THE JOYFUL REDUCTION OF UNCERTAINTY

Open Thread 100.25

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

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703 Responses to Open Thread 100.25

  1. ContrarianSystem says:

    I’m a (pretty entry level) software engineer interested in ways to earn extra income on occasional evenings and weekends. Ideally it would be something that gets me away from a computer. I’m currently experimenting with Postmates and Rover (although the pay is abysmal, it does generate _something_ and gets me outside/moving around). Do you have any other ideas? What are your profitable side-projects/side-gigs?

    • SamChevre says:

      When I was in college, I was a banquet waiter and bartender. It was event work, so the scheduling was flexible (people who took jobs frequently got called first, but you could refuse any job) and almost all evenings and weekends.

      Find a temp agency that places banquet waiters, show up in black and whites and fill out an application.

    • JulieK says:

      How about tutoring/homework help? I hear SAT prep pays well.

    • tayfie says:

      If you want something away from a computer, I suggest some kind of yard work or home repair. Read the neighborhood to see what services people would pay for. People need lawns mowed, gardens watered, leaves raked, snow shoveled, and bushes trimmed. People need maintenance for hinges, doors, cabinets, sinks, showers. If you need something more consistent, plain old cleaning is something no one likes doing themselves. People need carpets vacuumed, laundry done, dusting, organization, bathrooms cleaned, dishes washed, and all sorts of things.

      It’s physical, you set your own hours, and you can make whatever people are willing to pay.

    • neciampater says:

      Postmates/doordash/favor really are bad in my experience. Worse than uber/lyft.

      I recommend Amazon flex. So far, I’ve only done 11 deliveries but it seems pretty good. $695.50 in 483 miles in 30 hours (over 4 weeks, mind).

    • pontifex says:

      Kudos to you for taking the initiative and trying to find ways to make more money. Unfortunately, I have a hard time believing any side gig you could take would make a meaningful difference in your income. Let’s say you do 20 hours a week at $15 an hour, 4 weeks a month, all year. You get an extra $14,400, pre-tax dollars. A good software engineer could easily get a raise that size, or even double that, a year.

      The only real exception to the rule is if your side gig was something to do with the stock market (which could also lose you a lot of money as well). Or, of course, something illegal where there were huge risks attached, but I don’t have to explain why that’s a bad idea, hopefully? Or, you could combine both and do an ICO, I guess 😉 (this is a joke)

  2. Le Maistre Chat says:

    How close to the Solar system could a “dark” object on the order of as massive as the Sun be without us having already detected it?
    Also what’s the epistemic status of the claim that almost all dark matter is at the edge of galaxies?

    • albatross11 says:

      I’m interested in this, too. More generally, is there a good formula or rule of thumb to say how far away we could expect dark objects of various sizes to be detected? I mean, it’s clear that some object the size of a car is a lot less likely to be seen at a given range than some object the size of the Earth, but I don’t really have an intuition for what the relationship is.

    • smocc says:

      xkcd put together a good survey of possible unobserved planets a while ago. Here it is. Whether or not you can observe a planet is a function of both its distance from the Sun and its size. The xkcd chart seems to have a lower bound on the distance of about 10 AU from Earth. I don’t know if his methodology is based just on visible observations or on things that could be discovered through gravitational influence alone. So I don’t know how useful this is.

      It is pretty unlikely that most dark matter is at the edge of the universe. See Wikipedia. It is generally well-agreed that dark matter distribution drops off with distance from galactic center. This isn’t a super-advanced calculation either — the whole point of dark matter is that it explains galactic rotation curve anomalies, so to get the distribution you just have to calculate the rotation anomaly at each radius.

      EDIT: extra thought – Since both Neptune and Pluto were discovered through their gravitational influence those both give you upper bounds on size / distance

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        “The visible disk of the Milky Way Galaxy is embedded in a much larger, roughly spherical halo of dark matter. The dark matter density drops off with distance from the galactic center.”

        I don’t understand this. It makes it sound like dark matter is most dense at the galactic center and least dense in that huge halo. So if you had a starship with reliable cryonics and wanted to study clumps of dark matter, you’d head coreward for your science project?

        • smocc says:

          Yes, definitely. I have heard some suggestion that the dark matter distribution grows to a cusp not far from the center then dips somewhat at the actual center.

          This paper fits the data to a couple of distribution models, both of which peak at the center. The best fit model has the “core radius” at 9 or 10 kiloparsecs, where the dark matter density is at 25% of its maximum. Our solar system is estimated to be 7.5 – 8.5 kiloparsecs from the galactic center (Wikipedia)

          EDIT: One caveat: if you are just trying to get dark matter to strike some detector it helps to have it going fast. The really important variable is not exactly density, but density times velocity. Dark matter velocity should also decrease with distance from the center (or at least not increase; the details depend on the matter distribution, both dark and normal)

          In any case, you’ll want to balance your trip between moving fast and going where there’s more dark matter.

        • sweeptheleg says:

          Dark matter doesn’t clump into structures like ordinary matter, because it can’t lose its angular momentum and energy efficiently via the electromagnetic interaction, friction, and other processes like ordinary matter can. Rather, dark matter sort of swims around in a diffuse halo of ever-moving particles. Sort of like being in a shaken snow-globe. If you are picturing a possible planet or star of dark matter it can’t happen. The density of dark matter is indeed higher closer to the center of the galaxy, but it is still just a diffuse bunch tiny particles swimming randomly.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            So hydrogen atoms were only clumped into spheres by gravity because they lost their angular momentum and energy efficiently by electromagnetic interaction?
            So how do we know that all dark matter is a diffuse halo of individual massive particles? Are you just assuming that because of Occam’s Razor (it being simpler for there to be only 4 forces in the universe than 3 only baryons interact with, X only dark matter interacts with, and gravity)?

          • smocc says:

            There was a discussion about this a couple of weeks ago. I had a chat with my colleague who specializes in dark matter since then.

            We don’t know for certain that there isn’t dark chemistry, or dark electromagnetism. Self-interacting dark matter, even strongly-interacting, is a current trend in dark matter theory.

            We also don’t know for certain that there isn’t small-scale structure in dark matter. The only techniques we have for observing its location do not have enough resolution to pick out something like a dark star.

            On the other hand, I believe the dark matter halos around galaxies tend to be largely spherical, even when the galaxy is flat. That suggests that whatever mechanism allows galaxies to form (and planets to clump, we believe), does not happen for dark matter.

            Also, most dark matter is not clumped around galaxies but spread between galaxies in long homogenous-looking tendrils, (or bridges) (or filaments), suggesting again that dark matter does not tend to clump up.

          • BlindKungFuMaster says:

            “On the other hand, I believe the dark matter halos around galaxies tend to be largely spherical, even when the galaxy is flat. ”

            But shouldn’t a dark matter sphere flatten out, just like ordinary matter, if it spins around?

          • A1987dM says:

            Dark matter halos rotate much less than the luminous part of spiral galaxies and hence are much less flattened.

          • sweeptheleg says:

            Hydrogen atoms: On a fundamental level, yes, but maybe a more intuitive way to think about it is that if you bring two hydrogen atoms near enough together, they can form molecular hydrogen via an electromagnetic bond, and then be bound together. Or, not so much with pure hydrogen, but if you bring atoms of, say, metals together they can form a lattice through chemical bonds, which are ultimately a result of the electromagnetic interaction. Dark matter doesn’t participate in the electromagnetic interaction so it can’t form these bonds. Two dark matter particles have no way to ‘stick’ together so it can’t form clumps.

            How do we know about the halo: The halo model is the best fit to the data. For example the rotational velocity of parts of a galaxy as a function of the distance from the center depend on the mass enclosed by their orbit (in the limit of a circular orbit) and that then gives us an estimate of the mass as a function of radius from the center of the galaxy. What comes out is this diffuse halo picture. We also have a limit on the possible presence of large dark objects because if they were out there we should see their presence via eclipsing other objects or even temporarily brightening them through gravitational microlensing and we don’t.

          • Aron Wall says:

            @Le Maistre Chat,

            It isn’t just Occam’s razor, it’s observation. As sweeptheleg indicated, if the dark matter had significant coupling to a massless dark photon, it would dissipate its energy and clump like ordinary matter, but we can see that it doesn’t because of it’s observational effects.

            But there are models out there where the dark matter couples to a massive dark photon.

      • littskad says:

        It’s not actually true that Pluto was discovered because of its gravitational influence on the other planets, which is negligible. Tombaugh discovered Pluto during a systematic search of moving objects in the night sky. Its orbit did not follow any previously predicted path, although it was later noticed that it was, by chance, on some of Lowell’s earlier photographic plates (among others), where it had been overlooked.

        • skef says:

          This is a common mistake: Two planets are associated with discovery by their gravitational influence on other planets, Neptune was one of those, and also the second-to-last planet to be discovered. So it’s natural to think of Pluto as the other one.

          The problem being that the other such planet was Vulcan.

        • smocc says:

          Ah, I only read the first paragraph under the “Discovery” section of Wikipedia. It looks like they didn’t predict its position based on gravitational influence, but they did have reason to thing something else was out there, hence the systematic search.

    • skef says:

      I’m not sure there’s any consensus about whether and how dark matter particles interact with each other. Neutrinos don’t form “objects”. The other qualities that dark matter needs would seem to argue more against such interactions than for it. There would need to be analogues of forces (e.g. the strong and weak nuclear forces, and electromagnetism) to allow for what might be called “dark chemistry”.

      Even supposing that there is such chemistry, it’s still a requirement that “dark electromagnetism” (or whatever) can’t be “normal” electromagnetism. That doesn’t mean that light would just go through a “dark object” as if nothing were there — there would at least be some lensing from the gravity. There might also be some attenuation; I’m not sure. But it wouldn’t reflect light like a normal object because it can’t directly interact with the electromagnetic field.

      So unless the theoretical sun-sized dark object was close enough to have detectable gravitational effects, it could be otherwise undetectable and there is good reason to expect that it would be

    • Douglas Knight says:

      It’s not directly relevant to your questions, but you may be interested in the theory that Gould’s Belt was ignited by a clump of dark matter passing through. Gould’s Belt is a ring of young (50 million year old) stars circling the sun at a radius of about a thousand light years.

    • fion says:

      Depends what you mean by “dark”. “An object made of dark matter” is different to “an object that is dark”. Jupiter would qualify for the latter, but I get the impression you’re interested in the former?

      As others have said, most experts do not believe in any “dark” chemistry. In other words, most dark matter models assume it is not self-interacting. If it *is* self-interacting, it is only weakly so. This means that compact objects like “dark” planets or “dark” stars probably don’t exist.

      (It’s actually kind of the other way around. Compact non-luminous objects can be identified by the way they lens the light from behind them. There used to be a theory that all the dark matter was actually conventional matter that was clumped into things like black holes, neutron stars and Jupiters. Lensing experiments disprove this. To get the right amount of dark matter for cosmological and galactic purposes you need far more compact objects than we observe.)

      So the leading candidates for dark matter are particles that aren’t in the standard model. These particles would not interact with electromagnetism at all, and would interact weakly with the weak force. They wouldn’t self-interact much, if at all.

      Also what’s the epistemic status of the claim that almost all dark matter is at the edge of galaxies?

      I’m not an expert on this (it sounds like the so-called core/cusp problem) but I think it is very controversial.

  3. bean says:

    Naval Gazing continues discussion of Main Guns today.

    • bean says:

      For Friday, we have a heavy overhaul of my post about Life aboard Iowa.
      Today also marks 6 months for Naval Gazing at Obormot.

      • Urstoff says:

        Were all the guns in a single house/turret fired at the same time, or one at a time?

        Also, were auto-loaders ever experimented with in WWII or late in the era of battleships?

        • Protagoras says:

          I thought that was a feature of the Bismarck class. Their high potential rate of fire has often been something boasted of by enthusiasts for German technology, though it doesn’t seem to have been of any significant benefit in practice.

          • bean says:

            Bismarck’s mechanisms were not particularly different from those of other battleships. They may have had slightly faster/different components on the detail level, but as best I can tell, the 3 RPM number was probably the best performance ever. According to the official documentation, it was broadly the same as other heavy guns. I have a book which claims that USS Washington did 4 RPM. I’m skeptical of that, but there was some room to improve ROF. Of course, German fanboys are not know for careful use of evidence.

          • John Schilling says:

            …but there was some room to improve ROF

            Everybody knows you can up the ROF by overriding the safety interlocks on the blast doors between the magazine and the turret. And that this is an effective way to arrange for people who don’t know any better to cheer your awesome performance in peacetime training exercises.

          • bean says:

            Everybody knows you can up the ROF by overriding the safety interlocks on the blast doors between the magazine and the turret. And that this is an effective way to arrange for people who don’t know any better to cheer your awesome performance in peacetime training exercises.

            Lion’s gunner was able to train his crews to provide cordite faster than the guns could fire it off with the normal safety precautions. Looking at the NavWeps diagram of the 16″/50 loading cycle, I’m not sure the gun could make 3 rpm long-term but it would be close if everyone did the manual parts of the jobs really fast. I’m pretty sure that 15 seconds was from salvo 1 to salvo 2, because there’s no way they could get the powder cars down and back up in that interval, but if they had everything staged and ready to go at a 5-deg elevation angle (so they don’t have to elevate the gun at any point) it just might have been possible.

        • bean says:

          Usually at the same time, or very close to it. I should talk about delay coils at some point.

          And autoloaders were never used on battleships. The Des Moines class cruisers did have autoloaders for their 8″ guns.

        • John Schilling says:

          Shells from a battleship gun will be in flight for 20-30 seconds at typical combat ranges. During which time, many of the guns will have been reloaded and potentially fired again, and the firing solution calculated by the director will have changed significantly due to e.g. target motion. If you fire each gun separately as it is ready, it becomes almost impossible to attribute observed splashes to particular shots and adjust aim to correct your misses. If you fire nine guns at once, either all on target or in a 3×3 ladder, then thirty seconds later you have feedback you can use to correct aim and, conveniently, nine guns ready to fire on the basis of that feedback.

          Also, battleship guns are really loud, and when you fire any one of them, all activity in the turret is probably going to cease for a few seconds.

          • bean says:

            It wasn’t unknown to fire partial salvoes, and those usually meant some of the guns in each turret, not all of the guns in a turret. I don’t know how much the shock of firing an adjacent gun played with the men in the turret. May have to look into that, because you would think it would argue against doing split firing.
            But yes, very much endorsed on salvo firing in general.

  4. James says:

    Still unclear what our norms are on this kind of thing, but can I ask for a quick bit of courtship advice? There are a handful of people here whose input I’d be interested in.

    Quick version: have recently been flirting with a girl I met through a friend, saw her out in town last weekend and we flirted and danced together, took down her number and we’ve texted her a little since then. I just asked her if she’s doing anything this weekend and she said that a (female) friend of hers from home is visiting her—she’s from another country—and that they’re going to a bar for dancing on Saturday and I’m welcome to join them.

    Being invited out to a bar with her seems superficially like a good sign, but her friend being there seems to put a less date-y spin on it.

    Good sign or bad sign? Friendzoney or unfriendzoney? Should I go or shouldn’t I?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Go to the bar and don’t assume you’ve been friendzoned. Dance with her, have a good time, and ask something like “You want to go out next weekend?”
      Maybe she’ll date you, maybe she won’t. If she says no, move on. But don’t go in with negative assumptions.

    • Randy M says:

      It could well be a good sign if she wants her friends advice on you. Also if she is going out anyway but wants your company, that’s got to be a point in your favor.
      I don’t see a downside on you going an feeling it out. No reason you can’t duck out if it doesn’t work out.

    • Aapje says:

      It seems logical that she has to spend time with the friend, who has come such a long way. That she invites you along too suggests that she doesn’t want to be alone with her friend more than she wants to have you present, which is a good sign.

      She may also want to get her friend’s opinion on you, which can be positive if you make a good impression.

      Also, given that they are going dancing, you will probably get opportunities to dance 1-on-1 with your prospect, which gives opportunities for ‘more than friendly dancing’ and other non-friendzoney things.

      Is the friend female?

      • James says:

        Yes, the friend is female—edited to mention that.

        By the way, they’re Dutch. Any particular tips for picking up Dutch women? At least now I can impress them with my knowledge of fierljeppen.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Lift with your legs, not your back.

        • Aapje says:

          @James

          Don’t compliment her too much, especially about her looks. Also don’t overdo it with chivalry.

          Be relatively direct. Less hinting, more bluntness. Be ready to deal with rudeness yourself. Don’t assume she is playing 3D-chess, most often, what she says is what she means.

          Don’t impress by buying costly things for her. Go for thoughtful more than expense. Offer to pay for the first date, but accept an offer to split the bill.

          Learn a few Dutch words and a few facts about Holland. We are a small country with relatively little cultural influence, so you are expected to be very ignorant and a small effort will be hugely appreciated. No need to learn too much, just enough to get her to explain things to you. This tactic can probably save you many times if you don’t know what to talk about.

          • James says:

            Be relatively direct. Less hinting, more bluntness. Be ready to deal with rudeness yourself.

            Sounds like my ideal date!

    • hapablap says:

      It’s not a bad sign since if she wasn’t interested she would have just said no, and she’s certainly not going to tell her friend to do something else while she goes on a date with you if she was interested.

      I probably wouldn’t go. I’d just wait for another time to take her out alone so you can progress things and get to know each other better. Also I’m a terrible dancer.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Think less, flirt more. Be OK with no, but want a yes.

      You gotta go after the things you want, while you’re still in your prime.

      (Am I taking this advice with the girl I’m currently into? No, of course not, but I have the defense that i’m moving in a few weeks.)

    • suitengu says:

      It may also be that she likes you well enough but wouldn’t mind a second opinion from her friend.

    • fion says:

      I once went on a second date with somebody who had several friends of both sexes around as well. I found the “date” pretty boring, but we ended up in a fun relationship for a few months.

      So yeah, definitely go, try and enjoy yourself. Act like a nice, friendly person, ask her out. Being ok with the possibility of being “friendzoned” sends a good signal that might make such an eventuality less likely.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I think you’re over-thinking this. She’s a girl here on study abroad or whatever and she’s flirting with you, which is a positive sign. She’s asking to go dancing with you, which is a positive sign. You’re just not a freakin’ Casanova or else she would’ve met up with you this week to tear your clothes off. But that’s okay, most of us aren’t like that.

      Also, if she thought you were garbage, she wouldn’t be answering your texts.

      Just go out and have fun and don’t get sucked into being an emotional tampon if that’s not what you want. And if that’s what you want, then we might need to have a different discussion.

      Oh, and since you’re dancing, don’t be afraid to escalate your kino. If you’re hover-handing her, you’ll look like an idiot.

      • James says:

        Kino was escalated pretty well last time I saw her—she was, like, grinding on me—so I think no need to worry about hover-handing. I mean, she was drunk, and I know I wasn’t the only one she was doing it with, so I’m not reading too much into that, but it bodes well. I guess the next level of escalation would be a kiss; we shall see.

        I think you’re right about overthinking. I’m not sure why but I just wanted to get some more eyes on the situation last night because it felt a bit unfamiliar so I wondered if there was something obvious I was missing, and because I really like this girl and don’t want to screw it up. I’m feeling a bit more relaxed about it today.

        Maybe I just wanted to cement my reputation as ‘clueless guy incapable of reading even the broadest signals’ after my finest hour ‘girl invited me to her yoga class and said she could come back to mine for tea afterwards, help SSC what shall I do?????’

        Anyway, it’s tonight, not Saturday as I said, so you can all look forward to an update tomorrow.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          she was, like, grinding on me

          Friendzoney or unfriendzoney?

          I think you might have better luck listening to a magic 8-ball than your inner dialogue. 🙂

          • Barely matters says:

            What ADBG said. You’re fine. Keep going with normal interested comfort, clear a logistical path(make sure you have a decent room and bathroom, that both are clean and presentable, and have a way of getting there seamlessly), find a way for her to be able to leave the friend without losing face, and ask if she wants to come over to see your rock collection.

          • Matt M says:

            That’s rock. With an R.

          • Barely matters says:

            Absolutely.

            Then ask her if she’s an archaeologist.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Yes. You’re still in the running but haven’t closed the sale. Given that you’ve only had one meeting, this is a fine place to be in.

    • Deiseach says:

      Good sign – if she didn’t want anything to do with you, this would be the perfect chance to say “Oh I’m so sorry, I’d love to meet up, but I have a visitor from back home I have to look after for the next week or two”. That she asked you to go out with her and her friend (and possibly a few more friends) is a good sign that she’s interested in meeting you socially.

      How it goes from there depends on how you act. Go out with the gang, have a good time, don’t worry about “is this a date?” but it does give you a chance to continue with “Had a great time Saturday, love to do it again, would you like to [insert invitation of your choice]?”

      And for heaven’s sake, forget all nonsense about the friendzone. If she likes you enough to think of you as a friend, is that a bad thing? Have you so many friends that you could do without one more?

      • James says:

        Deiseach giving dating advice!? This I thought I’d never see. Whatever has come over you?

        But the advice is sound. You’re right that it would be a perfect excuse to ditch me if she wished, so it’s a good sign as she didn’t.

        It’s not that I wouldn’t like to be friends with her! I’d enjoy that plenty—I’d just prefer her as a lover. Nor would I resent her if she chose to be merely friends with me. Asking if it seemed friendzone-y was just my way of asking about whether it seemed like she had already made up her mind on which she preferred. (In this case, inconclusive, but sometimes there are definitely clear indicators.)

        • Deiseach says:

          Oh, I got all the theory, just no practice 🙂

          Basically it’s “If I were interested in this romance fol-de-rol, what would I like?” and mostly it’s “Women are not mysterious creatures from beyond the moon, they’re people and act like that, both good and bad, so being treated like a person would be nice”.

          As for the rest of it, I don’t think she has her mind made up yet; asking you to a social occasion with her friend is a way of seeing what you’re like in a “going out to have fun” way that isn’t as pressured as a real date. If she has a good time she’ll be open to “yeah, I’d like to do this again on a one-to-one basis”.

          Good luck!

          (Now get off my lawn, you crazy romantic kids!)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Nah, women are mysterious creatures from beyond the moon. But men are fun guys from Yuggoth.

    • zz says:

      With everyone telling you not overthink it, I’m surprised nobody’s linked to the obligatory casual explanation.

  5. Aapje says:

    Of course, we all know that the Tuskegee syphilis experiment was a horrible crime against humanity, which resulted in ethics commissions that disallow almost everything; except… men are still being infected with STDs in trials.

    At Chapel Hill, they’ve been infecting test subjects with gonorrhea since the 90’s. This happens by inserting a catheter in the uretra and injecting the gonorrhea. The experiments are far more ethical than the Tuskegee experiment, with informed consent, decent pay, no racial element and treatment with antibiotics before the infection gets serious.

    Nancy is probably wondering why only men are experimented upon, resulting in less information about the progression of the disease in women. The reason is that women can become infertile, which is considered too serious a complication.

    I was under the impression that these kind of studies were banned, so this was new information for me.

    There are also other studies where people are infected on purpose, including with the Zika-virus, noroviruses, flu-viruses (experimentee report), tubercolosis, dengue, malaria, typhus, parasitic worms and shigella (one of the major causes of diarrhea).

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Well, I’m speechless.

    • MrApophenia says:

      I mean, as long as everyone involved knows they’re being infected, agreed to it, and has access to a cure, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. The problem with the Tuskegee experiment wasn’t that it was an STD, it was leaving people infected without their knowledge for decades.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Not just that, but leaving them infected after a good cure had been discovered.

      • Aron Wall says:

        Did they also get informed consent from all the sexual partners of the study participants? Somehow I doubt it.

        Perhaps they gave them a stern warning not to have sex with anyone until they were fully cured, knowing that people can be fully expected to conform to all reasonable sexual restrictions announced by legitimate authority figures. And if, shockingly, any of the infected men did sleep around during that time, the STD behaving like an STD would not in any way be a foreseeable consequence of the researchers’ own actions.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      That question didn’t occur to me, but it’s reasonable.

      As a general thing, even women who definitely want to be sterilized have trouble getting the procedure.

      • Aapje says:

        We talked about it not too long ago, but I sometimes have a tendency to assume that I can pick up conversations that the other person has already forgotten about or considers resolved 🙂

        As a general thing, even women who definitely want to be sterilized have trouble getting the procedure.

        Studies find that young women have pretty high rates of regret.

        I can see why a doctor would be hesitant for young women.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          The high rate for relatively young women is still 20%– it seems a little presumptuous to override a request when regret is at that level.

          It does seem like a hard call– how pleased are the women who aren’t regretful?

          If a woman has several years of wanting to be sterilized, would that lower the odds of regret?

          How about freezing eggs just in case?

          • Aapje says:

            I think that this is a pretty high level, especially given that “the women who are the most vulnerable to regret, who disproportionally experience it, are also more likely to experience deep regret.”

            On the other hand, some women experience severe downsides to hormonal contraception, so it may be a large quality of life improvement.

            If a woman has several years of wanting to be sterilized, would that lower the odds of regret?

            The link shows that regret strongly declines with age, so it should. Perhaps the best protocol is to have a clear age minimum, where circumstances can result in lowering that age.

            How about freezing eggs just in case?

            IVF can be done after sterilization without having to freeze eggs.

          • albatross11 says:

            Is there any way to make a reliably-reversible version of tubal ligation? If we had such a thing, it seems like it would solve this problem nicely–accept that 20% of women will deeply regret it and they’ll come back into the office for the hour-long outpatient procedure that turns their fertility back on.

          • SamChevre says:

            @albatross11

            Anecdata, but I think we have that already. The problems are is that tubal ligation reversal is major surgery (similar incision as a c-section), that the tubal ligation protocols are not necessarily thought out with reversibility in mind (some methods are much more reversible than others), and that the risk of ectopic pregnancy is higher due to scarring. (Zl jvsr unq unq ghony yvtngvba orsber jr zrg, naq unq vg erirefrq fubegyl nsgre jr jrer zneevrq; guvf vf onfrq ba gur erfrnepu jr qvq.)

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Aapje, by saying “still,” you imply that the Tuskegee experiment infected people. It did not, although the Guatemala experiment did. MrApophenia says that “it was leaving people infected without their knowledge,” I’m not sure what that means, but the subjects knew that they were infected. Some subjects were deceived into thinking that they had been treated but not cured, which may be what he means.

      The Tuskegee experiment did four bad things which I order chronologically, which I believe is also in order of increasing severity. First, it got participation (ie, monitoring) by promising treatment that it never delivered. Supposedly this was not an intentional deceit, they just ran out of money. Second, it got participation in a spinal tap by claiming it was treatment, very clearly deceit. This was worse because the spinal tap was painful and less likely to be useful to the patient than routine monitoring. So it falsely claimed to treat the subjects, but I don’t think that it claimed to have cured them. This may have discouraged the subjects from seeking further treatment, but they were so poor, it probably had no effect. Third, it intervened to discourage other people from treating the subjects, such as the military. Fourth, as Nancy says, it failed to treat with penicillin after its development. It’s hard to pin down exactly when it should have used it, but I think by 1960 it was cheap and known to work with advanced syphilis.

      • Aapje says:

        Oops, thanks for the correction about them infecting people at Tuskegee. I didn’t read up on it again, thinking that my recollection was correct. Classic mistake.

        However, as for your other claims, Wikipedia says that:

        none of the men infected were ever told that they had the disease, and none were treated with penicillin even after the antibiotic was proven to successfully treat syphilis. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the men were told that they were being treated for “bad blood”, a colloquialism that described various conditions such as syphilis, anemia, and fatigue.

        and:

        By 1947, penicillin had become the standard treatment for syphilis.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          The statement about 1947 is technically true, ie, a lie. Compare the wikipedia entry on syphilis:

          By 1947, penicillin had been shown to be an effective cure for early syphilis and was becoming widely used to treat the disease.

          I’m sick of block quotes without explanation. It just confirms what I said and if you disagree, you should elaborate.

          • MrApophenia says:

            According the the CDC link below, the efficacy of penicillin for syphilis was discovered in 1945, and by 1947, Rapid Treatment Centers were opened specifically to get penicillin to people with syphilis.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            But only for new cases. It took a lot longer to figure out that penicillin worked for advanced syphilis, as I said in my first comment.

      • MrApophenia says:

        I am not an expert on the Tuskegee experiment – just did more reading on this. Here is the CDC’s summary:

        https://www.cdc.gov/tuskegee/timeline.htm

        You are right that they didn’t intentionally infect people.

        However, it is also not true that the participants knew they had syphilis; this information appears to have been actively hidden from them, according to this.

        And according to same, penicillin was the preferred treatment for syphilis as early as 1947; the study continued into the 70s.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Could you be more specific about “actively hidden”?

          • MrApophenia says:

            “The panel found that the men had agreed freely to be examined and treated. However, there was no evidence that researchers had informed them of the study or its real purpose. In fact, the men had been misled and had not been given all the facts required to provide informed consent.”

            It says they were told they were being treated for “bad blood,” a general catchall for basically feeling sick.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            It sounds like that was the standard diagnosis. If these doctors were doing exactly the same thing as all other doctors in the area, that’s not hidden at all. Maybe it’s not, but it sure sounds to me like the CDC is grasping at straws.

          • skef says:

            Presumably the military generally informed patients of their conditions as the reason for treatments. And just as presumably the research program didn’t just encourage the military not to treat, but also not to say anything. Do you disagree, or would that not count?

          • MrApophenia says:

            Dude, the official name of the study was the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male. It’s not like these were some backwoods town doctors who were just using their normal, folksy jargon. They knew exactly what they were doing.

            They also went around to other doctors in the region and specifically told them to make sure that if any of these patients came to them, that they not be treated for syphilis. (Same link.)

            Also, from one of the actual participants:

            “So I went over, and they told me I had bad blood,” Pollard remembered. “And that’s what they’ve been telling me ever since. They come around from time to time and check me over and they say, ‘Charlie, you’ve got bad blood.’ ”

            In the book, Herman Shaw, a farmer, recounted hearing about the study as a kind of health care program. “People said you could get free medicine for yourself and things of that kind, and they would have a meeting at Salmon Chapel at a certain date.” So he went.

            Initially, when the study began, treatment for syphilis was not effective, often dangerous and fatal. But even after penicillin was discovered and used as a treatment for the disease, the men in the Tuskegee study were not offered the antibiotic.

            “All I knew was that they just kept saying I had the bad blood — they never mentioned syphilis to me. Not even once,” said Pollard, who added: “They been doctoring me off and on ever since then. And they gave me a blood tonic.”

            https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/05/16/youve-got-bad-blood-the-horror-of-the-tuskegee-syphilis-experiment/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.e85ae25635ce

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Skef, you presume wrong. My main concern with this topic is the license that so many feel to make up whatever they want about it. Also, that would not count as what MrApophenia was referring to in that source.

            The book Bad Blood seems to treat the choice of the phrase “bad blood” as a bad choice, but an innocent accident. It quotes In the Shadow of the Plantation (1934), which seems to say that it was a fairly precise term, but that it wasn’t commonly known to be an STD. On the other hand, the book Bad Blood suggests that the beginning of the program (for which records are scanty) had a lot more deceit about treatment than has been recorded, at least deceit by omission and implication.

            They also went around to other doctors in the region and specifically told them to make sure that if any of these patients came to them, that they not be treated for syphilis.

            That was my third point in my original comment.

          • Aapje says:

            Perhaps the situation can be best described as the doctors starting in a situation where being honest didn’t have much benefit to the patients, but then justifying their dishonestly to themselves beyond all reason, in part because they wanted to continue their study and in part because being honest would expose their lying.

            So they reasoned away the inconvenient facts, which was relatively easy, since the facts gradually became more inconvenient. So just like a lobster being slowly cooked, they gradually shifted their norms in a way that they might not have if you’d presented them with a different group of patients and suggested to lie to them and not give them good treatment.

          • albatross11 says:

            Aapje: +1

            The important lesson here for most of us is that this is a common human failing. We started doing something, the situation or our understanding of it has changed, and we now know or should know that what we’re doing is wrong. But it’s just continuing what we did before, so it seems okay….

    • Jiro says:

      My prior is high that people who would agree to such an experiment are poor at making decisions and/or mentally ill.

      • Aapje says:

        According to at least one doctor who was interviewed by my newspaper, the risks of such studies are below the risks that many people normally take. Unfortunately, they didn’t quantify it.

        These studies also tend to be fairly convenient, where one is being paid for very little actual effort. So if you can work/study/etc remotely, you can do so during the experiment.

        It seems that the test subjects are commonly students who want to easily earn a decent amount of money.

    • albatross11 says:

      One general comment, along the lines of the noticing-the-skulls discussion earlier on this blog:

      If a totalitarian dictatorship ever arises in the US, it won’t have guys in black uniforms goose-stepping and giving Heil-Hitlers. We have massive cultural antibodies to that stuff, enough so that we’re not going to get that particular infection again. It might still arise, but it won’t look like the Nazis.

      Similarly, the medical community has massive cultural and institutional antibodies to a rerun of the Tuskegee experiments. They may screw up in horrible unethical ways, but it won’t look like that screw-up, because that’s exactly the thing they’re looking for.

      • bean says:

        You might have gotten this from Scott’s Influenza of Evil post a while back, where he makes the exact same point.

      • Jiro says:

        I’ve observed that Europe has heavy cultural antibodies to Nazis, but they’re very specific: if you have a literal swastika and call yourself a Nazi, people will be up in arms about you, but pretty much anything else is fair game as long as you’re not in the outgroup. Censorship, surveillance, ignoring anti-Semitism is all fine as long as you do it in the name of fighting Nazis instead of being Nazis.

        • Civilis says:

          At a more general level, I think both the left and the right have antibodies against Nazis, but those antibodies trigger off different things, and both sets of antibodies are set up to favor that side’s political philosophy.

          In general, the left ‘s antibodies are set off from militarism, nationalism, and racism, while the right’s antibodies are set off from authoritarian or totalitarian governments and socialism (using a fairly broad definition of the word socialism).

        • outis says:

          Censorship, surveillance, ignoring anti-Semitism is all fine as long as you do it in the name of fighting Nazis instead of being Nazis.

          Of those things, the only one that doesn’t work the same way in America is anti-Semitism.

  6. Aapje says:

    Once upon a time, a normal mode of transport in marshlands was pole vaulting. To make marshlands suitable for agriculture, a system of drainage ditches and channels is used to lower the water level. Drainage causes the peat to shrink, so you have keep to keep draining, to keep up with the sinking land. This makes cross-country travel by foot, for instance to hunt, into a challenge. One way to cross the many waterways is to bring along a pole with a flat round plate on one end. This end is placed into the ditch or channel, where the flat plate keeps the pole from sinking (too deeply) into the mud. Then one vaults across.

    Areas where this used to be very common include The Fens, a coastal plain in eastern England, and The Netherlands. During the Eighty Years’ War, in the late 1500’s, a Spanish diplomat recorded the use of pole vaulting by messengers to pass through their lines, in the north of The Netherlands. Poles were not just used to cross waterways in the past, we have relief sculptures from ancient Egypt showing them used to scale enemy walls.

    The first known pole vaulting competition was as part of the Irish Tailteann Games in 1829 BC. At this point the goal was to jump a large distance, rather than reach a certain height. It later became popular in Britain, where the goal became to jump over a high obstacle, rather than jump a large distance. This formed the basis for the Olympic sport. The development of flexible poles resulted in a different technique than what was used for stiff poles. I’m sure that we are all familiar with the swing-technique of Olympic pole vaulting.

    In (the north of) The Netherlands, we have competitions for a far more traditional form of pole vaulting. This sport is called fierljeppen in the Frisian language. This word is very close to English, as it literally means far (fier) leaping (ljeppen). A competition jump consists of:
    – a sprint to the pole, which is already in the water and which leans against a jetty
    – grabbing the pole and swinging the legs forward, pushing the pole forward through momentum
    – climbing to get as high as possible
    – pushing yourself away from the pole, for some extra distance
    – landing in sand, resulting in a mark that is measured just like for the long jump

    The trick to jumping a long distance is to prevent the pole from going forward too fast, to allow enough time to climb the pole. With the modern 13.25 meter carbon poles, the record jump is a bit over 22 meters.

    Of course, it is better to just look at a video.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Wow. I usually don’t like watching video, I prefer a transcript. But that was a great watch and needed to be seen.

    • The first known pole vaulting competition was as part of the Irish Tailteann Games in 1829 BC.

      Should that be AD? I don’t believe we have very detailed information on events in Ireland in the second millennium BC.

  7. johan_larson says:

    Suppose you have zoning regs that enforce traditional suburban development: single-family homes with yards, shopping areas, occasional office parks and (well-separated) industrial areas. Who does this pattern of settlement serve poorly?

    I think the main problem is transportation. It’s hard to get around suburbia without a car; public transit really isn’t competitive. So anyone who can’t drive — the young, the old, the very poor — struggle in the suburbs.

    Anyone else?

    • Well Armed Sheep says:

      Anyone who doesn’t already own property in the hypothesized area, is probably the most negatively impacted group.

      People who enjoy living in close proximity to restaurants, bars, related entertainment.

      People who do not require a large residence and would prefer to spend their money on other investments, or to just spend it period.

      And I’m sure many others.

    • christhenottopher says:

      -Car oriented infrastructure is more expensive to maintain so it’s bad for tax payers long term.
      -More cars also mean more emissions which if a county still uses leaded gasoline is bad for brain development, can be bad for smog, and can be bad with climate change (unless you think the positives outweigh negatives there, don’t want to derail the discussion).
      -Cars are more dangerous than mass transit or walking, more accidents->more deaths
      -lower density reduces tax revenue (combine this with higher maintenance and that’s real bad for city governments)
      -(a bit more speculative) large chains tend to dominate suburban development rather than local small businesses. This is a harm to small business owners, but also to overall economic equality
      -suburban lawns compete with agriculture for water resources so bad for farmers (and consumers of food)

      You didn’t ask for who benefits so I won’t list those.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      “Suburbia” is underspecified, even saying all SFHs with yards.

