosophically interesting that they can still be somewhat human?”

      The first time, yes. After that, it’s full Jar of Tang. But I’m glad the series exists and may read the main-plotline novels eventually.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        10 points from Gryffindor for linking to TVTropes without a warning.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Spotted Snape. Who else would take 10 points from Gryffindor without actually determining which house the offender was in?

  29. Well... says:

    Curious about a physics thing, maybe someone who actually knows some physics can help.

    Imagine you have two large water tanks, both full. The tanks aren’t specially insulated, they’re just made of thin aluminum or stainless steel or something. The room they are in is a stable 20˚C. The first water tank is kept heated to 70˚, the second to 50˚. As fast as possible, given the volume of water and how fast it can get colder, you lower the first one’s temperature and bring the second one’s temperature up so that they both reach 60˚ simultaneously. The instant this happens you shut off and remove both tanks’ heat sources.

    Which tank will reach room temperature fastest?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Assuming they’re the same volume and shape, and there’s no other heat reservoir (e.g. the heating element), they reach room temperature at the same time. There’s no inertia to heat transfer. There may be some tiny second order effects if the tank or immediately-adjacent air temperature lags the water temperature.

    • smocc says:

      The basic physics says that the amount of energy required to bring both volumes to room temperature is the same if they start with the same temperature, and if they are in identical tanks the energy transfer should happen at the same rate so there should be no difference.

      Experimentally there can always be strange effects and you have to be very careful in how you prepare things. The simplest confounding factor I can think of is evaporation. Hotter liquids evaporate faster, so the 70˚ water should evaporate a little more while you cool it down, meaning it would need less time to reach room temperature from 60˚.

      On the other hand, if you are heating the 50˚ water really fast some parts of it may boil off, causing that to lose water.

      And on the third hand, nobody really has a good explanation (or consistent data on) the Mpemba effect so its possible there’s some path dependency in heating and cooling water. I’d kind of expect path dependencies to show up near phase transitions, not at 60˚.

      May I ask why you want to know?

      • The other confounding factor is dissolved air, which affects thermal conductivity. That will be different in the two tanks due to their recent history.

      • Well... says:

        May I ask why you want to know?

        Sheer curiosity from a guy who barely passed high school physics.

      • fr8train_ssc says:

        Convection currents within the fluid and their inertia might have a marginal effect on the rate of cooling, depending on the size of the boilers/reservoir relative to the room they’re sitting in. The reservoir with a faster convection current at 60C will have an improved heat transfer coefficient at the boundary between the liquid and the wall of the boiler/reservoir.

    • cassander says:

      Related question. Let’s say I’m dropping some ice cubes into a glass of cold tap water (I’d guess 40-50 degrees). If the cubes are about 1/4th the volume of the water, how cold do they have to be to freeze the water in the cup rather than melt right away?

      • Protagoras says:

        My first try at ballparking it seems to indicate that it can’t be done; the ice cubes would have to be below absolute zero (I end up with close to -500 Celsius). Of course, I probably made a math error somewhere, but I expected an extreme result; freezing something involves taking out a lot more energy than is required to just cool it a degree, and your proposal has three times as much water to be frozen as ice to soak up the heat. And to make matters worse, the specific heat of ice is half that of water.

        • smocc says:

          Agreed. I worked some actual numbers and to get the initial temperature of the ice above absolute zero you need the water to already be very close to freezing, or the ice volume of the ice to be nearly 100% of the volume of the water.

    • Nick says:

      I used to do this sort of thing; it’s one of those obvious ideas that occurs to you when you have graph paper, or I think it ought to, anyway. 😀 Sometimes they were plans to be realized in Simcity, sometimes not.

      I feel for the OP, who writes,

      A couple of extra opinions of my own in a separate comment: one thing I find both fascinating and frustrating about this gorgeous map is that, like the joke goes, it has so much geography and so little history.

      This is a problem for city sim folks too, and one to which I’ve despaired of ever seeing a good solution. On the one hand, gameplay does lend itself to an evolving city, especially where mechanics exist for unlocking rewards or better buildings, or where resource depletion or the activity of nearby cities changes the city’s economy. On the other hand, no folks interested in creating a beautiful city really play the game—they don’t want their city ruined by regular fires or a malfunctioning pathfinding algorithm, so they just use it as a sandbox. Instead their cities are usually in a permanent stasis as players build them, slowly but surely immanentizing the eschaton.

      City sim forums have partially solved this with a genre known as “city journals” or “mayor diaries” (I’m just recalling the names at two of the sites I frequented). This way we do get to see the city in stages, the player updating us as he builds it out. Now, since mayors rarely use the gameplay mechanics, the development isn’t actually “natural,” or if it is, it’s only by trying very hard to look like it. Trying to make the development look natural is a lot more work, but some feel it’s worth it: Schulmania on Simtropolis was one city journal that did just this.

      This isn’t even getting into the question whether the gameplay truly produces “natural” cities. The short answer is of course it doesn’t: parking, to name just one feature, is wildly unrealistic in the Simcity games, and sometimes the creator’s politics is an influence, which is why nuclear power was so dangerous in the first Simcity. Creator Will Wright would respond that no one actually wants 40% of their city to be parking (I have to wonder, did the paper map guy model parking very well? I guess if it’s Japan he’s more interested in the rail network anyway…). It can never been realistic, he’ll say, because reality is unrealistic, and what people really want when they say they want realism is a more elaborate model railroad, a more picturesque exhibit. It’s a fair objection—I can only say, not all of us, Wright, not all of us….

  30. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/03/21/nobody-knows-anything-about-china/

    Including the Chinese government– there are very high incentives to lie.