      Is this like my relatives in Irvine? They live in a development of such homes in nested culdesacs: the first thing that’s not a house is multiple miles away.

      Is this like Wallingford in Seattle? We have long streets full of such houses, and every few streets there are some shops, and a high street you can (if lucky) live reasonable near to. So in principle you don’t need a long drive to do anything at all…but you are still stuck doing so if you want to get to the cool part of town.

      Is it more like Portland? Rural Texas? How about small town Massachusetts? All of these have vastly different little details of zoning, and they matter.

      The other key criterion is the logistics of jobs: how far does the typical resident have to travel to get to work, and how does he do so? Are there bottlenecks in this?

      Well Armed Sheep also gets points for noticing my immediate mental response: the unseen people who don’t live there. (But if we’re talking Seattle, they might still work here, which makes it bad for them and bad for the people who do live here.)

      • Well Armed Sheep says:

        There are lots of interesting (and uninteresting) things to ponder about the relationship between one’s views on immigration and one’s views on land use policy. But one interesting one might be, how do anti-growth urban leftists feel about permissive immigration policies?

        In land use, the impulse behind the pro-regulation side’s thinking is that it is right and legitimate to privilege existing stakeholders’ preferences in ways that harm potential future stakeholders.

        That same line of argument is obviously deployed in favor of immigration restrictionism. I would guess though that most of the same people who protest deregulatory zoning decisions on the ground that they will displace an existing poor community are not big restrictionists on immigration.

        I’ll edit to note that I think in both cases the deregulatory impulse is the correct one, precisely because I don’t think it is reasonable to prohibit potential future residents from engaging in voluntary trade with existing residents.

      • S_J says:

        Suburbia is underspecified…

        Humorously, I can find large stretches of a major American city which were built up in a style that looks like suburbia. Single family homes, sprawling neighborhoods, artery roads that connect to highways leading to a bustling downtown area miles away. A large industrial area was also a good distance from housing areas and from downtown.

        Since it was built up between 1900 and 1950, it doesn’t have all the features of suburbia. But it had many of the features. Politically, these areas were not suburbs. They were part of the urban center, even though they were sprawling SFH neighborhoods that were long distances from jobs and city-center.

        Peak population for the core city was in the 60s, before a new layer of suburban-stule sprawl started.

        A combination of forces (ranging from tax differentials to riots and a crime wave) emptied out the suburb-style neighborhoods if the core city. This coincided with a wave of post-1950 building of surrounding suburban cities.

        The population of the Metro Area is now a little more than 2x the population of mid-20th Century. The population of the core city is less than half the level of that time, leading to huge swathes of empty, suburban-style SFH neighborhoods.

        This sequence happened to the city of Detroit during the 20th Century.

        There are still good parts and bad parts of Detroit. A regrowth of the Downtown area seems to be happening. High-rise buildings that stood empty for years are now being converted to housing. Lots if improvements are being done to the Woodward corridor in the Downtown area.

        However, the sprawling partly-empty SFH tracts are pretty much the same. And the tax/school/personal-safety reasons that drove the original move to the suburbs are still mostly in place. Those forces push against any desire for suburbanites to move back into those suburb-style neighborhoods.

        Basically, the politics of the area, and the preferences of the people, seem to be in favor of most people living in suburb-style neighborhoods. But the legacy (political and cultural) seems to favor such neighborhoods as separate political entities, instead of as parts of the political entity that is the core city.

    • skef says:

      Newer* suburban developments are often designed on a “quiet street” model, the archetype of which is the cul-de-sac. This often leads to mega-block subdevelopments that connect to arterials in two to four places, specifically designed so that there is no benefit to “cutting through” (frequent stop signs, speed bumps, indirect paths, etc.). Much of the area outside of DC is like this.

      This is close to the worst case for people who commute to jobs, which every house excepting retirees and people working from home will have at least one of. All businesses are elsewhere, and getting to them when other people are also trying to get to them is a huge pain.

      * As in post 1960s or so.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      As I get older the more appreciative I become of cars. Part of it is I suppose that I can more easily afford one. But part of it is that I can see the difference between people mass transit bound and those who have the freedom to go where they wish. I think the auto has done more for freedom in the world than any other invention. And the car has also added greatly to the prosperity of the world, by allowing much more flexibility for commuting and moving to new cities.

      Suburbs exist for a reason. People want to have more space and being dependent on a car is worth getting this extra space. Actually I live in the city myself, because I want the flexibility of using buses too, but I can understand the desire to live in a less congested area, while being close enough to the city to find work. Yes of course there are disadvantages to suburbs, but there are plenty of advantages also.

      • johan_larson says:

        Oh yeah. I grew up in the suburbs, and still prefer it. I moved to downtown Toronto for work, and find I don’t like it. Keeping a car in the city is expensive, and getting around is a pain.

      • christhenottopher says:

        Suburbs exist for a reason. People want to have more space and being dependent on a car is worth getting this extra space.

        Just as a quick note, suburbs exist because some people like the space…and the government subsidizes the crap out of them. These suburban neighborhoods aren’t fully paying for the infrastructure that supports them (otherwise we wouldn’t have trillion dollar funding gaps for maintenance in the US). And when you look at maps of where local government tax receipts come from (and local government does most maintenance work), really dense and often poor neighborhoods give you a lot more revenue than the ‘burbs. So yeah a lot of people like the suburbs when you are pretty much paying them to live there.

        • Aapje says:

          Which neighborhoods do pay themselves for all their infrastructure???

          • christhenottopher says:

            Denser ones.

            Ultimately, the infrastructure has to be paid for. The more this is done at levels higher than the local level, the more this will represent subsidies from denser types of development (that have been typical for cities for ever really) to lower density developments (the awkward middle ground density between the truly rural and the truly urban).

            Also a thing to note, many of the denser neighborhoods are poorer neighborhoods on a per person (though not an overall) basis. Consider the link I shared where the only location that could actually pay off it’s infrastructure (paid off a 30 year investment in 13.8 years) had the lowest average property tax, indicating a lower income neighborhood. The location with the highest average property tax (indicating the wealthiest residents) had the most roads per square foot of living space, and still could not pay off a 30 investment in a 30 year time frame. The only options without raising density are to let the infrastructure decay (which will over time drive out residents leading to a cycle of population loss->lower tax revenues->more decaying infrastructure->population loss), raise the taxes in the lower density areas (which will be super unpopular, but potentially more feasible for the places just shy of sustainability than for the places that need to more than double their taxes and therefore risk losing residents by doing so), or have the taxes from the poor areas subsidize the rich ones (politically probably easiest given that the rich tend to vote more in the US and doesn’t involve actually increasing taxes, but pretty crappy thing to do morally).

          • Aapje says:

            Isn’t it the case in general that denser areas subsidize the less dense areas? Why focus on the urbs subsidizing the suburbs, rather than the suburbs subsidizing the rural areas?

          • outis says:

            Well, rural areas are needed for food. Suburbs are not needed.

        • SamChevre says:

          This really depends on what you call “infrastructure”.

          If you assume all property taxes go to roads, you can get that results: if you assume that police, trash pickup, schools, etc have a cost that is basically per-resident, you get the much more plausible result that poor, dense areas cost more than they pay, and wealthy suburbs cost less.

        • John Schilling says:

          …and the government subsidizes the crap out of them. These suburban neighborhoods aren’t fully paying for the infrastructure that supports them

          Your first cited example is the home mortgage interest deduction, which has nothing to do with infrastructure. And is of vastly more value to the owner of a Manhattan townhouse than a split-level in a Long Island suburb. And which neatly matches the deductability of commercial mortage interest as a business expense, with nearly 1:1 impact on rents. Tax policy is to a first order indifferent to one’s choice of housing, not a subsidy of one market over another.

          Then you move on to the interstate highways. To the extent they are used by suburban commuters, this would count as a subsidy of the suburbs. To the extent they are used by trucks bringing e.g. food into NYC, they would constitute a subsidy for the city.

          So it looks to me like you’re stacking the deck a bit there.

          • Chalid says:

            Tax policy is to a first order indifferent to one’s choice of housing

            No, the fact that imputed rents are not taxed is a strong subsidy to home owners, and renters tend to be in denser areas.

          • John Schilling says:

            Also, the government subsidizes daydreaming by not taxing the imputed ticket price for the movie you just watched in your head.

          • Chalid says:

            Sure, though nobody with any sense would claim that the tax code is neutral between daydreaming and seeing a movie in the theater.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          Just as a quick note, suburbs exist because some people like the space…and the government subsidizes the crap out of them

          Very much hyperbole there. Pretty much no mass transit system in the US pays more than half its operating costs with the fare box. And of course the fare box pays 0% for the capital costs. Yeah, roads are mostly paid for by taxes instead of by gas taxes, so most of the capital costs are paid for by the government. So drivers pay 100% of their operating costs and a minority of capital costs, which is obviously a lot more than mass transit riders.

          Chris, you had several links there. I don’t know if they are mostly related to roads, but I don’t really want to look at all of them. As John said, the first one on the mortgage deduction is pretty irrelevant to suburbs, which doesn’t make me want to look further. Please let me know if you have actual points.

          I’d like to see all subsidies decrease to zero, but it makes sense to to decrease the biggest ones first.

          • Evan Þ says:

            So drivers pay 100% of their operating costs and a minority of capital costs, which is obviously a lot more than mass transit riders.

            You’re comparing two different figures. The capital costs of roads are a whole lot more than the capital costs of mass transit. I’m pretty sure that’s even the case per-person once you have a sufficiently large number of people.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            The capital costs of roads are a whole lot more than the capital costs of mass transit.

            Cite?

          • Evan Þ says:

            Seattle, my hometown, recently built 3.15 miles of underground rail for $1.9 billion, while still trying to build 1.7 miles of underground freeway for $2.1 billion.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Seattle, my hometown, recently built 3.15 miles of underground rail for $1.9 billion, while still trying to build 1.7 miles of underground freeway for $2.1 billion.

            I agree this is an example of a highway costing more than rail, but it is pretty weak evidence for the general case. One can’t tell why the highway tunnel costs more than rail tunnel; it certainly isn’t obvious that the highway tunnel is more because it is a highway. And of course it says nothing about comparable costs above ground, which is much more common case.

          • CatCube says:

            Highway tunnels cost more than rail because they have to be wider. Rail tunnels are built pretty close to the loading gage of the track–that is, the minimum dimensions of the tunnel are really close to the maximum dimensions of the train permitted to pass through it. Older tunnels often had mere inches all around; they weren’t large enough to clear a man if a train went through. (Bridges were this way, too, which is why railroads get really upset when people trespass on their rights-of-way.) Nowadays, they generally make sure that there’s at least enough width for a worker to not get crushed if he happens to occupy a tunnel at the same time as a train–with the attendant increase in cost, of course. In the US, the standard passenger loading gage is a 10′-2 1/2″ width, and if you want to have a double track tunnel and a walkway you’re looking at a tunnel about 24′ wide (this is my own estimate, since I don’t work in rail and don’t know the required structure gages offhand.) The clearance between the train and the wall can be tighter at lower speeds, because there will be less sway in the suspension, so this isn’t a really tight number.

            Compare this to a modern highway, where each lane is going to be 14′, and you need to have no less than two of them each way. I don’t know what the current Green Book standards are for shoulders in tunnels, but I’d be shocked if they required less than 12′ on each side, given that tight shoulders are no longer acceptable on normal above-ground highways. So you’re looking at tunnel bores starting at probably in the 52′ width, plus highway traffic requires more ventilation than rail.

            Of course, putting all of this on privately-owned passenger vehicles is a little goofy, unless you’re laboring under the delusion that busses will hover, and that we can teleport goods to stores. A substantial road network will still be required if you banned cars and forced everybody to take busses (sorry, you’re not going to have rail to every freakin’ building front). And, since the damage to pavement is a function of the 4th power of axle weight, the maintenance costs will only decrease by the number of lanes you can save. Passenger cars are a rounding error in pavement damage, and only numbers of trucks are considered in pavement design.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @CatCube, yes, highway right-of-ways need to be wider than railways even for a given number of lanes – that’s one of my points, and one of the ways roads have larger capital costs.

            The other way is that you need more lanes to transport a given number of people by car. For cars, you get 1,900 vehicles per hour per lane. Assuming an average of two people per vehicle – more than reality – that’s 3,800 people. All those will fit in about 21 light rail cars, or about 6 trains here in Seattle. Heavy rail is even better.

          • Aapje says:

            @CatCube

            Interestingly, the Chinese design for larger trains. I went to the National Railway Museum in the UK and they have an enormous Chinese steam locomotive.

      • Michael Handy says:

        As someone who grew up in the suburbs of a city with pretty good public transport (the suburbs are long “fingers” along transit corridors.), and who has lived in European cities that are even more connected, this seems just like a wrong idea about why to like suburbs. Quiet is good, but Cars? Cars should be limited wherever possible.

        Train lines within 10 min walk and bus stops every 5 min walk allow for the easy development of periodic strip malls, community centres, etc. Which means you can let your kids out from a young age to do things independently.

        Cars still exist, but they’re used for different purposes than work commutes. And the Suburbs can be far enough out of the city to be essentially separate regions of the country.

        The nested cul de sac plan without so much as a corner store (Why? Who plans a suburb without small shops or churches?!) sounds like some kind of private hell.

    • JulieK says:

      How big a problem being carless in suburbia is depends where you want to get to. At my stage of life, I don’t have time or money to frequent restaurants.

      I grew up in the suburbs, and we had a small shopping center a block away with a drugstore, butcher, bakery, etc. It used to have a supermarket as well, but when I was about 6 the supermarket moved to a larger location that was almost a mile away. As I got older I would ride my bicycle to the library.
      Most adults had jobs that were not within walking distance, though.

      We plan to visit my mother there this summer, and there’s a historical re-creation site I’d like to visit, which would be a 20-minute drive if we could fit everyone in one car (we can’t), but relying on public transportation, will be more like an hour and a half, including significant walking. 🙁

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Most likely major business that show a preference for locating in Central Business Districts. Employees tend to have maximum acceptable commutes and there is also maximum accepted travel for visiting executives. Higher-density areas put you in place with more potential employees, and also put you closer to airports so your sales team can fly out to Europe or Singapore or whatever on a direct flight. Big Finance comes to mind., but in Illinois even places like Caterpillar have relocated some functions to Chicago to better reach the global market.

      Some businesses also need to locate closely to certain infrastructure to be competitive. Ports come to mind, but also major railways.

      Honestly I hear more about new manufacturing popping up in (relative) middle of nowhere places, though. Possibly in part because the environmental regulations and real estate is a lot cheaper out there.

      In terms of residents, suburban homes with large lots are a pricey mode of development. Under-served people are going to be people with poor credit that cannot afford large loans or otherwise cannot afford housing. However, this will be counter-balanced by some suburbs turning into slums, so they’ll become affordable AT SOME LEVEL.

      Transit is a feature in the suburbs, not a bug. Travelling in cities is an abhorrent nightmare that I wouldn’t wish upon Hitler. Suburban travel is easy, reliable, and point-to-point. Certain people are disadvantaged but getting a used car is not super expensive. The problem with suburbs is over-expensive housing, not transportation. Older folks do have different communities they can move into in the suburbs: my neighbors are moving into such a community.

      Suburbs kind of suck for the environment compared to well-run clean cities, and they suck for water usage if everyone wants to keep a green lawn. Lawns are becoming at least slightly less popular, though. Several of my neighbors have replaced their front lawns with wild flower beds.

      I wouldn’t want to move out of the suburbs. Though I would like more street-car suburbs, as opposed to big, curvy street subdivisions suburbs.

      Obviously, DINKs and young people are going to prefer cities for the obvious reasons. They want to drink, they want to eat, and they want to screw. Cities are designed for that. Suburbs are not.

      • Michael Handy says:

        The main issues for being near the CBD these days are mostly around bandwidth. It’s a serious bottleneck at most medium sized firms, even ones that are not reliant on the internet to function.

        Recently our city had a plan to relocate as much business as possible to a satellite CBD in our city to reduce congestion while transport upgrades were made, but our slow net infrastructure meant most moved back within 3 years.

  8. ManyCookies says:

    An Econ 101 question I was somewhat stumped on:

    “How do manufacturing costs affect which industries would be most impacted by the removal of the patent system?”

    My handwave was “If you remove patents, short term effects are gonna be dictated by entry costs”. But the phrasing of the question (which I forgot) seems like it was asking about long-term effects, which I drew a blank on.

    (Background: this question was from someone cold PMing people at 1AM on an online Pokemon battle simulator asking for help with their microeconomics. I’d have said this was a tremendously stupid strategy, but it worked.)

    • beleester says:

      If manufacturing costs are high compared to R&D costs, then you’re less likely to be affected by removal of the patent system. Because even if someone copies your product (so they pay nothing to invent the thing), they’re still paying as much as you are to produce it, so they haven’t really saved much money in the grand scheme of things.

      (Simple example: Jewelry is expensive, not because it’s hard to design a wedding ring, but because gold and jewels are expensive.)

      I think your answer is thinking along the same lines, but it’s not just entry costs, it’s any costs you have besides R&D.

    • Education Hero says:

      Disclaimer: Not an Economics professor.

      If patent costs are larger relative to manufacturing costs, then the removal of the patent system will have a larger effect on the total cost structure. The opposite is true if patent costs are smaller relative to manufacturing costs.

      Thus, the industries most impacted would be those with relatively high patent costs and relatively low manufacturing costs, such as pharmaceuticals, which can be produced very cheaply if not for IP. By contrast, industries with relatively low patent costs and relatively high patent costs, such as commodities, will be impacted the least.

    • Chalid says:

      If this is an econ 101 question, I think it’s getting at the difference between a monopoly and a competitive market. When a patent is active, the manufacturer restricts quantity to charge a monopoly price. If the patent is abolished, the price will fall to the competitive price, and since it’s econ 101 that means the perfectly competitive price which is where price equals cost of producing an additional unit. So after patents are abolished, industries with lower manufacturing costs see a greater fall in price and a greater increase in quantity supplied, all else equal.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Yeah, but he did mention short-term and long-term costs. You only mention short-term costs. Presumably if patents are abolished, there will be fewer inventions because of less upside benefits. One kind of inventions are factory time savers, so it is possible that manufacturing costs would be higher without patents in the long run.

        A more subtle but I suspect more accurate effect of no patents is that inventors would instead keep their inventions secret, and maybe try to design them so they are more difficult to reverse engineer. In that case, more shops would spend more time working on reverse engineering the better inventions in the marketplace, which would cost more, but probably result in the inventions being in the public domain a little faster. Over all, it is very difficult to determine whether no patents would increase or decrease costs in the long run.

        I personally think that patent law should be a bit weaker, but not disappear totally. But this is based on no data, so I have low confidence in this.

        • Chalid says:

          To get to the perfectly competitive price, you need new entrants to the market, which you typically call long-term in an econ 101 class.

          You’re not wrong, but you’re going outside what I think is the scope of an econ 101 homework question.

  9. John Nerst says:

    There was some spirited discussion of the spat between Sam Harris and Ezra Klein on here a few weeks ago. Everyone might be sick to death of it by now, but in case anyone isn’t I just finished a long article on it.

    Excerpt:

    They get close to what appears to be the core of Kleins’s motivation towards the end of their podcast, when Harris uses an analogy about the racial makeup of world-class sprinters to argue that the possibility of genetic differences means we should not automatically assume racism as the sole reason for aggregate racial differences in outcome. It is to protect a narrative threatened by (in Klein’s earlier words):

    “the idea that America’s racial inequalities are driven by genetic differences between the races and not by anything we did, or have to undo.”

    Klein fears that Murray’s ideas will absolve white people for the historical crimes against black people so they no longer feel that racial inequality is their responsibility to correct. In other words it’s important that we do automatically view aggregate racial inequality as a product of racism. Otherwise justifications for anti-racist policies become, while not void by any means, weaker and an order of magnitude more subtle, complex and difficult (the same effect sex differences have on the justifications for feminist policies). That’s why he insists so forcefully that slavery and discrimination is what we’re supposed to be talking about, not genes. Eyes on the ball.

    Harris of course has a narrative of his own to protect. He fears that politicization of whole intellectual fields (including sometimes science), pushed by identity politics activists using their norms, will lead to the displacement of Rational Style as the norm. Klein would say that Harris fears this because it would hurt him personally, but I don’t think that’s the whole story. Harris cares about things besides himself, just like Klein. He cares about protecting Rational Style and the high-decoupled thinking it runs on because it is tremendously valuable for finding out the truth and for ensuring civility in the public sphere. Unlike identity politics activists, he doesn’t think such rules lose their legitimacy becasue power differentials exist.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Klein fears that Murray’s ideas will absolve white people for the historical crimes against black people so they no longer feel that racial inequality is their responsibility to correct. In other words it’s important that we do automatically view aggregate racial inequality as a product of racism. Otherwise justifications for anti-racist policies become, while not void by any means, weaker and an order of magnitude more subtle, complex and difficult (the same effect sex differences have on the justifications for feminist policies). That’s why he insists so forcefully that slavery and discrimination is what we’re supposed to be talking about, not genes. Eyes on the ball.

      Maybe we’ve talked about this to death. But it does look like Klein is suggesting here that our arguments should be about getting people to think a certain way instead of looking for the truth. Albatross wrote a great comment about the futility of ignoring the truth some time ago here.

      • lvlln says:

        But it does look like Klein is suggesting here that our arguments should be about getting people to think a certain way instead of looking for the truth.

        This is something that has been on my mind for a while, after noticing just how much much of the modern left is obsessed with smearing people who seek the truth in certain topics. They seem to display a sort of epistemic hubris, a core belief that now they’ve awakened to the correct way of thinking about certain things, and it’s just a matter of coercing everyone else into going along. There’s no need to scrutinize this correct way of thinking about certain things by testing them for their truth value.

        Of course, it’s also possible that people like Harris who insist on seeking and telling the truth and see free speech as a bedrock value are also engaging in epistemic hubris; who’s to say that honest good faith discussion is the best – or even particularly good – way to create human flourishing? Maybe it’s the case that having a belief that you’re sure is correct and then violently enforcing it on everyone else is how to make the world a better place?

        But then that makes me want to look at history to try to collect some empirical evidence on which one seems preferable to me. Unfortunately, history never offers us double-blind trials with strict controls, but what little research I’ve done makes me lean toward Harris’s position rather than Klein’s.

        But then that raises the question of the biases of those who wrote those historical narratives – even without getting into any complex details, wouldn’t those who engage in speech by writing things down have a tendency to be biased pro free speech than against it?

        I get the sense that Scott’s Mistake vs. Conflict Theory post kinda gets to this; one thing I’ve struggled with is the very real possibility that someone whose model of the world is sufficiently mistaken could win but then end up in a situation so much worse than if they had lost that they’d be wishing they could go back in time and surrender. A conflict theorist would implicitly have to believe that their model of the world is at least not that mistaken, or that their opponents’ model is more mistaken. That latter part matters quite a bit, I think – it’s impossible to make perfect measurements, but if you believe that your opponents are likely to err in a worse direction or in greater magnitude than you, it still makes sense to push your own erroneous model.

        That gets back to the whole epistemic hubris issue; how reasonable is it to be to be confident in one’s own model being superior if one doesn’t subject one’s models to real scrutiny? Which then gets back to – is scrutiny really the best – or even good – way to figure out how correct our models are?

        • Michael Handy says:

          I think it’s more subtle than that. Klein might admit that the truth, on its own, is a good thing and should be sought after.

          But he fears those truths will be taken, used as evidence for falsehoods that “look” like these truths, and used as a weapon by either open conflict theorists on the other side, or stealth conflict theorists masquerading as mistake theorists.

          History shows that versions of these ideas with shoddy epistemic support have caused great harm to his in groups, so he’s not wrong to predict these ideas, even if true and fairly moderate, will also cause harm via being twisted and inflated into agitprop.

          • cassander says:

            I think that’s the most generous possible reading of klein, and probably what he would say himself, and I still think it’s awful. It still boils down to saying people shouldn’t say things that are true, that the people should actively be shamed if they do say them, because saying them might have political consequences he dislikes.

          • Aapje says:

            @Michael Handy

            History shows that versions of these ideas with shoddy epistemic support have caused great harm to his in groups, so he’s not wrong to predict these ideas, even if true and fairly moderate, will also cause harm via being twisted and inflated into agitprop.

            History has also shown that banning true beliefs that are inconvenient to certain ingroups has been used to oppress people. See the gulags, for example.

            Klein’s position is inherently predicated on his beliefs being dominant and it is thus a strongly (small c) conservative position.

      • SamChevre says:

        But it does look like Klein is suggesting here that our arguments should be about getting people to think a certain way instead of looking for the truth.

        I’m not much on Klein’s side, but I actually think that is a key goal (and correctly so) in many cases. “There’s no useful answer if you’re asking the wrong question,” to quote a former manager. In many cases, arguments often need to be “you are asking the wrong question.”

        To take something you and I know a lot about, what’s the right answer to “did the 2017 tax bill raise or lower taxes?” In most cases, a useful discussion starts with “what are you trying to explain?” not “what are expected 2019 tax revenues to the federal government?”

        • albatross11 says:

          It sure seems like there’s an important difference between:

          a. I want you to think about the problem in a more productive way so you do better at getting to the truth and making sense of it.

          b. I want you to make sure you come to the socially-beneficial answers so you do better at making society function the way it should.

          An example of (a) would be pointing out that “black/white” is really a messy way to categorize people, and that you’d be better off using DNA tests or something. (When this is done honestly instead of as an isolated demand for rigor.)

          An example of (b) would be summed up in the phrase, spoken to Murray by a colleague after he published _The Bell Curve_, that “No good can come of discussing this in public.”

          • Iain says:

            a. I want you to think about the problem in a more productive way so you do better at getting to the truth and making sense of it.

            To be clear: this is actually the core of Ezra Klein’s argument. People on Harris’s side of the argument keep trying to characterize Klein as anti-empiricism, but it’s a misreading of what he says. Klein doesn’t think empiricism is bad; he thinks Harris is doing empiricism wrong. See, for example:

            I think that there is a lot of discussion like this in the public sphere just generally at the moment. There are a lot of white commentators, of which I am also one, who look at what’s happening on some campuses, or look at what happens on Twitter mobs, or whatever, and they see a threat to them. The concern about political correctness goes way, way, way, way up. Then the ability to hear what the folks who are making the arguments actually say dissolves. The ability to hear what the so-called social justice warriors are actually worried about dissolves. I think that’s a really big blind spot here. I think it’s making it hard for you to see when people have a good faith disagreement with you, and I also think it’s making harder for you to see how to weight some of the different concerns that are operating in this conversation.

            Harris rejects the opinions of a variety of experts because he thinks they’re saying politically correct things in bad faith. Klein disagrees. That’s not an argument about social benefit; it’s an argument about a better way to find the truth.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m not going to try to argue Harris’ side, but it makes sense to note that there’s one set of positions you can hold on this cluster of issues that leads to much better social and career outcomes than the other. Your chances of getting no-platformed or deluged with hate mail or having places like Vox run hit pieces on you goes *way* up when you’re on one side, relative to the other. It would be pretty surprising if that didn’t affect what people were willing to say.

            Imagine you are some public intellectual at the prominence of, say, Steven Pinker, and you have come to the conclusion that Murray is substantially right in his views on the black/white IQ difference. Would you say so in public? Or would you prudently decide that you’d not poke that particular beehive with a stick to see what happens?

            It seems to me that while we have that process going on, it is somewhat harder to know what to make of various peoples’ expressed views on the subject. And that breaks a part of the process by which both scientists and laymen find out what reality looks like.

            Imagine if, due to changes at the top of the EPA and NOAA and various funding agencies, it were to become a lot worse career move to study human-caused global warming, and still worse to publicize any findings that showed human-caused global warming to the public. How would you expect that to impact how much scientists and the public knew about human-caused global warming?

    • BBA says:

      Here’s a piece by William Saletan arguing that the whole concept of “race and IQ” is wrong and misleading, and the actual state of the science paints a far more complex picture than can fit into this kind of discussion.

      • The Nybbler says:

        He’s just throwing up a lot of complexity as an excuse to avoid grappling with the issue, which is a common tactic. The way the sun converts hydrogen into helium is complex, but not knowing those complexities didn’t keep anyone in the 19th century from realizing the sun is hot. If you want to discover how heritability of intelligence works, you have to go to a finer-grained level than “race”. But this doesn’t make the overall observations based on race wrong or useless.

        We’re not going to stop talking about race; it might be better if we did, but it’s not going to happen. I think what it comes down to is this

        Given the dubiousness of linking racial genetics to IQ, what would my words accomplish? Would they contribute to prejudice? Would they be used to blame communities for their own poverty? Would I be provoking thought, or would I be offering whites an excuse not to think about the social and economic causes of inequality?

        The idea that there might be a racial link to IQ and from there to poverty, might lead to the wrong conclusions. Maybe communities _are_ responsible for their own poverty; maybe it’s not prejudice. Better just not to think about it.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        The problem is that Saletan never explores the context as to WHY people care about race and intelligence. There is enormous amounts of discussion in the US about racial gaps in all sorts of things. As long as people take seriously disparate racial outcomes, then it is important to discuss why these disparate results occur. Not talking about racial differences in IQ, and how these differences arise, is simply irrational in such a context.

      • BBA says:

        *bangs head against wall*

        Let me be more blunt. Has anyone actually learned anything from one of these discussions, or do they just come out thinking “the science” supports their preexisting positions and all the opposition has is “pseudoscience” or “political correctness” respectively? If there aren’t actually any impartial truth-seekers here (and I’ve yet to find one), what the hell is the point of all this anyway?

      • John Nerst says:

        I’d have to agree with the others that this isn’t a very good piece. It doesn’t do much besides reiterate the Klein+THN position in slightly different words. One would think his history of being in the other side of this would make it possible for him to provide a more multifaceted account, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. It’s the same argument, for the same reasons – the explanation for inequities must be racism.

        I think this conversation must be held by people who understand that this is a case if different norms colliding and no one is entitled to say that their own side’s norms are to rule, typically using justification internal to that side (i.e. using scientific norms to justify why it should be seen as a scientific issue, or using political norms to justify why it should be seen as a political issue). We need meta-norms on what norms to apply to what things if we want to get somewhere on issues like this.

        Fat chance though.

      • @MVA

        How do you know it is rational enough to frame everything in terms of race in th first place?

  10. gbdub says:

    Anyone else watching The Terror on AMC? It’s probably my favorite show on TV at the moment (though it is only going to be 10 episodes).

    It’s an adaptation of Dan Simmons’ pseudo-historical novel, and tells the story of the lost Franklin expedition to find the Northwest passage in the 1840s. Only in this gothic-horror flavored spin, they are (in addition to the usual arctic dangers) being attacked by a supernatural bear-like creature. Someone described it as a slow-burn mashup of Master and Commander and The Thing, and that feels about right.

    Super cast, gorgeous production. Highly recommended. Warning: the first double episode is a bit slow. But the last couple (5 and 6) are the best yet and well worth the setup.

  11. Mio Winter says:

    Depression. Asking for advice on drugs. I don’t trust my doctor.

    I’m currently on mirtazapine, but I plan to ask for a switch. The specific decision I want to make is whether to ask my doctor for a MAOI if I’m atypical or a TCA if I’m melancholic. I don’t want to ask for ECT yet, because that’s extremely expensive for the state (I live in Norway, so my medicine is basically free for me, but I also don’t want to waste resources unnecessarily).

    • Which subtype am I? My doctor didn’t specify. (See below for details.)

    • I’m trying to prevent my future self from killing itself, so I don’t want to ask for a TCA that I can overdose fatally on. How many times above daily dosage of TCA do I need to take in order to kill myself? If TCA is unlikely fatal if I take a 30-day supply in one go, then I could just ask the apothecary for a 30-day supply each time I go there, so I never have enough to actually kill myself.

    If I go to Wikipedia’s list of 5 subtypes of depression (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_depressive_disorder#DSM-IV-TR_and_ICD-10_criteria), I’m left wondering whether I have melancholic or atypical depression, because I seem to have a mix of symptoms.

    I very clearly have hypersomnia (before I started mirtazapine, I guess I slept maybe 11 hours on average, now I sleep 12 hours on average) and leaden paralysis, which seem to be atypical features, but I also very clearly have “guilt that is excessive”. And I think my mood is usually worse in the mornings. I don’t think I have psychomotor agitation or retardation, given that I don’t feel agitated and I can run to the bus if I’m late.

    The deciding factor seems to be whether my mood improves in response to positive events. I know I can enjoy and feel positivity when I’m doing something I enjoy, like playing osu, but I often have to force myself to play osu due to low interest, and after I stop playing osu, my mood is usually back to what it was before. Does this count as mood reactivity? Also, if the world was cured of all torture-like experiences tomorrow, I think my mood would improve for a long time, but I haven’t heard any similarly positive news, so I don’t know whether my mood improves just when the positive news are positive enough.

    • [Thing] says:

      I don’t trust my doctor.

      That sucks. Do you trust any doctors? You could try to find a different one. I’ve been in treatment for depression for over 20 years now, and nothing has helped much, and I’ve had some pretty unpleasant experiences with drug side effects, but I’ve always felt pretty trusting of the doctors and therapists I’ve worked with. They never made false promises, it’s just that depression is really hard to treat (in some cases), and as far as I can tell, the only solution, from a patient’s perspective, is to be patient and keep trying different things.

      I don’t want to ask for ECT yet, because that’s extremely expensive for the state (I live in Norway, so my medicine is basically free for me, but I also don’t want to waste resources unnecessarily).

      On behalf of the universe, I officially grant you permission to stop giving a shit about how much your treatment is costing your government. Seriously. You were dealt a bad hand in suffering from depression, but you were dealt a good hand in having free access to treatment, and leveraging one’s good luck to the max is how one overcomes bad luck.

      On the other hand, maybe you are rationalizing an aversion to trying ECT that stems from something else, such as fear of memory loss? For what it’s worth, I’ve already tried ECT, and my ability to recall that period of my life isn’t that bad, although it sort of feels like trying to remember something from ten years ago, even though I did it much more recently than that. I haven’t noticed any difference in my memory from before or after the time I was undergoing it, and that is consistent with what my doctors told me. I started to feel much better a couple weeks into it, but then regressed back to where I started before the treatment was even over. I still recommend trying it, though, if your doctor thinks it’s called for. It’s not a waste to try approved treatments that don’t end up working, because trying them is the only way to find out whether or not they’ll work for you.

      • Which subtype am I? My doctor didn’t specify.

      I hadn’t even heard of the melancholic/atypical distinction until pretty recently. It’s really old though, so I imagine I would have if it were all that important. Anyway, even if you knew 100% that you belonged in one cluster or the other, that still wouldn’t guarantee that any given treatment would or wouldn’t work, so just make your best guess; if approaching it that way doesn’t work, you can always try the opposite approach later.

      I very clearly have hypersomnia (before I started mirtazapine, I guess I slept maybe 11 hours on average, now I sleep 12 hours on average)

      Have you had a sleep study? Perhaps your depression is being aggravated by an undiagnosed sleep disorder. (That was the case for me, and I never had to sleep nearly as much as you.)

      I don’t think I have psychomotor agitation or retardation, given that I don’t feel agitated and I can run to the bus if I’m late.

      Being able to run to catch a bus occasionally is a pretty low bar to clear. I’d say that if you feel you have leaden paralysis, that probably counts as evidence of at least mild psychomotor retardation, unless there’s some clearcut distinction between those symptoms that I’m unaware of.

      Anyway, best of luck to you. If you haven’t already seen them, Scott has written some pretty comprehensive lists of things to try:
      Things That Sometimes Help If You Have Depression
      SSRIs: Much More Than You Wanted To Know
      Here’s a lit review on atypical depression from Sarah Constantine:
      Atypical & Treatment-Resistant Depression
      I recently started using nicotine patches after reading Gwern’s post on nicotine. Early results seem promising. A few days ago I stumbled across this from Eliezer. (Scroll to the end for the part about his sleep disorder.) I’ve also never been able to stick to a consistent sleep schedule, despite trying most of the same remedies, but now I’m trying his suggestion of low-dose melatonin 5-7 hours before bedtime. Too early to say whether it’s helping.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      Go outside for a jog. Get some decent sleep. Don’t like your job, get a different one if possible. Maybe a desk job isn’t for you. Find a different hobby. Kill noobs on Xbox live, which is always fulfilling. Distracting yourself from your thoughts can help.

      My bet for ECT “curing depression” is that its a glitch arising from depression tests favoring sedation as an effect, and does not greatly improve IRL outcomes that people typically care for. I can go into more depth elsewhere.

  12. Andrew Hunter says:

    I quit my job yesterday!

    Well, I gave notice. I leave end of May. Packing up the house and driving east to home in MA, then to a new job in ~mumble, not official yet~.

    So…yeah.

    • Aapje says:

      Good luck with the job and the dating!

    • johan_larson says:

      Did you have enough of Google or enough of Seattle?

    • SamChevre says:

      Well, if you end up in Western MA that will make three readers in this area.

      Good luck with job, dating, moving, etc…

    • James says:

      Congrats! How do you feel?

    • Nick says:

      Congrats and good luck!

    • bean says:

      Congratulations!
      What route are you taking? If you take I-90, there’s a minuteman silo in South Dakota that you’d probably enjoy. I didn’t find out about it until too late to tour it when I last drove through there, but you should have plenty of time.
      Also, I’m likely to be in the Boston/Lowell area this summer, although I don’t have a date yet. Interested in getting together?

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        I’ve managed to confuse everyone unintentionally: I’m driving to MA to see my family, then leaving the state to work in a new city (two possibilities right now, in last stages of negotiations.)

        My current route expectation is rather indirect: I’m going to drive south probably as far as LA (yes, will try to visit the Iowa if I can find dogsitting), maybe San Diego, then cross the southern US. I intend to hit up as many great barbeque locations as I can, do a bit of hiking, see my various friends in DC and Durham…I have flexibility.

        And yeah, if you’re in Boston sometime in the vague range of late june/early july, would love to meet up. Or if I cross your path somewhere in the middle of the country.

        • bean says:

          maybe San Diego

          Midway is really, really good. Might even be better than Iowa if it had 16″ guns.

          And yeah, if you’re in Boston sometime in the vague range of late june/early july, would love to meet up.

          I suspect late July/August is more likely.

          Or if I cross your path somewhere in the middle of the country.

          OKC has three interstates, so it shouldn’t be too terribly hard to arrange that. Keep me posted. I have enough space to put you up for the night if you want.

        • SamChevre says:

          OK, if you’re crossing the southern US and looking for barbecue, do not miss Scott’s Barbecue in Lexington TN. It’s maybe 20 minutes off I-40. Get vinegar slaw with your barbecue.

          I’m admittedly prejudiced–when I was a carpenter, I always bought barbecue there to celebrate getting paid for a contract–but it’s the best barbecue I’ve ever had. (West Tennessee, whole hog style–I always got “plenty of fat and plenty of ends.)

        • neciampater says:

          If you stop in Charlotte, en route to Durham, check out Midwood Smokehouse.

          I hate to say it but eastern NC is better than western NC bbq.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Congrats! Hope the new environment and the new job suit you better.

      I’m hoping to make a move in the next month, too. Hottest job market in over a decade. Stupid not to make these major moves now: I’ll be in my 40s next time a job market this good comes around.

    • Deiseach says:

      Congratulations and good luck!

    • Matt C says:

      Congratulations! Best of luck with whatever comes next.

    • Chalid says:

      Congratulations! I hope you find something that suits you well.

  13. Education Hero says:

    Over on the enlightenment thread, I invited our guest Mr. Vinay Gupta to participate in some friendly sparring so that we could better comprehend how his enlightened views might translate into a useful understanding of the world. Although I was pleasantly surprised by his decision to share past sparring footage, he seemed hesitant to accept my proposal despite my willingness to concede extreme handicaps, and he has stopped posting in the thread.

    I feel that it would provide a valuable educational experience if we could arrange such a sparring session to take place at a future SSC meetup, but I would like to ask for additional input before I take further steps to reach out to him. Thoughts from Aapje (who followed and participated in the thread) as well as our proprietor Scott Alexander would be particularly appreciated.

    • Aapje says:

      Him ghosting suggests he is no longer interested.

      You can try mailing him on the address I gave, sending him a link to a video of yours, and offering again to meet up in SV.

      If so, I would suggest that each of you bring a second, or to have a mutually trusted person present, to intervene if necessary and to make a video. Also make it clear that if a deal is made, correspondence about the deal will be made public if he doesn’t show up.

      Of course, if he doesn’t want to anymore, then he will probably just not respond to your mail.

      • Education Hero says:

        Thank you for your continued input and thoughtful advice.

        As stated, I’d hope for the sparring session to take place at an SSC meetup, to maximize its educational value, so that should address the need for filming and intervention.

        • Aapje says:

          This may be unpleasant to a substantial number of people who would visit an SSC meetup, who would probably feel upset for being made party to such a thing. It thus seems a very bad idea.

          Make a video and let people decide for themselves whether to watch, don’t force it on people.

          • Education Hero says:

            My mistake for not clarifying, but I assumed that we would meet at the meetup and then go to an appropriate nearby location such as a park, with an open invitation to attendees interesting in watching.

            The idea here is that a live attendance, with the opportunity for QAs with demonstrations, would provide greater educational value than a video.

    • sunnydestroy says:

      Oh wow you meant actual sparring. I hadn’t been following the thread so I thought you were talking about setting up a debate. I think that’d be really entertaining to see at a rationality meetup lol.

      I watched the spar video and it definitely looks like an easygoing spar session. I’m not super experienced but I do have a little basic training. I don’t know if it’s some special style, but the thing that bothers me is Vinay stomping a lot in his footwork and putting weight back on the heel a lot so he doesn’t look light on his feet. The hands down basically the whole time is also bothering me a lot, but I don’t know if that’s just my bias from my limited kickboxing-style striking knowledge. The strikes look thrown just from the arm where I’d be more used to putting full body rotation into it, but that could be a style thing too. I will say that he does look pretty loose and relaxed.

      • Aapje says:

        Hands down can give an advantage by making it hard to see the attack coming. A few MMA fighters use that style. I do think you need to be fast to make it work, though.

        • Education Hero says:

          Hands down requires better distance management (which speed certainly helps achieve) than the opponent.

          Keeping your hands low also makes it easier to defend takedowns.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Also depends on the intended outcome, for points scoring many quick, but light, strikes can dominate over blows that would be objectively better in a fight.

          • sunnydestroy says:

            I guess I’m thinking the session was likely agreed to be strikes only as they never attempt any clinches, takedowns, or grappling so there’s never a need to drop hands super low or sprawl. I know wrestlers have a low stance and low hands because it’s all ground work, but if you’re doing striking too then you’d have your hands higher like in MMA matches. Rewatching the video, his hands are raised to mostly chest or waist level, or all the way down when he thinks he’s far enough. I can see that being a mid point kind of guard if they had to worry about both takedowns and striking, but they are only doing striking in the video. Also, even with his hands that low, I never really see him defend against any of the body shots or shin kicks to the body–maybe one awkward backward twisted hand catch attempt for a leg.

            That hands down all the way still would make me nervous for an opponent rushing me suddenly or me misjudging distance and not being able to guard in time.

            I didn’t consider that low hands at a pro level could make it harder to defend. It makes sense when you’re that skilled and you have conditioned reactions to common lines of attack. Making your lines more unorthodox could cause hesitation. You’d still need solid basics though. Definitely need some uncommon speed and technique to pull it off. I personally wouldn’t be comfortable trying anything that fancy at my level.

            There’s no grappling in the video so it’s hard to judge, but the way he extends his arms out so much and his planted feet on his push kicks/in general makes him look vulnerable to a takedown in many places. I just really don’t know how the style he’s using would apply in a ground situation.

          • Education Hero says:

            I guess I’m thinking the session was likely agreed to be strikes only as they never attempt any clinches, takedowns, or grappling so there’s never a need to drop hands super low or sprawl.

            I agree. My point about defending takedowns was intended to refer to the general utility of keeping one’s hands low, rather than the reason that Mr. Gupta does so.

            There’s no grappling in the video so it’s hard to judge, but the way he extends his arms out so much and his planted feet on his push kicks/in general makes him look vulnerable to a takedown in many places.

            His biggest vulnerability to takedowns comes from the frequent and haphazard stance shifts. Proper shifting is actually a difficult art, because the moment your back foot leaves the floor, your weight is committed through the full step. This leaves a small opening during which you are off-balance, making you vulnerable to both knockdowns from strikes and takedowns.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The classic case of hands-low is Anderson Silva. It made his countershots come out of nowhere a little more, but mostly it was to help takedown defence; he wasn’t good at all at getting off the ground, sweeping, etc once he was put there. His distance control and head movement meant he could keep his hands low, as long as the other guy was willing to lead. When the other guy wasn’t willing to lead, either it led to a boring fight, or it led to him getting knocked out that one time.

            How many SSC’ers do BJJ? Coming out of the woodwork, it looks like.

          • Education Hero says:

            His distance control and head movement meant he could keep his hands low, as long as the other guy was willing to lead. When the other guy wasn’t willing to lead, either it led to a boring fight, or it led to him getting knocked out that one time.

            Close, but I’d like to add some clarifications:

            Silva has a tendency to lean straight back at the waist away from punches. While this opens up opportunities to counter opponents lunging forward (c.f. Silva vs. Griffon), it also renders you vulnerable if you actually do get hit. Keeping one’s hands down facilitates leaning back, synergizing well with keeping them down for takedown defense.

            Weidman exploited this tendency by doubling up on the right hand. Silva incorrectly pulled back from the second right (a slappy feint), which left him open to the left hook that knocked him out. He was leaning so far back that he had no means to evade the hook, nor was he able to roll with the punch to mitigate its impact.

            How many SSC’ers do BJJ? Coming out of the woodwork, it looks like.

            BJJ is an indispensable part of my MMA training, although my approach stems from a folkstyle base.

          • Nornagest says:

            How many SSC’ers do BJJ? Coming out of the woodwork, it looks like.

            I don’t study BJJ, but I have rank in Danzan Ryu jujitsu, among other arts.

      • Nornagest says:

        Yeah, the biggest problem I saw in that video is that Gupta doesn’t move his body with his strikes. No hip movement, not even much shoulder movement. You can be very fast that way (because you’re not moving very much weight), but you can’t do any real damage (because you’re not moving very much weight). Can work for eye rakes or something like that but not for much else. And that’s not just a style thing; different styles prefer different types of body movement (lots of twisting and coiling motions in kung fu; kenpo uses a lot of linear motion from the hips; Korean arts usually use deep stances and move from the legs), but all striking arts do it in some way.

        It’s obviously a light-contact sparring session, though, so it’s impossible to tell how much of this would carry over to something more serious. Doing it even in light sparring is at minimum a bad habit by my lights, though.

        He does look like he has a good sense of timing, for what it’s worth.

        • Education Hero says:

          He does look like he has a good sense of timing, for what it’s worth.

          Agreed. There’s definitely hints of a point-fighting striking background in there, just not enough to substantiate all of his claims.

      • Education Hero says:

        I think that’d be really entertainingeducational to see at a rationality meetup

        Fixed that for you.

        the thing that bothers me is Vinay stomping a lot in his footwork and putting weight back on the heel a lot so he doesn’t look light on his feet . . . I will say that he does look pretty loose and relaxed.

        As far as I can tell, this is because his upper-body movements do not coordinate well with his lower body, so he ends up having to take heavy steps to maintain his balance.

    • Randy M says:

      I’m thinking Scott does not want the reputation as “the psychologist who uses his blog to arrange fist fights.”

      • Aapje says:

        My expectation is that there will be very little punching and a lot of wrestling, given historic precedent.

        • Randy M says:

          I’ll take the correction under advisement, but I think “fist fight” is a generic term for an impromptu fight between two individuals. There’s a recent movie that illustrates the point but obscures googling for the terms use more generally.

          However, he did ask for adversarial collaborations, and I suppose this qualifies under a loose interpretation.

          • Education Hero says:

            Indeed, I was hoping that this would be an adversarial collaboration to pursue greater cultural understanding of enlightenment as well as martial arts.

            Either we would discover that enlightenment does offer covert martial benefits (leading us to take Mr. Gupta’s other claims more seriously), or we would debunk his martial claims as mere bullshido (calling into question other claims that Mr. Gupta has been unwilling or unable to substantiate).

          • Randy M says:

            covert

            Ouch.

        • Education Hero says:

          Since the significant handicaps I proposed for myself included refraining from striking, absolutely.

          My Plan A would entail shooting for a very low-amplitude double (perhaps during one of his haphazard stance shifts) into side mount, gift wrap to take the back (untrained grapplers hand-fight poorly), and then apply a very gentle rear naked choke until he submits or loses consciousness.

          This would preclude any serious risk of harm, except perhaps to me in the improbable event that Mr. Gupta’s martial claims prove true.

          • Aapje says:

            What I expected. This is also why I suggested a second, because one can misjudge (un)consciousness.

          • Education Hero says:

            With significant experience and a willingness to err on the side of caution, this is a fairly trivial consideration.

            For context, MMA or BJJ practice occasionally (only occasionally because people submit) includes people getting choked out, and intervention by an instructor or other student is virtually never necessary and only happens with beginners or complete jerks. It’s a little bit different in competition because people don’t want to run the risk of giving up advantageous positions until they’ve been declared the winner, but I’m confident that would not be a concern here. Even in self-defense situations, releasing the hold immediately when they stop struggling provides a very comfortable margin of safety unless significant pre-existing health conditions are in play.

            But yes, having a neutral referee and/or seconds wouldn’t hurt.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Well you should consider the way your potential opponent has handled themselves, and the fact that you should assume your superiority.

          • Education Hero says:

            Indeed, hence my significant concessions to ensure his safety.

            And if my pattern-matching has failed and I have misjudged my potential opponent entirely, I would like to think that I would immediately concede my error when that becomes apparent.

            That would be why I proposed friendly sparring, rather than an actual fight. I would not voluntarily agree to the latter except as part of an organized combat sport.

    • Deiseach says:

      I don’t think this would be a useful exercise as I think any further attempts to contact him to arrange anything like this would only be seen by him as yet more racism, chimpanzee behaviour, white privilege, mockery of his tradition/heritage/ethnicity and the like.

      He backed himself into a corner with the whole Gurkha Warrior Guru bit and had to keep going with the “I’ll kick your ass, I’ll kick my own ass” rhetoric since it was plainly unthinkable for him to step back from his claims as he seems to genuinely believe he was being attacked by racism/racists and so he had to RARRRR! to scare us off, so I think the least embarrassing thing all round is to let this quietly die until and unless he participates again on here and only if he starts up with the “white racist chimpanzees inferior shit culture” stuff.

      • Education Hero says:

        As a Real Asian (TM), I should have immunity to accusations of white privilege.

        But point taken.

        • Deiseach says:

          Ah, but were you the right kind of Real Asian? 🙂

          He seemed to have a pretty low opinion of everything that was outside of his own particular tradition, and how much of that was him “I’ve fallen into this trap but I’m damned if I back down now” and how much was him genuinely going “Buddhism is shit and Buddhists are idiots, and I don’t just mean the Western wannabes” I have no idea.

          (Though I did notice that when he got his ego stroked by a more emollient approach from more diplomatic responses asking his opinion about certain groups, he was suddenly all “oh yeah, great guys, I was with them/know them” about even Filthy White Fake Traditions).

          • Education Hero says:

            Yeah, there’s definitely enough Poe’s Law going on here that it’s difficult to tell what is serious and what is merely obfuscation.

            But that’s what some martial adversarial collaboration would help to illuminate!

      • Anonymous says:

        “I’ll kick your ass, I’ll kick my own ass”

        >61. Disgruntled rebel fighters attempt to crash airship into king.
        >62. Ambitious rebel fighters attempt to crash moon into king.
        >63. Philosophical rebel fighters attempt to crash king into himself.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      Reading Gupta was bad. Biggest internet BAD ASS of all time.

      It was the Navy Seal copypasta enlightened guru version.

  14. Fossegrimen says:

    Tiny little quibble with the enlightenment thread:
    Scott says:

    Other channels, like pain, are low bandwidth. This is why the placebo effect works.

    I’d just like to point out that pain is not low bandwidth. Pain has a massive dedicated fibre-channel link directly to your cortex and can blot out all other senses including vision without breaking a sweat. It’s just that if you’re lucky it never uses much of that bandwidth

  15. johan_larson says:

    The Panalysts, a new comedy video series from LoadingReadyRun, asks an interesting question. If you could give every child in the world a present, but every one of them got the same thing, what would you give them?

    I suspect the boringly correct answer is cash, $WHATEVER_THE_BUDGET_ALLOWS in US currency.

    For maximum comedy value, go with Jamie Hyneman’s answer and pick C4. Give the kid a blasting cap, a simple fuse with a 5-minute countdown, and as much C4 is the budget allows.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      So, this is everyone in the world, correct? In that case, not everyone will know how to use income.

      Clearly, the present should comply with modern environmental standards of renewable resources.

      This isn’t just for rich kids in America, so the present should also have a useful function. Preferable related to some of the most useful functions, such as staying warm and cooking food.

      Obviously, give every person in the world a lump of coal for christmas.

  16. johan_larson says:

    Quiz time.

    What is the minimum number of countries you pass through if you travel by land from Libya to South Africa? (Assume you can traverse every land border, and include Libya and South Africa in your count.)

    • fion says:

      Ooh, that’s a hard one.

      Urer’f na nggrzcg ng qbvat vg va frira fgrcf.

      Yvoln, Punq, Prageny Nsevpna Erchoyvp, QE Pbatb, Mnzovn, Obgfjnan, Fbhgu Nsevpn

      V guvax V’ir orra bcgvzvfgvp urer, fb zl npghny thrff vf rvtug, nffhzvat nccebkvzngryl bar bs gur obeqref V’ir fhttrfgrq vf abg n erny bar.

      EDIT: Bx, V’z npghnyyl ernyyl cebhq bs guvf bar. Gheaf bhg Mnzovn naq Obgfjnan funer n obeqre bs nobhg bar uhaqerq zrgref. Fb zl frira jnf pbeerpg. Ubjrire, gurer vf n zber frafvoyr frira gung qbrfa’g erdhver mbbzvat dhvgr fb sne va ba gur znc gb irevsl…

      • christhenottopher says:

        Actually hold up. Johan Larson specified land borders. The second to last step the two counties do not touch on land but are divided by the Mnzormv Evire. Of course going by that would also cut off a Mnzovn -> Mvzonojr route, but would not cut off any other part of your route (which could instead go through Mnzovn -> Zbmnzovdhr).

        EDIT: We could allow the Mnzovn -> Mvzonojr option by specifying that you must be able to travel by car across borders without using a boat or flight capably vehicle. But there’s no bridge between Mnzovn -> Obgfjnan, just a ferry crossing.

        • fion says:

          Haha, fair enough. I don’t care, though. I’ve decided to allow rivers as “land borders”. So there. 😛

    • christhenottopher says:

      Answer two: walk from the Libyan embassy onto the streets of Pretoria.

      Oh wait we’re not counting embassies? Dang. OK then.

      Frira.

      Yvoln -> Punq
      Punq -> Prageny Nsevpn Erchoyvp
      Prageny Nsevpna Erchoyvp -> Qrzbpengvp Erchoyvp bs gur Pbatb
      Qrzbpengvp Erchoyvp bs gur Pbatb -> Natbyn
      Natbyn -> Anzvovn
      Anzvovn -> Fbhgu Nsevpn

      • johan_larson says:

        A valid path with fewer steps exists.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Can you post it in rot13? I’ve been able to equal christhenottopher’s seven steps in a number of ways, but I haven’t been able to beat it.

          • johan_larson says:

            Yvoln gb Fhqna gb Xraln gb Gnamnavn gb Zbmnzovdhr gb Fbhgu Nsevpn

          • Evan Þ says:

            @johan_larson, you forgot gung Fbhgu Fhqna vf abj vaqrcraqrag, zrnavat Fhqna ab ybatre obeqref Xraln. Once you adjust for that, your path works out to the same seven steps.

          • johan_larson says:

            Darn it. I even checked a map.

            I am tempted to say something very unkind about the inhabitants of south and central Africa.

  17. fion says:

    Has anyone seen this article on the Toronto attack?

    I hadn’t heard the term before reading the article. Do other people know about this? Does the article give a reasonable summary? Is this community a big one or is it just a tiny group? Is there a benign side to it or is it all pretty grim?

    • johan_larson says:

      Best I can tell what’s going on is,

      a) the involuntarily celibate are roughly the same group who never marry,
      b) not marrying is more of an option now than it used to be,
      c) the portion of the population that never married is up significantly, from single to double digits,
      d) the internet makes it possible for scattered groups to unite as never before, and
      e) some who go unmatched are REALLY angry about it.

      I’m guessing most of the angry men in this group are not very desirable mates who in earlier times have been pushed hard by their parents to marry someone, anyone, and would have found a woman who was under similar pressure from her parents, or who would simply have been married without her consent.

      • Well... says:

        Your (c) might be more useful if broken out by sex, since I assume in the past it was more common for women to marry, but men still might have had high rates of lifetime unmarriedness due to polygyny having once been much more prevalent.

        Though you could probably make a good case that it’s not relevant to look at the past several thousand years, say, and instead only talk about the past hundred or so (i.e. since the 2nd industrial revolution) or even the past half-century, in which today’s typical lifestyle (go to college, get a job, get married, both spouses work, low birthrate, etc.) evolved. In that case I would definitely believe that unmarriedness is way up across the board.

      • ilikekittycat says:

        I would dispute A)

        People who are traditionally in the “never married” group are a various mix of weirdos but include a great number of people who would be fine settling down with the mousy, nerdy 5 out of 10 if their friends or family matched them up and coerced them into going on a blind date. They have probably been too withdrawn/passive/socially anxious in life, but could imagine what might have been if they’d only thought of something charming to say at the right moment

        Incels see any surrender to life without 10 out of 10 Stacies as “cope” and beneath contempt, and any recommendations from their parents about changing their attitudes as irrelevant and outdated in a modern hypergamous world. They believe they have been doomed from birth by 2mm deviations of bone structure, and all the charisma or charm in the world couldn’t offset genetics

        • Clocknight says:

          Incels see any surrender to life without 10 out of 10 Stacies as “cope” and beneath contempt

          That’s not true at all. A lot of them want the “Chad” life, but many are willing, and would be quite happy, to just have a plain 5/10 girl.

          They believe they have been doomed from birth by 2mm deviations of bone structure, and all the charisma or charm in the world couldn’t offset genetics

          2mm deviations of bone is a little excessive to complain about, but deviations in your bone structure (even ones that aren’t that big) will affect your appearance (things like chin prominence, jaw width, cheekbones etc.), and to say that looks aren’t important in attraction is quite frankly, a lie.

          I also have my doubts about personal charisma. Sure, it can help the average awkward guy, but the true ugly/unsociable ones? Barring cult leader levels, I doubt it makes much of a difference.

          • Zephalinda says:

            That’s not true at all. A lot of them want the “Chad” life, but many are willing, and would be quite happy, to just have a plain 5/10 girl.

            But if the memes are to be believed, many of these folks are actually of somewhat below-average attractiveness (which covers ~half the population, after all). Would a 2/10 incel not just hold out for a 5, but be happy to pursue a relationship with the many very nice women who are 2s?

          • ilikekittycat says:

            I don’t know what to say except that our experiences of incels seem to be very different. I have read much of their material that implies even moderate 5/10 girls are totally ruined nowadays, because Tinder etc. means they still get enough Chad hookups on his offdays to make them “roasties”

            i.e., https://i.imgur.com/oNF4Usv.jpg

          • Clocknight says:

            @ilikekittycat

            Well my experiences are with what I would call ‘moderate’ incels. I never spent much time in more radicalized sites (such as the late r/incels or incels.me).

            My point is that incels standards aren’t as you put it in your comment. And they complaining about the state of the ‘dating scene’ (which favours women a lot) doesn’t mean that they don’t want relations with women.

            The way I see it, it’s that they are a bunch of guys that can’t find relationships with women regardless of looks level, and denounce the fact that women not only have it way better in that regard, they often find and demand partners with way better characteristics (relative to themselves).

            Also, just because they think most women these days are completely unworthy of pursuing, doesn’t mean that they don’t want a relationship with one. It’s just that they think in the current environment that’s impossible.

            @Zephalinda

            Most of them are below-average, but very rarely will you find a 1/10 or 2/10. And it’s not only about attractiveness. There’s social skills, mental health, race (which in a sense is attractiveness as well).

            Anyway, a lot of them are actually fine with dating people close to their ‘looks level’. But they get rejected the same way. And I believe that’s their main complaint. The fact that women have standards considerably higher relative to men, have a way easier time finding partners compared to men, and society’s way of treating them is the main thing they get angry about.

          • but the true ugly/unsociable ones? Barring cult leader levels, I doubt it makes much of a difference.

            He may count as “cult leader level,” but you might want to consider the case of John Wilkes. Said to be the ugliest man in England, claimed to be able to defeat the most handsome man in England in the contest for a lady’s favours, given a day’s head start (different lengths of time in different versions of the anecdote).

            Had as his mistress for a while a woman who exploited Casanova and never slept with him.

            The man John Wilkes Booth was named after.

          • Deiseach says:

            denounce the fact that women not only have it way better in that regard, they often find and demand partners with way better characteristics (relative to themselves)

            But is it women’s fault that men’s standards are “if she’s dog-ugly then stick a bag over her head and I’ll still stick my dick in her” and that women’s aren’t? If your complaint is “I like eating gravel, everybody else should like it too so restaurants will carry gravel dishes on the menu”, is that a fair request?

            And they don’t seem too happy about those women who do share men’s standards and will sleep with someone just for sex and not because of any romantic attachment, so I don’t know how to square this circle. Would incels and the red pill crowd be happy if women en masse adopted male standards of “I don’t care about looks or anything else, all I want is a warm body willing to open its legs” or not? Would they really like a “find ’em, fuck ’em and flee” attitude on the part of women, if they wanted not just sex but intimacy?

            I am confused because there seems to be a certain amount of contradictory wants expressed – they want women who will be willing to have sex with all comers so they have a chance with them and they say women who are willing to have sex with all comers are sluts and cheats who try to trick beta providers into keeping them once they can’t get the alphas anymore.

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            It’s hard to discuss this topic with you, because you are very uncharitable, IMO.

            Your extreme examples/weak men are indeed not reasonable, but is it that unreasonable to want a partner with somewhat the same qualities? The popular lie that men and women are essentially the same, aside from socialization makes this seem very reasonable, because it suggests that at the core, men and women should align very well.

            Imagine two people: John and Simon. John was brought up in a very rich family, which resulted in high expectations, while Simon was born into the middle class and has lower expectations. Both have similar mediocre talent and get the same education.

            Now imagine that John keeps trying to get one of the few jobs that pay very well for even mediocre talent, but that such jobs are (of course) in high demand. So John fails to get such a job and he complains to people about his misfortune (‘where have all the good jobs gone?!’), rather than set his sights lower.

            Should we tell John that his demand for such a job is reasonable or should we tell him that his high demands just cannot be met for everyone of his level of talent?

            Meanwhile, Simon is perfectly willing to accept a job that pays much less…except that because of the unwillingness by people like John to take these jobs, employers have decided collectively to move their companies abroad, where there are enough employers. So the actions of John and his ilk make Simon jobless.

            Does Simon have a legitimate complaint about how the behavior of people like John have made his life worse, from a consequentialist point of view? If society as a whole refuses to tell John the truth, but instead tells John that he truly deserves an elite job, is it reasonable for Simon to feel resentment against society?

            I am confused because there seems to be a certain amount of contradictory wants expressed

            If you conflate different groups with different worldviews, then their wants usually seem contradictory.

            Many of the incels just want a partner and/or want some women to have sex with them.

            The claim by Red Pill people is often that women can get higher quality men to have sex with, which results in them increasing their standards for sex, which in turn makes them unhappy if they are in a long term relationship with men of the similar quality, which makes them cheat. Hence a desire for women with little sexual experience, who don’t feel (so) tempted to cheat.

            Basically, the claim is that female promiscuity results in the picture that ilikekittycat posted, where most women want top tier men.

          • powerfuller says:

            female promiscuity results in the picture that ilikekittycat posted, where most women want top tier men

            Maybe tangential to the case of incels, but, in fairness, the same is often true of men, too: the more partners they have, the harder for any one of them to be satisfying.

    • James says:

      It’s pretty grim and yet the article makes it seem still worse.

      A side point, not relating to incels per se: the article sorta makes the kind of mistake it criticises, in that it mixes up ‘Red Pill’ and MRAs. My impression is that there is a lot more variety inside the manosphere than people outside of it realise (outgroup homogeneity bias?), and that these two groups do not get on well with each other. One way I’ve seen it put which makes sense to me is that MRA types want to fix the system and Redpill types want to game the system. What the article describes as the typical response to seeing through feminism—’to hit the gym, get jacked, take up the paleo diet, become a “pick-up artist”, and take advantage of women as much as possible’—is much more redpillish than MRAish, I think.

      (This nonsensical clause also rubbed me up the wrong way: ‘But while misogyny is inherently violent….’)

      As for incels: ‘it makes violence seem like the only solution’: on the contrary, my impression from glancing around their subreddit a few times was that the overwhelming mood was of despair at there being no solution, none whatsoever. It’s a miserable pit of despair, self-pity, resentment and bitterness, which I’m definitely not naturally sympathetic to. An attitude of aspiration and self-improvement is much more my speed. (I probably had about as little luck with women as a typical one of them in my early-to-mid-twenties, and I certainly felt some despair around that time, but things got better for me when I realised I could work on making them better and did so.)

      But I’m reluctant to prescribe this pick-yourself-up-bucko attitude to men whose situation may well be enough worse than mine that there really isn’t anything that they can do, reluctant to condemn hopeless men for noticing how hopeless their situation is. (God knows there are some men out there who have it this bad.)

      They’re hateful and bitter but my hunch is generally not violent per se. (Then again, it only takes one.)

      And this line doesn’t ring true to me, exactly: ‘They are also obsessed with the idea that women should have sex with them – that they’re entitled to it.’

      • johan_larson says:

        The part I’ve never understood about the incel community is the idea that a life without regular nookie is worthless.

        • James says:

          It may be a little easier to understand if you think of it as not just the nookie but also all the things that are attached to it: affection, human warmth, sympathy. Living without any of those is certainly bleak, especially if there’s no end in sight.

          One of their most heartbreaking bits of jargon is ‘khhv’, for ‘kissless, handholdless virgin’. ‘Handholdless’ is just so sad there, I think.

          (Re: end in sight: I’m not sure I actually get much more sex than I used to when I felt most depressed about it; I just feel it less acutely because I’m more optimistic about my future prospects.)

          • albatross11 says:

            People have talked a lot about the “bowling alone” phenomenon, in which we’ve all become way, way more atomized. I wonder how much this plays into the incel thing, both making it more common (because fewer social ties means fewer chances to meet women you might conceivably get together with) and making it more painful (because you don’t get the consolation of strong male/male friendships and fellowship and community that gives you a place in the world despite not having a wife or girlfriend.

          • Nick says:

            One response to the “bowling alone” argument I’ve heard is that as soon as we did become more atomized, we invented new ways to be connected: sure, everyone shifted to video games, but then they started creating MMOs, team games, etc. But there’s something to be said for relationships in meatspace; there’s only so much affection, human warmth, and sympathy one can receive through a screen.

            ETA: Come to think of it, I know exactly where I read this response: gwern’s essay The Melancholy of Subculture Society. He opens with a discussion of the Bowling Alone thesis.

        • toastengineer says:

          They’re using “sex” as a proxy for emotional intimacy. A life without anything other than the most superficial relationships with other people is indeed worthless.

          Source: was one for a while way back when, back when they were a lot more sympathetic and a lot were women

          • toastengineer says:

            Come to think of it, it’s actually a lot like the whole metis vs. legibility thing; their complaints sound horrible and insane from the outside because they’re not really sure what’s wrong themselves; they don’t have the language to describe it.

            I think the best way to put it is that they’re using “sex” to refer to wantedness. It feels unreasonable demanding that someone love you or give you affection, and they don’t hang around the kind of people who will tell you about the importance of community – but however common it actually is the meme that people have meaningless one-night-stands all the time is plenty common, so that’s what they demand. Except of course they end up in these online communities, which leads to lost-purpose syndrome, which leads to all this bizzare shit.

        • Jaskologist says:

          They didn’t come up with that; it’s pushed by our culture. Try saying that gays should simply be celibate or that polys should stick to just one partner to get a taste for how strongly we push it.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          The part I’ve never understood about the incel community is the idea that a life without regular nookie is worthless.

          Because life without regular nookie sucks, particularly as a young guy. Worthless? That’s going a LITTLE far, but it definitely sucks.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think it’s not just sex, it’s the whole girlfriend package, and sex is simply the most obvious thing: “Chad who is a horrible guy is drowning in pussy even though he treats women badly, I’m a normal guy and can’t even get one date much less anything more”.

        • Zephalinda says:

          I think it also has a lot to do with the way the culture maps sexual experience onto status/identity/maturity: if you assume that inability to get your preferred flavor of sex also means you’re low-status, empty, and undeveloped as a person, that makes it something more serious than simply forgoing a pleasure.

          I’m sure ubiquitous porn and the pervasive sexualization of consumer/media culture don’t help either.

          • Matt M says:

            Back when I was in this boat, media that actively presented sexual and romantic situations used to make me feel so jealous I’d literally get angry. I tried to actively solicit recommendations for media that did not include any romantic or sexual sub-plots.

            There… uh… isn’t much. I watched a lot of Top Gear, I guess…

          • Deiseach says:

            I tried to actively solicit recommendations for media that did not include any romantic or sexual sub-plots.

            There… uh… isn’t much.

            As an aromantic asexual, tell me about it.

            It’s bad enough for someone like me who isn’t interested in the whole damn “but you have to be part of a couple!” thing to get the constant messaging of “Love is what makes us human” and the rest of it; I can’t imagine how frustrated, angry and virulently envious I’d be if I bought into those messages and was unable to get the thing society tells me I should be getting, everyone else is getting, it’s easy, let’s laugh at the losers who can’t get it, you deserve this thing…

          • Matt M says:

            I also did enjoy Married With Children, one of the few successful mainstream American media productions to portray “love and marriage” as life-destroying misery. Al Bundy (and Marcy’s husbands) always did a good job of making me feel better about my own situation!

          • Zephalinda says:

            What’s weird is that so much of pre-18th-century Western narrative is either silent on the experience of successfully intimate heterosexual relationships, or regards them as inconsequential, or is clear that they’re actually kind of a bad thing. There are lots and lots of characters whose sex life isn’t much considered because they’re getting on with more important things; a fair number of marriages important for social/economic but clearly not emotional or sexual reasons; the odd courtly-love plot or posturing sonnet sequence where unattainability of the beloved is kind of the point; and then lots of miserable marriages and tragically doomed infatuations, where that drive is acknowledged but definitely not regarded as something a sensible person should pamper or obsess over.

            Really, the hothouse expectation of sexual/romantic fulfillment as a central part of what makes you human is something we moderns inflict on ourselves; I’ve always found it bizarre that so many of our stories seem to revolve obsessively around that one tiny facet of experience. Scott has made fun of earlier eras for believing that novel-reading could drive you insane, but it kind of makes sense to me.

          • albatross11 says:

            Off the top of my head, it seems like a lot of Jane Austen novels feature marriages that didn’t turn out so well, but in _Persuasion_, the admiral and his wife seem to have an extremely good marriage that’s lasted many years.

          • johan_larson says:

            I wonder if we would be better off if we as a society put more of an emphasis on getting married, even if it isn’t for love. Megan McArdle had an article about Utah, and how they manage to solve some hard issues of social support, and one of the things the social workers there were keen on was promoting marriage.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            There’s also the idea that the final arbiters of one’s worth as a man are women: a piece of the sexual ancien regime that has managed to survive into the new age of equality wholly intact, perhaps even reinforced. I’m not quite complaining about this state of affairs, which seems natural and proper to me– just pointing out what an odd relation it has to the official line.

          • Aapje says:

            In what way is it natural?

            We have seen that women rebelled against various restrictions that were placed on them to benefit men, so why would we then expect men to keep accepting this?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            It would be hard to come up with a better proof of its naturalness than the fact that men continue not just to accept it but to believe it, in the face of so many logical and pragmatic reasons not to.

          • Aapje says:

            Women used to accept and believe in their role as well, for the most part. It took a lot of effort by suffragettes/feminists to get a lot of support among women.

            Furthermore, they had way, way, way, way better circumstances to do so, because the main female losers of the patriarchy were capable, upper class women; while the main male losers of patriarchy are incapable, lower class men. Furthermore, society has sympathy with women in dire straits who ask for help and is disgusted by men who ask for help.

            Emancipating losers that disgust people is very hard.

            I would personally prefer that we give these people a reasonable path to fight for their needs, rather to have them give up and commit suicide, go dark triad or go on a killing spree.

        • Atlas says:

          The part I’ve never understood about the incel community is the idea that a life without regular nookie is worthless.

          Well, I’m not sure if incels as a community would tend to put it this way, but I think in addition to what others have said it’s worth clarifying that it isn’t just being deprived of sensory pleasures of the physical act of love that is the issue for them. It’s that being able to successfully court and sleep with women is a, if not indeed the, prime marker of male social status. Being the “omega male
          ” (Houellebecq was writing about this in the Elementary Particles long before the manosphere, incidentally), the lowest valued member of a group, is no doubt a painful and humiliating experience.

        • maintain says:

          People are responding to your comment focusing on things like status and emotional intimacy, but another factor could be that they really want to have children, and they are upset because they know they will die childless.

          • A1987dM says:

            Well, IME the “nerds can’t get laid” thing mostly apply to people in their teens/early 20s when they wouldn’t want children anyway, and older ones are as romantically successful as everybody else: nearly all postdoc and older physicists I know are in stable relationships, and the reason why they have fewer children than average has more to do with the difficulty of finding permanent employment, the lack of religious objections to contraception, and the like.

            (Then again somebody in their early 20s who’s never had a girlfriend so far (and either hasn’t noticed the trend in my previous paragraph or is failing to use the outside view) might assume they’ll probably not have a girlfriend ever even when they do want children, and get unhappy about that, e.g. myself in the early 2010s.)

        • Clocknight says:

          From my experience, it’s not the ‘regular nookie’, it’s any nookie. From browsing some of their forums from time to time, a lot of people there almost never have contact (romantic/sexual) with women at all.

          They generally bring the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, to demonstrate that this situation that they encounter themselves in is really underappreciated. (MHN puts sex on the same level as food, shelter, water etc.). I don’t actually know if the hierarchy is correct, but I understand the sentiment.

          Sex is not everything in life, true. But it’s not much of a life without it.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Sex is not everything in life, true. But it’s not much of a life without it.

            And there is where I need to disagree, on behalf of myself and on behalf of the myriads of purpose-driven celibates throughout history.

            Yes, human affection deserves to go on the same level as food, shelter, and water. Yes, our culture has made it difficult to get enough of that outside a romantic relationship. Yes, it is regrettably hard for many people – men especially – to find a romantic relationship and thus find affectionate companionship. This is a very bad thing.

            But sex is not a human need. Someone can have a very fulfilling life without it.

      • xXxanonxXx says:

        Like you, I’ve only glanced at the subreddit a few times, but honestly it can’t be as bad as they think it is. I’ve never personally met someone who I could say was a hopeless case. Sure, some unfortunate looking guys who weren’t the brightest, or bravest, or funniest, or… okay again it can get pretty bad.

        But not being able to land a date ever with anyone? I have trouble believing it. Far more likely they never found a good teacher. Worse still they fell in with this crowd that will reinforce every fear they have. Worse even still it’s socially acceptable to mock that crowd an tell them they really are as hopeless as they believe. Confirmation of their worldview will be everywhere they look.

        • ilikekittycat says:

          If you Google up all the memes they’ve produced that go with the caption “The difference between Chad and non-Chad (Incel) is literally a few millimetres of bone” with pictures of how they look now vs. their photoshops of what they wish they looked like to get women, it’s shocking how many of the “before” pics of these guys are totally regular, dateable guys.

          Like, you’d kind of get incels as a thing if it really was all 400 pound unshaven unibrow ogres, but it’s like, skinny guys who think their Asian eyes have made them invisible to any blonde white woman on the planet

          • Deiseach says:

            skinny guys who think their Asian eyes have made them invisible to any blonde white woman on the planet

            I think that’s also part of the problem; from the little I’ve seen, the self-proclaimed incels seem to have a particular type of woman they want and they won’t settle for/aren’t interested in any other woman who might be more attainable. Some do have the blonde cheerleader popular high-status type in mind and if they can’t get a girl like that, this proves all women are evil heartless bitches or something. Meanwhile, the “regular, dateable” girls are not on the radar because they don’t match up to the standards of “I want a 10” that (some of) these guys have.

            I was struck by an excerpt quoted from Elliot Rodger I saw somewhere about how he literally ran home and cried in his room because a (black, I think?) guy boasted about how early an age he lost his virginity. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Rodger that maybe the guy was lying or trying to wind him up, no, he went on a rant about how this ugly horrible guy could get a girlfriend at age (fourteen or whatever) and meanwhile he, who was rich, talented, handsome and of aristocratic lineage, was still ignored and despised by women.

            It was both very sad and very evidently immaturity at work there. Being in such a mindset that you automatically think the worst and believe tall tales to be the truth – that’s something very hard to live with, but also something that you do need to grow out of as you become an adult.

          • xXxanonxXx says:

            It’s not like it’s impossible for an asian guy to get a blonde. I attended one of those weddings not too long ago actually. Going off the stats you have to limit yourself to a smaller pool of potential mates, and that means you’ll have to work harder. Maybe so much harder you decide it’s not worth it. That’s me in a nutshell, I have my fetishes (or had, being married I’m no longer allowed such things), but it seems ridiculous to stick so strictly to them you’re willing to strangle your romantic options. Epicanthal folds are incredibly sexy to me, but not worth trading off on ease of conversation for.

            Still whatever you decide is worth it the point is you have options. You have agency. This despair business is unwarranted.

          • Education Hero says:

            Being in such a mindset that you automatically think the worst and believe tall tales to be the truth – that’s something very hard to live with, but also something that you do need to grow out of as you become an adult.

            Traditionally, father figures taught boys how to navigate the sexual marketplace. The fatherlessness epidemic has taken that away, leading to a wide variety of toxic male dating behaviors.

            Elliot Rodger’s parents were divorced and his father was frequently absent even when Elliot spent time at his father’s house.

            An obvious parallel in nature can be found in elephants.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’m inclined to guess that incels have abusive fathers rather than absent fathers, but I’m hoping some actual information shows up.

          • albatross11 says:

            A lot of these descriptions of incels sounds like people with serious problems with depression. I’m skeptical about how much that comes down to parenting outside of horrible abusive stuff, but I don’t know enough to be entitled to much of an opinion.

          • The Nybbler says:

            A lot of these descriptions of incels sounds like people with serious problems with depression.

            Are they incels because they’re depressed or depressed because they’re incels?

          • Matt M says:

            Elliot Rodger’s parents were divorced and his father was frequently absent even when Elliot spent time at his father’s house.

            And, shockingly (sarcasm), the six different therapists he had on a constant basis since his teenage years don’t seem to have been a sufficient substitute!

          • Education Hero says:

            I’m inclined to guess that incels have abusive fathers rather than absent fathers, but I’m hoping some actual information shows up.

            To my knowledge, there hasn’t yet been any particular academic interest in involuntary celibacy, as opposed to, say, the very strong effect of fatherlessness on crime.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’m not sure that involuntary celibacy is the same thing as being part of the incel subculture, but they’d both be worth studying.

          • Aapje says:

            One is just a subset of the other, of course.

            Probably a small subset, although that depends on how you define incel (do they just have to be alone against their will or more than that?).

          • Zorgon says:

            I’m not sure that involuntary celibacy is the same thing as being part of the incel subculture, but they’d both be worth studying.

            I agree, but I also don’t trust any part of the existing social science research infrastructure to study this in any kind of fair way. Especially now.

      • Aapje says:

        A side point, not relating to incels per se: the article sorta makes the kind of mistake it criticises, in that it mixes up ‘Red Pill’ and MRAs. My impression is that there is a lot more variety inside the manosphere than people outside of it realise (outgroup homogeneity bias?), and that these two groups do not get on well with each other.

        The Men’s rights Reddit voted on the issues that they want to have addressed.

        The top issues were:
        – Ending sentencing disparities between men and women
        – Creating a presumption of shared custody
        – Better support for male victims of domestic violence
        – Better mental health support for men, especially to reduce suicide
        – Having ‘made to penetrate’ counted as rape in official statistics

        These all got between +190 and +200.

        Ending involuntary celibacy (incel) got -113.
        Educating young men in pick-up artistry (also known as ‘the game’) got -148

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Three of those things (custody disputes, domestic violence, male rape) are incompatible with celibacy. So I think it’s pretty clear that incels and MRAs are not the same group, and are likely not heavily overlapping groups.

          • Matt M says:

            The point would be that, as far as mainstream media characterization goes, it doesn’t matter. There are two groups of people: Feminists and women-hating pathetic, loser, Nazis. And if you ain’t the former, you’re the latter.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Just to join in with the chorus:

      Incels are really depressing but not particularly scary, even following the attack. They’re the romantic equivalent of the relentless self-destructive pessimism of guys like Kevin C. Everything is doomed and hopeless.

      The “Manosphere” did sort of include incels and their marginally-less-angsty cousins the voluntarily celibate MGTOW. The core insight of the Red Pill is how fucked up relationship norms are today, but how everyone reacted is what differentiates them:

      The Dads, literally in most cases, had their lives destroyed in the insanity of modern divorce courts or watched it happen to their friends and family. They became MRAs and want to reform the law and culture.

      The Cads, or at least dorky wannabe cads, saw the obvious truth that “alpha” dipshits could pull girls much more easily than “beta” normies and decided to figure out what they were doing right. They became PUAs and want to rack up as high of a notch count as possible before fleeing to Eastern Europe or East Asia in search of a good wife.

      The Sads are younger guys who either can’t or won’t learn game. They know that the MRAs aren’t going to succeed at reforming the culture and they “know” that they aren’t going to become PUAs. So either voluntarily or not they’re out of the game and sharply aware of that fact.

      [Edit: thanks to Conrad Honcho for the suggestion on maintaining the rhyme.]

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Adjacent, and just because I like the rhyming thing you’ve got going, there’s also the Trads: yes the culture is awful and the MRAs will fail because no one has or will ever have sympathy for men so instead identify a good woman, get married, have kids, and don’t get divorced.

        ETA: should have called the incels “Sads.”

        • albatross11 says:

          What lessons could non-manosphere/redpill/PUA/MRA people learn from that world, in terms of statements of fact that are either:

          a. Verifiably true

          b. Consistent with available evidence and plausible

          Since so much of that world is hated by all right-thinking people, I assume that any good ideas they have are hard to see / little known by the outside….

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Hmmm. I would say the most useful thing for a young woman to learn is the existence of The Wall. You see pieces occasionally in the MSM about women over 30 wondering “where have all the good men gone?” With the lack of self awareness these sorts of articles exhibit, it seems that male mating preferences is not a widely understood meme.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            male mating preferences is not a widely understood meme.

            Hmm. When was the last time it was memetically common knowledge in the mainstream that males are interested in young/pretty/fertile, low-maintenance, non-bitchy females?

          • Matt M says:

            Even beyond that, advice as simple as “The way you successfully attracted the men you considered desirable in your teens/twenties will likely not work to attract men you consider desirable in your thirties” would go a long way.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Matt M

            Even beyond that, advice as simple as “The way you successfully attracted the men you considered desirable in your teens/twenties will likely not work to attract men you consider desirable in your thirties” would go a long way.

            Needs a punchier phrasing.

          • Randy M says:

            When was the last time it was memetically common knowledge in the mainstream that males are interested in young/pretty/fertile, low-maintenance, non-bitchy females?

            And that men aren’t going to shamed out of these preferences en masse in time for you to attract one, even if you hashtag 40 is the new 20, fat acceptance, child-free, if you can’t handle me at my worst, and ban-bossy…

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            a. Verifiably true

            b. Consistent with available evidence and plausible

            Men and women are different, have always been different, will always be different, and enjoy being different. Trying to make them the same will end both tragically and hilariously.

            This does not mean women cannot tie their own shoes or whatever other unfortunate implication people want to take from the above statement.

          • powerfuller says:

            To add, in general people seem bad at acknowledging that the things you like about yourself may not be the things other people like about you, and the qualities that make you admirable or respectable to the general public may be neutral values for your desirability to a mate. If an ambitious woman devotes her time, say, to starting a business, then that’s great for her, and I applaud her effort. But the reward for her effort is the business itself, not anything else. If she thinks it ought to make her more attractive to an ambitious man, it may make her more attractive to some, but it’s sort of like a guy growing out his hair because he likes long-haired women. And if she developed her ambition and diligence at the expense of other qualities (because it’s hard to develop all qualities simultaneously), men may pass her by not because they dislike her ambition but because they dislike the lack of some other quality they do prefer. Needless to say men make the same mistake, and I’ve been quite guilty of this myself: in high school I seemed to think girls ought to like me for being a smarter student than others, not realizing I already got the reward for that (good grades), and otherwise I was a neurotic dullard who didn’t get they preferred a guy who was fun and friendly.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            That’s a good point powerfuller.

            Not really a manosphere insight, but I do think it’s concerning overall that young people, especially women, are given the impression that work/careers are meant to be fulfilling, or that one should be attempting to derive life satisfaction from work. This is almost certainly setting one’s self up for failure as the vast, vast majority of jobs are tedious, boring, meaningless, etc.

          • albatross11 says:

            ADBG:

            I’d propose a friendly amendment: In many areas (physical, mental, emotional, interests, etc.), men and women are drawn from different distributions with some overlap.

            In some, the overlap is small–very few women are as strong as the average man of the same age.

            In some, the overlap is substantial–plenty of women like consequence-free sex in their 20s, just not as many women as men.

            Understanding that the differences are real and either innate in biology or so deeply rooted in culture that they’re very hard to change, that’s the insight that’s needed by non-manosphere types. But recognizing that we’re talking about overlapping distributions instead of categorical statements prevents the common errors people fall into with this kind of insight.

          • Randy M says:

            Not really a manosphere insight, but I do think it’s concerning overall that young people, especially women, are given the impression that work/careers are meant to be fulfilling

            Seems like a variation on Apex fallacy.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Understanding that the differences are real and either innate in biology or so deeply rooted in culture that they’re very hard to change, that’s the insight that’s needed by non-manosphere types. But recognizing that we’re talking about overlapping distributions instead of categorical statements prevents the common errors people fall into with this kind of insight.

            No real disagreement from me. Don’t want to get too deep into culture war territory, but couching it in this language, while more accurate, doesn’t make it any easier to duck criticisms of whatever -ism is in the news these days.

            Not really a manosphere insight, but I do think it’s concerning overall that young people, especially women, are given the impression that work/careers are meant to be fulfilling, or that one should be attempting to derive life satisfaction from work. This is almost certainly setting one’s self up for failure as the vast, vast majority of jobs are tedious, boring, meaningless, etc.

            Seriously. You need a job you don’t absolutely hate. The “meaning” from your job is the paycheck. Paying the mortgage is quite meaningful to me.

            Expecting your career to give your life meaning is setting you up for a world of hurt. There’s also no shame in wanting to be a stay-at-home parent, either mother or father.

          • Aapje says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Not really a manosphere insight, but I do think it’s concerning overall that young people, especially women, are given the impression that work/careers are meant to be fulfilling, or that one should be attempting to derive life satisfaction from work. This is almost certainly setting one’s self up for failure as the vast, vast majority of jobs are tedious, boring, meaningless, etc.

            Isn’t this dissatisfaction the reason why many women quit the rat race to become mothers, once they realize that being a cog in the capitalist machine is not actually making them happy?

            And isn’t this the same reason why men have/had the midlife crisis?

            Women who take on part of the male gender role get the same issues as men, which ought to be unsurprising, yet so many people seem surprised by it.

            One can argue that this is the irony of the lack of concern with the problems of men. The result is that women (also) get lied to about how nice the male role is, so they get hurt, just like men.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s not intended as armor against people accusing you of taboo/evil beliefs. It’s based on the errors I see consistently in two groups.

            a. Muggle-realists talking about group differences as though they were absolute. (“Obama can’t actually be extremely smart, because….”)

            b. Anti-muggle-realists talking about how their one counterexample disproves some claim of group differences. (“My cousin Jane is six feet tall, and my uncle Bob is five feet six, so it’s clearly wrong that men are taller than women.”)

            I don’t know how you’d phrase it to dodge the Inquisition. Probably turn the whole discussion into some abstract thing about evolutionary strategies or biology and hope the dull-witted Inquisitioners get confused and go away.

          • keranih says:

            I would suggest that women are biologically inclined to find/want deep fufillment in their daily activities, because the survival of the species rests on most women finding deep satisfaction in taking care of children.

            When this satisfaction doesn’t materialize I more…errr…secular jobs, it makes women more disappointed than it does comperable men.

          • Aapje says:

            @keranih

            Do men naturally want less fulfillment or do we tell them over and over again that they can’t have it and don’t deserve it?

          • Education Hero says:

            @Aapje

            As with most gendered behaviors, why not both?

            Culture tends to reinforce biological tendencies in both the short-term (encouraging certain behaviors) and in the long-term (natural selection will favor those who integrate smoothly into cultural hierarchies).

      • mdet says:

        Why do you say that “alpha dipshits could pull girls much more easily than beta normies” is an “obvious truth”?

        Or, probably a better question — how are you defining “alpha” and “beta” such that alpha will include most people who pull girls easily?

        My mental model is that “being outgoing” does obviously translate into having more relationships of every kind, not just romantic. And being a reckless, risk-taking person correlates with having a lot of casual sex, because casual sex is risky. So while “outgoing risk-takers” will end up getting laid the most, its wrong to translate this to “being a dipshit automatically pulls girls”.

        Your take?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Why do you say that “alpha dipshits could pull girls much more easily than beta normies” is an “obvious truth”?

          Because it’s verifiable by casual observation.

          • mdet says:

            The point of my comment was that I haven’t casually observed it, or that what I *have* casually observed can be explained differently. My observation is that the outgoing dipshit will have lots of casual sex but struggle holding down an actual relationship for any length of time, while the outgoing nice guy* will have no problem finding someone who will be with them for years. If your goal is just to get laid, then yes, your risk-taking behavior will put you around people with similar risk-taking behavior and you’ll have no problem finding people willing to take the risk of getting in bed with you. But if you want a longer-term relationship, being outgoing and sociable is sufficient, and being a dipshit is probably an obstacle. Which group are you trying to be in?

            This is also my reply to Nabil’s comment just below, although Deiseach’s is good too

            *I don’t like using this term because it’s become loaded, but I’m going to use it anyway

          • a reader says:

            I think mdet is right. Jacob at PutANumOnIt analyzed this “obvious truth” (stereotype) about women & jerks more mathematically:

            Love and Nice Guys

            Maybe someone can afford to be a jerk because they’re handsome, rich and great in bed. In that case, they get women despite their jerkiness, not because of it. I think that the perceived jerk-attractiveness correlation might be due to one of my favorite statistical effects, the “triangle distribution”:

            Let’s assume that guys who are both unattractive (in a broad meaning) and jerks are doomed to be alone. Let’s also assume that decency and attractiveness are completely uncorrelated, each green point is distributed randomly. If we look just at the guys with women, it would seem that among them attractive guys are likelier to be jerks.

            This is the same effect that makes it seem like hotter actors aren’t as good at acting (if an actor is neither pretty nor good they wouldn’t work at all) and why restaurants that are more fashionable have worse food (since if a place is neither hip nor tasty it will go bankrupt). Shit, I promised that I won’t teach you any math, but I couldn’t help it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The Berkson’s Paradox explanation is refuted by the large number of “Henry”-types (sexually successful dipshits with nothing else going for them), and perhaps more controversially the success of PUAs.

          • a reader says:

            The Berkson’s Paradox explanation is refuted by the large number of “Henry”-types (sexually successful dipshits with nothing else going for them)

            You mean the large number of anecdotes about “Henry”-types?

            And do those Henrys really have “nothing else going for them”? Aren’t they at least outgoing and self-confident, as mdet says?

            It seems most of us here – men and women, white and black – are a bunch of introverts; it’s not surprising at all that so many of us have/had some difficulties finding a pair, compared with our more extroverted peers.

          • Aapje says:

            @a reader

            I agree that Nybbler too easily concludes that Henry’s have nothing else going for them, when that is very doubtful.

            However, it does seem that men who are not outgoing and self-confident do far worse than women with the same traits*. When self-confident + outgoing + very violent attracts women** far more than meek + homey + non-violent, then one can argue that this is very maladjusted to the modern environment. After all, there are few bears to slay & instead, (non-criminal) people tend to be most at risk from violence by their partner.

            Of course, women have the right to their partner preferences. However, when male status is often judged by their success with women & when Western male gender norms result in some needs being very hard to get met outside of a relationship, female partner preferences stop being merely individual preferences and become societally sanctioned norms that harms some men. Furthermore, our society seems far more permissive about having women complain about male behaviors that deviates from their preferences, than vice versa, making it harder to create/find a positive support network.

            To me, it seems inevitable that some of these men then become very angry at society for this & perhaps also become angry at women, which IMO is not fair (because both men and women enforce these societal norms). I support the first part of this equation (the anger at the societal/gender norms), as well as respectful criticism of female choices (in the same way that one may criticize male choices).

            * See the link to the study I posted in another comment
            ** Especially women who are meek and homey themselves

          • Matt M says:

            And do those Henrys really have “nothing else going for them”? Aren’t they at least outgoing and self-confident, as mdet says?

            Well of course they have those – that’s the whole point. That “outgoing and self-confident” is literally the only aspect under ones control (i.e. excluding bone structure or whatever) that matters.

            Game theory says you can radically improve your odds by being (or faking) more self-confidence. More extreme forms of redpill say “even that’s not good enough, you must simply be gifted with physical appearance from god”

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I’m going to put this really plainly because it’s something a lot of people have trouble with.

          I’m not talking about confident outgoing guys with a good sense of humor. I’m talking about, for one striking example from my college days, violent drug dealers who just got out on parole.

          There are men who are, by any sane assessment, evil losers yet who demonstrably do much better than pretty much any decent guy you know. They don’t have jobs, they don’t have cars, they may not even have homes… but they have girlfriends and side chicks to cheat on those girlfriends with.

          That’s what an alpha is, fundamentally. He has nothing, literally nothing, to offer but no shortage of takers.

          When you don’t understand what women are actually attracted to, and that the beta provider strategy is mostly designed to make you attractive to women’s fathers, it just seems like the world has gone crazy. It’s not crazy, if anything a return to savagery is perfectly natural. It’s just harder for us domesticated men to go feral.

          • Education Hero says:

            That’s what an alpha is, fundamentally. He has nothing, literally nothing, to offer but no shortage of takers.

            He might have some things to offer, such as genetic material, social status, or protection from physical threats. Alternatively, he may merely adequately signal that he can offer these or other things.

          • Deiseach says:

            Okay, and what are the girlfriends of the violent drug-dealer ex-con like? Because I hardly ever see any evaluation of them, and the assumption seems to be “horrible guy gets high-status, top-class women with no trouble”.

            What I’ve seen, in my admittedly limited experience, is that those guys attract lots of women but women of their own status. I don’t see many or even any university graduate middle-class women hanging out with them. Now, maybe that happens – young women in university with a head full of nonsense about smashing social rules that are only there to oppress disadvantaged people like ex-cons might be susceptible to the idea that refusing to consider the drug-dealer as boyfriend material is Problematic and racist/classist/not woke.

            Or if the guy is originally middle-class himself and retains enough of that veneer to pull women of his own class, that happens too (I remember a Tumblr mutual talking about an ex-Etonian drug dealer type she knew who was bad news but really charming and could persuade women who should have known better).

            But in the main, unless the guy also has something going for him like good looks or money, they end up with women of their own type.

            If you flip the question – what do men want from alpha* women? – you see what I mean; there are plenty of guys willing to stick their dick in crazy because the sex is fantastic. Being attracted to the bad news type rather than the more reliable but less exciting ‘stay at home housewife’ type. A lot of the guys complaining that the hot blonde chicks (who won’t sleep with them but will sleep with the ‘alphas’) are slutty also want the hot blonde slutty chicks themselves, not the nice mousy girl. Wanting to have as many sexual experiences as they can while they’re still free before they ‘have’ to settle down to marriage and family life with a dull by comparison wife.

            So it’s not like only women exhibit this strange behaviour and what every man really wants is the nice modest girl next door but somehow he ended up with the crazy but sexy hottie.

            *Where alpha is the equivalent for women here of the alpha guy: promiscuous, not marriage material, bad habits and behaviour.

            Also I think this alpha/beta/so on categorisation is ridiculous, a combination of bad biology and trying to make the propositions sound pseudo-scientific, but fighting against pop culture is Canute commanding the waves.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’m going to push back on the idea that “women” are fundamentally attracted to flashy dangerous men. Obviously, some women are, but what proportion of women are we talking about? I suspect it’s not all that high.

            I believe that part of what’s going on is that this dynamic involves people who play their gender roles hard– they’re conspicuous and easy to notice, so a naive observer might think they’re the whole story of gender relations.

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            Do those mousey women actually want non-dominant men?

            A study looked into it:

            This study investigates whether particular personality traits predict the desire to choose a dominant partner. Specifically examined are the traits of sensation seeking and trait anxiety as predictors of the preference for a dominant female/male partner. Sixty-eight men and 104 women (N = 172) participated in an online survey. Individuals who avoid boredom and seek out exciting social activities have a stronger desire for a dominant partner. For female participants, we detected experience seeking and trait anxiety as additional factors associated with the preference for a dominant partner. Women higher in trait anxiety and lower in experience seeking have a higher preference for a dominant man.

            Mousey men seem to be less in demand than mousey women.

            First, studies show that dominant behavior needs to be combined with other characteristics such as prosocial behavior and a high amount of altruism in order to become attractive to women

            Women seem to want men who are dominant and then give the spoils of dominance to them.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’ve seen claims that one of the reasons women get (stay?) involved with difficult men is the belief that a bad man can be saved by the love of a good woman. (I’m not saying this never happens, but it seems to be rare.)

            I have no idea how much this is a rationalization for thrill-seeking.

            Cite forgotten, but I read a woman say that she had fantasies of being a lion tamer when she was actually afraid of big dogs.

          • Aapje says:

            That’s the Fifty Shares of Grey story in a nutshell, which was a record seller to women. In general, it is a classic trope that is shown in many forms, in approving and disapproving ways.

          • Matt M says:

            A lot of the guys complaining that the hot blonde chicks (who won’t sleep with them but will sleep with the ‘alphas’) are slutty also want the hot blonde slutty chicks themselves, not the nice mousy girl.

            The problem here is that we don’t define “status” particularly well.

            You’re absolutely right about this comment. It’s very un-PC, but the fact remains that most men (particularly in their 20s) would rather have a really attractive woman who has no job and isn’t very smart and struggles with mental illness and drug abuse than a non-attractive woman who has a good career and reads philosophy texts and is never late for an appointment.

            So above, when you ask “What type of status women are the drug dealers getting?” my answer would be high-status. Because to the male competitive dating market, attractive = high status, and the drug dealers do get attractive women. Crazy women with lots of problems, but attractive.

            And society seems to largely accept that in terms of how men view women, status is largely based on appearance. The dirty little secret that nobody wants to discuss is that this is also largely true for how women view men. The violent drug dealer, in terms of dating market value, IS, in fact, higher status than me, even though I make six figures and take women out to sit-down restaurants on first dates and always pick up the check.

            That’s what drives people crazy. Young men are taught that “status” = intelligence, money, morality, etc. But it’s mostly not. It’s muscles and danger.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Deiseach,

            Other than being unusually hot, the girls are pretty normal.

            The only difference I’ve noticed between middle class college educated women and lower class women in terms of tastes is that the lower class women are slightly more attracted to middle class college educated men. They still don’t like them as much as their own men but they’re more receptive to the provider role for obvious economic reasons.

            You obviously are exempt, as this comment is directed at heterosexual and bisexual women. But both game and alpha behavior are no less effective on “good girls” than they are on anyone else. I’ve slept with enough preacher’s daughters, virgins, and engaged women that there really isn’t any room for doubt there.

          • liquidpotato says:

            When you don’t understand what women are actually attracted to,

            Every so often, the dating and attraction topic would pop up in the SSC comments section and the feeling I get is like watching a play of the three blind men and the elephant.

            Nabil’s point here is central. Without understanding what women are attracted to such discussions seem circular to me.

            I’m no expert, but it seems to me also that there is a language barrier between men and women; the same words mean different things to men and women.

            For example flirting. For women, flirting has a much wider range than men, including just playful bantering.

            We know women are attracted to confident and high status men, but what does confidence and high status even mean to a woman. The outward appearance of confidence can sometimes be indistinguishable from being a jerk. And most women seem emotional in the sense that they crave much higher emotional stimulus than man.

            In Nabil’s example drug dealer, I think he provides the outward appearance of confidence and status in spades, not to mention the emotional thrill of danger.

            Also, to Deiseach. Would the sex slaves of Keith Raniere, the self-help guru of NXVIM count? His inner circle of devoted women include Alison Mack of Smallville fame, the Bronfman sisters of the Seagram Liquor fortune, India Oxenburg (she has royal blood from some minor European country).

          • Aapje says:

            I think that this discussion is kind of pointless, because most of society is completely mindkilled about it. You can say things like this about the preferences of men and people are almost always OK with it, but say similar kinds of things about the preferences of women and it triggers feelings of disgust that results in rationalizations why the statements are misogynist.

            The irony is of course that the eagerness to read misogyny in these claims, while being fine with similar statements about men, mainly reflects the level of misandry in society, not the level of misogyny.

          • Deiseach says:

            Would the sex slaves of Keith Raniere, the self-help guru of NXVIM count?

            I think this, and the examples given by sweeptheleg, show that there are women out there who are vulnerable to exploitation by this kind of man, whether that’s through mental problems that leave them open to being used or for other reasons.

            I would still maintain that a woman would need to have something lacking or missing or not screwed in right to seek out and be content to be used by such men, whether or not she was outwardly hot and attractive and confident. I’m sure also some women think it’s a thrill to get entangled with a bad guy and they don’t intend to get seriously involved because they know better, but that’s playing with fire and if you play with fire you risk getting burned.

            But I can only speak for my own preferences and out of my own experience, and never having been blinded by the haze of romantic love means that “He’s an asshole, you should leave him” “But I looooove him” never made any sense to me. Yeah, maybe you think you love him or really do love him, that doesn’t change the fact that he’s bad news and you should dump him for your own self-respect.

          • Deiseach says:

            I’ve slept with enough preacher’s daughters, virgins, and engaged women that there really isn’t any room for doubt there.

            But are you a violent lower-class drug dealer, or a reasonably attractive middle-class guy with a decent job?

            Yes, seduction works on all kinds of women. Nobody is disputing that (I hope not, anyway). And if you’ve been successful by adopting an aura of “slightly dangerous in a Marlon Brando The Wild One way”, then that works for you. But considering you haven’t married all those preacher’s daughters, virgins, and engaged women, I’m going to presume they weren’t looking for a long-term commitment but a fling, which is a different thing to looking for a guy to settle down with.

            And men make the same distinctions between “she’s hot and sexy and good for fun but not marriage material” and “potential settling down wife and mother”, and I think part of the problem here is that there seems to be a disjunction between what each gender is deemed to want.

            Most men want sexy fun times, of course! And many of them then want to settle down after sexy fun times. Why this is presumed to be perfectly fine for men, but a sign of devilish deceitfulness and sluttiness when women do the same, I have no idea. If you (general “you”, not Nabil “you”) honestly think all women should be virtuous Chaste Lucretias who only date men they consider potential husbands and only when the possibility of a serious commitment/long-term relationship is in the cards, but men can and should be sowing their wild oats before getting shackled by the ol’ ball and chain – where are these loose women going to come from? If you want sexy fun times with a range of women, then you are going to need lots of women who also want sexy fun times without settling down with a range of guys. And if you get that, you have no right to divide women into sluts and good girls. And if you don’t get that, you equally have no right to complain that women are prudes and bitches who won’t give you the time of day.

          • mdet says:

            @Aapje

            What does the study define as “dominant”? Because I don’t dispute that women are attracted to men who are large, or strong, or have a sense of confidence and presence. I agree that the quiet and awkward guy is not getting as much attention as the star of the basketball team.

            Where I find myself disagreeing is that I’m at the point in my life where the outgoing-and-friendly guys I know are starting to get married; the outgoing-dipshit guys are still sleeping around, possibly with a baby-momma; and the non-outgoing guys are still looking for dates, some successfully, some not. If you ask me what category I would prefer to be in, it would be the first group, not the second. Being outgoing and confident is sufficient to attract women. Also having a dipshit personality will affect what kind of women you attract, but isn’t actually a necessary ingredient.

            Edit: Which is why my original comment asked Nabil how he was defining “alpha”.

            Edit 2: Re-read the second quote from Aapje’s comment about the study, which corroborates my point. Women prefer men who are “dominant” (which I’m reading as “outgoing and confident”) but also “pro-social” and “altruistic”. In other words, Nabil is probably wrong to conflate being an “alpha” with being a “dipshit”, which was the point I originally set out to make

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Deiseach

            Most men want sexy fun times, of course! And many of them then want to settle down after sexy fun times. Why this is presumed to be perfectly fine for men, but a sign of devilish deceitfulness and sluttiness when women do the same, I have no idea.

            I think you’re a bit off here. There are two related but different things:

            1. Women who put out (ha!) casual-sex signals, have casual sex, and try to parlay that into a relationship.
            2. Men who put out relationship signals (intentionally or unintentionally; if it’s an intentional ruse, there’s probably going to be plausible deniability) and use that to get casual sex.

            I think the second is actually where you find more deception – women complain about guys who will cuddle or whatever but go “jeez, you’re being crazy!” when the women say “so, uh, are we in a relationship, ‘cuz I’m sleeping over here a lot”.

          • Deiseach says:

            Because to the male competitive dating market, attractive = high status, and the drug dealers do get attractive women. Crazy women with lots of problems, but attractive.

            We plainly know very different drug-dealers; most of the low-lifes I’m talking about end up with women with council estate facelifts 🙂

            Instruction video how to achieve the look here.

          • Matt M says:

            American male sexual desire, as described by a meme.

          • Aapje says:

            @mdet

            The statements with which people were asked to disagree/agree on a scale from 1 to 7:
            – A very nice man/woman is often boring
            – Dominant men/women are fascinating
            – Sometimes I imagine being seduced by a strong and dominant man/woman
            – I often felt more in love with a dominant man/woman compared with a less dominant man
            – I like it when the man/woman takes on a leadership role in our relationship
            -I feel attracted to assertive men/women.

          • mdet says:

            Thanks for the specifics. My position is only possibly contradicted by the first statement, so I’m going to stick with it.

            It seems to me like there are two insights here.

            1) People who are outgoing and confident have an easier time building relationships than people who are quiet and awkward.

            2) People’s standards for “Fuck” are different than their standards for “Marry”, and usually lower

            Both of these seem like common knowledge to me, not secret and controversial cad* insights. 1 applies not just to romantic relationships, but also to friendships, business relationships, everyone that isn’t family. 2 is something any 13 year old who’s played “Fuck, Marry, Kill” will attest to, and definitely not some secret insight about women, since I and every other man I know have had times when we’ve said “She’s might be hot, but she’s crazy / a mess / not too bright / a bitch / just not my type”. So while there may be some stories about violent drug dealers with girlfriends to spare, it’s probably just the case that the women are only there for the sex and would NOT commit, and any woman who would is probably a risk-taker caught up with drugs and violence herself.

            I think framing these two insights together as “Women actually prefer dipshit-assholes” is not only factually incorrect, but probably contributes to incels woes by giving them the wrong ideal to aim for (aiming for “Outgoing and confident but only a *little* edgy, if at all” would probably get them more success)

            *I’ve never actually heard the word “cad” before, I’m just going off Nabil’s categories above.

          • Aapje says:

            @mdet

            Men have way lower standards for just sex than women, though.

            Plenty of guys, including mr drug dealer may be quite happy to have lots of sex. Good chance that he doesn’t want kids and such.

          • Education Hero says:

            2) People’s standards for “Fuck” are different than their standards for “Marry”, and usually lower

            Agreed that sexual market value is different from relationship market value.

            That said, I would argue that there is a gendered difference here. Women tend to have higher standards for short-term relationships than long-term relationships, while the inverse is true for men.

            I think framing these two insights together as “Women actually prefer dipshit-assholes” is not only factually incorrect, but probably contributes to incels woes by giving them the wrong ideal to aim for (aiming for “Outgoing and confident but only a *little* edgy, if at all” would probably get them more success)

            There’s probably some overlapping variables here:

            1. Attractive people can better afford to treat others badly without negative consequences, e.g. attractive cads do well romantically IN SPITE of treating others badly.

            2. Women are attracted to high status, and treating others badly signals high status, e.g. attractive cads do well romantically BECAUSE they treat others badly.

            I suspect both are true to a certain extent, conditional on the context and the exact people in question.

          • And if you get that, you have no right to divide women into sluts and good girls.

            Why not? The first are the women you want to sleep with when you are looking for casual sex, the second the women you want to seriously consider as long term partners. The fact that both are of value to you in different contexts doesn’t mean that they are not different in important ways–ways which make the first group poorly suited to be wives.

            Is your point that you shouldn’t disapprove of the first group because they are of value to you? I think even that is too strong. It isn’t hard to imagine situations in which someone has characteristics you disapprove of but find useful.

        • sweeptheleg says:

          Why do you say that “alpha dipshits could pull girls much more easily than beta normies” is an “obvious truth”?

          You should google Snooky the Pimp.

          He has been featured in several sensationalist documentary videos and a 90s HBO special, having had a several decades-long career of extreme misogyny. He had a ‘stable’ of women who were various combinations of sexual playthings and prostitutes. His favorite photo and video pose would be to be surrounded by several of these women while holding them on leashes. His women would recruit other women to join the fun. Before he went to prison several years ago on many counts of battery, trafficking, statutory, and so on, he had fathered dozens of children by dozens of different women. He probably had sex with more different women in a year than entire office departments full of white collar males.

          Other notorious examples: Charles Manson was never lacking for female devotion and married a 20-something near the end of his life. And then there’s the whole death row bride phenomenon.

          There’s a whole continuum from outgoing to confidence to cockiness to sociopathy, and clearly being anywhere on that continuum helps with the ladies, in a statistical sense, and it seems that being closer to the extreme end is better, for this particular goal.

          • albatross11 says:

            Not to put too fine a point on it, but the girls sending proposals to guys on death row or hanging off Charles Mansion were probably not great wife/mom material anyway.

          • Matt M says:

            But a 18-30 y/o incel isn’t looking for a wife/mom

          • Zorgon says:

            But a 18-30 y/o incel isn’t looking for a wife/mom

            I’m not really sure if this is necessarily true. The HUGE GIANT DEATH OBELISK of male-status-as-defined-by-pussy-quotient obscures the more subtle current of touch starvation and wanting intimacy that leaks out in things like the “khhv” thing mentioned elsewhere in this thread.

          • John Schilling says:

            But a 18-30 y/o incel isn’t looking for a wife/mom

            In most of contemporary western civilization, having a girlfriend is a prerequisite for having a wife. How would you know whether a person who despairs of ever having a girlfriend, is ultimately looking for a wife or would have just stayed at “girlfriend”?

            I suppose something could be inferred from the fact that they aren’t all going off to order Russian mail-order brides and whatnot, but those options have been widely deprecated in terms of status and social acceptability.

          • Matt M says:

            Let me clarify – most of the incel types I know are not setting their standards so high to exclude anyone who isn’t “wife or mom” material. They would be willing to accept a one-night-stand with a hot/crazy chick. Or a dating type relationship with someone they might not necessarily want to spend their whole life with.

            I’m not saying they “don’t want” a wife, I’m saying that in the short-term, “wife material” is not the variable they’re solving for.

          • Deiseach says:

            touch starvation

            Is this an Actual Thing or just misapplied pop-psychology? Yes, I know studies show infant monkeys with wire mothers do less well as adult monkeys, but we are none of us infant monkeys.

            “Never even had my hand held” describes me, but I don’t feel obliged to bewail this. I don’t get any of the “we all need intimate touch, we need hugs and human contact” that supposedly humans need or we wilt and die, and I’m not dead yet (the nearest thing I’ve had to being touched by another person was the doctor taking my blood pressure recently). On the other hand, I’ve always disliked being touched (my mother noted this when I was young and it’s one of the reasons my sister thinks I’m on the autism spectrum) so maybe I’m an outlier and there really are people out there who want to be touched and will wilt like a flower that hasn’t been watered without it.

            But I do still feel it’s not as bad as “I have no food”, and I think the pop-psych popular culture articles about it are doing more harm than good, persuading people that they are going to wilt and die if nobody hugs them. If you’ve been persuaded that Science Proves We Need Touch, and you’re not getting touch, then naturally you’re going to be sad, depressed, angry and resentful and feel you are being deliberately cheated out of a real basic need.

          • Aapje says:

            You are probably an outlier, Deiseach, as evidenced by your presence here 😉

            I personally also have an aversion to touch, but think that it triggers a fight or flight response in me, for reasons, which probably would stop happening if I were to be in a long term relationship where I would have come to trust the other person. Or perhaps not.

            Some evidence can be found here, in chapter 3.1. The scientific research seems to suggest that partner touching reduces stress levels, although the research is not too extensive or reliable.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Deiseach, I dispute your n=1 with n=2: both me and my sister agree that touch starvation is an actual thing in human psychology, which we’ve at least come close to experiencing.

          • A1987dM says:

            @Matt M: A 18-year-old on most likely isn’t, but a 30-year-old one might well be. (OTOH ISTM there are many fewer 30-y.o. incels than 18-y.o. ones, except in places like Japan.)

          • A1987dM says:

            If touch starvation actually was the main issue, just taking dance classes would solve it.

          • Protagoras says:

            @A1987dM, That’s probably an excellent suggestion for some of these guys.

    • Atlas says:

      I hadn’t heard the term before reading the article. Do other people know about this?

      Yes, the term “incel” and the surrounding ideas are frequently mentioned, often ironically/mockingly, on the corners of Twitter and 4chan that I peruse. Indeed, it was pretty weird to see terminology I was used to seeing in more esoteric internet fora used in MSM publications.

    • BBA says:

      Speaking as someone who has never experienced romantic love and most likely never will, I find the “incel” position to be utterly delusional. I’m unloved and it’s nobody’s fault but my own, and the same is true for them. Regardless of whether they endorse violence against “normies” or just quietly seethe, they are all utterly despicable and deserving of all the scorn and mockery that’s been sent their way lately.

      I believe all that to be true… so why do I feel insulted when I see that scorn and mockery? I’m self-aware, I know they don’t mean me, and yet it still hurts.

      • Matt M says:

        I believe all that to be true… so why do I feel insulted when I see that scorn and mockery? I’m self-aware, I know they don’t mean me

        No, they do mean you. They don’t distinguish between those who are upset about being unloved and those who just are. If anything, they want you to be upset about it, because they agree with the basic premise that it is, in fact, a measure of your worth as a human being in general, and as a man specifically.

        • A1987dM says:

          What? What’s the “in-” part of “incel” supposed to mean exactly then? Just to exclude Catholic priests and the like?

          • Matt M says:

            Yes – or those who are actively making an effort to abstain. As I said, the status game is the question of – do women want you or not?

            If you’re the one saying no, that’s fine. If they are the ones saying no, you’re contemptible.

      • Atlas says:

        I’m unloved and it’s nobody’s fault but my own, and the same is true for them. Regardless of whether they endorse violence against “normies” or just quietly seethe, they are all utterly despicable and deserving of all the scorn and mockery that’s been sent their way lately.

        I’m not quite sure how to phrase this appropriately, but respectfully I think you’re being too hard on yourself. To be clear: I do think that it is best thought of as nobody’s fault, including yours. (Assuming that you’re a heterosexual man) it seems to me that women select mates based on a bunch of factors like height, confidence, success in their field, physical fitness, social proof/status, aggression/dominance and general practical competence. If you lack these traits, many/most of which I imagine as per Turkheimer’s First Law of Behavioral Genetics are at least partly heritable, I don’t think it’s really best described as “your fault,” even if you could do things to improve on some of them.

        I mean, I think this was kind of the point of “Radicalizing the Romanceless”: personal virtue doesn’t explain much if any of the variation in success in the mating market.

        You (generic you, not just specific you) didn’t choose your genes or the mentoring you received at a formative age in courtship (or lack thereof.) So please don’t beat yourself up over this, fam.

        I believe all that to be true… so why do I feel insulted when I see that scorn and mockery? I’m self-aware, I know they don’t mean me, and yet it still hurts.

        I definitely know that feeling, and I think to some extent maybe it’s because attacking men for being unsuccessful with women is sort of an epistemic superweapon.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I mean, I think this was kind of the point of “Radicalizing the Romanceless”: personal virtue doesn’t explain much if any of the variation in success in the mating market.

          It does, it’s just that “personal virtue” in the mating market is not what’s usually described as virtuous. Except height, all the qualities you mentioned could be considered measures of virtue.

        • BBA says:

          If the alternative to blaming myself is the hot mess that is inceldom, I’m going to keep on blaming myself, thank you very much.

          • [Thing] says:

            You blame yourself. Angry Internet Incels blame everyone but themselves. The third way, as Atlas said, is to blame no one.

            There is room for nuance on this point; I’m in the same boat as you, and I know that the prospect of blaming myself for not having done scary or strenuous things to improve my life can be a useful motivational strategy. I also know from hard experience that that kind of all-stick no-carrot motivation only gets you so far, and when you’ve tried it again and again, until you couldn’t take any more, and you still didn’t get what you wanted, it’s best to forgive yourself.

            There’s another wrinkle to this, which is that the more people suffer, the more they seem to instinctively assume that someone must be to blame, and that identifying and denouncing the culprit is the most urgently needed means of alleviating their suffering. Sometimes this is true, of course, but often it’s an irrational psychological dead end. (I suspect this tendency underlies a lot of the failure modes of internet discourse that we’re always complaining about ‘round these parts.) I still struggle with this temptation myself, but learning about currently trendy mindfulness-based approaches to self-help has really helped me to recognize when I’m in danger of falling into that trap and avoid it, and that in turn has enabled me to be more emotionally open to the world. Involuntary celibacy is still a bitter pill to swallow, though. You have my sincerest sympathy.

            (And thanks for making that point about how the mockery and abuse of Angry Internet Incels often deals collateral emotional damage to people like us. I think it’s important to always be careful to criticize people narrowly for bad behavior, rather than shaming them for incidental characteristics that are stereotypically associated with certain kinds of bad behavior, for exactly that reason.)

      • ilikekittycat says:

        I’m not a doctor but “…and most likely never will”/”I’m unloved and it’s nobody’s fault but my own” and taking umbrage at insulting remarks not necessarily directly at you seems like depression

        • Aapje says:

          How so?

          Correctly assessing yourself as lacking most of the traits that the other sex tends to like & concluding that this means that it’s very unlikely that one will find a partner who is sufficiently pleasant to make one happier doesn’t require depression.

          Furthermore, it seems fully correct to interpret hatred against incels as being merely partially due to how some incels behave and in part general hatred against ‘loser men,’ who are the one of the few groups of people who got handed a bad hand by nature & society, whom one can openly hate with broad approval by almost everyone.

          Of course, these beliefs are depressing in the figurative sense, but don’t necessarily lead to or are caused by literal depression.

        • BBA says:

          I lowered my Zoloft dose recently, but I don’t think I’m feeling any worse than I usually do.

        • John Schilling says:

          Is “I’ve never had a decent job and most likely never will” / “I’m unemployed and it’s nobody’s fault but my own”, generally a sign of depression?

          What if it’s spoken by someone in their fourties who dropped out of college twenty years ago because they couldn’t handle getting out of bed before 10:00 AM, figured if they stopped wasting time on classes and focused on their garage band they’d be rich big-name rock stars, and now recognize they have a critical skills deficit that will be exceedingly difficult to correct? Particularly since they have learned to be reasonably happy and content in their poverty and so lack the motivation for extreme life transformations. Is that a sign of depression?

          Seems like romance or lack thereof gets held to a special standard in this context.

          • Deiseach says:

            I think it’s possible to have valid reasons to explain a failure in life and to be depressed; indeed, from my own experience, that’s part of it and why things like CBT didn’t work for me – it’s no good telling me “your assessment of yourself is wrongly coloured by depressive thinking, when we tackle this symptom you’ll control this depression and we’ll tackle it by showing how it’s objectively false” when I have damn good objective reasons to think I am a failure.

            If you’re saying “Well, the bad decisions I made back when I was twenty are why I don’t have a high-flying job now, and because I’m in my forties and don’t have the particular skills for a high-flying job I’m never likely to be successful or even what’s considered average for my age and class, but that’s okay because I can manage on what I’ve got and I’m generally happy”, that’s not depression.

            If you’re miserable over “I ruined my life because I was stupid when I was twenty”, that can be both true and depression.

    • fion says:

      Thanks, everybody, for the discussion. I found it interesting to read, even if I couldn’t take part. 🙂

  18. Thegnskald says:

    I have a vague conceptualization I have been developing, which loosely amounts to “A lot of what gets coded as sexism is artistic laziness”.

    Waif-fu is feminist when it is new – it becomes sexism when it is a lazy crutch to avoid writing good female characters.

    Pondering this, it is entirely possible for a lazy writer to apparently do a better job writing men than women, not because the writer makes them any more inherently interesting, but because there is a wider pool of archetypes and tropes to draw upon.

    The same sort of principle might apply to art, and thus to other forms of entertainment – try to think of ten distinct cartoon tropes for male characters, then try to think of ten distinct cartoon tropes for female characters.

    Not certain where this concept leads, but thought I would share it.

    • James says:

      Yes, it’s a nice insight that I noted in the discussion of The Expanse (?) last thread. I think it irritates me just as shoddy writing.

      I roll my eyes just as hard at old corny tropes (i.e. bulletproof macho action heroes) as at new ones, but I that’s less salient, because I assume everyone else is also rolling their eyes at them so I don’t bother complaining about it.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I think my takeaway from that thread was this:

        Inverting the sex of a trope or archetype seems like progress to a certain kind of mindset. Likewise, shoving new races into cultural archetypes can look like progress.

        And in the sense of expanding the availability of archetypes, maybe it is?

        But at another level, if the issue is lazy writing rather than the limited number of archetypes available to lazy writers when writing about specific groups of people, then this just obscures the problem rather than corrects it.

        • albatross11 says:

          Yeah, and this is where different critics talk past each other.

          I want good writing. I’m not offended by social-justice-y themes, as long as the message doesn’t swamp the story. But I care a lot about the writing being good, the characters feeling like real people with real human motivations, the situation making sense, etc.

          There are other people who are mainly engaging in cultural criticisms: they don’t care so much about the quality of the story or the characters or the writing, but they care a lot about the cultural impact of the story. Butt-kicking babes, black female hackers, positively-portrayed gay male couples, those are the important part, and if the story and characters make sense, that would be nice, too.

          I find the cultural criticism interesting to the extent that they’re actually pointing out weaknesses in writing and story and such. If all your book’s female characters are cardboard, I don’t want to read your book because it’s probably crap. But I don’t care much about the cultural critique outside of that.

          • Iain says:

            I find the cultural criticism interesting to the extent that they’re actually pointing out weaknesses in writing and story and such. If all your book’s female characters are cardboard, I don’t want to read your book because it’s probably crap. But I don’t care much about the cultural critique outside of that.

            The position you are describing deserves more respect than you give it. You’re under no obligation to care about seeing a positive portrayal of gay couples, but you should acknowledge that some young gay people legitimately care very deeply about it. For a lot of people, seeing yourself on screen can mean a lot. This snippet from a review of “Love, Simon” is a good example:

            The two guys on a date sitting next to me even teared up during the movie’s third act, as Simon finally, painstakingly comes out of the closet to his loved ones. So pointing out the things that feel a little familiar about Love, Simon feels like being more of a spoilsport than usual. If you feel like you might like it, you probably will. And if you want to know how it works as a movie, hey, stick around. Even those two guys I sat next to, as we exited the theater, started listing the clichés in the story, before finally saying, “I still really liked it.”

            It’s not that plot or writing don’t matter. It’s that there’s a separate axis — call it “emotional validation” — along which people can measure movies. Just like you can have great acting but a crappy plot, movies can be poorly written but nevertheless emotionally validating.

            It is good to expand the set of people who have access to emotionally validating movies. Ideally, those movies would also be good in other ways — but ceteris paribus, a world in which both gay and straight teenagers have access to mediocre sappy teen romance is better than a world where only straight teens do.

          • albatross11 says:

            Iain:

            Fair enough. I’m mainly thinking in terms of what I want to read, not the existence of any works at all that appeal to others.

          • gbdub says:

            Iain: I’m sympathetic to that view, though I do think, like most things, it can go too far. While having “heroes that look like you” for emotional validation and has a certain appeal, I worry that we might overemphasize into “ONLY people that share your gender/race/orientation can be your heroes”.

            Like, it shouldn’t be problematic if your little white kid wants to wear a Moana or T’Challa costume. Or if your little black kid wants to be just like Albert Einstein when he grows up. Or if your boy idolizes Amelia Earhart. If your kid can appreciate and be inspired by a hero from another culture or identity, isn’t that a GOOD thing?

            In other words, I think having a diversity of stories from a variety of perspectives is all to the good, but people of all identities should be actively encouraged to explore that diversity rather than pigeonhole themselves into subgenres based on their gender or skin color.

            Admittedly this bothers me much less when it comes to love stories – certainly to the extent that fantasy or titillation are even a little bit a part of that (which of course they are).

          • Iain says:

            Like, it shouldn’t be problematic if your little white kid wants to wear a Moana or T’Challa costume. Or if your little black kid wants to be just like Albert Einstein when he grows up. Or if your boy idolizes Amelia Earhart. If your kid can appreciate and be inspired by a hero from another culture or identity, isn’t that a GOOD thing?

            Absolutely. Nobody should have to pigeonhole themselves. All I’m saying is that it’s nice if the diversity on screen reflects the diversity of the people watching it.

            I don’t think any of this should be controversial, except maybe to the subset of people who think passing the Bechdel test is unjustifiable pandering to SJWs.

          • Randy M says:

            Absolutely. Nobody should have to pigeonhole themselves. All I’m saying is that it’s nice if the diversity on screen reflects the diversity of the people watching it.

            Of course, given globalization and increasing wealth and influence of China & India, this will shortly mean that Asians should have no fears of making it in Hollywood.

            (This is not an argument. This is an observation based on the fact that many major films count on making money in the foreign markets)

            (edit: Actually, it’s not even a relevant observation, since you said “diversity” rather than “proportionality” or whatever. But… I think it will be interesting to note how things change as that market drives sales more)

          • Matt M says:

            All I’m saying is that it’s nice if the diversity on screen reflects the diversity of the people watching it.

            Are you speaking, in aggregate, of all media, or within specific movies/shows?

            Because I feel like it’s inconsistent when Friends gets criticized for a lack of diversity, but Tyler Perry doesn’t.

            I also feel like nobody ever thinks to criticize “disproportionate representation” when it goes the other way. The Wire wasn’t really “about” gay people specifically (the way Tyler Perry films are about black people specifically), but it definitely had a disproportionately high amount of gay characters.

          • Matt M says:

            At the risk of replying to myself, let me clarify here. I think the “media should be as diverse as the people watching it!” argument has multiple forms.

            Weak form: If X% of the population resides in Y demographic, then X% of all media characters, in aggregate, should reside in Y demographic
            (It’s okay if the cast of “Vikings” is all white men, so long as there are enough shows about black women also out there to balance things out)

            Semi-strong form: If X% of the population depicted in a given time/location in a piece of media resides in Y demographic, then X% of characters in that piece of media should reside in Y demographic.
            (It’s okay if the cast of “Vikings” is all white, because there weren’t any black Vikings, but it probably should be ~50% female, because there were ~50% women in their society)

            Strong form: If X% of the population resides in Y demographic, then X% of media characters, in every individual piece of media, should reside in Y demographic – regardless of the time/place depicted.
            (Why can’t there be black female Vikings? This is already a fictional account, so who cares!)

          • baconbits9 says:

            What about the reactionary form? If group X has been under represented then they should be over represented in the near future.

          • mdet says:

            I think I was one of the most social justice sympathetic people in the last thread (tied with dndrsn?), so I will say that I fully endorse Iain’s comment that a lot of people underestimate the “emotional validation” axis of entertainment media. And it doesn’t even have to be a race / gender thing. Just hearing that a movie or tv show is set in the city I live in is enough to pique my interest and make me want to know more. Scrubs was a hilarious tv show no matter who you were, but I’ve heard doctors and people who work in hospitals got a special kick out of seeing situations and experiences that they relate to personally. (Possibly related to “cultural appropriation”, people also get especially upset when you portray something near and dear to them and do it WRONG, even if the show is otherwise well written and acted). This is just a human thing in my opinion, not special social justice pleading.

            I also endorsed the “weak form” diversity standard. The strong form is ridiculous, although it *can* make good business sense sometimes. I see the “Friends get criticized for no diversity but Tyler Perry doesn’t” as being “IF there are few-to-no black shows on tv, then the least you could do is give us a spot in the white tv shows”

          • Randy M says:

            I see the “Friends get criticized for no diversity but Tyler Perry doesn’t” as being “IF there are few-to-no black shows on tv, then the least you could do is give us a spot in the white tv shows”

            When friends debuted, Fresh Prince of Bel Air had been on for several seasons, to pick one well known example.
            Few to no black TV shows hasn’t been a valid complaint for some time, I think.

            Not represented in a certain genre, or a show being set in a setting where one would expect a group and finding it conspicuously absent, may be, depending.

          • mdet says:

            I also think the “a lot of sexism might just be bad writing” is a point that the diversity critics are aware of. “Women characters are poorly written” isn’t sexism in the sense that male writers hate women, it’s sexism in the “systemic sexism” sense where most writers are and have been male, which means they’re more likely to have an easier time writing other men, and also previous generations of male writers have more male archetypes to pull from. Therefore having more well-written women means getting more women into Hollywood at the Producer, Director, and Writer levels, not just casting some token “badass female character” in your action movie. Your mileage may vary on *why* there are fewer women in these roles, and whether “systemic sexism” is a good term for that why, but I think it’s reasonable to say “Men and women each do more / better writing about themselves, so lack of women creators leads to lack of women characters, especially well written ones”. Ditto for race.

            I fully agree that currently, with thousands of tv shows on hundreds of channels and streaming services, we’re doing a much better job at creating shows targeted at smaller demographics.

          • Aapje says:

            On the one hand I agree that it is good if people get validation.

            On the other hand, the demand can get quite absurd if the character has to match on multiple dimensions, needs to match a specific wish-fulfillment scenario, has to be present in many cultural artifacts & the people are merely demanding, not willing to put in the hard work to create things themselves and/or respect that the amount of content depends on the size of the market.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, almost-exclusively black shows have been a regular thing on TV since the 80s. Almost-exclusively black TV networks have been in place since the late 90s!

            I think someone who wanted to, with a mid-range cable or satellite package, could easily consume an entire day’s worth of television watching 90+% black characters. (Without cheating with DVD, Netflix, on-demand, etc. Just channel surfing)

          • Matt M says:

            And just to clarify, I personally don’t have any real problem with the weak form argument, aside from that I think people get a little tricky when it comes to drawing the boundaries sometimes.

            Like, should all American media look to represent the diversity of the American population? Or the global population? Do other countries have similar obligations or no? And what counts as diversity? Race and gender only? Religion for Jews and Muslims probably, but for everyone? Churchgoing Christians are underrepresented in American media by a huge amount… does anyone have a problem with that?

            Edit: Getting back to the classic Friends example, none of the main characters were religious. Based on pure numbers, that’s a far greater affront to being “representative of the population” than the fact that none of them were black.

          • Tarpitz says:

            having more well-written women means getting more women into Hollywood at the Producer, Director, and Writer levels, not just casting some token “badass female character” in your action movie. Your mileage may vary on *why* there are fewer women in these roles, and whether “systemic sexism” is a good term for that why, but I think it’s reasonable to say “Men and women each do more / better writing about themselves, so lack of women creators leads to lack of women characters, especially well written ones”. Ditto for race.

            I think this is basically right, but I want to expand on/run off at a tangent to it. Possibly several tangents.

            First, I think your list of levels that it’s important to get women (or other groups) into needs to include studio executives, and that in fact that is the most important level, in that all the others are downstream from it. Only a tiny number of creatives (perhaps as few as two – Spielberg and Cameron) are in a position to choose their own major movie projects and be essentially guaranteed that they will get made. The number of producers in that position is probably a little larger, but still very small, and most films are made without any involvement from a member of either group. Most of the decisions about what gets filmed and who gets hired (for the top jobs) are made by studio employees who are well-paid but not well-known.

            Second, I think that a substantial part of female under-representation in these roles stems from structural bias (and perhaps even good old-fashioned personal bias) in the hiring/commissioning process. This could and should be addressed, and I think something like the NFL’s Rooney Rule would be a good measure to try.

            Third, I think there are more entrenched elements of the way these jobs are structured that are probably disproportionately discouraging to women. At present, directing a film involves truly insane time commitments over extended periods. It’s not clear to me that it is possible to change that while retaining the model of one person having strong overall artistic control of the movie, nor that it’s possible to change that model without compromising the quality of films that are made. I also think it’s very likely that more men than women are willing to work in that way, and that that is fairly immutably rooted in biology.

            I’m slightly more optimistic about producers and studio executives. Here, I think that while the current working culture is probably even more offputting to women, the reasons for it being the way it is are far more tenuous. I don’t actually think there’s a good reason for those roles to involve ludicrous hours and impossible stress levels, and the near-universal cocaine abuse which goes with same. I don’t think they need to be so unpleasant and insecure that even granted the significant compensation few people would choose to do them were it not for the reasonable expectation of frequent casual sex with extremely attractive young people desperate to advance their careers, a perk which I suspect is generally more appealing to men.

            Writing, on the other hand, I don’t think suffers from any intrinsic problem. There is already no shortage of good female writers. Fix the problems upstream, and the writing will take care of itself.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t actually think there’s a good reason for those roles to involve ludicrous hours and impossible stress levels

            Any field that is both highly competitive and highly profitable will inevitably have ludicrous hours and impossible stress levels.

    • powerfuller says:

      there is a wider pool of [male] archetypes and tropes to draw upon

      Part of that may be that many existing female tropes are considered less acceptable than they once were; “the innocent in danger” is a female trope, but open to culture-warry criticism if not subverted. It’s kind of hard to invent new tropes to replace old ones.

      Also, I think a similar dynamic (i.e. laziness seen as bigotry) can play out in interpersonal conflict: if somebody angry at another uses a racist/sexist/etc. slur, sometimes it’s indicative of bigotry, but other times I think it indicates little more than, “I want to say the most hurtful thing I can, and slurs are easier to use than a more personally-tailored insult.” A lot of misogyny is little more than misanthropy directed at a female target.

      • Thegnskald says:

        On the “Lazy insults default to slurs” thing – yep.

        On the other hand, I think lazy thinking might generally tend towards bias, so there might be overlap going back the other direction.

        • albatross11 says:

          When there’s some media panic about some kind of hateful grafiti or something (some jackass spray-painted a swastika on someone else’s locker in a high school, say), it seems like the probability is around 90% that it’s a personal dispute where the jackass in question thought that painting a swastika on the locker of his Jewish ex-girlfriend or romantic rival would be especially hurtful. And about 5% that the target of the hateful grafiti did it themselves for attention.

          • Matt M says:

            Indeed. I also think this largely explains the “teenagers shouting racial slurs on xbox live” phenomenon. Most 13 year olds are not deeply committed to the ethos of national socialism.* They just want to yell the most offensive thing they can think of at someone who is annoying them – and society has taught them that racial and sexual and gender-based slurs are, in fact, the most offensive words that exist.

            *Citation needed

    • cassander says:

      An alternative interpretation: feminism, or at least a part of it, is less a coherent philosophy than a grievance engine that is incentivized to discover ways to get offended at things no matter what happens.

  19. Winter Shaker says:

    I have just learned that today (27th April) is being billed as Dynamic Range Day, a day to highlight the campaign to bring an end to the Loudness War, which is what you get when Moloch devours the detail and subtlety of recorded music because everyone has to optimise for maximum punchiness from the first seconds in order to get their songs played on the radio.

    Glad to hear someone is doing something about it. SSC commenter James, I think this may be of interest if you’re not already aware?

    • James says:

      Definitely, but I fear it’s a lost cause. Moloch gonna Moloch, special day or not.

      Having said that, not all of it is necessarily Moloch—some of it is just a rational response to changing listening habits. The days of eighties yuppies listening in their living room on conspicuous-consumption ‘home entertainment systems’ are gone. Nowadays the typical listening environment for your album is probably either laptop speakers or earbuds on a bus, neither of which are conducive to lots of dynamic range, so it makes some sense to mix for that. I’m the kind of listener who sits down and listens carefully to music in my bedroom on decent speakers, but—as much as it distresses me—I have to confess I’m a freakish minority on this one nowadays.

      Some artists (Nine Inch Nails?) have taken to releasing two mixes of their albums, one with dynamic range for dweebs like me and one without for the normies. I’d welcome this if it catches on, but it doesn’t seem very likely, as the expense of mixing twice probably can’t be justified in purely financial (rather than artistic) terms.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Yeah, I’ll admit that I spend a lot less time just listening to music (as opposed to having music on while doing something else) than I used to when I was younger, with the effect that I’m listening on an iPod or a car stereo much more often that on a decent set of speakers. Part of that is having a job that I’m terribly inefficient at, so that I just plain have less spare time overall, though part is also getting into the language-learning-as-a-hobby community. And I’ve probably had my powers of concentration broken by the internet as well, since it’s so easy to just fire up YouTube. I can’t remember when I last just sat down and listened to a whole album. But I am very keen on the idea of a ‘radio / car stereo mix’ and an ‘audiophile’ mix being released for each track, if that can ever become the norm. If the overly-compressed mix is understood to be intended only for noisy environments, then it might not even represent that much of an additional expense, since you can sacrifice some quality that no one is going to hear over a car engine / pub chatter anyway. Presumably today’s loud mixes still need to optimise for both loudness and other audio qualities.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        On the other hand, algorithms can shut down the arms race. A music player app can analyze each track and adjust its volume separately.

        • James says:

          Youtube and maybe Spotify are either doing this or planning to do it soon. It depends how good the algorithms are, but I fear it will just become a slightly different Molochian battle to see who can game the algorithm the best. Might still be a net improvement.

      • gbdub says:

        Wide dynamic ranges make for poor listening in public / in the car / anywhere at all noisy – which is most of where I listen anymore. I have a bunch of classical tracks with beautiful dynamics that I just can’t listen to because I constantly have to switch from “cranked way up, because the pianissimo is impossible to hear” to “crap crap crap turn it down the forte is blowing out my ears”.

        I don’t think the actual mixing expense would be that bad – I suspect an automatic filter to go from the “audiophile mix” to a compressed and up-shifted dynamic range would be pretty simple to implement.

        And no one buys physical discs anymore so the distribution costs wouldn’t be bad either.

        • James says:

          I’m in two minds. Yes, I think you could probably get most of the way there with a cheap and quick automatic compression process, but I feel like labels would still consider that version the real/primary version, since it’s the one that’ll get played on radio and whatever has replaced radio, so I doubt they’d be satisfied with a cheap-and-quick, pretty-much-good-enough fix for it.

          Meanwhile, this bifurcation is sorta de facto happening with vinyl, where mixes for vinyl generally have a lot more dynamic range than their digital counterparts because they know people buying them care about music and they can infer that they people listening to them are doing so at home (you can’t play a record in your car). I’m sorta ambivalent about this: I’m glad that there’s a way to get hold of the good mixes, but I’m annoyed that it’s given fallacious fuel to people who claim that vinyl intrinsically sounds better than digital. “No, digital sampling can do anything that analogue recording can, that record just sounds better because they mixed it properly because they guessed you’re the kind of consumer who’d want it to be mixed properly” is kind of a hard sell for the average non-audio-geek.

        • I don’t think the actual mixing expense would be that bad – I suspect an automatic filter to go from the “audiophile mix” to a compressed and up-shifted dynamic range would be pretty simple to implement.

          There called compressors. Quite common in the music (as in musician, as opposed to hi fi) world.

  20. rahien.din says:

    North and South Korea to sign a treaty formally ending the Korean war, and committing to total denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

    I did not see this coming. Did you? If you did, go ahead and take a victory lap but also, please explain.

    • bean says:

      I didn’t see that coming either. Part of me thinks this is just words, with a few minor real concessions, like stopping leafleting. Note that there isn’t a peace treaty yet, just a promise to negotiate one. But it could be huge. Based on John’s comments, anything on denuclearization from the Norks is really big. I’m not even going to speculate on why this is happening now, but if it works out, then I can’t really see a downside.
      I’d say it’s especially promising given the upcoming summit between Trump and Kim, too. If that goes well, I’d raise the odds of long-term changes considerably.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        I’m going to speculate on one possible part of the reason:

        China’s decision to abolish term limits for its glorious leader (and enshrine his ideas into their constitution) lends significant legitimacy to North Korea’s similar regime.

        I’ll be interested in seeing how much freedom (especially of movement) comes to the regular North Koreans, and on what time table.

        No, I didn’t see it coming.

    • christhenottopher says:

      This is surprising, but I’m still skeptical about how important this new set of talks is. The initial “ceasing by May 1 this year all hostile acts” and then specifies only the South Korean loudspeakers and leaflets, kind of seems like a win for the North without actually having credibly signed any concessions on their end. Maybe something will come of these talks, but I remain cautiously pessimistic until there’s pen to paper and inspectors in the North.

    • John Schilling says:

      Do keep in mind that the United States, Russia, Britain, France, and China signed a treaty committing to the denuclearization of the entire Earth. In 1968.

      If there aren’t specific target numbers, dates, and enforcement mechanisms, it’s just feel-good PR. If there’s any hope for it being more than that, it will have to wait on Kim-Trump. But it certainly makes sense for both Koreas to set the stage for Kim-Trump such that peace and denuclearization are seen as a done deal except for Trump.

    • Orpheus says:

      Didn’t we just move the Doomsday clock to 5 min. past midnight or whatever like a week ago?

    • cassander says:

      I agree with Bean and John, nothing has actually happened yet and even if peace treaty is signed, what matters are the terms, not that a treaty was signed.

      That said, I foresee a rapid shift in narrative from “Trump is actively destroying america by threatening war and undermining our allies” to “Trump just tweets all day nothing he did had anything to do with this.”

    • Nornagest says:

      Talk is always cheap, and it’s cheaper than usual when it’s the North Koreans talking.

      Still, better than the alternative.

      • Matt M says:

        Right. My response to the “Who cares? It’s meaningless without proof they’re going to live up to it!” my question becomes: “Then why hasn’t any other group of political figures gotten this far before?”

        Note: If your answer to that question is “Because political figures in the past weren’t interested in meaningless PR victories with no real enforceability” then I am going to laugh in your face.

        • christhenottopher says:

          As BBA notes below, the answer is they have gotten this far before. I’m not impressed yet. That being said, on the flip side this does at least show that the media’s fear mongering about Trump’s tweets look super overblown. North Korea is a known entity with known sides and relatively straightforward relations, it’s bad but pretty stable. It’s Syria that will wind up killing us all (assuming anything does).

    • tayfie says:

      Lots of people are making the point that talk is cheap and North Korea is not exactly trustworthy.

      Be that as it may, I think it goes too far in dismissing the rapid change in messaging from North Korea. A few months ago was all missile launches and threatening. Talk is cheap, but unprecedented and historic public commitments on a world stage are themselves actions, especially formally ending the Korean War which has been in existence a long time. They strongly signal that North Korea wants something and is willing to make amends and negotiate peacefully.

      There is now pressure to follow through, both internal psychological pressure on Dear Leader because humans desire internal consistency leading to thoughts following actions, and reputation pressure to appear trustworthy enough for future deals. Even if it is not in good faith, enough steps this big could make the mask into the real thing.

      • John Schilling says:

        Talk is cheap, but unprecedented and historic public commitments on a world stage are themselves actions, especially formally ending the Korean War which has been in existence a long time. They strongly signal that North Korea wants something and is willing to make amends and negotiate peacefully.

        “Formally ending the Korean War”, A: hasn’t happened yet and B: isn’t a signal from North Korea and won’t be when it happens.

        Formally ending the Korean War is something North Korea has been explicitly asking for, for longer than I have been keeping track. If and when it happens, it will mostly be a signal from South Korea and the United States (technically the UN but I’m pretty sure they’ll go along with anything the ROK/US sign up for).

        • tayfie says:

          B: isn’t a signal from North Korea and won’t be when it happens.

          If you agree they will follow through doing it, then why didn’t they do it before? They must have a reason. What do you think it is?

          Formally ending the Korean War is something North Korea has been explicitly asking for for as long as I have been keeping track.

          Like when? 2016 does not count. I suspect I’m much younger than you, and searching for such things is completely flooded by either recent news or basic timelines. Yes, North Korea wants official recognition of sovereignty, but I didn’t find any evidence any of their actions from the 50s to the present is remotely similar to your characterization. Over the armistice, there have been incursion tunnels, torpedoes, and artillery shells. And in 2013, they declared that UN Sanctions invalidated the armistice and they were officially at War with South Korea. Those aren’t the actions of a country asking for peace.

          • John Schilling says:

            If you agree they will follow through doing it, then why didn’t they do it before?

            Do what? What do you mean by “follow through”?

            There is no peace treaty sitting on a desk waiting for Kim to sign it, and never has been. It takes a minimum of three parties to create a meaningful peace treaty to end the Korean War, and so long as the other two hold their noses and say “we don’t negotiate with terrorists/rogue states/the Axis of Evil”, I’m not sure what sort of “follow through” you are demanding.

            Like when? 2016 does not count.

            At minimum, 1994, 1996, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2013, and why would 2016 not count? North Korea sends a message to Washington explicitly saying “We want a peace treaty to end the Korean War; here’s our proposal, let’s talk”, and Washington says “No because this is just a peace treaty to end the Korean War, we want a treaty to get rid of all of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and none of our own”. How does that ‘not count’ as North Korea explicitly asking for a treaty to end the Korean War?

            Here’s some background, written in 2013 and thus not contaminated with 2016-cooties. But it involves North Korea’s 2013 proposal for a peace treaty to end the Korean War without giving up its nuclear weapons, so you’ll presumably argue that it doesn’t count either, nor any of the previous times.

            North Korea wants to hang on to its nuclear weapons until the rest of the world is ready to give up theirs. North Korea also wants a peace treaty to end the Korean War. These are both true statements, and refusing to acknowledge the second is not helpful.

          • tayfie says:

            @John Schilling

            The *what* I was referring to was to propose/accept a peace treaty acceptable to all sides and stick to it. You are right that the United States has been unwilling to negotiate before, but have also said that Trump will accept worse conditions for the optics win, so it seems a treaty is more likely to happen if you are right.

            I did not mean “does not count” as completely disregarding the example. I wanted to hear about older examples I didn’t already know about.

            Your source did not actually back your claims that there was an offered peace treaty ending the Korean War in every one of those years, but it gave me enough leads that I will concede the point pending more knowledge on my part.

          • John Schilling says:

            The *what* I was referring to was to propose/accept a peace treaty acceptable to all sides and stick to it.

            Sliding an “acceptable to all sides” in there, changes the meaning entirely, particularly if one side is being unreasonable about what they will accept.

            If one side offers a treaty in which it is proposed that both sides will live in peace henceforth and nothing more or less than that, then they have in fact offered a peace treaty and expressed a desire for a peace treaty. The other side refusing to accept or even discuss the offer because they think continuing the war will work better for them, may mean that nothing will come of the proposed treaty but it doesn’t change the fact that the offer was made.

    • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

      I did not see this coming, but I figure I’ll go ahead and speculate (with predictions!) so that I can earn rationality points if I turn out to be right:

      Trump caves in to Kim’s eternal request for a meeting. Kim then thinks “How can I improve my bargaining position ahead of the meeting with Trump? Aha: I’ll make it seem like things are on the path to reconciliation and peace, so that Trump looks bad if he messes it up, so that he’ll give me concessions and try to take credit for the ‘peace’ rather than play hardball.” So Kim goes and meets with South Korean president, makes nice, etc.

      Prediction: The most significant change to the status quo between now and a year from now is that NK will have more legitimacy and privileges than it currently has. They’ll still have their nukes ten years from now, and they’ll still be an evil totalitarian dictatorship.

      • Deiseach says:

        Can I ask: if this happened under President Clinton/Sanders/Stein/Anyone But Trump, do you think it would be hailed as a great sign of progress? Would you (general “you” to everyone on here) think it was a good or a bad thing? That the president could and should take credit for it?

        I’m not trying to say “Trump, 11-dimensional chess genius” but I’d like to get a sense of how this might be regarded if, say, it had happened at the end of Obama’s presidency rather than in the start of Trump’s. I’m sure cautious and prudent pundits would still be saying take it easy, there may be nothing substantial going on, but I also can’t help thinking there would be a lot of commentary along the lines of “Obama the Peacemaker does the impossible”.

        • cassander says:

          To ask the question is to answer it, of course. We’re speaking of a man who was given a nobel peace prize for, I had to actually look it up “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” after about 6 months in office, when his largest foreign policy decision had been to massively expand the war in afghanistan, in keeping with his campaign promises to do just that.

          • Aapje says:

            The Nobel prize was just for him not being George W. Bush.

          • BBA says:

            The Nobel committee does not publicize its proceedings, but I’ve heard rumors that the committee gave the award to Obama because they expected him to be assassinated and Nobels can’t be awarded posthumously.

            There’s a case that Obama actually did improve world peace by virtue of not being John McCain.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’ve heard rumors that the committee gave the award to Obama because they expected him to be assassinated and Nobels can’t be awarded posthumously.

            That strikes me as exceedingly unlikely, except at the randos-on-the-internet level, and I’d like to see a cite.

        • Nornagest says:

          Sure, there’d have been some hagiography of Obama going on if this had happened at the end of his second term, just like there’s some hagiography of Trump going on now. Probably more, since attracting hagiography was kind of Obama’s schtick. But it wouldn’t have been worth taking seriously. I’m quite certain that I’d have been saying the same things, especially since all signs point to this being motivated by intra-Korean stuff as much as anything else.

          • cassander says:

            I’m not seeing a lot of hagiography of Trump. I’m seeing a lot of “trump’s actions obviously didn’t do anything” despite the fact that a week ago most of them were saying that trump’s actions had pushed us to a few seconds from midnight. Frankly, I don’t think that what has been announced is particularly meaningful, but I find the total 180 spin on the import of trump’s actions distasteful and disturbing.

          • mdet says:

            @cassander
            Obligatory reminder that nine times out of ten, “[Group of people] are hypocrites / flip-floppers” actually means “[Group of people] contains multitudes, who don’t always agree with each other”.

            But also I don’t really think it’s a 180 to both say “Trump should not tweet threats at Kim Jong-Un, because these are at best unhelpful and at worst playing chicken with a nuke” and also “Trump did not play a significant role in the current North-South treaty”

          • Matt M says:

            I find the total 180 spin on the import of trump’s actions distasteful and disturbing.

            You see the same thing with economic news. Stock market up? Tons of articles about how it’s driven by strong economic fundamentals that have nothing to do with politics or politicians at all. Market down? Articles about how Trump’s horrible policies are destroying the economy.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Matt M: It’s logically possible that a president can do no good to the economy but can do harm.
            Of course if that’s true we should pass a Constitutional amendment to abolish the presidency. 😀

          • cassander says:

            @mdet says:

            That is a good rule, but in this case, I have seen the reversal from individuals.

            And the reversal isn’t from “trump’s tweets are ineffective form of diplomacy” to “trump had nothing to do with the peace”. I agree that that isn’t a reversal. The reversal is “trump’s tweets are destroying our relationships with our allies and driving us to war” to “trump’s tweets obviously have no effect on the decisions of anyone involved.”

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m quite certain that I’d have been saying the same things, especially since all signs point to this being motivated by intra-Korean stuff as much as anything else

            Yes, this is the kind of answer I’m looking for. “No matter who the person sitting in the Oval Office right now, I’d still think this was a blossoming bud of hope/the usual political fucking around by the North Korean dictatorship”. I think Trump has got such a toxic reputation that it’s really difficult to get decent commentary on what the heck any policy decisions or the fallout from them means.

            Again, I am not saying “Trump is a great or even competent president”, simply that there were all the immediate doomsaying “we’re living in a fascist state and he’s going to provoke the Third World War”, but instead a year on life is still fairly much the same, nobody has been rounded up and sent to a torture camp, and here’s some show – even if it is all constructed theatre and nothing actual – of movement between North and South Korea.

            I’m not expecting the Fall of the Berlin Wall out of this, but did anyone honestly expect the Fall of the Wall when it happened so fast?

            “Trump did not play a significant role in the current North-South treaty”

            mdet, this is what I’m trying to tease out – yeah, probably it had little to nothing to do with him. But if it was President Warmbody in office instead of Trump and the same thing happened, regardless if Warmbody did anything at all except look statesmanlike in photo ops, would people be saying “hey, Warmbody’s diplomacy and peacemaking/tough stance on foreign policy pulled this off”?

            What I’m trying to get at is – (a) is this regarded as a good thing (even if seasoned observers of the situtation think it’s nothing in reality just a big show for the global community) and (b) if it is regarded as a good thing, would an American president currently in office be credited with contributing to it, never mind if they in reality had anything to do with it?

            Because if the answer to either or both of those is “yes”, then all the “Trump had nothing to do with it” is more likely partisan opinion than consideration of the facts. I can more easily trust commenters on here to say “No, Trump did nothing to affect this” than I can the mainstream expression of both professional pundits and Idiots On Twitter, so getting a sense of what this community feels helps me have a basis to judge what’s going on.

          • Nornagest says:

            There is a tendency in American politics to look at — stuff in general, really, but events in the Korean Peninsula are an unusually strong example — and assume that they must be caused by our diplomatic influence or even our domestic policy. And okay, we are the reason the Kims are pursuing a nuclear deterrent, or at least we’re the reason they spend the most time on in their propaganda — they’re probably concerned about the Chinese too (a lot of those artillery batteries that North Korea watchers like to talk about are pointed not at Seoul but at the northwestern border). But we are such a boogeyman to them that I have a hard time believing the person whose ass currently occupies the Oval Office has much to do with their politics, in the absence of actions much more significant than any that Trump’s taken so far.

            Twitter doesn’t change that — no doubt Trump’s Twitter feed is being read in Pyongyang, but if you look at it from their perspective, there’s just not much the Evil Empire’s tweets can do to change their minds, one way or the other. There are entire Internet communities dedicated to making fun of Nork propaganda; no doubt the stuff we say looks similar to them. (Lest this be seen as partisan rationalization, I wasn’t very impressed with the kerfuffle over “my button is bigger than yours”, either.)

          • Deiseach says:

            Twitter doesn’t change that — no doubt Trump’s Twitter feed is being read in Pyongyang, but if you look at it from their perspective, there’s just not much the Evil Empire’s tweets can do to change their minds, one way or the other.

            Which is a good point, but then if that’s true, then those saying “Trump had nothing to do with this” should not have been saying “Trump’s tweets will drive us to the Third World War by provoking North Korea”. If the USA is the Evil Empire Bogeyman and it doesn’t matter if it’s President Dove or President Hawk as far as the regime is concerned, that should be honestly acknowledged.

          • Nornagest says:

            Well, maybe I should have qualified that a little more. I don’t think the tweets matter much, and I think the criticism they’ve attracted has more to do with their style than their substance (along with a lot of other Trumpisms). But there is a scenario where they could be potentially destabilizing.

            To understand why, it’s important to realize that North Korea doesn’t have an effective second-strike capability. It’s a small country with a small nuclear force. It doesn’t have working SLBM capability (yet) or a very good command-and-control network. All of this means that if they think they need to use their weapons, they have to shoot first: if they weather a nuclear attack or even a serious conventional campaign, most of the top brass will be dead and the survivors won’t be able to effectively coordinate anything.

            So, imagine a crisis. A dispute arises over North Korea shelling some islands off their west coast or axe-murdering some workers in the DMZ (not making this up!) or something. We send the John C. Stennis to run a training exercise with South Korea and Japan uncomfortably close to them, they “coincidentally” schedule some missile tests, the usual deal. But this time one of their missiles goes off course, runs through the carrier group and gets blown up by an ERAM a hundred yards from an American cruiser. The carrier group goes on high alert; the guys ashore do too. Rumors are flying around. Things are getting tense.

            If Trump decides to shoot his mouth off in the middle of this, it could be (correctly) interpreted as bluster. Probably will be, the Norks know all about bluster. But it’s not a chance I’d want to take. Thanks to Trump Derangement Syndrome this sort of thing’s probably more salient in a lot of people’s minds than it really should be, but it is a realistic threat.

          • Deiseach says:

            Thanks to Trump Derangement Syndrome this sort of thing’s probably more salient in a lot of people’s minds than it really should be, but it is a realistic threat.

            Okay, I see that, but at the same time in a situation like that, there would be a section of the domestic (and possibly international) public demanding a strong reaction and an aggressive public stance, no matter who the president was.

            I’m still struck by the opportunity (even opportunism) of the Obama Situation Room photos when bin Laden was killed; everybody who was anybody made sure to be photographed being present to send the message that they were tough, capable persons taking tough action that took out an enemy of the USA (even Hillary Clinton, and as Secretary of State I think this was a deliberate choice on her part, to be seen as tough and capable in foreign affairs in the light of ‘when I run for the presidency there will be questions over can I make the hard choices if the USA is toe-to-toe with aggressors’).

            So Trump’s blustering is a real disadvantage, I agree, but Americans (at least some of them) and others would prefer any president to be “don’t push us or you’ll regret it” rather than “now I’m sure this was just a mistake” in a situation like that. Though yes, others would prefer the soft approach for fear of escalation, so it’s a hard decision to make: do you want to run the risk of being seen as weak and a pushover and encourage foreign regimes to go to the limit, or do you want to run the risk of being seen as a hawk and a warmonger?

          • CatCube says:

            @Deiseach

            Re: Hillary Clinton in the Situation Room, I’m willing to cut her some slack on that one. If that attack on Bin Laden had gone sideways the State Department would have been busy.

            Getting Bin Laden is one of the only things that I think the Obama administration got right (or it’s the only one that I can think of off the top of my head if I’m asked what I liked about them), and it’s worth remembering that it was a very real risk for him to sign off on that. Special Ops raids into a foreign country can go very, very badly very, very quickly, and he would have had egg on his face for reasons well outside of his control.

            Edit: Rescue of the Maersk Alabama is the other one of the “things the Obama administration got right” that I have on the top of my head.

          • cassander says:

            @CatCube says:

            The bin laden raid was risky, but not nearly as risky as the shitstorm that would have ensued had he not done it and then it leaked that he had passed up a chance to get bin laden. There’s a reason that everyone in that room besides Joe Biden had pushed for the raid.

            @normangast

            There is a tendency in American politics to look at — stuff in general, really, but events in the Korean Peninsula are an unusually strong example — and assume that they must be caused by our diplomatic influence or even our domestic policy.

            Definitely true, in general.

            But we are such a boogeyman to them that I have a hard time believing the person whose ass currently occupies the Oval Office has much to do with their politics, in the absence of actions much more significant than any that Trump’s taken so far.

            The trump administration has been making dealing with korea a top priority almost from day one. It’s been move involved there than anywhere else in the world. Trump’s tweets are just tweets, of course, but there has been a lot of policy, a lot of personal visits by high level personnel, and a lot of communication that isn’t as visible as tweets. Now, maybe the administration spent the whole time ineffectually spinning its wheels and not accomplishing much, but it’s hard to say that their investment wasn’t fairly significant, at least in terms of the attention of senior leadership.

          • Matt M says:

            The bin laden raid was risky, but not nearly as risky as the shitstorm that would have ensued had he not done it and then it leaked that he had passed up a chance to get bin laden.

            Clinton and GWB both had ample opportunities to get OBL and didn’t – and it didn’t result in any sort of major shitstorm.

          • bean says:

            Clinton and GWB both had ample opportunities to get OBL and didn’t – and it didn’t result in any sort of major shitstorm.

            Clinton passed on a couple pre-911. That was a very different world, and the lack of major shitstorm is unsurprising. And I’m pretty sure GWB never had the sort of “Yes, he’s right here and we know it” intel that Obama did in 2011. There were times we had a halfway decent idea of where he was, and some of those were squandered, but I’d like evidence that GWB had the same options post-911. (There may have been a case pre-911, but I’d say the same as I did about Clinton.)

          • albatross11 says:

            cite?

          • mdet says:

            I don’t doubt that most people in journalism are not fans of Trump, and that a lot of coverage is motivated by partisanship. What I don’t like is when people say things like Matt M’s

            Stock market up? Tons of articles about how it’s driven by strong economic fundamentals that have nothing to do with politics or politicians at all. Market down? Articles about how Trump’s horrible policies are destroying the economy.

            This sounds pretty plausible and consistent with good journalism to me.

            The period of Trump’s presidency when the stock market was up was from his inauguration through until January ‘18. The rise during this time was entirely consistent with the previous trend of the past five or so years. And the first major economics-related policy change of the Trump Administration was signing the tax bill in December. So it sounds pretty accurate to say that Trump played little to no role in the stock market’s growth during this time.

            The drops in the market occurred soon after the tax bill was signed, and the shaky stock market since then has coincided with Trump announcing and beginning to implement various tariffs. It is definitely plausible that Congress and the President are playing a role in the stock market drops.

            If there are specific articles you want to point to that entirely blame Pres. Trump for the drops without offering more evidence or details, and without clarifying what other factors could be at play here, then I’m fine downgrading the credibility of that writer (and, to a weaker extent, publisher) specifically. But I don’t like downgrading “the media” because “articles” say different things.

          • Nornagest says:

            The tariff proposals are probably responsible for some of the recent stock volatility, but the market gains up to but not after the tax bill look to me more like a case of “buy the rumor, sell the news”. It’s very very common for the effects of an economic tweak to be fully priced in (or even overestimated) before it actually takes effect, as long as it doesn’t come as a surprise (which the tax bill wasn’t but many of the recent trade moves were).

  21. Murphy says:

    An interesting note on the obituary of Gustav Born

    https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/989770232242683905.html

  22. Matt M says:

    I’ve seen a lot of headlines about how Finland is abandoning its basic income experiment because it has “failed.”

    Has anyone analyzed this extensively? My gut instinct is that this is one of those things where the media headlines are all mostly wrong and that eventually Scott will do an explainer showing that this isn’t really the case – but I’m getting impatient and can’t wait! Has anyone else already done this?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      No, they planned to do it for two years and stopped after one year because politics. No analysis has been done to determine if it succeeded or failed.

  23. Nick says:

    I’ve sometimes observed that it seems like morality has flipped around in the last few decades: what once were personal or lifestyle choices have come to seem like moral imperatives, and what once were moral imperatives have come to seem like personal choices. Vegetarianism is sometimes spoken of like a moral imperative now, appealing for instance to animal suffering. Same with intolerance, in the specific way it’s employed nowadays. Most sexual sins are no longer considered bad, though, and I don’t think our culture regards pride as the greatest vice anymore. Wrath’s still in the doghouse, though.

    My question is, assuming I have a point here, what would the seven deadly sins look like today? Here’s a canonical list (we’ll set aside vainglory and acedia):
    1. Lust
    2. Gluttony
    3. Greed
    4. Sloth
    5. Wrath
    6. Envy
    7. Pride

    And a related question: what would the seven virtues look like? Here’s a canonical list again—you’ll note each virtue corresponds to a vice above:
    1. Chastity
    2. Temperance
    3. Charity
    4. Diligence
    5. Patience
    6. Kindness
    7. Humility

    I’m not making any assumptions about what precisely the opposites of our age’s vices are, so feel free to compile separate lists.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Modern vices (for men, particularly white men; aside from the first, women would have a separate list)

      1) Racism
      2) Misogyny
      3) Continence (sexual)
      4) Promiscuity
      5) Recklessness (willingness to take risks)
      6) Cowardice (refusal to take risks)
      7) Pride

      There are no virtues.

    • Anonymous says:

      Virtues:
      1. Strength.
      2. Tolerance.
      3. Justice.
      4. Inclusion.
      5. Diversity.
      6. License.
      7. Self-acceptance.

      Sins:
      1. Weakness.
      2. Bigotry.
      3. Inequality.
      4. Elitism.
      5. Homogeneity.
      6. Self-denial.
      7. Shaming.

      Strength–Weakness: This is well-exemplified by how people who apologize are treated versus people who double down are treated. Strength is clearly admired and respected, and weakness is despised – viewed as an invitation to dogpile on the poor sod. Common in non-Christian cultures and religions.

      Tolerance–Bigotry: Here bigotry is the umbrella term for all manner of isms and phobias – racism, sexism, homophobia, islamophobia, transphobia, etc. Tolerance here is not merely accepting that certain things and people are different – and perhaps negative in impact – without complaint, but also insisting that they are at least as good as one’s own traits, and should not be repressed.

      Justice–Inequality: Equality (usually of outcome) is assumed to be the only just arrangement. All other results are clearly unjust.

      Elitism–Inclusion: Excluding and separating people from just about anything on the basis of just about anything is seldom tolerated. Even, and perhaps particularly, when there is good reason for such separations or segregations.

      Diversity–Homogeneity: Diversity is our greatest strength. It is implied that homogeneity is a weakness. It certainly seems that increasing religious and ethnic diversity is something the priesthood is highly interested and engaged in actually doing.

      License–Self-denial: Not doing what you want, particularly without an external power forcing you to do otherwise, is treated with incomprehension and revulsion. Autodiscipline is particularly maligned.

      Self-acceptance–Shaming: Even the most vile and wretched should not see themselves as anything but completely acceptable people, and should not be shamed for being somehow bad and unwilling to change for the better – excepting violations of other virtues.

      • Nick says:

        Virtues and vices lists, and you even explained each pair—this is a good response. 😀

        I think you hit the nail on the head with tolerance–bigotry, which was what I was referring to by “intolerance, in the specific way it’s employed nowadays.” Same with diversity and inclusion, and with justice and self-acceptance to a lesser extent (I’m not sure you should call it justice exactly, although certainly it’s sometime framed as if justice just is, say, equality of outcome). Strength–weakness and License–Self-denial I’ll have to think about.

        Haidt’s moral foundations might provide an interesting angle on this, which only occurred to me after I wrote my post. Loyalty–betrayal doesn’t seem to have a place in your list, for instance—if you’ve got our society right, that’s very revealing.

      • ilikekittycat says:

        Shame as a modern “sin” is silly. Shame is near all-time civilizational highs of popularity. You used to be a pariah to friends and family, or maybe your community, for your impulsive moments. Now the entire world is trying to figure out what you ever did wrong on the internet the instant you achieve notoriety

    • Matt M says:

      Most sexual sins are no longer considered bad

      Disagree. If we can reasonably map “lust” to “asking out a coworker” or “having sex with a drunk person” then it’s still very near the top of sins that will get you in a whole lot of trouble with polite society (even if legally permissible, as many of the other are and always have been)

      • Nick says:

        I could have been more specific, I just didn’t want to get into the weeds. But consider that homosexuality, BDSM, and sex before marriage have become much more acceptable, as well as open marriages and polyamory, and hookup culture is widespread now. And it seems to me the wave of interest in whether asking out a coworker is wrong is due to the #MeToo movement, which makes it pretty recent. In general I won’t disagree that a lot of the old sexual sins are still considered bad, but I think the terms have changed a lot.

        • Matt M says:

          Well yeah, I don’t disagree there.

          My general point here is that saying “sexual sins are no longer a big deal” is, IMO, incorrect. The correct statement would be something like “what counts as a sexual sin has changed significantly.”

          Gay sex used to be taboo, but now isn’t, sure.

          And kissing a girl without getting her to sign a contract first used to be acceptable, but now isn’t.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Humility is overrated as a virtue. Depending on what you mean by it, I’m not really sure I consider it a virtue. Take an Olympic gold winner for instance. In a world of seven billion people, they are the best at their given sport. There is nothing wrong with them saying it. The only problem is if they start talking down to others. But as long as they aren’t a jerk, there is nothing wrong with thinking highly of yourself because of it.

      • Jaskologist says:

        One thing humility teaches us is that, when determining how we should act, it’s best not to start with “well, how should an Olympic gold winner act?”

      • christhenottopher says:

        Just to make Jaskologist’s excellent point a bit more fleshed out and explicit, very few people are Olympic Gold Medalists. Almost no one is in fact. Dido with top CEOs, the most famous artists, best in field people of all sorts. And you know what even they still need humility in fields outside their specialty. A top-of-their-field computer scientist probably has a lot of general intelligence, but I still trust a Tanzanian farmer more on how to run a farm in his country than I’d trust that comp sci guy.

        Humility is good in most cases a human is likely to encounter. The small number of failure examples is not a particularly good counter argument.

        • Wrong Species says:

          You don’t have to be a gold medal olympian to have something to take pride in. Maybe you’re just really good at your job and you know because they pay you highly and tell you so. There’s nothing wrong with pride in that case.

          • christhenottopher says:

            I’m still against that actually. I’m personally really good at my current job. I get plenty of validation of this from others and have advanced quickly in my company because of it. But every time I’ve screwed up I can pretty clearly trace it to a pride problem. Basically the kind of situation where I think to myself “I’m great at this and know what I’m doing. I don’t need to double check myself.” Then I forget something basic and have missed the mark.

            Knowing your skills is one thing, but pride is a complacency that comes from that and messes you up. “But where do you get satisfaction in your life if not from pride?” Mostly from having good friends, living within my financial means, and having time to consider interesting ideas. I don’t need pride for any of those, so while possibly pride has upsides with some people in some circumstances, I think people’s tendency is still towards WAY too much pride. Hell, in the Western world we’ve perfected pride into the fundamental attribution error. Pride leads one to think that any personal failings are outside one’s control and the failings of others are because they aren’t as good of people as we are. A deadly sin doesn’t need to be wrong in literally every circumstance imaginable to be on the list, just that it’s a failing people fall into easily and often.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Part of the problem is the ambiguity in terms like pride and humility. I certainly don’t think you should get to a point where you don’t think check your work. I think everyone should be as self aware as possible, which includes an awareness that you can make mistakes. Here’s what I mean by pride as a good thing:

            1. You should have an awareness of your talents
            2. It’s permissible to feel good about those talents
            3. It’s permissible to tell others about 1 and 2

            I think most people agree with 1 and 2 but disagree on 3. When someone asks the Olympian about what led him to victory, he’s supposed to talk about everyone else in his life except himself, even though if we’re honest, it’s him and his natural talent that made the difference. Why do we pretend otherwise?

          • Nick says:

            Part of the problem is the ambiguity in terms like pride and humility.

            It’s tempting to make this complaint, but part of the reason they’re ambiguous and confusing is that people have motives for muddying the waters: making haughtiness out to be proper pride is a way to seem virtuous and not vicious, and making boasting out to be rightful renown likewise. And if you take Aristotle’s “golden mean” approach to virtues and vices, it’s easy to see how this can occur: if we don’t distinguish between an excess or deficiency of something versus a moderate amount of it, we can become confused in just this way. In English, of course, we have a word for the excess (pride), and a word for the mean (humility), but humility is often confused for deficiency instead, and then pride for the mean, as I think you’re doing, Wrong Species. This incidentally raises the question of what you would call an excess of “pride.”

          • Deiseach says:

            even though if we’re honest, it’s him and his natural talent that made the difference

            If we take the allegations about doping in sports seriously, natural talent on its own and unaided has less to do with it nowadays.

            Yes, talent does make the difference. But you don’t create your talents (i.e. you don’t choose to be born with the genes for fast twitch muscle fibre or good reflexes), and opportunity has a lot to do with “can you get into a good coaching programme and get picked for the Olympic team of your country and get sufficient sponsorship so you don’t have to work a job to keep yourself and so can devote all your time to training” or “do you live in a country where you may be the best of the national squad but that means you’ll always be only number twelve finisher in the final out of twenty, because you can’t get the money and training and facilities to develop that you need”?

            So for someone to say “I did it all myself with nothing from anybody else” is not true, or at least hardly ever true. Nobody turns up barefoot and alone at the Olympics to compete, no matter how naturally talented they are.

          • CatCube says:

            When talking about pride in your own talents, it’s worth remembering that we get the English word “talent” from the Parable of the Talents, where a master (God, in this analogy) gave money (talent was the word for a silver coin) to his servants to invest, and was angry when one of the servants failed to use it to its full advantage.

            One way to commit the sin of pride is when you’ve been given a talent by God and think that you did whatever it is you did purely by your own efforts, and think that you alone are responsible and fail to give Him the credit He is due. Making yourself more important than God, in other words.

      • Deiseach says:

        Nobody really genuinely understands what is meant by Humility and a lot of people seem to confuse Pride and Self-Esteem and proudly brag “I’m not humble! I know my own worth!” That is not what the sin of Pride is; it’s not accepting that yes you really are clever/talented/beautiful/kind and loving yourself, it’s akin to hubris and many Greek plays show how that gets punished. The poisonous kind of pride is a noxious weed and humility is the herbicide that permits the real flowers of proper self-respect and self-esteem to flourish.

        From The Screwtape Letters:

        But there are other profitable ways of fixing his attention on the virtue of Humility. By this virtue, as by all the others, our Enemy wants to turn the man’s attention away from self to Him, and to the man’s neighbours. All the abjection and self-hatred are designed, in the long run, solely for this end; unless they attain this end they do us little harm; and they may even do us good if they keep the man concerned with himself, and, above all, if self-contempt can be made the starting-point for contempt of other selves, and thus for gloom, cynicism, and cruelty.

        You must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it not as self-forgetfulness but as a certain kind of opinion (namely, a low opinion) of his own talents and character. Some talents, I gather, he really has. Fix in his mind the idea that humility consists in trying to believe those talents to be less valuable than he believes them to be. No doubt they are in fact less valuable than he believes, but that is not the point. The great thing is to make him value an opinion for some quality other than truth, thus introducing an element of dishonesty and make-believe into the heart of what otherwise threatens to become a virtue. By this method thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools. And since what they are trying to believe may, in some cases, be manifest nonsense, they cannot succeed in believing it and we have the chance of keeping their minds endlessly revolving on themselves in an effort to achieve the impossible. To anticipate the Enemy’s strategy, we must consider His aims. The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents—or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognise all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things. He wants to kill their animal self-love as soon as possible; but it is His long-term policy, I fear, to restore to them a new kind of self-love — a charity and gratitude for all selves, including their own; when they have really learned to love their neighbours as themselves, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbours.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Harumph. Why would I build the best cathedral ever if I must not even be happy (“proud”) that it was I who built it, and not that talentless hack Bodely? I think Screwtape has a point here, if he’s characterizing the Enemy correctly. How this differs from “thinking my talents less valuable than I believe them to be” I do not see.

          • Deiseach says:

            Why would I build the best cathedral ever if I must not even be happy (“proud”) that it was I who built it, and not that talentless hack Bodely?

            No, see, this is the mistake! You don’t have to ‘not be happy I built it’, you can be happy and pleased and even proud (with the right kind of pride) that you did it, that yuo did the best work you could do, that it is the best work of its kind and a true excellent marvel and that you have the talents to do so, as long as you also realise that you are in the right time and place to do it and the contributions of others helped. You can think that “nobody else could have done it”, but you must avoid thinking “especially that talentless hack Bodely, ha ha suck it loser!”

            Maybe Bodely is a talentless hack, maybe he’s just an honest uninspired journeyman who builds basic functional buildings that aren’t going to set the Thames on fire but at least won’t fall down in a heavy rain shower. Or maybe he’s really good and the coming star but your pride cannot bear the thought of a rival and you deceive yourself into ignoring his talent and innovations. That latter is not rightful pride, it’s the kind of poisonous attitude that has you thinking these other guys are naturally inferior to me and worthless, and you don’t get to do that.

            Maybe you’re the World’s Best Architect but everyone hates your guts because you are such a jerk and make their lives miserable and treat people like the dirt on the soles of your shoes. True pride is recognising and acknowledging and rejoicing in your talents and achievements – and recognising, acknowledging and rejoicing in the talents and achievements of others of similar excellence.

            I’m going to quote Dante here, from the Terrace of Pride in the Purgatorio where those who were infected with false pride put off that disfigurement in penance:

            79 ‘Oh,’ I said to him, ‘are you not Oderisi
            80 the honor of Gubbio and of that art
            81 which they in Paris call illumination?’

            82 ‘Brother,’ he said, ‘the pages smile brighter
            83 from the brush of Franco of Bologna.
            84 The honor is all his now — and only mine in part.

            85 ‘Indeed, I hardly would have been so courteous
            86 while I still lived — an overwhelming need
            87 to excel at any cost held fast my heart.

            91 ‘O vanity of human powers,
            92 how briefly lasts the crowning green of glory,
            93 unless an age of darkness follows!

            94 ‘In painting Cimabue thought he held the field
            95 but now it’s Giotto has the cry,
            96 so that the other’s fame is dimmed.

            97 ‘Thus has one Guido taken from the other
            98 the glory of our tongue, and he, perhaps, is born
            99 who will drive one and then the other from the nest.

            103 ‘Will greater fame be yours if you put off
            104 your flesh when it is old than had you died
            105 with pappo and dindi still upon your lips

            106 ‘after a thousand years have passed? To eternity,
            107 that time is shorter than the blinking of an eye
            108 is to one circling of the slowest-moving sphere.

        • Wrong Species says:

          I’m not sure exactly what is supposed to be the difference. But either way, people do expect you to be “humble” in the sense I described. If the gold medal olympian talks about his naturally gifted he is, people are going to criticize him for that, even though it’s completely true. He’s supposed to talk about how it’s his family and coach and all the hard work that got him there but all those other olympians were similar in that regard. It’s own talent, his essence if you will, that causes him to stand out.

          • Deiseach says:

            People don’t like boastfulness and braggarts. Yes, talent is innate, but those who rely on talent alone and don’t put in the hard work with the coach and support and all the rest of it don’t get far, or do have a first blaze of success but then crumble when talent on its own is not enough and the habits they should have developed (but didn’t because they relied on talent alone and were arrogant about ‘maybe that loser has to work hard but I don’t need to and never will’) are what they need to pull through.

            And as we’ve seen with the talk in another comment thread about “best way to win an Olympics gold medal”, it’s not purely talent on its own: the advice about move to a country with really great coaching and facilities, pick an obscure sport with little competition, concentrate on developing one skill alone, and be born male but transition after puberty so you get the advantages of male strength and skeletal development over female strength and development and can be sure of being the top competitor in a women-only sport (though that one might be a bit extreme).

            False humility is as bad as false pride, and we see false humility in the “sorry not sorry” form apologies that are plainly fake and only extracted from the unwilling when they get caught up in a public shaming. People recognise that it’s insincere and that they’re being lied to, and that develops a cynicism in them. Same with false pride.

            We all know the kinds of boasting and bragging that people engage in, for example in certain sports: it’s also recognised as insincere, part of the whole performance.

            I hate revisiting the old wounds but with Mr Gupta we saw the same thing of where pride is wrong, where he insisted his tradition was the one and only real, true, actual, working and correctly describing the universe one, and everyone else – from real Buddhists to fake white wannabes – was deluded, wrong, ripping off the one real true tradition, or shitty lying racists.

            Did that show of pride convince anyone “wow, yeah, his is the one true real tradition and nobody anywhere else in the rest of the world at any time has ever found for themselves, without being guided by or copying the one true real tradition, even a crumb of truth”?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “People don’t like boastfulness and braggarts.”

            I think there’s a lot of individual and cultural variation on that one.

          • Viliam says:

            “People don’t like boastfulness and braggarts.” I think there’s a lot of individual and cultural variation on that one.

            I would suspect that a topic (what are you bragging about) makes a big difference, too. This is something Robin Hanson could probably write a great article about; maybe already did.

            For example, mentioning your victory at sport championships is socially acceptable; mentioning (using the same voice) the results of your IQ test is not.

            Also, there is the rule in advertising where it is okay to say “X is the best”, but it is not okay to say “X is better than Y”. Even though, technically, being literally the best implies being better than any other Y — but we all know that “the best” claims are not supposed to be taken literally, while being “better than” are the fighting words.

            But, not being Robin Hanson, I can’t extrapolate the complete rules that homo hypocritus uses for determining when bragging is socially acceptable and when it is not.

    • christhenottopher says:

      All y’all who think there are huge differences between the canonical list and what most people use may need to get out of the bay area more or avoid right wing anger baiting stories. Some of the criteria of what constitutes one of those sins/virtues has changed some (gay and premarital sex were a subset of lust but never the whole thing, and non-consensual sex was always a problem of lust though the definition of non-consensual has expanded some), but the basics are still in place. The only thing on the sins I’d switch out is gluttony for prejudice. Gluttony seems less serious in a world of plenty, and though there is some distaste in it, I wouldn’t call that deadly sin level anymore. Prejudice is primarily about using a person’s ethnic/religious/sexual identity to negatively assess them. And that also makes sense given the rise of super mixed societies that easy travel (and the settlement of the Americas) brought about.

      For the virtues, Chastity has declined in importance (still not nothing, but below top virtue status). Mostly justified by easier access to birth control and treatments for many of the STDs associated. In it’s place I’d say Patriotism would replace it. “What?! But don’t you know the leftist media hates patriotism?!” Yes, yes refer to the “get out of the bay area/anger baiting bubble” statement from before. When these sins and virtues were first listed, the idea of loyalty to a country among the populace was pretty much unheard of. At most some loyalty might be expected to the local noble. Patriotism really starts rising in the late 18th century as older social orders broke down and states began seeking larger scale loyalty (mostly so that they could actually raise the military forces needed to survive a French levee en masse from the conservative perspective, and so they could use a levee en masse to overthrow the old order from the left wing perspective). This isn’t gone and it’s definitely stronger than chastity as a virtue.

      The so I’d say a broadly accepted list would look like this:
      1. Lust (changed a bit on the edges)
      2. Prejudice
      3. Greed
      4. Sloth
      5. Wrath
      6. Envy
      7. Pride

      Virtues
      1. Patriotism
      2. Temperance (some changes on the edges for what counts)
      3. Charity
      4. Diligence
      5. Patience
      6. Kindness
      7. Humility

      • Deiseach says:

        Gluttony seems less serious in a world of plenty

        Consider all the scare-headlines about the Obesity Epidemic and then say if gluttony is seen as less serious?

        According to Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, chair of the department of nutrition and food studies at New York University, the costs of these illnesses will be “astronomical.”

        James O. Hill, PhD, agrees. Hill, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, claims that at the rate we’re going, obesity-related diabetes alone “will break the bank of our healthcare system”.

        So what’s causing the epidemic? Not surprisingly, everyone agrees that it stems from two things: eating too much and exercising too little. The differences are in the specifics.

        • Matt M says:

          Yeah – given the relative low status of the overweight, combined with the general reluctance to believe anyone who claims their problem isn’t solvable by advice like “just eat less and exercise more,” it definitely seems like gluttony and sloth are both still considered immoral behavior in general.

        • christhenottopher says:

          I’m not saying lots of people don’t still disdain gluttony and those considered to indulge in it. But there’s more controversy about it (since after all in the US where I live, obesity is over a third of the populace and people considered “overweight” is about 60%), whereas for the most part the idea that prejudice is bad doesn’t seem controversial outside rare internet people who to me mostly seem addicted to controversy. It’s just a lot of people disagree on what counts as prejudice. So if I need to pick a top 7 to make the list work, I’d switch gluttony and prejudice. Gluttony would still probably be in a top 10 list pretty easily.

          • Deiseach says:

            It may be controversial, but it does show that gluttony was considered a flaw, vice or sin and still is, even if it is no longer classed as a sin – it is still considered a flaw and vice and bad for society. So it’s not entirely true to say that now we have a society of plenty, gluttony is taken less seriously.

            I think vainglory and conspicuous consumption are – or were – taken less seriously, but even there you get the earnest environmentalist argument over unsustainable lifestyles and we must drastically cut back to save the planet (e.g. global warming because of the industrial resource-consuming Western lifestyle).

      • SamChevre says:

        Gluttony seems less serious in a world of plenty

        Not if you include smoking.

  24. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    Is there a good place to commission relatively-cheap maps online?

    I have a lot of existing maps of the Earth circa ~20,000 BC which I would like to combine with some artistic license. Each of them focus on different geographical features (glaciers and ice sheets; meltwater rivers; meltwater lakes; biomes; coastlines) and are all in different map projections. My Photoshop skills just aren’t up to combining them into a single form.

    Ideally I’d like to be able to give someone a folder of maps and possibly also some money and get a single map back with permanent ice, seasonal sea ice, meltwater rivers and lakes, coastlines, and biomes like the Mammoth Steppe, Savannah, Sahara desert and various jungles marked.

    • dndnrsn says:

      If you just need someone who can do art, not a geographer, you could always hire an art/design student. There’s probably some starving student who will do it for cheap.

    • Randy M says:

      Not exactly sure if this will help, but have you seen cartographer’s guild? It’s amateur, but they may be able to point you in the right direction.
      I’d love to see the finished work here, I love maps.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Thanks, it looks like they actually have a mapmaking request forum. I’ll lurk a bit to double-check but it seems like what I wanted.

        I would like to share the final product but it runs a risk. If I pay for a map, it would be with my own money and that links my real identity to my pseudonym.

        • Randy M says:

          I suppose that’s fair. Personally I don’t think being a commenter here is a big enough deal that anyone should care to overcome even trivial inconveniences to track me down, especially given the rather average person they would find having done so, but I can respect greater caution.

  25. j1000000 says:

    I sort of suspect I’m addicted to the internet. I check it compulsively all day despite not actually enjoying it, and I personally think it legitimately interferes with my work and (probably) relationships. And, as a regular commenter on many sites, the almost physical need for a dopamine fix in the form of responses/upvotes/whatever is just ridiculous.

    Does anyone else worry about this for themselves or do they think such a concern is over the top?

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s a valid concern and I have seen something like this in myself. Not really for the internet itself, but I used to check Youtube and a certain blog compulsively, hoping against hope that there would be something interesting on, despite increasingly scarcer good content I haven’t seen/read.

      What do you plan to do about it?

      • j1000000 says:

        See how fast I respond?

        Today I blocked several of my biggest time suck sites at work, and I’m going to probably block this one next (this one is far more interesting and edifying than the others, which were basically just outrage bait where I’d argue in the comments). I will probably try to completely eliminate sites like Reddit and Twitter from my life, and will try as hard as I can to read entire books as a substitute.

        The problem is that at this point in my life I simply cannot read books without using Wikipedia as a reference. And, like a true addict, I can’t have just one (site)… last week I googled “red damask” after reading it in The Power Broker. 45 minutes later I hadn’t picked up the book again yet because somehow my train of web surfing had led to me arguing in the comment section of a sports site.

        Similarly, I loathe my smartphone, but it’s almost impossible for me to live without one now. I need GPS, my girlfriend gets mad if I don’t respond to texts for hours, etc. And then, once I respond to her text, my mind forgets what I was doing and I log onto Reddit, and then…

        The problem, to me, is that the Internet really does offer so much good but necessarily with that comes so much bad. There is no better place to read interesting and unexpected opinions and have weird conversations that I’d never have with the people in my social circle and learn cool stuff and see funny videos. But it’s 99.99% sitting around waiting for something to happen in a way that is compulsive and almost psychologically dangerous.

    • Randy M says:

      I can definitely see this. It has similarities to other behavioral addictions, like the intermittent pay-off for repetitive actions.

    • Well... says:

      I have a similar concern about myself. I don’t think it’s over the top.

      I have tried with some success to combat it using the following interventions:

      1. Arranging a lot of things in meatspace that I must do and that will keep me busy and offline, but that I also consider enjoyable. (This is not tricky to do when you have a wife, kids, house, job, etc.)

      2. Channeling my disgust at my internet addiction so that when I do go online, I instinctively navigate on the internet to things I feel are productive (e.g. tips on working out better, learning how to do new things, improving my professional skills, etc.) and not to things I know are not productive (e.g. Imgur, webcomics. For other people this probably includes social media and porn).

      3. Cultivating my inner drill sergeant and inviting him into my conscious more. I haven’t quite gotten there yet but when I do he should be popping up frequently to yell at me to get off my computer.

      4. I’ve failed at this many times (and am currently failing at it this moment), but don’t keep your computer in your bedroom.

      5. Related to #4: if you have a smartphone, get a real alarm clock and banish your phone from your bedroom. In fact, it’s best if you have a tray near your door that you always put your phone in when you come home. Personally, I evade this one by simply not having a smartphone. There’s a decent chance if you think about it you’ll realize you really don’t need one.

      6. One more thing that helped was deleting my profiles on various forums if I find I’m spending a lot of time there. SSC has been the sole exception to this over the years because I really do get a lot out of it.

      I haven’t tried but have considered the following additional interventions:

      – A psilocybin trip with a trip sitter, where the sitter steers the conversation toward me confronting and overcoming my internet addiction. (No idea where I would get shrooms or the time/freedom to do this.)

      – Putting my wifi router on a timer so it clicks off every night at 10pm and doesn’t turn on again until after breakfast (or some other time later than that as I deem appropriate).

      PS. Tristan Harris of timewellspent.io has a lot of good suggestions about how to configure your phone/computer/etc. so you’re not led to waste time on it. I recommend checking that out.

      • j1000000 says:

        I do not understand how someone can exist without a smartphone. It’s such an expected norm that it affects every aspect of my life.

        It’s a normal enough thing for me to have a friend/coworker/whatever say “hey meet me in 15 minutes at xyz place” by text. If I didn’t have a smartphone with a GPS — if I only had a landline — I feel like I’d have to lead a fundamentally different life with a different job and different friends.

        • Nick says:

          Like Well…, I don’t have a smartphone. It’s a limitation, to be sure, but I get by. If I really need a device on the go, taking a tablet with me works, it’s just not as easily carried as a phone.

        • Well... says:

          It’s a normal enough thing for me to have a friend/coworker/whatever say “hey meet me in 15 minutes at xyz place” by text.

          And you can’t just look up xyz place on a computer? And xyz is often enough somewhere new you don’t know how to get to? And when you don’t know how to get there and aren’t around a computer, you can’t just ask someone where it is? Don’t you have friends who won’t be dicks to you by telling you to Google it? I have to say, I’ve never once had to not go somewhere, even on short notice, because of my lack of a smartphone.

          Also, if you’re meeting up in meatspace all the time with friends/coworkers/etc., that’s good! Do that more instead of going on the internet. My internet addiction is fueled in part by the lack of the kind of social life I had when I was single and childless.

          • j1000000 says:

            @Well…

            Thinking about it since writing that post, the “friends/coworkers/etc frequently need me on short notice” thing was serious hyperbole. I remember once like 5 years ago where that happened and I specifically thought “thank god I have a smartphone what else would I have done without it!” and I guess since then I’ve been passively assuming it’s happening all the time.

            I make it sound like I’m some movie star hopping between new clubs every night to meet up with models when in fact my nights out basically alternate between a few predictable locations. Maybe I’ll now pay more attention to how often I actually have moments that would be impossible without smartphones…

        • Well... says:

          j1000000, you inspired me to write this.

    • James says:

      Oh, it’s real. I just tend to conceptualise it—at least in myself—as more to do with attention deficit than addiction to anything.

      I quit Facebook (way before it became trendy to do so) for basically this reason. Now the only places I compulsively check are here and Hacker News, but those two are still enough to slow me down plenty.

      Somewhat drastic suggestion for your consideration: quit any site with a feed. I also don’t have a smartphone, which I feel helps enormously, though never having had one I can’t compare. Check the Firefox addon Leechblock. (There’s probably something like it for Chrome too.) Anyone who uses StackOverflow: you can use a file with some custom CSS to block the ‘hot network questions’ tab, which for me is a dreadful time sink, right in the place where I need to concentrate on getting something done.

      Lately I’ve just been staying off the computer in the evenings after work and finding it works quite well for me, even if it means there are things I can’t do.

      See also: http://www.paulgraham.com/addiction.html

      I’ve avoided most addictions, but the Internet got me because it became addictive while I was using it.

      • j1000000 says:

        Great little essay. Thanks.

        I’ve considered something like buying a printer and then only once a day printing out the few interesting things a day that are written on the internet. I had that idea because my brother used to do it when I was growing up.

        But that was more than a decade ago and modern internet content is not stationary and stand-alone, it’s interconnected and sprawling. If you want to see the interesting discussions you have to read Twitter threads and comment sections and contextualize them by falling down Wikipedia rabbit holes and keep clicking and clicking…

    • cassander says:

      As someone who spends far more time than he should arguing with people on the internet, I’d say that I think the determining measurement is does your interneting get in the way of other things that you want to do? Are you finding that you are not getting to work, socializing or other types of activity in preference to being on the internet? Because for me, at least, my internet use correlates pretty directly with my work and socialization load. When I’m busy, I’m not on the internet, and feel no compulsion to be, I just drift there pretty instantly when I’m bored and idle.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      I highly recommend removing points/upvotes/likes based sites from your life and personally stopped 5 or 6 years ago. I’m still addicted to the internet objectively but it isn’t a powerful skew on my affect anymore

  26. johan_larson says:

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write an outline for a novel featuring the following elements:
    H.P. Lovecraft
    love
    craft
    Hewlett-Packard
    HP Sauce

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I don’t even know what HP sauce is, or i would.

    • powerfuller says:

      H.P. Lovecraft loves crafting his HP sauce recipes and sharing them online with his Hewlett-Packard.

      The rest of it is a Harlequin romance.

      • johan_larson says:

        Lovecraft didn’t invent HP Sauce.

        Or is it an alternate history? Oooh, maybe it’s a secret history, alleging he actually did invent it in the real world.

    • FLWAB says:

      Man attempts to build a machine that can literally create “craft” love. He is an engineer for Hewlett-Packard and he heavily modifies an experimental 3d printer they are working on, mixing it with arcane knowledge beyond the ken of right thinking men. His experiments fail until he realizes he needs to use HP sauce as the primary building block material, due to eldritch frequencies. He succeeds, but love personified is a horrible being of inscrutable power and origin, and he is devored by his own creation.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      OK, so it’s late 1991 and MI6 agent Abner “Abs” Sixpac is alerted by his superiors of a computer security breach matching the MO of America’s most dangerous hacker. He raids a suspect’s hotel room, finding her sitting at a Hewlett Packard desktop while eating a room service steak with HP sauce. He handcuffs her to a chair and does a threatening interrogation. Assan Booti turns out to be a Hewlett Packard employee who says she’s been trying and failing to release data about a conspiracy between the USA and USSR to cover up the existence of extraterrestrials and witchcraft since 1928. She hacked the UK’s Soviet Embassy while vacationing because the impending fall of the USSR could be the one chance to free this information. Also, she finds being handcuffed sexy.
      The romantic thriller develops from there.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      Lovecraft, knowing keenly what drives humankind to insanity, created the Hewlett-Packard printer

  27. Atlas says:

    (I realized that this is sort of like the SSC post “Neutral vs. Conservative” while writing, but I still want to churn it out. And be warned that is rambling and not very thoroughly researched.)

    So, a lot of people here have probably heard of Conquest’s Second (?) Law, which states that any institution which is not explicitly rightist will tend to become leftist over time, especially given that Scott has mentioned it in a couple posts.

    I want to speculatively posit a sort of inverse law, namely: any political discussion forum on the internet that does not actively censor right-wing opinions will become increasingly dominated by increasingly further right-wing opinions over time. (Right-wing in the sense of culture war issues. Also, this is very speculative and I am very receptive to critical feedback.) To take some semi-random examples:

    Consider 4chan’s politics board, /pol/. For better or worse, it is probably one of, if not the, least censored platforms for political discussion on the internet. According to Andrew Anglin’s “A Normie’s Guide to the All-Trite”:

    It was on 4chan’s /pol/ that most of the core concepts of what is now the Alt-Right were figured out. Many of the key “anons” (anonymous imageboard posters) from this group were people who had previously
    been involved in 4chan’s /b/, which is where modern internet trolling techniques originated.
    The anonymous nature of 4chan allowed for all different sorts of people to get together and discuss all sorts of ideas, without having those ideas attached to an identity of any kind (not even an internet
    pseudonym). Anti-S*mitic and r*cist jokes had been a key feature of /b/, but on /pol/ the sentiments behind the jokes slowly became serious, as people realized they were based on fact. /pol/ became a haven for
    virulent anti-S*mites and aggressive racists, and tone of the A*t-Right is drawn directly from these roots on 4chan.
    On 4chan, the J*wish problem was analyzed by news junkies and history buffs, feminism was deconstructred by sexually frustrated young men, and race was considered based on the actual data on the
    issue. The rehabilitation of Ad*lf H*tler and the NSDAP largely took place on 4chan.

    See also this Noahpinion post.

    So, today we all know /pol/ as a wretched hive of scum and villainy of the fascist variety. But apparently it wasn’t founded or originally populated by far-right people—that’s just what emerged spontaneously from its unfettered discussions.

    There are a lot of J****n P******n/Sam Harris/Geoff Miller/Ben Shapiro type commentators who like to sing hosannas in praise of freedom of speech, and the threat that the cultural left poses to it. And I mean, I agree, but it’s also like—ok, but you do realize that genuine freedom of speech leads to /pol/, right?

    Another example: Twitter. It feels like, out of a clear blue sky, this aggressive contingent of fascists/white nationalists emerged on Twitter in 2015 or so, as per Jonathan Weissman’s NYT article. (Going to try to post as few hyperlinks as possible to avoid triggering the spam filter.) They proceeded to have a grand old time throughout the 2016 election cycle rallying behind Trump, making memes, trolling liberal journalists, et cetera.

    And it seems like Twitter wasn’t sure exactly what to do, so they ended up censoring a lot of non-mainstream right accounts on an ad hoc basis. Beginning with Milo in July 2016, and then later at various points big name white nationalists like Richard Spencer and Jared Taylor, and pseudonymous accounts like Ricky Vaughn and John Rivers. As a sometime browser of #frogtwitter, I’ve also seen that it’s a pretty regular occurrence for small to medium follower count far-right accounts to get banned for unspecified TOS violations. Additionally, while this is conjectural, some have accused Twitter of shadowbanning users, or quietly using various other means to limit how far their content can spread. While hard to prove definitively, this definitely sounds plausible to me.

    So the point being—it seems to me like, without Twitter’s taking of active measures to stop it, political Twitter would become an increasing right-wing dominated space. An illustrative example of this being the aforementioned Ricky Vaughn, who posted prodigiously on day-to-day political events and rapidly increased in followers and influence during the 2016 cycle, famously getting put on some MIT media lab list of top 100 or so Twitter “influencers”. I think that, absent getting banned repeatedly by Twitter, Ricky Vaughn would have continued to swell in influence within Far Right Wing Twitter, which would have continued to increase in influence in Right Wing Twitter, which would have continued to increase in influence in Twitter Twitter.

    Another example: YouTube. (Check out e.g. a NYT article comparing YouTube to right-wing talk radio for more on this point.) This was sort of before my time on these parts of the internet, but according to a, possibly incorrect, folk history I’ve picked up, I think what happened was: a long time ago, there was some big controversy about women and video games and journalism or something. A bunch of anti-feminist YouTubers like Sargon of Akkad, who I guess call themselves “skeptics”, rose to prominence and basically argued/bullied the feminists off of YouTube.

    But then, starting late 2017, there was some conflict between the skeptics and the all-trite, and it seems like the all-trite YouTube contingent has managed to successfully out-argue/bully a lot of the YouTube skeptics. I think of this as starting with the Kraut and Tea thing, which was summarized in some Mister Metokur videos. Basically, this guy Kraut, who I think made a brand on YouTube by making anti-SJW content, started to attack the all-trite and rayce-realism. His videos were harshly criticized by the Alternative Hypothesis and JF Gariepy, and no doubt he was attacked by lots of random trolls, and he kind of started to lose it, apparently trying to doxx some all-trite people. Basically, the criticism became too much for him to handle, and last I heard he quit YouTube.

    So, you have a guy who was pretty successful making YT content attacking cultural leftists from the right, and then he attacked the all-trite, and the all-trite won.

    Then you had this new phenomenon of “internet bloodsports” on YouTube beginning in like January of 2018, where people who disagree have an acrimonious, long debate/conversation on a subject. The aforementioned Sargon of Akkad faced off against Richard Spencer in one of these, and it became the #1 stream on YouTube, I think. Sargon was generally considered to have resoundingly lost the debate, and he also debated other all-trite figures like Andrew Anglin, Ryan Faulk and Jared Taylor, not very successfully.

    So, Sargon, who was successful at attacking the cultural left, tried to attack the all-trite, but seems to have not done very well, so he went back to mostly criticizing the left. So it seems to me like there’s a pattern of fractal right-wing radicalization in the absence of censorship.

    And then there’s maybe a meta point to be made about the SSC comments section itself, but I think this is enough for now.

    • tayfie says:

      I want to speculatively posit a sort of inverse law, namely: any political discussion forum on the internet that does not actively censor right-wing opinions will become increasingly dominated by increasingly further right-wing opinions over time.

      Counter-example: Tumblr, which seems to go the opposite direction. Reddit does also outside a few specific subreddits.

      I think you are missing some very important qualities about the sites in question, which is what kind of content they reward and how this interacts with the current culture. Start with the basic observation that people optimize what they can see because any social circle will assign status in some way.

      The sites that drift leftward have a really obvious popularity mechanic. Tumblr’s reblogs and Reddit’s karma are both popularity mechanics. Popularity mechanics reward agreeableness. People start agreeing and amplifying for ever more popularity and you wind up with purity spirals in whatever direction society is heading.

      The sites that drift rightward have no such popularity mechanic. 4chan is famous for a strictly chronological post order. Without a popularity mechanic, people optimize replies or views because that’s what they can see. Optimizing replies rewards disagreeableness. People start stating more and more controversial opinions for ever more replies until you wind up with purity spirals in the opposite direction society is heading. Here, I mean “controversial” as more like “unacceptable to say in public” than “having an unknown truth value”.

      This also creates secondary effects where all the disagreeable people quit the popularity sites because they are shut out of the conversation and all the agreeable people quit the controversy sites because people only ever engage them negatively.

      A third layer I will add to all of this is that distance rewards spite. The internet makes the cost of insulting someone nil, so the most toxic group of any community rapidly takes over because they are willing to use the mean tactics no one else will.

      I take exception to your comment that “free speech leads to /pol/”. Lacking free speech leads to /pol/. If we had free speech, no one would care about /pol/ because they could say whatever controversial thing they wanted anywhere. Consequently, the stupid views would be rebutted openly and gain less of a following.

      I am not sure I agree with your recent history of YouTube, but I do not spend enough time around the named channels to say for certain.

      • Atlas says:

        Very interesting comment, will have more to say later. One question for now though: does Tumblr censor certain ideas as hate speech? Like, could you just make a r*cist or Holocaust denying Tumblr account and start posting and engaging with other users without fear of getting banned? If Tumblr does not, I agree that this evidence against my speculation; if so, it seems not to contradict it.

        • tayfie says:

          Tumblr does have community guidelines that provide reporting for outright illegal (in the US) things, and these are explicitly a part of the user agreement. However, they make no mention of “hate speech”, only “malicious speech”, for which the standard seems to be directly inciting violence. Given I can find self described white supremacy blogs using copious slurs in five minutes of searching, as well as flagrant violations of almost every community guideline, they seem completely toothless.

          I think that you are missing that Tumblr and Reddit don’t bother censoring despite desperate calls from large sections of the userbase. Top-down censorship is largely unnecessary because sufficiently unpopular positions are as good as invisible anyway.

          The agreeable contingent leans leftist (amplifying current culture) despite the lack of top-down censors. They provide their own censorship through site popularity, and even howl for more stringent censorship (of the wrong ideas), taking the desire not to censor as evidence for having rightist sympathies.

          • Brad says:

            I think that you are missing that Tumblr and Reddit don’t bother censoring despite desperate calls from large sections of the userbase. Top-down censorship is largely unnecessary because sufficiently unpopular positions are as good as invisible anyway.

            This goes directly to what I was saying below. If the issue was that is a community being prevented from saying what it likes among itself, then unpopularity wouldn’t be an issue. There’s no mechanism on tumblr that prevents an insular community from forming. Things are a little different on reddit, where raids could happen, but in practice there to absent intervention by admins insular communities can form without fear of mass downvoting by outsiders. Our very own subreddit is proof of that.

            The problem is that core desire isn’t to have a place to converse with like-minded folks, it is rather a desire to impose on an unwilling audience.

          • tayfie says:

            @Brad

            I’m not sure what your point has to do with this comment chain. @Atlas was arguing that rightist opinions come to dominate comment sections without moderation, and I responded that no, this is greatly dependent the mechanics of the site in question and the current culture.

            Your point seems like a separate one about the motivations of your enemies.

        • There are plenty of openly neo-Nazi tumblrs out there. I don’t know what would happen if any of them got really prominent, but Tumblr at least doesn’t censor far-right stuff any more than Twitter.

      • ilikekittycat says:

        As a counterexample I can think of Somethingawful, where they despise popularity mechanics (everyone complained about the brief period every page had a digg link) and the political forums drifted from incredibly right/libertarian in the Bush years to incredibly socialist in the Obama years

    • Matt M says:

      If you posit that public spaces that are non-hostile to right-wing opinion are rare, and that public pressure is increasingly to make them even rarer, I think this observation makes perfect sense.

      Imagine a town that has socially but not legally enforced racial discrimination. Population, 50% white, 50% black. Most businesses are owned by whites and forbid black patrons from entering. One white guy though has an idea – he wants to start a business that “reflects the spectrum of society.” Where blacks and whites can eat together in peace and harmony. So he opens a cafe and puts up a sign saying “All races welcome.”

      A month later – he’s shocked to find that 90% of his customers are black. Why? He didn’t do anything to cater to blacks specifically! He didn’t ban whites! Why are all these black people swarming his business in such high numbers? The obvious answer is – because they have no place else to go.

      Right-wingers swarmed Youtube because they had no place else to go. They couldn’t make videos that would get played on the major news networks. They swarmed FB and Twitter and reddit because they weren’t going to get their opinions published in the New York Times any time soon. They went to the only places willing to host them. The lefties didn’t bother to show up in high numbers, because they already had more than enough places willing to host them. A 20-something Marxist doesn’t need Youtube – they can just become a sociology professor at Harvard. Why would they bother with the new venues? The old ones suit them just fine.

      So now Twitter, much like our hypothetical cafe owner – has a problem. What they wanted was a “representative” site, but they ended up with a disproportionate amount of right-wingers. So what can they do but start to discourage them from coming, explicitly or otherwise?

      • Viliam says:

        This. When you are a SJW, you don’t need to exercise your free speech on an internet forum. You do it at your university; first as a student, later as a teacher. Or as a journalist, if you can’t get a job in academia.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Or in Hollywood if you… not sure if that’s on a hierarchy of desirability with the other two. Definitely the same politics though.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Scattered thoughts:

      1. I think “right-wing in the sense of culture war” is doing a lot of work here. There’s spaces for mainstream right-wingers elsewhere. But right-wing populism has less of a space, especially white nationalist and adjacent. So, presumably, the right-wing populists, especially the white-nationalists and adjacents, are gonna push themselves/get pushed into any “uncoded” spaces.

      2. Right-wing populism doesn’t have to be white nationalist, adjacent, whatever. Pet peeve of mine: Canadians who assume the Canadian Conservatives are just maple-scented Republicans. Under the Harper-Kenney tag-team, the federal Tories were good at attracting immigrants and visible minorities; the Ford brothers in Ontario likewise seem good at that (if anyone says that Doug Ford is just like Trump, is relying on white voters, whatever, that’s a red flag they have no idea what they’re talking about). But I can’t think of any examples of this outside of Canada. Are we just special? (Preferred Canadian answer: yes, but humbly).

      3. The mainstream left, mainstream right, and far left all seem to focus on real-life consequences – it’s not just left-wingers who try to get people fired; mainstream right people tend to be really big into “this moonbat TA said what? Fire her!” In comparison, the far right seems to be more into, and more capable with, straight-up harassment.

      4. Speaking of TAs, it’s funny how academic freedom frequently gets portrayed as protecting right-wingers within the academy from threats from within the academy. In reality, it often has been about protecting left-wingers within the academy from threats coming from outside the academy.

      5. Is there some kind of parallel to other cases where one ideological position has come to dominate a space?

    • toastengineer says:

      I’m not sure I agree with the “‘true’ free speech = pol” position. For one thing 4chan was very intentionally a dumpster fire looooong before that. This is a bit like going in to the Mos Eisley Cantina and saying “look what ‘true’ freedom gives you – a wretched hive of scum and villainy!” Well, no shit it’s like that, it was always like that – it’s because it’s like that that the totalitarian Empire has no power here, not the other way around.

      I never heard of Sargon going up against the tiki torch brigade. Good on him I suppose. Trouble is… Sargon always kinda sucked. He’s good at rhetoric but his arguments were never much good. I’m not sure why he ended up being the poster boy of the anti-Sensitive Joss Whedon movement, maybe it’s just ‘cos he was around first and he has a nice voice.

      • Aapje says:

        He’s good at rhetoric but his arguments were never much good. I’m not sure why he ended up being the poster boy of the anti-Sensitive Joss Whedon movement

        Because he’s good at rhetoric but his arguments were never much good.

        Toxoplasma is more attractive than quality.

    • Brad says:

      (Right-wing in the sense of culture war issues. Also, this is very speculative and I am very receptive to critical feedback.)

      I don’t think this quite captures what’s going on. It isn’t a really a set of political opinions or issues per se so much as a kind of attitude or psychological profile that happens to often correspond to a particular set of political opinions or issues. A full description would take more effort than I care to put into it, but a good start would be: ressentiment. This provides the motive energy for them to seek out “enemy” or “mixed” spaces and post endlessly in them. When most of the original population is gone often the posters in question move on too.

  28. skef says:

    After delving in to the Out-There-EA/AI safety literature a bit more, I really wish there was more stuff being done in this spirit from a wide variety of perspectives, rather than having so much of current work of “intellectual wonder” concentrated in one question-begging space.

    I really do like the spirit, and one depressing mark of the present time is its relative absence. But, man, that crowd is really not struggling with the basics. And when views do turn out to be incompatible, there is still a lot less engagement than you would hope for. EA research support may wind up being a failure mode of the movement by its own standards.

    • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

      Can you explain a bit more? I’m not sure I follow, but I’m very interested in this line of thought.

      What questions do you think are begged? How would you characterize this spirit of intellectual wonder? Can you give an example of lack of engagement with incompatible views?

      • skef says:

        After thinking about this a bit, I’m not currently prepared to be much more specific. At present this is something I think I could do a good job communicating at dinner or a (sufficiently quiet) bar. But my thoughts aren’t honed enough for an SSC level of analysis.

        But since you asked, I’ll offer some similarly vague and metaphorical observation that may help.

        First, I think one of the big problems with our current political climate is how fixed and stale “both sides” are compared to other times and cultures. Almost no one really wants to try out genuinely new directions. There are a few things like UBI, but not much.

        When you look at the ’60s, which was the last super-polarized era, things were very different. To an extent there was one side trying to preserve a status quo, but even those folks were much more open to new intellectual possibilities and approaches than now. People were aware that things were changing, and were not assuming that the changes would be merely material with no impact on, for lack of a better word, ideology. It was a big mess, but one that could have developed in any number of directions.

        These days that whole conceptual space is has mostly shrunk down into a tiny ball of “progress will lead to better games on my phone and maybe I’ll live longer and sure my job sucks and there’s no god or if there is one it doesn’t affect me much but that’s OK because something something kids something.”

        Anyway, I find it hard to see how the present stagnation could be warranted. It’s not like we arrived at where we are through some kind of epiphany, and other contemporary cultures are more open.

        In the middle of all of this is a tiny concentrated ’60’s like culture in the middle of the EA/singularity/AI risk crowd. On one level this should be no surprise: right now they’re the ones doing the relevant drugs. And at least in the early days of those drugs being mixed with the right element of community, you see quite positive consequences. This is evident in our host’s write-up. In this case, there is a space where rationalism can sit comfortably with more credulity than it usually manages. But the attraction is not so much to the conclusions as to a group of people really trying to do the right thing. So much of public life consists of sour, self-assured ranting about the other side, and here are some optimistic people who genuinely want to get together and make the world a better place.

        My problem — and this is the part that I’m not in a position to defend very well — is with how this little ecosystem of relative openness is constrained by the premises it originates from. There’s a whole community of people who are simultaneously chasing down the implication of these strange ideas and trying to succeed as founders of think-tank startups. (This last could be taken as a metaphor, but I think it works fine literally. It’s an accurate description of the current landscape.)

        On one level this is just contradictory. Why should we judge whether the world is much weirder than we currently think on the basis of capitalistic success — a “market of ideas”, except weighted by tech money? On another level I just find it to be toxic in a way difficult to articulate. You can just see how the success standard distorts the output by reading it. Lines of implication play themselves out until they impinge on something that everyone is aware needs to work out a certain way, where they are bent or broken off as necessary. (These are the begged questions I referred to. They usually have to do with one or another piece of contemporary techno-utopianism.)

        So I wish the research side of EA would start to think a bit more about how their ’70s are going to play out. If any group should have a good understanding of how credulousness can be reckless, it is them.

  29. a reader says:

    Me again with my history list article, needing help from native English speakers.

    In a previous thread (99.75), many helpful commenters (Brad, cassander, cube, Deiseach, fion, skef) helped me correct the gramatical errors in the text. Two of them, skef and cassander, rephrased entire sections (1-4) of my article, because:

    There’s a definite air of non-native speaker. Some stuff that’s not exactly wrong, just some unconventional phrases and word choice. (cassander)

    That’s a big problem for me, because the virtual publisher says:

    Your English level must be that of a native speaker to have a successful submission. This is the number one reason we reject lists.

    So, my only chance to publish is to find some native English speaker(s) to rephrase all the phrases in the last half (5-10) that seem unnatural to native English ears, as skef and cassander did for the first half (1-4). To translate from broken English to normal English. There ar 6 entries (5-10) of 2 or 3 paragraphs each (except 5, that has 6 paragraphs – Suleiman kills 2 sons).

    Would anybody here (a young student maybe) do it for 15 dollars (payable via Paypal)? I can’t offer more (I’m an Eastern European and currently in difficult financial circumstances).

    And if there is no student to take the job, would some of the effective altruists here help, each with one entry, as cassander did, if I precomit to donate those 15 dollars to an effective charity the helpers agree upon (or maybe to Scott’s Patreon, if they prefer)?

  30. skef says:

    It’s 4:20 and there are still! no! cookies!

    This is not what I bother leaving the house for, dammit.

  31. ohwhatisthis? says:

    Here is something I found interesting when examining intelligence tests. I noticed that the LSAT has a question every year or so redacted because some capable person argued against the answer. This happens on both the reading comp and the logical reasoning section(if a problem isn’t simply a disguised probability question, or pigeonhole principle question, or a ->b ->!c question, the risk seems to increase). I suspect more questions *should* be redacted on the reading comp, but there simply isn’t always an obvious short proof of incorrectness. The the “multiple answers can be argued for” shouldn’t happen, and seems like a cop out.

    Now, it doesn’t seem like the biology passages on the MCAT actually lack anything in terms of needing to have competent reading skills to pass and understand the text. And I doubt questions coming from these sorts of questions are redacted at a similar rate.
    http://offers.aamc.org/hs-fs/hub/259636/file-2239561794-pdf/MCAT_MiniTest_ebook.pdf

    So, is anything actually gained with this…increased subjectivity? Vs simply having long scientific passages with direct reasoning?

    On some answers on the LSAT, I would like to argue against one, but there is a chance of hitting an authority wall. If I can argue my case on the scientific passages, , I win a prize.

  32. theredsheep says:

    Is anyone aware of a good, nonbiased (to the extent that such is even possible) summary of current evidence on transgenderism? I ask because a lot of what gets presented as the scientific consensus in popular sources (eg Bill Nye) strikes me as either a sciencey rephrasing of standard progressive talking points or else based on tenuous data sources like statistical analysis of brain scans (and I don’t know enough statistics to judge whether the techniques involved are valid or voodoo).

    As you can probably guess, I’m skeptical, and especially suspicious of the idea that transgenderism is a monolithic entity. I feel that the understandable pressure to be supportive and charitable is keeping some hard questions from being asked. It seems to me that, with the diversity of symptoms and wide range of age at first expression, TG is most likely a whole bunch of different things with superficial similarities. But I don’t know enough to evaluate that hypothesis, and I’m not a psychiatrist or neuroscientist.

    • Deiseach says:

      Do you think that transvestism has been folded into transgenderism (I think, on an ignorant shallow impression of the matter, that “transsexual” which was the old differentiating term has fallen out of favour and is even condemned as usage), so that the same distinction between “people who like to dress and behave as the other gender, and do not derive sexual pleasure as a fetish from it solely or at all” from “people who are convinced they are the other gender/are the wrong gender” is no longer made? And if so, has that resulted in some of the confusion, where now someone who has an urge or desire to have a feminine/masculine alter-ego but maybe does not experience dysphoria or want to socially transition is now being instructed that this means they are transgender (and not a transvestite), with all the theoretical constructions heaped upon that classification?

      I think if some people who would formerly have been considered transvestites are now re-classified as transgender, that muddies the waters, because they don’t have the same desires, needs or way of expressing their personality as people who do feel they are a different gender from assigned at birth gender.

      tl; dr – the very simplified case of “I like to wear a dress and make up and be called ‘Betty’ at times as I find it relaxing, but I’m still a straight guy and not a woman” is nowadays considered to be “if you want to wear a dress and be called Betty, you’re a transgender woman and your attraction to women means you’re a lesbian, be free and come out of the closet!”, and that this causes a degree of confusion in the whole matter.

      • theredsheep says:

        I was more concerned about transgender referring to some people who started identifying as kids, others who didn’t till they were teens, others who ‘discovered’ they’d been repressing it for decades when they were middle-aged … and then you have things like gender-fluid where it sounds like the person doesn’t even know him/herself. When I look at lists of dozens of different gender identities some people have come up with, I suspect that some percentage of them represent unhappy and impressionable people who fell into an internet rabbit hole and talked themselves into believing something because it gave them an identity, the same way some others feel totally convinced that they were abducted by aliens. Of course, it’s not cool to say that, because you’ve got to be supportive no matter what. But if I’m right, they’ve got to be messing up the data something fierce.

        • Deiseach says:

          I suspect that some percentage of them represent unhappy and impressionable people who fell into an internet rabbit hole and talked themselves into believing something because it gave them an identity

          I was trying to get at something similar, where the flip side of the activism about transgender rights is the tendency for some to put down hard and fast rules: where in previous decades someone might think “I like to wear dresses in private but that doesn’t mean I want to be a woman”, there are now some out there very rigid about “if you want to wear dresses that means you are transgender, come out and don’t deny the truth of your nature”.

    • tailcalled says:

      I’m trying to make one for Scott’s adversarial collaboration thing, but I have trouble finding anyone on the non-Blanchardian side willing to take it up. If you want to know more, you can join the Discord server of /r/Blanchardianism where we can tell you more, but obviously this can easily be argued to be biased in some sense.

  33. Error says:

    Sometime recently I read an essay — I think in the rationalist-sphere but I’m not really sure — describing debate over a seeming contradiction. “I believe X because A->B->X; you believe not-X because C->D->not X”. It argued that the normal mode of debate is to keep shouting more arguments for X or against X, but to actually resolve the question the initial arguments must be answered. That is, either somebody’s premises are wrong or one of their conclusions does not follow. It is necessary not just to counterargue but to invalidate.

    Does that ring a bell for anyone? I can’t for the life of me find the original essay on Google, and I can’t remember if it was Scott’s or someone else’s. I saw it sometime within the last week or so, but I don’t know if it was something recently posted or something I found chasing links.

  34. Zephalinda says:

    Idle question inspired by the incel discussion above– would any consequentialists out there mind clarifying this for me?

    Ann is a fashion model. Bob is an orderly at the hospital. He’s heterosexual and very unhappily celibate. A single sexual encounter with someone of Ann’s physical caliber would be not just pleasurable but life-changingly positive for him.

    Ann goes under general anaesthesia for some minor operation, and is in the recovery room, unconscious. Bob has a chance at a solid half-hour alone with her entirely insensate and non-memory-forming body.

    Within a consequentialist framework, what makes it not OK (or even morally obligatory) for Bob to rape Ann under these circumstances? (Assume Bob wears a condom, his behavior won’t escalate, word won’t get out to make this a norm, Ann won’t wake up mid-encounter, etc.) I know there must be an obvious answer, but I’m not seeing it at present.

    • Wrong Species says:

      First off, you’re scenario assumes certainty when there is none. If a lot of people were in Bob’s position and decided to go through with it, it would get out and cause a lot of problems.

      But the more fundamental problem with your question is just assuming that the only thing Bob cares about is sex. If he really just needed a sexual release, there’s always free porn on the internet. Sex for him is more about the intimacy it creates with another person, the self-confidence that he builds up and the reputation boost. He gets none of those things in your scenario.

      • Error says:

        I don’t have anything to say about the grandparent, but I agree with this, I think. What incels get from a first sexual encounter is only partly the sex. It’s also the visceral, gut-level validation that someone out there actually wants you. That you’re not unfuckable.

        I suspect that affairs in a dead-sparks relationship have a similar effect.

      • Zephalinda says:

        In all fairness, anyone who’s read internet advice columns will have encountered a fair number of questions of the form “My obsession with my own lack of sexual experience is really hampering my dating life.” A fair number of these guys do get advised to book a prostitute to get that first time over with. And Ann is (a) free, and (b) considerably more attractive than the best prostitute Bob could afford on his salary.

        I agree it would be even better for Bob if she consented. But at this point, is that encounter not, in pure utility terms, like a hundred-dollar bill on the sidewalk– more satisfying if earned, but morally net-positive no matter what?

        • Matt M says:

          I don’t think I’ve ever seen that advice seriously offered.

          I would also suggest that sexual encounters with prostitutes differ from sexual encounters with dates or girlfriends, as well.

          • Deiseach says:

            I think the advice about “go to a discreet legal escort agency” is aimed more at guys who are “I have a date/a real chance at a relationship with a great girl, but I’ve never had sex, and I’m so worried I’ll be terrible in bed because she’ll be more experienced than me that it’s messing up me getting started with that relationship” rather than “I’ve never been able to attract a girl and I want a relationship”.

            It’s possibly easier to phrase it as “I’ve never had sex” than “I’ve never been able to get a girl” as that’s slightly less humiliating to the ego; the “never had sex” can be blamed on “women are fussy, picky, over-particular bitches who only want the cream of the crop of men”, but “I’ve never been able to get a girl” does sound like “because I’m ugly, boring, poor, stupid and off-puttingly weird”.

          • Matt M says:

            No, I get that, but I think my point stands. I’ve never heard it used as legit advice, and once again, the type of sex you will have with a prostitute is very different from the type of sex you’ll have with your girlfriend.

            Unless you spring a pretty high amount of money for a “girlfriend experience” and are willing to tell her your exact situation and ask her to help you the best she can.

        • Deiseach says:

          is that encounter not, in pure utility terms, like a hundred-dollar bill on the sidewalk– more satisfying if earned, but morally net-positive no matter what?

          So what is the consequentalist/utilitarian position on theft? “Hey, if you can get away with it and no chance of jail time, go right ahead and mug that stranger – there’s probably more than one hundred dollar bill in his wallet, so it’s even more net-positive than finding a single hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk!”

          Sure, Bob will get heaps of utility out of robbing a bank, but in the main society rather prefers people not turn to bank robbing instead of getting a paying job.

    • Deiseach says:

      A single sexual encounter with someone of Ann’s physical caliber would be not just pleasurable but life-changingly positive for him.

      IF he was able to get her to consensually agree to a single sexual encounter with him. He hasn’t done that in this scenario, so it’s the difference between “Wow, Bob invented The Sprocketless Widget and made a million!” and “Wow, Bob swindled little old ladies out of their pensions via white-collar crime and made a million!”

      In one instance we find the behaviour admirable, in the other we don’t, even though Bob still ends up with a million dollars. Same difference here: Bob would be lauded and seen as achieving high-status for successfully persuading someone of Ann’s calibre to sleep with him even once but he’s not capable of that so he has to resort to burglary/theft. Would you think someone was morally obligated to steal your wallet? Would you consider it “life-changingly positive” for Bob if you learned that Bob stole from his co-workers’ unattended bags, desks and lockers, even if Bob said he really needed the money and his pay wasn’t enough?

      “I had sex with a supermodel” may be a positive memory for Bob, if he doesn’t mind the corollary “of course, I couldn’t get her consent so I had to wait until she was drugged unconscious and then rape her”. If all Bob cares about is “I got to fuck a prime specimen”, it may not do his self-esteem any harm. But if Bob is that type of person, you probably don’t want him in any position where he can abuse vulnerable people, whether sexually or not, so hospital porter Bob is looking like someone you really don’t want working at the hospital where you go in to have your appendix out.

      • Matt M says:

        This. The issue that bugs incels is that nobody wants them, not that they have not engaged in physical sex.

        If it were that, it’d be as simple as “go get a prostitute and be done with it.” Rape and/or prostitution does not cure the actual problem.

    • Wrong Species says:

      If you really want to trip up a utilitarian:

      Ann is a highly attractive woman. Bob is an incel. Is she morally obligated to have sex with him(and make it seem real)?

      • Zephalinda says:

        See, I was wondering something similar, but can’t you just get around it by setting Ann’s utility from (secretly) undesired sex with Bob at negative-a-whole-helluva-lot? And how could anyone really question that assertion?

        • Jaskologist says:

          Fat men have a really really negative utility from dying, but that doesn’t stop utilitarians from constantly trying to push them in front of trains.

          • toastengineer says:

            I think the real interesting thing is that we all consider implying an obligation to screw an ugly person so much worse than implying an obligation to be killed. 😛

          • Deiseach says:

            implying an obligation to screw an ugly person so much worse than implying an obligation to be killed

            Well, you can only be killed once and then it’s over with; an obligation to screw undesirable people means you have to live with the memory of the experience and may be obliged to do it more than once (there are only so many hot people to the greater numbers of undesirable people) 🙂

        • Wrong Species says:

          You could but it’s extremely unlikely to be true. For her, at worst, it’s not going to be fun for a short time period. It could quite plausibly change Bob’s life.

          • Deiseach says:

            It could quite plausibly change Bob’s life.

            How is “Yay I got one hour of sex with a hot woman who derived no pleasure from it and only because she was blackmailed/guilt-tripped into it and doesn’t ever want to see me again” is better than “I want to sleep with that hot woman but she doesn’t want to sleep with me”?

            I think “I’ve just had definite proof that the only way I can get a woman to sleep with me is pity sex extorted as a civic duty and like jury duty, once she does it, she is off the panel for years” is going to be a lot more hurtful to the amour-propre.

            On the other hand, if you don’t care about the other person and consider the woman as a living sex doll to fulfil your fantasies and not as a real person, then sure, why not, it’s as good as you’re going to get and as long as you get off, that’s the main thing.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Deiseach

            I don’t know if you’re still reading this but I said “make it seem real”. As far as Bob is concerned, she was attracted to him.

          • Deiseach says:

            As far as Bob is concerned, she was attracted to him.

            Which doesn’t really help Bob, because if he now assumes he can get attractive women on his own merits and approaches an attractive woman who has not been served a “your civic duty is to pretend to like this guy” notice, he’ll get bounced back hard and that is going to hurt, perhaps even more than the ordinary rejection because this time he had false hope going in.

            He may even realise that Alice wasn’t really attracted to him after all, and that will sour the experience retroactively.

    • Nick says:

      I’m not going to comment on the actual question directly, but I do want to comment on this:

      (Assume Bob wears a condom, his behavior won’t escalate, word won’t get out to make this a norm, Ann won’t wake up mid-encounter, etc.)

      Since when does consequentialism mean “the consequences that actually follow” and not “the consequences as best as I can tell before doing it”? We can’t possibly know here in the real world whether someone won’t stumble in on it, whether the anesthesia was too weak, and so on. And if those are serious risks, of course Bob shouldn’t do it, even assuming consequentialism is true. So I don’t think these are fair assumptions for us to make in the first place.

    • powerfuller says:

      Because it might make him more likely to seek sexual validation through rape in the future? Or is that virtue ethics?

      • Evan Þ says:

        I certainly hope it’s not limited to virtue ethics, because it definitely looks like a real-world consequence.

    • theredsheep says:

      Apart from this being a horrifying and excellent argument against consequentialism, how fun can it be to hump a nonresponsive and unaroused woman? Also, I work in a hospital, I regularly visit the surgical and recovery areas, and I’ve got to say, that is a powerfully unsexy scenario. The cold lighting, the unflattering garments, the punctures and tubing … ugggh. But that doesn’t make a consequentialist argument against it, I guess.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      In general, consequentialists have trouble accommodating intuitions for, if not this particular case, cases like these. Some will bite the bullet. Others will make some moves to try and avoid it. For example, many consequentialists think that experiences aren’t the only thing that can make a life go better or worse, so Ann’s life might go worse in virtue of being raped in the hospital even if she is not aware of it. Another move would be to go rule consequentialist, and say that even if that particular act didn’t have bad consequences, permitting such acts as a public rule might have bad consequences.

    • Atlas says:

      Well, as a consequentialist, I think, in addition to various other considerations, I get to elide this, because there’s at least one almost strictly superior alternative, namely legalized prostitution. Probably superior pleasure for Bob, at trivial (considering the pleasure) cost, with definitely no utility cost to Ann. (Also what if Bob, ceteris paribus, doesn’t want to rape a woman and would prefer to have sex consensually and would thus have some negative utility from raping Ann?) The same way that, say, distributing 1000 life-saving vaccines in exchange for getting to murder 500 people is not ok because you could just distribute the vaccines without murdering the people, even though the former scenario would still be a net positive.

      Of course, you could make this the least convenient world and block off any such substitutes. I was going to say that in that case, as much as I hate to do it, I think I might have to bite the bullet and say that, yes, under the very specific, restrictive and improbable conditions you outline, I can’t think of a reason why it would be not okay under a consequentialist viewpoint for Bob to rape Ann. And, for consistency’s sake, I would agree that the same thing would be true for Bob as the target of an involuntarily celibate homosexual. However, I then realized that outlining morally nuanced positions on such ethical dilemmas is generally a bad idea, because many people lack the capacity for abstract thought and/or patience/charity necessary to understand one’s position, so they end up conflating one’s position with a different, horrific position that one does not actually believe. So of course I don’t believe this and would never say anything like this.

      I think a possible issue with this thought experiment in particular, and a lot of ethical thought experiments in general, is sort of like what Scott calls “the worst argument in the world.” You’re taking a really emotionally charged word, “rape”, and then removing it of many of the components (i.e. the ones that have observable consequences) that make it such a horrible crime in the first place, but then using the same word with the same emotional baggage.

      To take an analogous case, as much as I hate to admit it I guess I would have to agree as a consequentialist that if a guy who was really poor robbed Bill Gates under similarly restrictive conditions, it would be a net moral positive. However, since there would be many better ways to achieve similar or better results, and since those conditions would be astronomically unlikely to ever occur in real life, I don’t believe that this is an important theoretical result that says something important about the value of consequentialism as an ethical theory.

      • Deiseach says:

        I can’t think of a reason why it would be not okay under a consequentialist viewpoint for Bob to rape Ann

        What is the moral effect on Bob of having to acknowledge “I am a rapist, I am the type of guy who is a rapist”? Does he get to re-define rape as “not that bad” or “rapists are good guys too”?

      • Zephalinda says:

        You’re taking a really emotionally charged word, “rape”, and then removing it of many of the components (i.e. the ones that have observable consequences) that make it such a horrible crime in the first place, but then using the same word with the same emotional baggage.

        Yeah, taking the scenario seriously means you have to empty “rape” of its current negative moral associations (e.g. Bob presumably wouldn’t have negative utility from regarding himself as a “pathetic rapist” if he’s been conscientiously pursuing the ethically correct option throughout). Maybe “secret sex” would have been better.

        At base it seems like it gets at a question of property rights, and whether individuals may make ad-hoc use of otherwise unused resources, IF doing so would generate net value according to their lights. Interestingly, if Bob was a hungry (not starving) peasant and Ann the lord of that manor where a fat rabbit is currently grazing, it seems intuitive that consequentialists would say Bob is justified in poaching the rabbit: it would be a great benefit to him, it’s presently creating no value at all, and its loss will make no difference to Ann (indeed, in the original scenario Ann will never even know about it).

    • A1987dM says:

      1) What theredsheep said.

      2) “Within a consequentialist framework, what makes it not OK to drive while drunk? (Assume the driver makes it safely home, doesn’t cause any car accident, etc.)”

      3) What Wrong Species said.

      • Zephalinda says:

        2) “Within a consequentialist framework, what makes it not OK to drive while drunk? (Assume the driver makes it safely home, doesn’t cause any car accident, etc.)”

        My understanding was that this is the job of expected-value calculations, so you just sum all the possible consequences (good and bad) weighting for the estimated probability of each outcome?

        In the case of drunk driving, if you assume, 95% chance of making it home safely, 4% chance of car crash with serious injuries and attendant expenses, 1% chance of car crash with fatalities, then you’d run the numbers

        .95*(positive value of not having to call an Uber) + .04*(total negative value of car crash with serious injuries) + .01*(total negative value of fatal car crash)

        and the sum would likely come out strongly negative. But that math could be reversed in the case of the hospital orderly who believes he knows the shifts, knows how anaesthesia works, and his own character (say, can confidently predict only a 3% likelihood of being caught; .01% likelihood of the woman waking up early and groggy through a miracle of physiology; .0001% chance of his slippery-sloping to become a serial rapist), AND who also expects an extremely high utility from the action if successful, so the positive term gets much larger.

        • Nick says:

          But that math could be reversed in the case of the hospital orderly who believes he knows the shifts, knows how anaesthesia works, and his own character (say, can confidently predict only a 3% likelihood of being caught; .01% likelihood of the woman waking up early and groggy through a miracle of physiology; .0001% chance of his slippery-sloping to become a serial rapist), AND who also expects an extremely high utility from the action if successful, so the positive term gets much larger.

          I doubt this works out long term. The lower you make the other risks, the higher you make the risk of slippery-sloping to become a serial rapist, because the incentive becomes better and better. And in later cases, it’s not Bob making the decision whether to rape again, it’s Bob-who’s-already-raped-several-times. This is Murder-Gandhi territory, and the Schelling fence is surely at “don’t rape people.”

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Little did Bob know someone had put a hidden camera in the room to get videos of exactly what he was planning to do.

          • Deiseach says:

            “Not All Men – Except Bob”.

            Bob is a rapist, no matter how he dresses up the justification to himself, the same way that he’d be a thief if he stole money out of a co-worker’s unattended bag even if nobody ever found it he did it and he was never suspected. It may be congruent with consequentalism to say “Bob really, really, really needs the money”, but it’s still theft.

            And it’s not on the same lines of permissibility as “starving man steals loaf of bread” (or even “starving man picks rich man’s pocket to buy food”) because sex is not the same as hunger, you won’t die of not fucking the way you will die of not eating.

        • Matt M says:

          Right, the main issue with drunk driving is that people:

          a. Under-estimate the risk / over-estimate their ability to overcome the risk
          b. Are often unable to compensate their victims in the event that things go poorly

          Someone who was literally omniscient, and could see the future with perfect certainty, would presumably be allowed to drive drunk.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Within a consequentialist framework, what makes it not OK (or even morally obligatory) for Bob to rape Ann under these circumstances? (Assume Bob wears a condom, his behavior won’t escalate, word won’t get out to make this a norm, Ann won’t wake up mid-encounter, etc.) I know there must be an obvious answer, but I’m not seeing it at present.

      In my opinion, this is very similar to the trolley problem, and like the trolley problem it doesn’t get at what consequentialism means.

      In the trolley problem, it really is the right thing to do to push the fat guy into the trolley. But that result depends on a half dozen things being known to be 100% true, even though each of them are very unlikely.

      In this problem, if Bob can rape Ann with absolutely no effects on Ann’s future life, and there is 0% chance that anyone else will find out, then yes, it isn’t a bad thing for Bob to do it. It’s just that none of those events will ever come true. So no, Bob should not do it.

      I am a consequentialist, and I am a pragmatist. I think those two attributes go together. Part of being a pragmatist is that risk should always be evaluated for any decision.

      This issue and the trolley problem may be interesting thought experiments to discuss ethics. But they have a zero relationship to how people should act in real life, because zero risk never occurs.

  35. Tinman says:

    I’ve had a little thought concerning Scott’s much-lauded “paris in the the the the the spring” illusion. Is it accurate to call it an illusion? Because after studying many machine learning papers and observing the behaviour of attentive networks, it seems a lot more to be a natural optimization rather than an ‘illusion’. “The” is the the the the the most common word in the the the the the English language. We innately learn to skip over it because it has a very low significance in understanding the the the the the context and contents of a text. Similarly, an attentive network learns to skip over irrelevant data in a sentence when it is trained for a more specific classification. For example, a network trained to turn arbitrary text dates (Wednesday, 11th of July 2018 (Handy date)) into a certain date format (2018-11-07) will skip over anything that isn’t necessary for the output (In this case, ‘Wednesday’ has no relevance, therefore it is skipped (Unless you omit the year, in which case the network could learn to use the Doomsday rule and make an educated assumption.)) Similarly, “the” holds very little weight in a sentence in any context outside of specifying the the the the the focus, so we learn to see it as more of a word modifier than an independent word. Skipping over it saves time and is a learned ability, so I wouldn’t call it an illusion. Then again, what should you call it?

    The real illusion lies in not noticing my quintupling every instance of “the” in the previous paragraph.

  36. Alex says:

    A youtube channel I generally like put a video online which I don’t understand. I am certain that there are people here who do understand what is it about. The channel generally touches topics that are controversial around here and may be even banned or banned on certain weekdays or something. I don’t fully understand the policy here. I assume that this particular video also references a controversy but one I know nothing about. I do not know where else to ask about this. Youtube comments are predictably useless and my google-fu isn’t sufficient.

    Maybe I am overly careful here but I will just post the link without any specifics and leave it to potential commenters to decide if they can expain the issue to me within this community’s standards. Above disclaimer is basically to assert that I mean no harm.

    There are no jump scares or rickrolling or something on the other end of that link. Content warning should probably be “gamer culture” or something like that.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TebCHHCw9rY&t=0s

    • Aapje says:

      ‘Gamers need to grow up and have a culture about important issues, rather than silly memes and such.’

      The controversy is that plenty of gamers like their culture.

      • Alex says:

        First of all, thank you for responding.

        Is that an actual quote from the video? If yes I must have missed it. If no, why do you put your own reading into quotation marks?

        In any case this doesn’t seem to be what the video is saying. On the contrary it explicitly criticises a webcomic for touching on a serious subject. That is one point which confuses me. How is that a bad thing?

        • Aapje says:

          I am using single quotes for a paraphrase here.

          The video argues that the incentives for people who cater to gamers are bad, because gamers reward bad stuff. The webcomic was not criticized for touching on a serious subject. What was criticized is how this got ridiculed by many gamers, disincentivizing the comic creator from creating comics like this.

          The video also criticizes how the comics vilify companies, rather than gaming culture and such. It is claimed that this is projection, where people project their own faults on others.

          You seem to be misreading the video (which is understandable, it is very ingroupy).

          You can see the actual argument best at 26 minutes into the video.

  37. Viliam says:

    Would it be possible for a bear to become a Pope? If not, why? Is there explicitly a law saying that only a human can become Pope?

    The answer is that there is no single law forbidding it, but it is a combination of laws:

    1) According to the canon law, Pope must be a bishop. That does not mean “you can vote only for a person who already is a bishop”, but rather “if a non-bishop wins the election, he must be a.s.a.p. ordained a bishop, before starting his role as a new Pope”.

    2) To become a bishop, one must be a priest. To become a (Roman Catholic) priest, one must be a male (i.e. no female bears), at least 25 or 24 years old (i.e. no cubs; 25 is an average lifespan for bears), and celibate. A priest must be baptized. So the question is whether bears, and animals in general, can be baptized.

    3) The Bible does not object: “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16) But the Catholic Church does not do animal baptism. (Sometimes journalists mistakenly report blessing of animals as baptism, but that’s just journalism as usual.)

    Can animals go to heaven? If you ask a Pope, Pius IX says no, John Paul II says yes, Benedict XVI says no, Francis says yes. Considering that all of them are infallible, the final answer seems to be “maybe; there is 50% chance”. Animals can be excommunicated, though.

    The bears who want to succeed in human society should found a college instead. (Despite Bryan Caplan’s complaints, college remains our society’s solution to almost all problems.)

    • Jiro says:

      It says “he who believes and is baptized”. So only believing bears are eligible, and those are hard to find.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      So the question is whether bears, and animals in general, can be baptized.

      Well, duh. Technically candidates for a new Pope include all baptized adult males in communion with the late Pope.
      Was this supposed to be a riff on the malapropism “Is a bear Pope in the woods?” 😛

    • toastengineer says:

      And is the pope then allowed to play soccer?

    • Anonymous says:

      Considering that all of them are infallible

      That’s not how it works. Infallibility only works under very specific circumstances. And that happened like twice in history.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I don’t have a convenient way to find Deiseach’s embittered comment, but apparently infallibility is a much vaguer thing than non-Catholics are likely to know.

        Popes say things that *might* be definitive, but they don’t give a clear indication of whether they’re being infallible at the moment.

        • Aapje says:

          @Nancy

          That doesn’t seem correct:

          For a teaching by a pope or ecumenical council to be recognized as infallible, the teaching must:
          – Be a decision of the supreme teaching authority of the Church (the Pope alone or with the College of Bishops)
          – Concern a doctrine of faith or morals
          – Bind the universal Church
          – Be proposed as something to hold firmly and immutably

          The terminology of a definitive decree usually makes clear that this last condition is fulfilled, as through a formula such as “By the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by Our own authority, We declare, pronounce and define the doctrine . . . to be revealed by God and as such to be firmly and immutably held by all the faithful,” or through an accompanying anathema stating that anyone who deliberately dissents is outside the Catholic Church.

          • Nick says:

            This is correct. Infallibility is pretty well defined. For the sake of completeness, though, it’s worth noting that there’s debate about whether certain decrees are definitive or not, or merely part of the ordinary teaching authority which may at some later date be contradicted. Anonymous’ reference to “like twice in history” is the strictest in common use, usually referring to the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary, where the formula laid out by Vatican I (which defined papal infallibility) was used. See Cathy Caridi for some background on all that. But some have argued that there are more cases which constitute the use of infallibility, according to the rules laid out in Ad Tuendam Fidem on secondary objects of infallibility. That post uses the liceity of capital punishment as an example; here’s another example too from Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. It shouldn’t make much of a difference to Catholics whether a certain doctrine is defined infallibly or not, though; these candidates for infallibility are already taught by the Church, and Catholics generally owe their obedience to such teaching regardless. We’re not theological experts who have the ability reliably to dispute the status of such things.

          • Brad says:

            What about something like the Council of Nicaea? What’s the theological standing of their pronouncements?

          • Anonymous says:

            What about something like the Council of Nicaea? What’s the theological standing of their pronouncements?

            I think those aren’t strictly “papal”.

          • Nick says:

            Not everything a council says is going to be definitive pronouncements like we’re discussing, but they certainly did a lot of them, especially definitions and condemning heretical ideas. So they do have the authority to pronounce such things.

            If you want to know whether a given council’s or pope’s statement is doctrinal or merely disciplinary, pastoral, etc., you can usually check the Enchiridion Symbolorum. I don’t own a copy, but previous editions have been webbed, so you can, for instance, find the definition of the soul which Anonymous mentioned in another thread. Nothing Vatican II or newer is in there, unfortunately.

          • Deiseach says:

            What about something like the Council of Nicaea? What’s the theological standing of their pronouncements?

            Properly constituted Ecumenical Councils have the authority to define doctrine:

            The doctrine of the infallibility of ecumenical councils states that solemn definitions of ecumenical councils, which concern faith or morals, and to which the whole Church must adhere, are infallible.

            Of course, then you get the debate over “what’s a properly constituted Council?” For example, the Orthodox wouldn’t recognise either of the Vatican Councils because they hadn’t been called by the Emperor (never mind that there is no longer an Emperor of Byzantium to call any councils).

            The first seven Councils are generally recognised by everybody, though there again there’s dispute. Councils called after these are the debatable ones (as mentioned above).

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          There seems to be fog around whether women can be priests.

          • Anonymous says:

            Not really, but I totally get why the mainstream media would like to spin it that way.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            From what I can gather, it’s definite that women can’t currently become priests. What’s not clear is whether there’s been an infallible statement on the topic.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Pope Francis has said with uncharacteristic clarity, “I don’t have the authority to change that.”

          • Nick says:

            The apostolic letter I referred to above from John Paul II, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, says,

            “Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

            Peters is pretty adamant that this is as clear an infallible pronouncement as you’re going to get, unless you insist on a literal use of Vatican I’s formula. Granted, he’s only one expert, and there are certainly several who would insist on the formula. But as ordinary Catholics we’re obviously not to countenance it, and with as clear a statement as that only 25 years ago, I wouldn’t say there’s fog so much as folks kicking up dust.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Nick, Except that strongly worded pronouncements are more likely to be given on controversial topics than on topics everyone agrees on (they don’t seem necessary for the latter), so they can sometimes be an indicator that change may be more rather than less likely to be coming soon.

          • Nick says:

            Protagoras, you’re right about the use of stronger language in the face of controversy, but strong pronouncements are really the norm rather than the exception. Anathema, after all, literally means “let it be damned,” and it’s only in the last hundred years or so that popes have taken a more meek and apologetic tone. And since the strong pronouncements of old were not overturned and were regarded as definitive, we should expect the same for the more recent ones.

          • Deiseach says:

            There seems to be fog around whether women can be priests.

            No there isn’t, but there’s a rump movement of female ‘priests’ who every so often release an announcement to the papers that “this week, 63 year old grandmother of four Ms Vicki Heretique will be ordained a Catholic priest in Protestant Denomination Who Have No Damn Business Sticking Their Beak Into Roman Catholic Affairs But They Have A Female Minister Who Thinks She’s Speaking Truth To Power Or Some Such Rot By Pulling This Stunt’s Church Building!” and the media take it as given; they don’t care if she’s really a priest at all, their attitude is “if she says she’s a priest, she’s a priest**” and the whole “the Vatican is not the boss of me” spouting off is swallowed wholesale*.

            There’s also The Usual Suspects who want the Church to get with Current Year and try to push this narrative, but they’ve been trying this for forty or more years and yet somehow the Spirit of Vatican II isn’t getting the job done.

            If they want to set up their own breakaway denomination (just like any of the minor Protestant non-denominational sects) and call their ministers ‘priests’, they can do so; but they want the aura of being Real Roman Catholic Priests so they don’t do the honest thing and break off completely.

            *Ironically, those who cry the loudest about the Pope not being the boss of them and having no authority to forbid their ordination also cry the loudest over we are too validly ordained because a Real Bishop ordained one of us in secret on a boat on the Rhine back in the 70s and so we’ve got Real Apostolic Succession. Sure you do, and monkeys will fly out of my butt!

            **And by this logic, if I say I’m the editor of the New York Times I am so the editor of the New York Times, the board have no authority over my free expression of journalistic authority and can’t say “no you’re not, you don’t even have a job here”, and besides an ex-editor of the paper once bestowed office on one of the people declaring me editor by giving them a job as a reporter, so I have the actual lineage in truth!

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Sorry, the ambiguity of English strikes again. I meant that there seems to be some fog (maybe less than I thought) about whether women can *ever* be priests, not whether they can be priests now.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            “The Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women” seems to rule out the possibility ever happening in the future.

          • Deiseach says:

            whether women can *ever* be priests, not whether they can be priests now

            If they can’t legitimately be priests now or in the past, they can’t legitimately be priests in the future. This is why the female ordination lot make a big hue and cry over “the Early Church did so have female priests (and bishops)”. And it’s why “we have no authority to do so” is such a big deal: if the Church really has no authority to do this, then doing it in the future is going to be wrong and invalid, no matter what the change in social attitudes.

            It’s not like clerical celibacy, which is a question of discipline not doctrine, therefore there were married clergy in the past (and still are in some rites) but now priests are not permitted to marry, but this could be changed again in the future. It’s more along the lines of wanting to say “Okay, today we say Christ is divine but hey, tomorrow if someone really really wants it because they find it too hard to believe, we’ll happily change it to He’s Just This Guy, You Know?”

            Not gonna happen.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It’s not like clerical celibacy, which is a question of discipline not doctrine, therefore there were married clergy in the past (and still are in some rites) but now priests are not permitted to marry, but this could be changed again in the future.

            Pedant alert: priests were never allowed to marry; the difference was that married men were allowed to become priests.

    • No signal says:

      Prospects for bears serving in the military are better.

      PS. Could you give for the source for John Paul II saying that animals go to heaven?

      • Anonymous says:

        PS. Could you give for the source for John Paul II saying that animals go to heaven?

        I would also like a source on this. I have some references that JP2 said that animals have souls (and they obviously do, given you know the dogmatic definition of the soul), but I know nothing about him saying they go to Heaven.

        • powerfuller says:

          the dogmatic definition of the soul

          Dogs has souls but cats don’t?

          • Anonymous says:

            The soul is the essential form of the body. Clearly, animals have bodies. Also clearly, those bodies have an essential form appropriate to the particular species. Therefore, animals have souls.

            What they don’t have is rational souls, as in, they are not sapient (but are obviously sentient) and therefore don’t qualify to be saved as humans do.

    • Deiseach says:

      Is the bear an actual bear, or a cynocephalus?

      The ninth-century Frankish theologian Ratramnus wrote a letter, the Epistola de Cynocephalis, on whether the Cynocephali should be considered human (he thought that they were). If human, a Christian’s duty would be to preach the Gospels to them. If animals, and thus without souls, such would be pointless.

      See blogpost here about this matter, and how Ratramnus came to this conclusion:

      Hence, Ratramnus concluded that the dog-heads were degenerated descendants of Adam, although the Church generally classed them with beasts. They may even receive baptism by being rained upon. Here Ratramnus was following in the footsteps of Augustine of Hippo, who had written that if the monstrous races do exist, they were created according to God’s will and, if they are human and descended from Adam, they must be capable of salvation. This would extend the Churches missionary obligation to the farthest flung parts of the earth and make ‘monstrous missionising’ a necessary fulfilment of Christ’s charge.

      If the bear is not a cynocephalus but considered a demi-god/demonic offspring, then that’s a slightly different matter:

      Reply to Objection 6. As Augustine says (De Civ. Dei xv): “Many persons affirm that they have had the experience, or have heard from such as have experienced it, that the Satyrs and Fauns, whom the common folk call incubi, have often presented themselves before women, and have sought and procured intercourse with them. Hence it is folly to deny it. But God’s holy angels could not fall in such fashion before the deluge. Hence by the sons of God are to be understood the sons of Seth, who were good; while by the daughters of men the Scripture designates those who sprang from the race of Cain. Nor is it to be wondered at that giants should be born of them; for they were not all giants, albeit there were many more before than after the deluge.” Still if some are occasionally begotten from demons, it is not from the seed of such demons, nor from their assumed bodies, but from the seed of men taken for the purpose; as when the demon assumes first the form of a woman, and afterwards of a man; just as they take the seed of other things for other generating purposes, as Augustine says (De Trin. ii.), so that the person born is not the child of a demon, but of a man.

      And a talking animal is a different matter again! It depends if the creature can be considered to have a rational soul – if yes, then it can receive baptism (if it needs it; if it is in an unfallen state, it does not need to be baptised). If we meet ursine aliens when out exploring the galaxy, could one of them become Pope Ursus I? Good question! 🙂

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        @Deiseach: the space pope!

        Note that in Eastern Orthodoxy, they didn’t debate whether cynocephali were people: they depicted At. Christopher as one. 🙂

      • Nick says:

        Wright’s Count to the Eschaton series had Brother Ermanno, a space brain the size of a solar system who was descended from a “patelline race of gastropods.” So not exactly bears, but not human either.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      No. To be a pope you either have to be a bishop or made a bishop at the time of your election, and bears cannot indicate they express a desire for the sacrament and in some way manifest their reverence for it. The minimum in canon law, established for the mentally retarded and children below the age of reason in mortal danger of dying is
      “§1. The administration of the Most Holy Eucharist to children requires that they have sufficient knowledge and careful preparation so that they understand the mystery of Christ according to their capacity and are able to receive the body of Christ with faith and devotion.”
      “§2. The Most Holy Eucharist, however, can be administered to children in danger of death if they can distinguish the body of Christ from ordinary food and receive communion reverently.”

      A bear cannot comprehend the mystery of Christ even in a childlike way or distinguish the body of Christ from ordinary food

      • John Schilling says:

        A bear cannot comprehend the mystery of Christ even in a childlike way or distinguish the body of Christ from ordinary food

        Cats, being much pickier eaters than bears, are eligible to receive the sacrament and, ultimately, be ordained Pope. Well, adult male cats at least.

  38. onyomi says:

    So the health care system/courts in the UK can prevent you from taking your own baby out of a hospital and/or leaving the country with him if doctors don’t approve, or am I rushing to judge a situation I don’t understand well?

    • christhenottopher says:

      As a non-British person who knows nothing about this…almost certainly yes. With a policy like that, there are two options. 1) It actually has pretty decent constraints against abuse so most people didn’t care until someone trying to make a political point noticed the ability to exploit how it naively sounds. 2) It’s really new and will be super controversial shortly.

      As a general rule, you can most of the time say that if you hear about some outrageous sounding policy from a developed and democratic country, it falls under one of the two above categories.

      EDIT: Upon thinking about this principle, it’s pretty much an extension of Chesterton’s fence to political news.

      • onyomi says:

        outrageous sounding policy from a developed and democratic country

        I feel like this has become an unreliable heuristic in recent years.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        As a non-British person who knows nothing about this…almost certainly yes. With a policy like that, there are two options. 1) It actually has pretty decent constraints against abuse so most people didn’t care until someone trying to make a political point noticed the ability to exploit how it naively sounds. 2) It’s really new and will be super controversial shortly.

        In this case, the idea of courts overruling a parent’s wishes in the name of a child’s best interests isn’t new, but the idea that the child’s best interests would be served by killing it is. (At least relatively new; there was the Charlie Gard case a few months ago, which was very similar to the current one.)

    • BBA says:

      The family court’s opinion (as upheld on appeal) is based on the notion of what is in the “best interest of the child.” This phrase rang a few bells in my mind, since it’s also the standard that family courts in the US use on any case regarding removing a child from parental custody or authority.

      The main legal difference between the UK and the US that I can tell is that there the hospital could bring the case directly to family court whereas here the hospital would have to petition child protective services to step in. There’s no legal barrier to the same outcome. There are, however, significant cultural barriers.

      • Jiro says:

        There’s something odd about the government simultaneously claiming that the child has no brain function and also that it is possible for something to be in the child’s best interests.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Personally, I was struck by the disconnect between the two claims that (1) Alfie was a vegetable with no brain functions, and (2) there was a real possibility that Alfie was feeling pain, so the doctors needed to end his suffering (by starving him to death). Not to mention the notion that Alfie might have died on the journey to Rome, therefore it was necessary to kill him where he was.

        • BBA says:

          If the child has no brain function and never will again, I fail to see how keeping him nominally alive is in anyone’s best interest.

          But then I’m not a Catholic, nor an ancap.

          • Matt M says:

            Revealed preferences would suggest it’s in the parents best interests, at the very least.

          • John Schilling says:

            Whose interests are served with killing the child?

            Or with affirmatively preventing other people from keeping the child alive, if your ethical system calls on you to treat the two differently. But either way, there’s a thing that some people see as a living child and there are some people who want to keep that child alive at their own expense. Whose interest is served by standing between the two and saying “You Shall Not Pass”, if your own belief is that the child-thing is incapable of suffering?

          • onyomi says:

            Yeah, the idea of states having the power to enforce a determination that dying is in an individual’s best interest (as opposed to society’s best interest, i.e. death penalty) strikes me as pretty Orwellian.

          • BBA says:

            This child will never awaken, will never see or hear or feel or think, will never even move.

            This child is already dead. His best interest is to be buried and mourned, not to continue to have air pumped into his lungs to cling to some cruel mockery of life.

            If there were any hope of recovery, I’d be with you. But there isn’t.

            But as I said, I’m not a Catholic or a libertarian, and I don’t subscribe to parental infallibility either. So I don’t think we’ll ever see eye to eye on this.

          • onyomi says:

            @BBA

            Would your opinion be any different if we were talking about a situation like this:

            My mother has fallen into a coma and is kept alive only by expensive life support. She left no specific instructions about when/if to terminate life support in such a situation. Doctors tell me she has no hope of ever recovering and that (state funded) life support must therefore be terminated. But some crazy doctors in another country tell me they have a new treatment that might help her, and that they’re willing to try it on her for free if I can get her there. They are probably quacks and the chances of this not being a waste of time and money are small, but I still want to try to save my mother’s life any way I can.

            If the doctors and judges in my country told me I am not allowed to take her out of the country (at my own expense) and try this out, but must instead leave her at the hospital she’s in to die, as per their expert determination of what’s in her “best interest” I’d be quite comfortable calling them murderers.

            I would not call them murderers (at least not justifiably by a more cool-headed assessment than I could likely muster under such circumstances) if they were simply refusing to continue to fund her hopeless life support at state expense but allowing me to seek alternatives at my own expense.

          • John Schilling says:

            This child is already dead. His best interest is to be buried and mourned, not to continue to have air pumped into his lungs to cling to some cruel mockery of life.

            Why? A dead child is utterly indifferent to the treatment of expired meat. It has no interest whatsoever in that matter (or any other). Interests are things that living people have.

            Also, “cruel mockery of life” is so obviously not the sort of language that will convince people who don’t already agree with you, that I find it hard to believe you are trying to persuade rather than to posture.

          • BBA says:

            I’m not trying to convince anyone of the correctness of my views. I’m trying to convince you that they’re sincerely held, not just mustache-twirling villainy or faceless bureaucratic indifference.

            And I have no interest in relitigating the Terri Schiavo case, so I think I’m done here.

          • albatross11 says:

            This kind of case tends to have disagreements on two different axes:

            a. The object-level discussion: what was decided?

            b. The process-level discussion: how and by whom was it decided?

            Those can be entirely independent–perhaps it was the right decision to let the child die, but the wrong people made the decision or the right people made the decision in a bad way. Or perhaps they made the wrong decision, but the process by which it was made (medical officials overriding the parents) was correct.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not trying to convince anyone of the correctness of my views. I’m trying to convince you that they’re sincerely held, not just mustache-twirling villainy or faceless bureaucratic indifference.

            I’m not questioning the sincerity of your beliefs, but I don’t see how you can consistently justify them as anything more than any other custom regarding corpse disposal. Which is generally something we defer to parents on even when there is an absolute consensus that the thing being disposed of is a corpse.

          • onyomi says:

            I don’t see how you can consistently justify them as anything more than any other custom regarding corpse disposal.

            Yes, assuming the person in question is already past suffering actually greatly weakens any argument for state interference in next of kin’s wishes.

            “State must step in to stop parents needlessly prolonging their child’s suffering” is a much stronger argument than “state must step in to make parents give up on their basically-already-dead child.”

            Overall, I am very saddened by the degree to which people who like socialized medicine (I’m making an assumption about BBA based on his posting history; could be wrong; pretty sure not wrong about AncientGeek) defend this decision (not just BBA, and not just here, but on Twitter, etc. as well), due in many cases, I think, to “arguments are soldiers.”

            I don’t like socialized medicine, and while I worry it may, in some cases, make people more willing to accept this level of state control in such areas, I certainly don’t think a case like this is, by itself, a strong indictment of socialized medicine per se, as socialized medicine doesn’t require preventing patients seeking non-state alternatives at their own expense.

            So I’m a socialized medicine opponent who is also willing to say this injustice isn’t a necessary consequence of socialized medicine. Any socialized medicine proponents willing to say they think this was wrong? This is one case where “package dealism” of positions especially depresses me.

          • Jiro says:

            This child is already dead. His best interest is to be buried and mourned, not to continue to have air pumped into his lungs to cling to some cruel mockery of life.

            If the child is already dead, no action is in his best interests more than any other action.

    • phisheep says:

      The way you describe it – and it’s not just you, it’s the way it is often described in newspaper headlines – isn’t exactly wrong, but it does rather misleadingly suggest some collusion between the hospital and the courts to go against the parents’ wishes – which isn’t what happens, and also suggests that this is a specifically UK thing, which it isn’t.

      The hospital is obliged by law to act in the best interests of its patients; the parents are similarly obliged to act in the best interests of their children. Where, as here, the hospital and the parents disagree, is where the law comes in. Two things happen: an attorney is appointed for the child, and the case comes before the court. The question before the court is to decide what is in the child’s best interest, and it is subject to all the usual court things about evidence and procedure. Of course, the court can decide either way, but the cases that make the headlines are only the ones where the parents’ wishes are not followed.

      It’s not only the UK either. Think of all those Jehovah’s Witness blood-transfusion cases that crop up in the US – for example the McCauley case in MA in 1989, where the court said “We conclude that Elisha’s best interests, and the interests of the state, outweigh the McCauleys’ parental and religious rights.”

      These things are the consequence of difficult medical circumstances, not particularly of the UK or the NHS.

      • The original Mr. X says: